Homemade gear

12:57 a.m. on April 6, 2009 (EDT)
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I've started making my own gear, and SURPRISE! It's usually better suited to what I need than anything store-bought.

First is my stove. It's a very simple design made of the bottoms of two pop cans shoved together, with burner holes drilled in the top. Boils 2 1/2 cups water on 2 TBS alcohol. My windscreen doubles as my pot stand with the help of two tent stakes. The windscreen is made of heavy aluminum oven-liners and was fashioned to fit my cheap pot from an old wal-mart kit.


My hiking pole is made of a home-depot push broom handle which I sawed in half and countersunk joiner nuts into. It now screws apart and provides me with two tent poles at very little additional weight (probably next to nothing when you consider the weight of the wood I removed). I intend to stain and varnish it, but wanted to test if first to make sure it was up to snuff before putting in the extra work. After two recent trips, I am amazed at its strength. It can take ALL of my weight and then some, unlike the collapsable and expensive aluminum poles. The hand grip is french-whipped 1/4" rope, and the wrist strap is the same wrope which I single-strand braided into a strap. The metal tip (standard) keeps it from splintering in the rocky terrain of the ozarks. I purposely used a 1/4-20 thread to counter-sink it so that it can double as a camera monopod... jam it between some branches or rocks and you're good to go. I can't actually take a picture of the camera ON the pole since I only have one camera.

I'm sure I will think of more homemade gear in the future. Just wanted to share these ideas for anyone who hasn't explored these areas.

3:47 p.m. on April 6, 2009 (EDT)
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I love to make some of my own gear.I have made the following....Gaiters,Super Gaiters,Anorak,full side zip goretex rain paints,gore tex bivy sack,stuff bags,lined ski bags.Also do my own repairs such as patches or zippers.My mother was a seamstress and i learned to sew at an early age,took a pounding when i was a kid but it has payed off.

5:09 p.m. on April 6, 2009 (EDT)
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I wish I had that kind of sewing skills. I use a military CWSS Gore-Tex bivy, but on the very first trip I saw many areas where I could improve it. Unfortunately, while I am very comfortable with wood and fairly comfortable with metalwork, I have very little skill in the sewing department.

8:25 p.m. on April 6, 2009 (EDT)
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Nice set-up! I love alcool stoves, they work very well and are quiet.

I also started sewing to make hiking gear. I made a few parachute nylon hammocks, silnylon tarps, bivys, pants, dry bags and an expedition sled that converts to a backpack with integrated cover.

Of course the gear you make is usually better, it's custom made just the way you want it!

I'm working on making my tent a bit better and improving fuel consumption these days....

12:36 a.m. on April 7, 2009 (EDT)
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I just can't get my head around this bear stuff, since so many people do it differently... I thought you weren't supposed to cook where you slept?

Also... are you brave enough to do that with a down bag? I bivy camp, but that's a bit more protected than a tarp, and I STILL use Polarguard 3D. Murphy's law and all.

9:04 a.m. on April 7, 2009 (EDT)
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I've camped under tarps for over 300 nights and only got my down bag wet once: i was stuck in Three Sisters wilderness in Oregon, under a 5X8 poncho. Even with good skills 5X8 is pretty small, and the only flat site was dished volcanic rock. Having broken my foot 2 days before i wasn't able to hike further to a better site.

I use a Ray Jardine type tarp, about 9X6 plus beaks. It's an easy sewing project when you know a few tricks and is basically indestructible.

For bears...i'm not sure you want to know what i do!

Let's just say that if finding bear tracks in the morning 20 feet from your tarp scares the heck out of you, you should probably bear bag. A couple of times i've had a bear sniff and poke my sleeping bag too. ;)

10:10 a.m. on April 7, 2009 (EDT)
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I don't bear bag in the ozarks... I just leave my food in my pack and lean it against a tree 50 feet or so from wherever I throw down my bivy. I've had both Park Service and Forest Service rangers tell me that I don't need to bag here as long as I'm clean with dishes and such and don't keep them with me while I'm sleeping.

Even if I wanted to, there's no way I could find a tree to bag in. For one, most everything is broken over from the ice storm last winter, and for the second, all the trees are WAY too close together everywhere I go. See my pictures for verification.

At any rate, the forest service ranger also told me that in his 15 (or 20... I can't remember) years, no one has had an encounter here unless they were bear hunting. The next day, I had an encounter. go figure. It wasn't in any way food related as I was still hiking (see my narrative in trip reports), but it proves to me that they're out there.

In the ozarks, the thing most likely to get into my food is probably raccoons, although I haven't seen any of them out there yet. They could probably do some serious damage to a pack.

10:14 a.m. on April 7, 2009 (EDT)
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How much does that tarp weigh? I think my bivy is in the neighborhood of 1.8lbs. I like the idea of a bivy more, but that tarp doesn't look like it weighs much of anything... I can be convinced to do just about anything for a pound of weight out of my pack :D

12:55 p.m. on April 7, 2009 (EDT)
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Nice stuff! I've made a few little things, like a few soda can stoves, custom tarp, etc.. Also, sewing is a mandatory skill for me because it adds double the life to a lot of gear (or, if you look at it another way, it makes that gear half as expensive).

