Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ultralight Backpacking Fishing Kit

Fishing on the Fly

After reading Paul AYCE Nanian article, "Thru Hiking the John Muir Trail" I started to think about how often my hikes take me past fishable waters, and how much I would appreciate one in my stomach at the end of the day.  But I'm not a fisherman, and I'm picky about what goes in my pack, so IF I'm going to carry a fishing kit it has to be small, basic, but effective.  Although I want to eventually learn how to fly fish, I don't currently have the knowledge or experience, so a kit would have to be limited to the basic fishing essentials that I know how to use.

I had all but put the idea away when I stumbled across the the article at Brian's Backpacking Blog on soda pop cap capsules, which looked like a good candidate for a fishing kit container.  Waterproof, air tight, durable, and small.  The bonus is that the container doubles as a bobber and it only weighs 24 grams!

So lets get to it!  Brian's Backpacking Blog and JERMM's Outside already have full write ups on the making of the capsule, but I'll outline the basic steps with pictures as well, but be sure to check out their write ups as well.

1) Choosing the bottles.
Standard soda bottles work very well for small capsules.  They come in  many colors and in several different heights making for larger or smaller containers.  Usually you only have the choice between clear and green plastic, but maybe you can find something else if you look around.  One important thing to note is that its probably wise to pick two bottles from the same manufacture since there is occasionally a variance in the thread pitch and flange size between bottle manufactures may be different .  This isn't a life or death matter, but you want the best seal to keep the capsule air tight, and cross threaded or misfitting caps don't seal well.  If the threads are different for the two bottles that you choose, the likelihood of accidentally switching the caps is high, which could lead to frustration when your bobber sinks.  I chose to use red and white caps because its a common bobber color scheme, but you can get as creative as you want and if you choose to find other uses for these capsules then the color coding will help you to easily discern between your salt shaker and your fishing kit.

2) Cutting off the cap.
Remove the safety seal ring with an knife and use a hack saw to cut the bottle right below the flange, removing the whole threaded area plus the flange.  Make sure to cut as close to the flange as possible.  Once this is complete, use a file to remove any plastic lip that might remain below the flange.  (Special Note: I used a band saw to cut the bottles.  I was able to get VERY close to flush this way, but if you choose to do it this way, make sure to be safe) Use 320 grit, or somewhere thereabouts, to sand the rest smooth.  It is very important that the caps fit very flush so that the glue bonds well and a water tight seal is achieved.

3) Gluing the bottle tops together.
I used superglue, but there have been questions raised about this glue for food safety.  For my fishing kit, I didn't care and superglue was fast and cheap.  Various plastic epoxies exist as well as food safe adhesives if you want to take that route.  Now is also the time to decide if you want a divider or not.  For the fishing kit, I opted not to use a divider, but for my fire kit I used one to keep the vaseline soaked cotton balls separate from the other dry fire tools.

Place a bead of superglue on one flange, making sure that it covers the entire surface.  Line the two bottle tips up flange to flange, smear them together quickly, then align them.  I put mine in a vice for a few minutes until the glue had dried, but a clamp would work as well.  Allow to sit this way until the glue is completely cured (read the package for drying instructions).

Assembling the Kit

Putting everything together and what you choose to include is really a personal matter. I've seen emergency kits that include only a few hooks, swivels, weights, and 10ft of line.   That's fine, but I wanted a bit more.  When it all came together, 24g for a fishing kit is fine by me!

As soon as the glue has fully cured, use a very small drill bit to drill two holes on opposite sides of the flange.  this us where you will thread in your fishing line when using the capsule as a bobber, so chose a bit size that is close to the largest fishing line size that you will use.  Securing the bobber is as easy as threading the line through one side, wrapping it around the bobber several times, threading it out the other side, then pulling a little slack in one of the loops so that you can feed the end through (making a small knot).  This is similar to the PVC gadget that I use for hanging my bear bag PCT style.

