Reader Poll: Home-Made Gear?

Cuben Fiber Stuff Sack

I like to make a lot of my own gear, like the Cuben Fiber stuff sack shown above. It saves me money for one thing, but it also tends to give me a much better understanding and appreciation of how something is made and how it functions. I not talking about hacking, tweaking, or modifying an existing product, I mean making something from scratch.

So, am I the exception to the norm or are we all out there, busy tinkering with materials and making our own gear to use? What pieces of gear have you made in the past and how did they turn out? Please leave a comment below.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04380958324541306917 JERMM

    Guilty as charged, my basement is Tinkerville USA.

    I’ve made a few pieces from scratch, there’s a certain amount of pride when using a piece of gear that you’ve made especially when it functions in the way you planned for it to. MYOG gear list: solo tarp, stuff sacks, mini saw, fleece facemask, umbrella holder with shoulder strap attachment, front pocket for pack, strap chair, camera pocket for shoulder strap, stoves wood and alcohol.

    I have something very special in progress, will post photos and write up when it’s complete.

    Not sure I totally agree with it saving money, I guess it depends on what the item is. I do agree with “it also tends to give me a much better understanding and appreciation of how something is made and how it functions.”

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08711710994445356691 Glen

    For me the biggest thing about making your own gear is getting exactly what you want… or what you thought you wanted…. or as close as your skills would allow you to construct what you thought you wanted.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17919113324490223605 Hendrik Morkel

    Made some stuff sacks and a tarp last year, now sitting and doing an EtaProof Smock and pants. Might try my hands on another (cuben) tarp.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09628095804170935682 Brian

    I’m pretty good with my hands and somewhat skilled with a sewing machine. My biggest hurdle is knowing what types of stitching to do in what places. I need a good guide to stitching and bar tacking, or dealing with tension points.

    How do you guys figure it out? Is it trial and error or reverse engineering purchased gear?

  • Anonymous

    That’s the risk with making your own gear. The first time around is the learning curve part, and you have a product that more resembles and prototype. You know if you make a 2nd one, it will turn out much better- so you do, and another one, and another after that. At least that’s how it works for me, and explains why I have close to 100 alcohol stoves in my garage. Alcohol stoves are great, because the raw materials are free- but fabric isn’t… It can be a slippery slope.

    BM

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12807326839402308764 mybackpackingblog

    I want to duplicate the sack that came with my GSI Halulite Kettle…I have boght one that came with a sack and one that didn’t…So, I want to make one just like the other..just have no idea how to do…Guess I need to go ahead buy me sewing machine…never tought I would ever hear myself say that…

  • http://www.dadvswild.com/ Tony

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03719332121719827761 Martin Rye

    Last time it was a cat can stove. Just need to match a pot to it to be effective. Fun stuff making kit. need to have a go at some other stuff.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09628095804170935682 Brian

    Martin, I agree that it’s a lot of fun. I find it a great way to not only learn more about how gear works, but to test things out before purchasing a professionally made version. Stove making can be addictive, just ask JERMM :-)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11796776553541550978 Katharine Knight

    Nice blog! I make or use cheap found items for a lot of my own gear. Partially because I enjoy making things, partially because I don’t have much money. I’ve made tarp shelters, a (very lumpy but super warm) sleeping bag, stuff sacks, crochet mesh dunk bags, felt camp shoes, hiking poles, billy cans, stoves, wool base layers made out of modified thrift store sweaters, and I’m working on a pair of gaiters.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08711710994445356691 Glen

    For me the biggest thing about making your own gear is getting exactly what you want… or what you thought you wanted…. or as close as your skills would allow you to construct what you thought you wanted.

  • DillonJohn

    First, I’d like to mention how much I’ve been enjoying your blog. I found it recently through StumbleUpon and have since read about half or more of your posts. I’ve never been backpacking, but I’m a lifelong day-hiker and have been dying to give backpacking a shot. Much of what I’ve read so far about your UL point of view makes perfect sense to me and some of the rest has already saved me from making mistakes I know I would have made and then regretted quickly.  Being on a very tight budget, mistakes are things I’d rather just avoid in the first place.  Back on target, though, I have made it a habit over the years to try to make my own gear when I think I can or want to experiment. Living in Boston and traveling on bicycle, I made a pretty sweet messenger bag from salvaged denim I got from thrift store jeans. Before that, I made a hammock for day trips along the Delaware River in NJ and NY. Both pieces have not only served their purpose in what was at the time the most economical way, but allowed me to sharpen some skills I’d nearly forgotten I have and developed the urge to further refine my “original” designs. Of course that also means wanting to make even more gear.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Dillon, thanks for your kind words about my blog. Like you I’m a pretty limited budget and can’t always afford to make multiple bad purchases to get to the right piece of gear. A lot of the gear I test I return to the manufacturers after I’m done, but it gives me ideas on what I want and how to make things.

      Over the years I’ve learned that I get far more enjoyment out of using something I have made myself than pieces of gear that I buy. Some things I simply can’t make myself and in those cases I do a lot of research before committing to a purchase.

