Gaining Grit: How to find and nurture the badass within

One of my many hundreds, perhaps thousands, of
 painful moments outdoors.
After hearing a recap of one of my particularly harrowing adventures, people often react with: "I don't know how you do it." For some reason, many people think that I'm fearless or super fit or something to be doing the things I do. But here's the thing,
I am not remarkable.
Let me tell you, I still cry on really tall exposed rock climbs. I huff and puff and get all red faced while hiking. I hate being cold. The difference between them and me is just a practiced mindset. Many people call this mindset 'grit.' 

Grit is mental fortitude and resiliency. With practice, it becomes an automatic emotional response that kicks in whenever you need it. 

Grit is like any muscle- the more you use it, the stronger it gets. Unlike a muscle, it is a bit trickier to activate.

I am an ordinary human who has been able to make my grit muscle strong. Everyone has grit, you've just got to find yours and strengthen it.

Keep reading to learn what grit can do for you, and how to get it

Cowboy Coffee: How to make coffee without a filter

I always wondered how the cowboys in the old west made their coffee. I'm sure they didn't bother with filters or something as fancy as a French press.

On my first overnight pack trip at Rock Creek Pack Station, I learned the trick. 

Here is what you need:
  • A heat source
  • A metal kettle or pitcher
  • Coffee grounds
  • Water
  • A small cup

  1. Fill the kettle 3/4 full of water and put it on your heat source to boil 
  2. Fill the small cup with the coldest water you have 
  3. Once the kettle water is boiling, slowly add the coffee grounds. Be careful because adding coffee grounds can make your kettle boil over. If it looks like it is about to, pull it off the heat for a second or two 
  4. Boil the coffee for a couple of minutes
  5. Reduce the heat to low
  6. To get the coffee grounds to sink to the bottom, pour the cup of cold water over the grounds
  7. Pour carefully and the grounds will stay on the bottom

DIY Outdoor Gear Resources

I love making things myself. I've always dreamed of having my own outdoor brand- not a very feasible business idea that I would probably end up hating in the long run. With all the technical fabrics available online, we are no longer bound to the products made by big outdoor brands. You'll find fabric, patterns and tutorials online for everything from backpacks to tents to sleeping bags and rain jackets. I've put together the resources I go to when I have a project. If you know of any that I haven't listed, please mention them in the comments.

Forums This forum is the go-to spot for hammock camping tricks. There is a forum for all things DIY, just don't post with tent making questions as it is a hammock camping only forum. This is a community of Appalachian Trail enthusiasts with TONS of info on the AT- you can get answers to all your AT questions. There is also a forum on here for DIY gear.

BackpackingLight has forums dedicated to a variety of topics including a MYOG Forum (make your own gear) To post to the forum you must have a basic membership to the site which costs $5 a year has a little corner of their website dedicated to a MYOG forum. 

DIY 20°F Ultralight Backpacking Quilt Part 4-
Final Touches and Thoughts

Final Touches

Installing the Cord / Bungee

  • Cut your cord or bungee at least 6 inches longer than the length of your casing. This will make it easier to tie knots in once it is in place. 
  • Use some wire (I used a paper clip) to create a hook that will enable you to feed your cord through the casing
  • I used glow in the dark paracord because I had a bunch laying around. To reduce bulk and weight, I removed the core strands. 

My hook made from a paperclip
Drawcord with mini-cord locks installed

DIY 20°F Ultralight Backpacking Quilt Part 3 - Pinning and Sewing

Stacking and Pinning

If you are using thick insulation like I am, you will definitely need 'quilting' length straight pins. Using regular length pins will not work. I bought 1 3/4" pins for 7.5oz Climashield and it worked. If I had 10oz I would need longer pins. 
  • Pin your Shell and Liner fabric with right sides together. If your fabric has a side that is more shiny, that is the 'wrong' side
  • Sandwich the straps or draft flaps between the shell and liner, with the end of the strap/flap you want to be on the outside edge of your quilt pointing toward the center line of the quilt
  • After you've pinned the shell and liner to each other, pin the insulation on the bottom to them. The insulation will run against the feed dogs of your sewing machine

DIY 20°F Backpacking Quilt Part 2- Marking and Cutting

What you need to mark and cut

  • Weller Woodburner or a hot knife. Any nylon fabric needs to be cut with heat so that the edges are sealed and will not unravel. Even capturing the edge with a french seam only delays unraveling. 
  • Some sort of heat-resistant material to put under your shell and liner fabrics- either a piece of wood, metal or glass. A few people online have used scissors to cut the fabric and then sealed the edge with a lighter, but they say it is extremely easy to accidentally melt too much fabric.
  • Good Sharp Fabric Scissors at least 9" long if you are working with thick insulation like I am. If your insulation is thinner, smaller scissors will work. Just make sure they're sharp. 
  • Permanent fine tip marker
  • Tailors chalk