I'm interested in making a custom vestibule so that I can sit and enjoy the view with my coffee in inclimate weather-just like rich folk with their $900 Hillebergs! However, I'm stilll looking for a good, cheapish source of silk/nylon fabric. Anyone have any suggestions?

2:16 p.m. on April 7, 2009 (EDT)
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The tarp weights 1lb flush with the guylines. It as a lot more liveable space than a bivy too! I use 6 easton aluminum stakes at 1/2 oz each, but i don't think i ever needed all of them.

You can get cheap silnylon from quest outfitters in Florida. Good customer service and good prices too. You can also order stuff from them to make yourself a super light 10oz bivy for around 30$. I've made a couple and they rock!

2:21 p.m. on April 7, 2009 (EDT)
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By the way, the picture of the tarp is just after a massive spring thunder storm up high in the Rockies. The guys in the tent next to me couldn't sleep all night, i barely noticed it. It rained/snowed 6 days out of 9 and the bag was bone dry when i came back. I use an OR dry bag inside my pack, it's well worth the extra weight. I made one out of silnylon but it doesn't stand to extended use, not strong enough IMO.

12:10 a.m. on April 12, 2009 (EDT)
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I am also one who sews. I did so because I have a large family and it was the only way I could afford good equipment. My greatest pride and joys are the items I designed and sewed myself. I designed backpacks for my two sons ans myself. Cross country ski gaiters and windbreaker jackets for my daughters. Several of my projects were kits I completed, a polar-guard sleeping bag from 'MaKit' was my first project. I did several 'Frostline' goose down jacket kits, one for my wife, father in-law and myself.

11:13 a.m. on April 12, 2009 (EDT)
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franc, I'd like to hear more about how you made this bivy... did you use plans from somewhere online or just make it up as you went?

Also, are you just sleeping on top of a ridgerest or something to stay dry when the ground gets wet? What do you do when it gets warmer and mosquitos and other critters become a problem?

1:36 p.m. on April 12, 2009 (EDT)
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For the bivy, i took the dimensions of the Integral Design micro bivy and made it a bit longer and wider to accomodate my winter bag (I'm 6'2"). Basically i just take a model i like, copy the dimensions, add a 1 inch seam allowance on each side and modify it. For example, the bivys i made had a long overlapping flap at the head so i can prop it with sticks or snowshoes for head protection. I used Quest Outfitters' 1.9oz coated nylon for the bottom and their lightweight 2 ply W/B for the top. To make it cheap, i cut the W/B fabric lenghtwise to make a strip 2.5 feet wide for the top of the bivy and cut the bottom part to fit. Add a zipper or 2, zipper flap, seam seal and you're done. Sewing time maybe 3 hours. I'll try to get a picture...

For tarping i usually sleep on a small blue foamy (shoulder to knees) and use my pack or dry bag for foot protection. If the ground is wet it will dry fairly fast, and i might lay my rain jacket over the foamy to have more dry elbow room. No ground cloth, i forgot to bring it on a trip 4 years ago and have lived without ever since. Works great for the western states, but in the east a hammock is far better IMHO. For bugs adventure-16 makes a bug bivy. Well worth the 6oz weight. I never had a problem with criters, except 2 chipmunks fighting on top of my sleeping bag in the sierras.

The set-up in the tarp picture is my favorite, i took the picture just after breakfast in bed. When the rain got heavy during the night i just pinned down the sides while half-asleep and took the stakes out in the morning for more space. You can see them next to my sleeping bag. A tarp is super versatile and fast to set-up and tear down. If you buy some fabric anyway you could make a 10X10 tarp with 7 yards of silnylon for around 45$, 1 hour of sewing or about.

1:49 p.m. on April 12, 2009 (EDT)
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Since we're into tarps and such, i also made a hammock out of ripstop nylon. Actually, i think i'm using my third one (i lost one and they wear out).

It's based on Ed Spear design, very simply a piece of fabric 5 foot wide and 11 feet long, hem the edges and make an overhand knot on both ends. The tarp is an ID silnylon poncho attached to the hammock lines with a clip and a prussik. The tension in the fly comes from the ridge line attached to the same clips with an adjustable knot, so i can tension it while laying down in the hammock.

Total weight: 11oz for the poncho, 10oz for the hammock, maybe 6oz for the lines. I added 2 feet of silnylon to the poncho to make it 5X10.


i also made a polargard "quilt" and it took me forever!! I think if i had to do it again i would just buy a synthetic bag on special and modify it.

2:04 p.m. on April 12, 2009 (EDT)
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East Stingray

"In the ozarks, the thing most likely to get into my food is probably raccoons, although I haven't seen any of them out there yet. They could probably do some serious damage to a pack."

One time I saw this poor guy hiking down from Eldorado Glacier up in the Cascades. He had slept be a ridge just below snow pack and the marmots ate through his pack in 15 directions. It was so bad he could hardly keep it in one piece. After seeing that I never leave food in my pack.

