Primitive and modern outdoor skills

Diamond Hitch and a Blanket


This weekend Jess and I decided that we just wanted to get out, but we wanted a bit of a twist too.

Recently, while in Seattle for a friend's wedding, we saw a couple of old pack frames for sale on the street. Unable to resist we bought them for $8.00 total (we actually already had 1 each :P).

The pack

So, this weekend, we decided to take them for a spin. We've played with blankets tied around our waists on a couple of trips now and found it to be *okay* in nice weather, but a bit uncomfortable. So, how about something in between? My mom told me stories about how she used to backpack with a piece of canvas tied to a pack frame using a diamond hitch. So we decided to give it a try, but with a large blanket instead (larger than is comfortable around the waist).

So... why was this idea appealing to us? We're always aiming to carry less *stuff* and be more dependent on and involved in the environment we're in. We've also seen some great designs for pack-frames made out of sticks. If you can make the frame, the string, and the straps, and you have something warm to sleep under... You have a pack that can carry a few more items.

Here's a descent description of how to tie a diamond hitch, and the one I learned from on friday, I found this by doing a quick search. I feel like it's *almost* right but I feel like you should complete the diamond. So Jess and I both ran the twine back up the far side at the end making the whole shape balanced.

And what we got was this: IMG_20120907_154552.jpg

FYI: This frame is unusually small, which is part of why I bought.

That was my first attempt, after tying it several times a day over the weekend I got a bit better and much faster. We discovered in using it that it works slightly better if the strings go over the bottom panel. Note that the flap on top is also on top of the pack, this lets you "open" the pack and re-close it by tucking it back under the strings. It's surprisingly easy.

Sorry I don't have any pictures from the trip, I forgot to bring a camera. I brought:

I changed gear slightly, but based on when I weighed it I believe this is ~10 lbs base, ~15 lbs total.

How'd it work?

Getting things in and out

This was surprisingly not annoying. The flap isn't much harder to open than many backpacks are. This is what we usually did when getting water bottles, knives, or other smaller items. When we had to get out say, the food and cookpots, it was usually easier to undo it and retie it. This takes a minute or two to tie and untie, but really... 2 minutes isn't a big deal. From this perspective I would do it again.


The first night we arrived at a back entrance to Henry Coe after dark. We hiked in a short distance and went to sleep. We each curled up in our own blanket, lying on it and flopping it over us. It wasn't cold until later in the night, but it did get cold enough that we both put on our sweaters and hats. It was okay, but our feet were numb in the morning, that night we were kindof roughing it, as it were.

As an important side note, both nights we were careful to fold the blankets so that the side we slept against was on the inside on the first fold of the blanket, before bundling our gear up in it. This kept the burrs on the person side of the blanket to a reasonable level for sleeping.

The next night was a different story. We slept in a great little meadow near a lake. The meadow had tons of dry grass, mostly oats. We gathered a bunch of grass and made a huge cushy mattress for the two of us. We layed one blanket over the mattress, lay down on that, and lay the other blanket on top of us. THAT night was almost as good as sleeping at home on our expensive futon mattress. It was slightly harder on our hips, and it wasn't quite warm enough, but in many ways it was comfier than a normal sleeping-bag. Had it gotten colder we probably would've moved both blankets on top of us for warmth and gotten a bit more poked by straw. That night was *not* roughing it, it was wonderful (and cuddly).

Overall opinion

Surprisingly good. Overall we both decided that we really want to try this approach with tarps and sleepingbags/quilts. The blankets were usable, but basically either they aren't as warm as we'd like (when we can't have fires) or we haven't figured out some magic trick :). The diamond hitch itself was great though, and I really like not depending on an expensive backpack body.

Stop for a second... Look at the list of gear I brought and consider every time you've heard someone say "I can't backpack, it's too expensive". This backpack cost me ~$25.0. $20 for the blanket $4.0 for the frame $1 for the twine. I brought my favorite knife at $20. I made the stove that Friday from two soda cans that were in my recycle bin. I have an expensive sweater and cookpot, but any sweater and cookpot would do. The emergency bivy was backup because I was experimenting. The iodine (~$25, but no longer available) was only because we couldn't have fires, and water in Henry Coe was very scarce.

Future work

I really want to try this with a tarp. I also want to try making a pack frame from sticks. I've also seen people do a similar trick with no frame at all, just tying things up in a bundle. Many things to try!

I know diamond hitches used to be THE way to backpack... I'd love to hear about any tricks anyone else has discovered!