The biggest problem that I saw with other DIY kits (other than being too large in size) is that they brought such a small amount of line and really didn't have a solid way of bundling it up so that it wouldn't tangle.  I think I've solved this by using a sewing machine bobbin as a spool.  I bought a pack of 12 clear plastic bobbins at Joanne Fabrics for under $5.  The #66 bobbins fit in the capsule with room to spare, I'm not sure about others.  If you're lucky, you may be able to wind the fishing line onto the bobbin with the sewing machine the same way you would wind thread onto one, but the bobbins that I used unfortunately did not work with my machine, but it wasn't too hard to wind it by hand.  I didn't measure the length of line that I spooled onto the bobbin, but I would guess that I used approx 10-15 yards of 6lb monofilament!  Keep it from unraveling by slapping on a small  ranger band (Make Ranger Bands).

I plan to use mostly live bait, but decided to bring a couple lures in case none is to be found or the live bait isn't hitting.  I chose a spinner and a crayfish, but you can chose whatever fits your style so long as it fits in the container.  I guess it counts as a lure, but i also threw in a small sheet of aluminum foil to wrap around the split shot weights as an attractant.  I got the idea from Intense Angler who puts that in his SUL emergency fishing kits.  I've have never tried this before, but decided to throw it into the kit anyway because a) I needed a packing material to keep everything organized, and b) it couldn't possibly hurt anything to try.

Hooks and Weights:
I'm not interested in bringing in the large channel cats or huge bass that big time anglers love to show off. For the purposes of this kit, I'm mostly interested little pan fish, maybe trout or small bass if i'm lucky.  Pan fish bite at everything, hang out right at the edge, are easy to cook, and taste great.  Because of that, I chose to include 5 small hooks in a couple sizes (#6 & #8).  I threw in 4 reusable split shot weights because i lose those things frequently.

If you look at the picture where everything is broken out onto the scale, you'll also see some eye screws.  These are for making the rod.  Basically, the eye screws are installed evenly spaced on a rod length stick.  The line is then threaded through these eye screws and tied off to the bottom of the rod or bottom eye screw.  Check out Intense Angler's video for more info on this and the casting process. The ranger bands wrapped around the outside of the capsule are for binding around your fingers so that you can get a better grip on the line as you reel it in.
All buttoned up and ready to go!

Gravity/Squeeze Filtration/Purification System

One Kit.  Multiple Uses.  Adaptation.

Ok, so I've seen so many videos on backcountry cook kits (and eventually I may post mine!), but very few on water treatment comparatively.  Water treatment is very important to me, and, like everything else, there isn't a "one right way" to accomplish it.  Some are concerned only with disinfection, others with removing particulate, many both. Others yet would like to also remove odors from the water.  I spent several years using the MSR Miniworks filter which uses a ceramic filter (0.2 micron), and a pumping style filtration system.  Many people have good luck with that filter, I did not (leakage around the pump head seal).  Also, it's a very heavy system (16oz dry) compared to some of the more recent designs, and the thought of replacing it lead me to explore the many options out there.

What to think about:
How much stuff do you want to take out?  Filters are available in 3micron (Frontier Pro), 0.1 micron (Sawyer Squeeze), .02 micron (Sawyer Point Zero Two system), and many areas in between.  What kind of "stuff" are you talking about?  If you're talking about protozoa (crypto, giardia), 1 micron should remove them.  If its bacteria (fecal coliform, etc.), 0.1 gets all of them.  Viruses require 0.02 or less. If all that you want to remove is detectable particulate, the 1-20 micron size (filter bag, coffee filter, denim, etc) will collect those.  If it's odors and chemical flavor, passing the water through an activated carbon filter post filtration works well.
Why do you want to use filtration to get rid of pathogens?  Some people are quite content with iodine, chlorination treatment (Aquamira), or one of the other misc ways using chemical salts (MSR MiOX) to disinfect their water.  Others use UV irradiation (Steripen) for disinfection.  Each of these are effective to varying degrees and have certain drawbacks.  Chlorine, for example, is not considered effective in the removal of protozoa in  periods of short term exposure.  UV treatment effectiveness is also proportional to exposure time and can be aided if particulates are not present that would block the UV rays.