2:15 p.m. on April 12, 2009 (EDT)
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Random that reminds me of a funny story. We were camped under the stars by a lake in SoCal when one of the girl started screaming "somebody stole my food bag!" After a few questions, she was sure it was a man wearing a blue shirt. We eventually found the bag 100 feet up a steep gully with a racoon busy dragging it. It was a 15lbs food bag!!

2:38 p.m. on April 12, 2009 (EDT)
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Haha... that reminds me of a trip I took with my family in the Sierras in one of those little Toyota pickup-converted-to-RV getups. Dad and I had been fishing until after dark, and when we got back to the RV, we couldn't find my mom and brother. There was a raccoon sitting on the picnic table with a bag of Funyuns, just going to town.

We later discovered that we had taken the only two flashlights with us, and when the raccoon had showed up my mom and brother thought it was a bear. They were locked up in the camper looking for something to club it with if it tried to get in.

11:38 p.m. on April 12, 2009 (EDT)
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I had a problem trying to post pictures. -Adrian

10:57 p.m. on April 15, 2009 (EDT)
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thanks a ton for the link to quest outfitters! A new, obsessive hobby has been launched.

11:04 p.m. on April 15, 2009 (EDT)
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Hahahaha!! my last order from them came up to 500$. I got nailed at the customs though :(

5:20 a.m. on April 16, 2009 (EDT)
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I like to build different types of alcohol stoves. I dont like to use them mind you, just build them.

10:50 p.m. on April 19, 2009 (EDT)
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I am not as talented as all of you but did come up with one good idea (probably not the only person to think of it). I make a sun shower out of a used milk jug. Use a gallon or 1/2 gallon jug depending on how much water you will need. The wieght is nothing. Use a small drill bit and drill holes in the cover (about 1/16 inch. Try it out at home to make sure the holes are the right size for the flow you want). Then paint the jug black. Fill with water and set in the sun for about 4 hours. Works great. I just tie it on the outside of my pack so it does not get crushed. I also use the jug to carry water to the campsite to be boiled.

One other thing I make is a walking stick. I cut a small maple sapling or branch and shave off the bark. I size the big end so a rubber bike handle grip will slide on it. I have made many for my friends and they all love them. On one of my last trips it saved me. My knees had given out and I had 6 miles to go. The stick was my third leg and held much wieght as I could not even lift one foot off the ground. It bent so much under my weight I though for sure it would break but it did not. By the time I got out my legs hurt so bad I could not even drive.

11:06 p.m. on April 19, 2009 (EDT)
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My knees had given out and I had 6 miles to go


Sorry to hear this. I had the same problem in Jasper and also got saved by a couple of sticks. It takes all the fun out of hiking. Hope you're better now!

6:09 p.m. on April 23, 2009 (EDT)
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Very nice, many gear companies probably started out making home-made or custom gear, I think BigBro's used for climbing protection started out this way, have seen and used some nice custom gear myself, some V-threaders, and a hibotchi grill moutned to skiies.

7:36 p.m. on April 23, 2009 (EDT)
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I made panniers for my touring bike out of 4 used mayonaise buckets from two places I cooked over two years. They are great panniers, seats, coolers,tables, food caches for hikes and can carry 4 gallons of water back from a nearby stream each.
I get looks and comments on them every where I go. I even use them for grocery shopping. On tour I use one that is doubled to carry my laptop secure and safely with foam inside to cushion it.

6:51 a.m. on April 24, 2009 (EDT)
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For sewing your own gear, thru-hiker.com, is a very useful source. Not only can you by lightweight material, zippers, buckles, small size lock slides, etc, you can also post your questions on their forum to get help from others who sew.

For example, for making a bivy, one can purchase Momentum90 which is a breathable fabric for the top, silnylon for the bottom (waterproof), and a waterproof zipper that is sold by the coil, so you can buy any length you want.

Seconds of silnylon can be purchased there, too. Along with more expensive Spiinnaker Cloth for making very lightweight tarps.

Another good source for outdoor fabric and fittings is Outdoor Wilderness Fabrics (owfinc.com)

Backpacking light.com has a recent article aimed at those who want to start to sew-their- own. You do have to have a paid membership to read it, however.

Thanks, east stingray, for your pole project. How did the metal tip endure? Was it non-skid on rocks? I am concerned about the added weight and wonder if just the wood tip end would work, just wear down faster. My dilemma is that I am ending my next hike on a Sunday and have to fly home. Can't take my poles on the plane, and post offices will be closed, so I can't ship them home. Thought I might try you idea and just ditch them at the end of my hike. I have some ski pole handles I could fit on and then remove and keep.

9:50 a.m. on April 24, 2009 (EDT)
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The pole is working great so far. It's now stained "redwood" and laquered. The tip is so-so on slick rock; it's not very sharp, so I wouldn't expect it to be any better. I'm pretty sure it's just a cap, not a full metal tip, so I doubt there's much of a weight penalty.

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