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Make Your Own Gear: I've Got the Bug

So... I have picked up a new hobby.  Generally speaking, I don't really have the time/money for another hobby.  Regardless, I have added another to the list: making gear.

My set up for making gear in the basement.  Everything I need to design, plan, construct, and analyze my creations.

The Make Your Own Gear (MYOG) subculture is perfectly analogous to the DIY movement. Instead of going out to a box store and buying a mass produced product, you take the time and effort to create something yourself, buying raw materials and crafting something unique, just the way you want it.

This is the alcohol stove I made, along with foil windscreen.  You know, just
in case it gets blustery in the kitchen. You never know.
A lot of the inspiration for MYOG projects is the same as DIY projects.  First and foremost people make their own gear because it is fulfilling.  There is something in human nature that relishes in the act of creation.  I believe that creativity is at the very heart of who we are as a race. It is in our bones.

Besides this esoteric underpinning, there are several more practical reasons why people make their own gear for outdoor adventures.  For instance, if you disregard your own time spent, it is almost always less expensive to make something yourself than it is to buy it already built.  As an example I recently spent about $120 on materials for MYOG projects.  With these materials I will be able to make a hammock, the suspension to hang the hammock, a bug net, a lightweight sleeping bag (well technically it is a quilt, but I will save that for a different post), an under quilt for the hammock (to keep your butt and back warm), some insulated clothing, several stuff sacks, a few other small things, and a tarp to hang over it all and keep you dry. If I were to go to REI and purchase all these things, it would cost me over $700.  So the cost savings are not unimpressive.

Rain Kilt. Keeps the rain the top half of your legs.
And it looks so good.
If you take the time to make your own gear, you can also optimize it for your personal preferences and intended uses.  Yes, I did just say optimize.  This basically means that you end up getting exactly what you want.  The sleeping bag is sized just for you.  The stuff sack is the exact size you need to fit that sleeping bag into.  You can leave off any unnecessary features that add useless weight.  You can add features that will make it easier and more enjoyable to use your gear.

Also, it is fun. At least for dorks like me.  I get to apply my overly-analytical mind to something I am passionate about.  I can plan, measure, calculate, and design my pants off. Figuratively speaking, though pants aren't strictly required for designing a underquilt for your hammock that can also worn around camp as a very stylish and insulated serape.  Basically, I get to exercise my nerdiness.  Plus I get to brag about how I have made all sorts of things.  The only downside to telling people is that no one actually cares. Still gonna do it.

The first thing that I made, the thing that started this whole ball rolling was about as simple as possible: a groundsheet.  Literally a sheet of something you put on the ground to keep your stuff and self dry and clean(er) while camping.  I made it out of Tyvek, a construction material.  After that I made an alcohol stove.  And then I was hooked.
See that ugly white thing my sleeping bag and pad are on? Yeah, that's my groundsheet.
 I have made a bunch of stuff sacks, a tarp, pack liners, a bug net, pot cozies, a rain kilt, versatile insulated serape (not a joke), and a quilt (there will be a whole separate post on the Theory Of Quilts in general).  Some these projects merit their own explanation, like the quilt. Some are stupid. None are truly  original ideas.  I got just about all of them from the Backpacking Light, Hammock Forums, or DIY Gear Supply websites.  Or I found something available commercially, and tried to make it myself. I may make some tweaks, but the ideas aren't really mine.

 This is the Tyvek Tarp I made.  Just big enough for one. Pitched in the wilds of my backyard.

Right now, I have the itch to make more.  The list of things I want to make is already long and gets longer almost every day.  I probably won't check it all off for years.  Or you know, ever.

For now, I am loving designing and creating my  own gear.  I get to sit in my dingy basement with a 60 year old sewing machine, and maybe a pale ale, and think sweet thoughts of high summits, alpine lakes, epic vistas, and cozy back country campsites.  It satisfies an ache in my soul, that fundamental drive to create. It is a wonderful way to spend time indoors, if one must be so confined.

I would almost always prefer to get out, though. Go outside.  Chase the wind, run the ridges, wade through the wilds, play in the boulder fields, roam far and high, scratch that itch, ease that longing that lurks in the pit of my stomach. But I, like most, have other things in my life. As much as I love the mountains, I love my wife much more.  I love trying new beers.  I have a 5-days-a-week job.  So my forays into the mountains are oases, sweet drops of simplicity and beauty in the adventure of life.  And between those drops, I have found something productive and creative to pursue.  So, I will continue being a nerd, and continue making all sorts of crap that I can use when I do get the chance to get out and breathe that sweet, sharp, mountain air.

-Matt "Rain Kilt" Kreider

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