More Reasons to Modify Gear

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable More Reasons to Modify Gear

Viewing 22 posts - 1 through 22 (of 22 total)
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    Backpacking Light


    Locale: Rocky Mountains

    There are many good motives for altering equipment. Mostly we focus on reducing weight, fixing problems, or adding features. Here are a few more reasons.

    More Reasons to Modify Gear, by Rex Sanders

    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    “It can’t break if you didn’t bring it.” reminded me of how, in the 1980’s, we couldn’t keep these damn things in stock at the backpacking store:

    Partly because none of us staff could imagine wanting one when you could just lift your free-standing Jansport tent over your head and shake all the crumbs out.

    Remember when mini Maglites were one of the more capable, certainly one of the most waterproof options we had?  One of my LXGFs taught me to swap the heads and bodies, so as to have a bi- or tri-colored (with the end cap) unit that no one else could mistake for there’s.

    W I S N E R !
    BPL Member


    I remember my mini-Maglite with elastic headband strap well.  I can’t remember the model of my first actual headlamp, but it was mind blowing…A swivel feature for reading?!  What!?

    BPL Member


    Locale: The West is (still) the Best

    I’ve seen an “ultimate” gear list with an Uberlight wide  pad cut somewhat short (the theory being getting the lightest wide pad, as in who really sleeps well on a regular width pad?) and then backed up by a GG thin pad.  Besides doing the cutting, pretty sure the warranty will be nullified and Thermarest has a sweet warranty so far.

    Chris R
    BPL Member


    We take one of those small brushes winter camping, handy for sweeping out any stray snow that makes its way from the vestibule into the inner sanctum.

    Elliott Wolin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Hampton Roads, Virginia

    I recall reading in one of Jardine’s books that he and his wife removed every unneeded strap,  logo, lining, tape, etc. from a commercial backpack.  They saved about an ounce.  They then decided to make their own backpacks.

    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    Yeah, RayJ was kind of fanatically about the brand logos – not wanting to advertise for others, plus the weight, and (I think I’m remembering this right) upset about needle holes through the waterproofing.  It seemed to have kept him up at night.

    brian H
    BPL Member


    Locale: Siskiyou Mtns

    Funny 2 me…not wanting to advertise for a company…after investing in them, putting your trust in their product. In my brain thats a disconnect.

    Hey David what’s an LXGF??

    Shortening hipbelt straps has been my main mod.

    Anyone know the logic as to why removing the tag from a sleeping bag [cept 4 by the owner] is a federal crime w serious penalty?

    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    I have several mini maglites that were tchotchkes from some business

    I think maybe I gave all of them a new home at the Goodwill

    Rex Sanders
    BPL Member


    Do not remove those ‘do-not-remove’ tags

    Not sure if sleeping bag / quilt makers have the same policy.

    — Rex

    Mark Ayers
    BPL Member


    Locale: greater Grand Rapids, western Michigan, about the midpoint of the North Country National Scenic Trail

    If you don’t need it, remove it.

    Perhaps it isn’t an issue in this forum but, the moment I saw the line above, early in the article, I thought, “But have enough experience to know you won’t need it.” I have removed those items I didn’t need from that expensive piece of gear only to discover too late when and why i would need them. Better to carry it awhile, understand it, and then mod it.

    No Limu, just Doug
    BPL Member


    Locale: The Cascades

    Good point Mark.

    No Limu, just Doug
    BPL Member


    Locale: The Cascades

    “Do not remove those ‘do-not-remove’ tags”

    I’m not sure that would hold up in court, regardless of what a mattress company might say without being challenged.

    Michael P C
    BPL Member


    These are all good comments, but no one answered Rex’s question at the end of the article, “What are your uncommon reasons for modifying gear?”

    I hope it’s not uncommon, but I think he left out a major one: It’s fun! It may not always be fun while you’re doing it, but (unless it’s a total disaster, which is very rare) there’s tremendous satisfaction in seeing the results. And once you develop some skills, most of the “doing” is fun, too.

    BPL Member


    Locale: San Juan Mtns.

    Thanks everyone for the reminder to try things.

    I just got an end-of-the-season Mtn. Hardwear Ghost Whisperer jacket at a SICK price!  The only problem is that the arms are clownishly long or mine are clownishly short.  Either way, I’m going to take the leap and shorten the sleeves myself!  I may even add a contrasting color for the cuff elastic.  Now the jacket will be an original and one I will appreciate all the more.  From lemons to lemonade.