Here's the rub: Its up to you, BUT don't carry something that's needlessly redundant, unnecessarily heavy, or doesn't suit all of your needs in water treatment.  Carrying UV, Chlorination, and micronic filtration equipment is completely unnecessary (wearing a belt and suspenders is ridiculous).  One degree of redundancy is really all you want to do.  For example. A 1 micron bag filter will remove protozoa and particulates, and a UV pen will get rid of what's left.

What I've put together:
That all said, here's what I do.  The Sawyer Squeeze is versatile, light enough, and filters down to a level that will remove bacteria.  I'm not concerned about viruses for the hiking that I do, but if I were to go to an area where waterborne viruses were an issue, I would bring chlorination tablets.  This filter lets me filter water in various ways that suit my needs.  For example:  I don't carry a water bottle typically, opting instead to use a bladder inside my pack with a tube. The Sawyer filter coupled with some adapters including the Hydrolock kit from Camelbak allows me never to have to remove my bladder from deep inside my pack where I keep it.  I can't tell you how many times I've arrived at a water source, had to get out all of my filtration equipment, dig the bladder out of my bag, and then repack everything once I'm finished.  Adding to that frustration from mishaps related to not hitting the opening of the bladder which results in a wet hydration bladder going back into the pack.  Not anymore!  The filtered water is pressure fed right back down the outlet pipe, and the size of my bladder (2L Platypus) is equivalent to two fillings of the 1L dirty bag that comes with the Squeeze system.  Water goes from source to storage without hitting a drop of air, or encountering any point of outside contamination.

Although my goals seem to be a little different, I put my kit together in a manor similar to the one shown in a post on White Blaze forum. Like the poster there, I separate these things into "clean" and "dirty" categories to avoid contamination, but I consider the filter itself "Clean" provided that you plug the dirty end after use.  If residual dirty water from the inlet end of the filter comes into contact with the outlet end of the discharge hose, then what's the point of filtering in the first place?  Freezer bags are good for this.  The filter inlet end gets plugged and the whole thing gets stuffed into a bag with the outlet hose and adapters which then go inside the container.  The dirty scoop and funnel serve as the protective container for everything and holds the other dirty items loose inside.  The container itself, including the funnel, is made from a cut down rubbing alcohol bottle.  Initially, I made the adapters using soda bottle caps and the threaded mouths epoxied together to suit the purpose.  I've also tried using a Tornado Tube.  However, the threads don't match up perfectly with the threaded ends of the Squeeze (Pepsi or Coke both seem to have a bit of a thread pitch difference).  After using the rubbing alcohol bottle, I realized that the cap and mouth of that bottle matches up PERFECTLY with the Sawyer system.  In fact, I may have accidentally switched the caps to the squeeze bladders and can't tell the difference now.  The problem is that there isn't a flange on the alcohol bottles in the same way that there is on a soda bottle so gluing male adapter components together becomes a bit of a problem.  Creativity and patience solves this.  Also, the Aqua Simple connector purchased from Arrowhead Equipment is not able to thread down far enough on the Squeeze to form the necessary seal, so a female-male adapter is needed on the outlet side of the filter to connect that fitting.  It leaks profusely if you skip this step, and I'm not worried about the 8 grams.  The problem becomes color designation between clean and dirty fittings, but a sharpie handles that task well (soda bottle caps would have been perfect for this).