      I’m pretty god with my hands so I tend to at least take a stab at making as much gear as I can. I even used to make my own pottery for sale and for use at home and to this day a large amount of the ceramics we use in our kitchen and around our home are things that I have made. There’s something to be said for making gear and finding that it performs better than you expected. Seeing others use it an getting the same enjoyment out of it is exhilarating too.

      Whether you can afford to buy a piece of gear or not, I would strongly encourage you to first attempt to make it yourself, assuming you have the necessary skills, time and equipment needed to do so. If you have any examples of the things you have made I’d love to see them. Thanks again :-)

      • DillonJohn

        Brian, thanks for your words of encouragement. I’m now more determined than ever to get out and do some backpacking. I’m in the planning stages of a quick overnight trip, with some borrowed gear from a friend of mine who’ll be coming along. Also, I’ve started thinking seriously about making my first backpack rather than saving up to buy one from REI. I made that the central subject of my first post at my new blog: http://mybrokensandals.blogspot.com/ and I’d appreciate any feedback you or anyone else might have for me. 

        Also, thanks for your interest in the gear I’ve made so far. I’m planning on making the messenger bag I mentioned the focus of my next post, which should be up in the next day or two. I’d love to see some of your pottery. I’ve never made anything more complicated than a small bowl, but watching people work with a wheel has always made me want to give it a shot sometime.

    • sologal

      Dillon- Also from Boston area. You can try an overnight to start- See stealth camping. I take the commuter rail/bike out to one of the reservations. key is- don’t set camp until almost dark. Don’t need alot- You can always start with cheap hardware store tarp-try 6×8-$5. I have equipped my self on vacation for unexpected trip entirely from thrift store. rucksack, old alum/pot/cup, sleeping bag/quilt- ( I have recut old bags and used duck tape for no sew), water bottle/canteen/used Gatorade bottle. Probably get by with $20. Also dollar store- i like $1 Shower curtain liners for ground cloth, $1 Poncho for rain-Won’t last more than 1 trip/day Go home if it rains on day 2. Bring no-cook jerky, instant oatmeal, instant mashed potatoes, tin of spam/vienna sausage, pnut butter jelly sandwich teabags. You can always try small can sterno to heat a cup of water. Cheap, easy.

      Just stay out of fancy stores until you know what you want/need for gear. I have all the “good stuff”, but often revert to my found/cheapo gear if it works well for me.
      Started backpacking 40 years ago with $2 plastic tube tent, rucksack and Sears sleeping bag with flannel duck hunters printed inside. I’ve never looked back.

  • Dillon John

    First, I’d like to mention how much I’ve been enjoying your blog. I found it recently through StumbleUpon and have since read about half or more of your posts. I’ve never been backpacking, but I’m a lifelong day-hiker and have been dying to give backpacking a shot. Much of what I’ve read so far about your UL point of view makes perfect sense to me and some of the rest has already saved me from making mistakes I know I would have made and then regretted quickly.  Being on a very tight budget, mistakes are things I’d rather just avoid in the first place.  Back on target, though, I have made it a habit over the years to try to make my own gear when I think I can or want to experiment. Living in Boston and traveling on bicycle, I made a pretty sweet messenger bag from salvaged denim I got from thrift store jeans. Before that, I made a hammock for day trips along the Delaware River in NJ and NY. Both pieces have not only served their purpose in what was at the time the most economical way, but allowed me to sharpen some skills I’d nearly forgotten I have and developed the urge to further refine my “original” designs. Of course that also means wanting to make even more gear.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Dillon, thanks for your kind words about my blog. Like you I’m a pretty limited budget and can’t always afford to make multiple bad purchases to get to the right piece of gear. A lot of the gear I test I return to the manufacturers after I’m done, but it gives me ideas on what I want and how to make things.

    Over the years I’ve learned that I get far more enjoyment out of using something I have made myself than pieces of gear that I buy. Some things I simply can’t make myself and in those cases I do a lot of research before committing to a purchase.

    I’m pretty god with my hands so I tend to at least take a stab at making as much gear as I can. I even used to make my own pottery for sale and for use at home and to this day a large amount of the ceramics we use in our kitchen and around our home are things that I have made. There’s something to be said for making gear and finding that it performs better than you expected. Seeing others use it an getting the same enjoyment out of it is exhilarating too.

    Whether you can afford to buy a piece of gear or not, I would strongly encourage you to first attempt to make it yourself, assuming you have the necessary skills, time and equipment needed to do so. If you have any examples of the things you have made I’d love to see them. Thanks again :-)

  • Dillon John

    Brian, thanks for your words of encouragement. I’m now more determined than ever to get out and do some backpacking. I’m in the planning stages of a quick overnight trip, with some borrowed gear from a friend of mine who’ll be coming along. Also, I’ve started thinking seriously about making my first backpack rather than saving up to buy one from REI. I made that the central subject of my first post at my new blog: http://mybrokensandals.blogspot.com/ and I’d appreciate any feedback you or anyone else might have for me. 

