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Re: Makeshift gear better than store-bought?

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Makeshift gear better than store-bought?
August 24, 2017 08:41PM
I've been getting more skeptical about store-bought gear. Would welcome any advice from people who have developed their own. Please keep this discussion to items that are readily available or can be made with minimal skill. For instance, you may have sewed your own backpack, but no matter how good it is I'm not going to attempt it.

I'll start. On my latest trip (report coming soon), I got pretty good use out of my favorite piece of rain gear: a regular wide-brimmed hat with a disposable shower cap underneath. It has two big advantages over my rain jacket's hood: it protects my face, and doesn't rustle or otherwise impede my hearing.
Re: Makeshift gear better than store-bought?
August 27, 2017 04:43AM
There are trade offs with everything.....materials, design, weight, etc. Manufacturers make design decisions based on what most people will want, cost, etc. Maybe those decisions aren't the ones you would make. So when you make your own gear, you decide what trade offs between weight, cost, durability, etc are right for you. You design it for yourself, not the general mass market. So in general home made gear is "better". The only caveat would be construction techniques, as you mentioned with sewing a backpack....not an easy task for most.
Re: Makeshift gear better than store-bought?
August 27, 2017 07:57AM
The tradeoffs that you list are legitimate, but there are some other forces at work in the gear market. First of all, many manufacturers adopt a "CYA" approach. For any sufficiently complicated item of gear, such as a pack, there are some designs that would work great in the field but require a lot of experience or some item-specific know-how. If a significant minority of customers can't figure out the "trick" to using the product, they'll end up unhappy and trash the manufacturer in online reviews. So companies understandably prefer to make a foolproof design that's otherwise less optimal. And I think that some manufacturers are actually dishonest, packing their products with gimmicky "features" that add more weight than functionality or quality.
avatar Re: Makeshift gear better than store-bought?
August 27, 2017 07:27PM
I think you're just asking about simple DIY projects. I've made a few simple things, not that they are "better" but they certainly are cheaper and sometimes lighter.
  • Many of us have cut up a big piece of tyvek or window film (polycryo) to make a groundsheet.
  • I made stake sacks with a piece of super-light 1443r tyvek, some shock cord, and a tiny bit of Gorilla Glue.
  • Similarly, I made a couple of rain kilt/wraps with a piece of silnylon, silicone seam sealer, and some cord.
  • Many of us have made an alcohol stove from a cat food can.
  • I made a water scoop from the smallest size Sawyer "squeeze" bag (16oz) by cutting the top off.
  • I made a few wind screens for cooking. Best is to use tooling foil, it's thinner and lighter than flashing from Home Depot.
  • For water I primarily use two repurposed water bottles. One is a Smartwater bottle for "dirty" water, the threads are a perfect match for a Sawyer filter, and a lighter water bottle with a squirt nozzles for "clean" water.
  • I didn't want to carry the big, heavy syringe Sawyer provides for backflushing so I took a water bottle cap that fits my clean water bottle, made a hole through it, and glued about an inch of water tubing in the hole, so I can screw that onto my clean bottle and backflush my filter if needed for only a few extra grams.
  • I took another bottle cap that fits the Smartwater bottle and drilled about 8 holes in it to make a showerhead.
  • Reflectix is good for a few project. I've made rehydration cozies and camera cases. It also can be used to supplement sleep insulation.
  • I made a warm weather backpacking quilt, of sorts, from a Costco down throw ($20) that I added some KAM snaps to for a footbox.
  • On my old headlamp I took off the wide elastic band with the manufacturer's name all over it and replaced it with a bit of guy line and a cord lock. Those headlamp bands are heavy.
  • My current lighting is even lighter -- a tiny Olight flashlight that clips onto the bill of whatever hat I bring, two-thirds of an ounce with battery.
  • Visine/eyedrop bottles are great for repackaging liquid soap, hand sanitizer, DEET, etc.
  • A drinking straw cut up into segments makes a great ultralight and airtight container for a variety of ointments and items. Squeeze one end of the cut straw segment with pliers, so that just a tiny bit of the end is sticking out, and use a lighter to melt that end shut. Then fill the segment with whatever you want and melt the other end shut or there's a way to leave it sealable and reusable. Antibiotic ointment, sunscreen, toothpaste, hemorrhoid cream, pills, pre-measured doses of powdered medicine or drink mix, spices for cooking, olive oil, a safe place for a sewing needle or mini fish hooks, and even cotton balls coated in Vaseline as emergency fire-starters. Use different diameter straws for different needs.
  • While I didn't make it, much of my current cook kit is repurposed or recycled. My cook pot (for water boil only) is an old Foster's beer can. The outer casing of my alcohol stove is intended as a cosmetics container.
  • I use ziploc bags rather than stuff sacks.



- Billy Joel
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