Filter (naked and dry):
Funnel/container lid:
Scoop/container body:
Female-Female Adapter:
Particulate filter:
Dirty 1L bag:

Female-Male Adapter:
Tubing Adapter w/ 5" tubing and Quicklock fitting:
End Plug:

I wrote earlier about redundancy.  The kit as pictured below relies solely on filtration to remove contaminants.  It would not be out of the question to add chlorine tablets or drops or iodine to this kit for further disinfection.  A UV device would do provide the same redundancy.  All would provide a slight weight and cost penalty that is up to the individual to consider how severe they consider that penalty.

Making the adapters:
Caps from rubbing alcohol bottles have identical threads to the sawyer bags.  Ideal for making an adapter.  The threaded part is the cut off portion of the same rubbing alcohol container.

Clamp it and let it cure.

This epoxy DOES NOT WORK!  As it cures, it becomes less resistant to the twisting motions that are going to be very common on any of the pieces used in this kit as they are screwed on and off of the filter.  Dr. Bond Plastic adhesive doesn't work either for the same reason.  Good old Loc Tite Superglue or Gorilla Superglue seems to work well. 
Whats in the Kit?

Dirty stuff.  The alcohol bottle is cut down to size and can be used as a scoop.  The top of the bottle can be connected using the red female-female adapter (made with soda caps) and used as a funnel to get water into the bag.  This works nicely with the 1micron particulate filters made from filter bags used in biodiesel filtering.  The 1L Sawyer bag is the dirty bag.

Clean stuff.  Obviously the filter itself is pictured.  In addition to that isthe end cap (green soda bottle parts) which keeps the dirty water from leaking out and contaminating the other clean stuff when stored.  Also pictured here are the fittings necessary to connect the filter to the hydration tube leading to my in pack Platy bag.  The white female-female adapter is used for backflushing.

Funnel affixed to the top of the dirty bag ready and ready to fill.

Backflush mode.  Simply squeeze clean water back through the filter.  The syringe is intended for this purpose, but I leave that at home and backflush using this method when need be (not often).

Everything fits into the scoop bottle.  Dirty stuff loose in the bottle, clean stuff bagged up in a freezer bag.  There's certainly enough room to throw in a little baggie of chlorine tabs if one were so inclined.

203g isn't bad!  It's approx 7oz which is less than half the weight of my old Miniworks setup and is WAY more functional.  Add to that weight the weight of a lightweight stuff sack, the sport top adapter that came with the filter (not pictured as i don't usually use it), the particulate filter (not pictured, currently replacing mine!), and chlorine tabs and you're still under 8oz.  By no means "Ultralight," but this is a durable, long lasting, very serviceable, setup.

Closing Remarks:
I am open to finding ways to further reduce the weight of this system without compromising the functionality.  I think some savings could come from using a different bottle for the container.  These alcohol bottles actually are not available anymore, now a square bottle is used which contains substantially less plastic and thus weighs less.  I enjoy the built in funnel/scoop, which are very necessary for shallow water collection.  I could also scrounge a couple grams by using the .5L Sawyer bag that came with the Squeeze filter, however right now I feel that it's the perfect size.  The other advantage of using the 1L bag is that I can fill the 2L Platy and reserve 1L of dirty water for later filtration if the next water source is a ways away, allowing for 3L total water carrying capacity.

Another thing that you may want to consider is storage.  Damp gear leads to mold and mildew.  Storing this kit in a way that will allow it to fully dry out seems like a good idea.  I like to remove the end plug and cap from the filter itself for storage, and allow all of the bags to fully air out before putting them back in the gear locker.

Like always, comments are more than welcome!

After reevaluating this kit having made a write up on it, I think I'm going to try to make the clean side female male adapter out of a soda bottle threaded portion and an alcohol bottle cap.  The flange and thread depth are just of better sizing for the job and my capsules hold up way better than my adapter does.  Limiting the number of times that I disassemble the hosing fitting from the adapter has kept me going for a series of uses, but I just heard it cracking again like it did with the Dr. Bond Plastic Weld...  time for a new strategy!