    Greg Pehrson
    BPL Member


    Locale: playa del caballo blanco

    Modding and repairing may not be the same, but they definitely use a lot of the same skills. And learning those skills has helped me acquire really nice gear economically (especially clothing), as folks get rid of stuff that’s damaged but easily fixable on eBay or craigslist. For example, I picked up a First Ascent down vest for $11 because it had a one-inch tear on the inside that I hand-sewed, and a down hoodie, which lists at over $200, was $14 because of an easily-fixable issue with one of the arm baffles. I’m more likely to experiment with modifications on this stuff than on an item I paid full price for, and less worried about damaging it in the field.

    Dave Heiss
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    I used to do more modding than I do now, and I think it’s because there are so many more gear choices now. It takes way more research to make a decision, which can be formidable when there are (for example) a 100+ different backpacks in your size and capacity range, but nowadays a buyer has a pretty good chance of finding exactly what they want.

    It’s quite a bit different from the days when you’d go to REI, or EMS, or the local Mom&Pop outdoor store and make the best out of what you found.

    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mojave Desert

    Yeah, I call modding my backpacking gear my “Magnificent Obsession” (after the title of the 50s movie). And I’ve shown photos of some of them here over the years.

    So… I’m now planning mods for my NotchLi – and it hasn’t even arrived yet! Is there a 12 Step program for this obsession?

    Usually my mods involving adding something but in the case of my Osprey EXOS 58 it was cutting off the “hiking pole carrier loops” and the spare top flap.

    Craig B
    BPL Member


    I’ve done this to one or two things, but I’m generally pretty hesitant to do so.  My mindset for store bought items, especially costly ones, is to never change it from the original configuration.  As soon as you make one minor change, generally you have voided the warranty and reduced the resale value by a very large amount.  Would you pay the same price for a piece of used gear that some stranger ‘made better’ by taking scissors or a seam ripper to?

    Now I would much prefer just making my own thing from scratch rather than modding something commercial.  That being said, you have to start somewhere in being able to do that!

    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mojave Desert

    Craig, I have sold several items I’ve modified and never lost any money due to those mods, which I listed in my ads. In fact two buyers liked the mods.

    AK Granola
    BPL Member


    I only ever modify something if it isn’t working right, or it’s causing a problem, including excess weight to carry. I actually hate sewing or fixing or fiddling, and it takes up a lot of time so I avoid if at all possible, favoring other pastimes. I avoid the Make your own gear forum 99% of the time, although I enjoy seeing what others have made. But sometimes you just have to change something, so I do.

    It isn’t that I don’t like working with my hands, because I enjoy gardening, cooking and baking, canning, cutting fish and meat for the freezer. Maybe it’s because I hated my junior high sewing teacher and as a girl, wasn’t permitted to take shop (1970s), so I can’t use tools.  But I hate fiddling with gear. I did enjoy making tin can stoves with my son when he was younger. But then I hated how long they took to cook something, especially in strong wind, so they got recycled. We made a solar oven once too, but too bulky to take backpacking. It did a nice job toasting marshmallows though!

    I don’t care a whit about brand labels, neither pro nor con. Those stay put. I add my name and phone number to all my outdoor gear, because I frequently lend it or camp in groups and I want it back again. I do remove long straps but only after enduring them for a while just to be certain I don’t need it.

    So I guess I don’t modify much stuff other than simple repairs,  but I do appreciate all the tips I’ve learned here to repair things in the field using creative solutions. Haven’t used any yet!

    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mojave Desert

    I guess my modding more often takes the form of “improving” a piece of gear.

    EX-> Camelbak 35 L. hunting rucksack. ADDED 2 vertical 1″ wide aluminum stays bolted thru the flimsy “frame sheet” ADDED REI padded hip belt after cutting off useless cloth waist belt. Now I can carry loads of up to 45 lbs. mainly on my hips with the load transfer mods of the frame and hip belt.

    EX-> CHANGED Tarptent crossing poles from over the fly to under the fly in Moment DW and Scarp 2. Gives much more fly support in heavy winds and snow loads. 

    Obviously these mods require a bit of faith that my ideas will work. So far, so good.

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