    Also, thanks for your interest in the gear I’ve made so far. I’m planning on making the messenger bag I mentioned the focus of my next post, which should be up in the next day or two. I’d love to see some of your pottery. I’ve never made anything more complicated than a small bowl, but watching people work with a wheel has always made me want to give it a shot sometime.

  • sologal

    Dillon- Also from Boston area. You can try an overnight to start- See stealth camping. I take the commuter rail/bike out to one of the reservations. key is- don’t set camp until almost dark. Don’t need alot- You can always start with cheap hardware store tarp-try 6×8-$5. I have equipped my self on vacation for unexpected trip entirely from thrift store. rucksack, old alum/pot/cup, sleeping bag/quilt- ( I have recut old bags and used duck tape for no sew), water bottle/canteen/used Gatorade bottle. Probably get by with $20. Also dollar store- i like $1 Shower curtain liners for ground cloth, $1 Poncho for rain-Won’t last more than 1 trip/day Go home if it rains on day 2. Bring no-cook jerky, instant oatmeal, instant mashed potatoes, tin of spam/vienna sausage, pnut butter jelly sandwich teabags. You can always try small can sterno to heat a cup of water. Cheap, easy.

    Just stay out of fancy stores until you know what you want/need for gear. I have all the “good stuff”, but often revert to my found/cheapo gear if it works well for me.
    Started backpacking 40 years ago with $2 plastic tube tent, rucksack and Sears sleeping bag with flannel duck hunters printed inside. I’ve never looked back.

  • ConnieD

    I like the difference of quality gear. I will make, or borrow, good or great gear before I make a purchase. A lot of gear sold isn’t worth it. Some is great gear.

    To answer your question: I made sleeping quilts. I tried synthetic first, then down. I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend the money and I wasn’t sure if I wanted a sewn footbox, elastic drawstring and OMNI (velcro-type) tape, or how long or how wide.
    Making quilts, allows me to find out if I like it and what I like.

    However, my skills will never be like the ones for sale. I think, when I have sorted it all out, I will send the fabric choice and have one made. I would expect it to last longer, but I know it will be more beautifully made. I like that. I think that will be worth paying the premium price.

    Meanwhile, my skills have improved. I think I will make an anorak. Before this, I made tarps, ponchos and other rain gear experiments.

  • ConnieD

    I like the difference of quality gear.
    I will make, or borrow, good or great gear before I make a purchase.
    A lot of gear sold isn’t worth it. Some is great gear.
    I have a website about the good stuff. http://ultralightbackpackingonline.info
    To answer your question:
    I made sleeping quilts. I tried synthetic first, then down.
    I wasn’t sure I wanted to spend the money and I wasn’t sure if I wanted a sewn footbox, elastic drawstring and OMNI (velcro-type) tape, or how long or how wide.
    Making quilts, allows me to find out if I like it and what I like.
    However, my skills will never be like the ones for sale.
    I think, when I have sorted it all out, I will send the fabric choice and have one made. I would expect it to last longer, but I know it will be more beautifully made. I like that. I think that will be worth paying the premium price.
    Meanwhile, my skills have improved. I think I will make an anorak.
    Before this, I made tarps, ponchos and other rain gear experiments.

  • ConnieD

    Edited? I see another link from DillonJohn.
    My link to my dot info website DIY/MYOG webpage is not acceptable.
    I have no advertising. I am selling nothing.
    I made the website to help backpackers.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      OMG! Yes, I do retain the right to edit any content on my blog even comments. That said I *only* tend to moderate comments that include URLs because people seem to like using my blog as a way to link back to their own sites and self-promote.

      Often, I am approving (moderating) comments via my iPhone while I’m mobile and that is with a very small user interface, and occasionally I butcher them by accident – wish DISQUS would create an iPhone moderator app but they haven’t yet.

      If you feel strongly about it (which you seem to) then repost the link and I’ll try not to mess it up, but know that I will remove blatant links if they are not related to the comment thread – yours ‘sounds’ as though it was related. ^BG

  • ConnieD

    Edited? I see another link from DillonJohn.
    My link to my dot info website DIY/MYOG webpage is not acceptable.
    I have no advertising. I am selling nothing.
    I made the website to help backpackers.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    OMG! Yes, I do retain the right to edit any content on my blog even comments. That said I *only* tend to moderate comments that include URLs because people seem to like using my blog as a way to link back to their own sites and self-promote.

    Often, I am approving (moderating) comments via my iPhone while I’m mobile and that is with a very small user interface, and occasionally I butcher them by accident – wish DISQUS would create an iPhone moderator app but they haven’t yet.

    If you feel strongly about it (which you seem to) then repost the link and I’ll try not to mess it up, but know that I will remove blatant links if they are not related to the comment thread – yours ‘sounds’ as though it was related. ^BG

  • http://thehikehouse.com/ TheHikeHouse

    Thanks for sharing. Not only is the
    price of backpacking gear outrageously high, but it’s difficult to find
    outdoor gear that exactly meets our specifications. Paying high prices
    for backpacking equipment, especially when it only partially satisfies
    our requirements, is problematic, to say the least. One alternative is
    to make your own – home made outdoor gear.