When I realized that I could drastically reduce my pack weight by switching to ultralight gear, I was so excited… But then I saw the prices! Armed with a home sewing machine and basic sewing skills, I decided that making my own gear was the way to go. After years of traditional backpacking and minimalist travelling, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted. Making my own gear would allow me to build my kit with the exact features that I love, but nothing that I did’t need. I dove in with a naivety that I’m both grateful for and amazed by, and had full confidence in my ability to create my big items from scratch. So far, I’m halfway through, and there have been some very memorable “learning experiences” along the way. Like the time I decided to order unsorted goose down directly from the (slightly perplexed) local Hutterite producers, and it arrived on my doorstep in a garbage bag with some very well-intentioned advice on making duvets! Let’s just say that sorting down from feathers is more work than you think it is, and I currently have a half-stuffed quilt covering my living room floor. Other things have gone really well – my custom wind shirt, rain gear, hiking pants, and gaiters all turned out just how I had imagined them. My tent landed somewhere in the middle, with a very imperfect pitch (somehow I managed to incorporate both straight edges and unplanned catenary curves in this unique structure), but also a wonky charm that does just fine in fair weather and has given me a chance to try out trekking pole-supported shelters. Building my backpack has given me a much deeper understanding of weight distribution and transfer, and it will be in a constant process of design, evaluation, and improvement for the foreseeable future. It’s already the pack that I grab from the closet for nearly every adventure though, and the pockets are perfect for me. If I had gone out and bought my gear, it would have definitely been simpler, but I do think I’ve gained a significant connection to, and appreciation for, this gear that I wouldn’t have gotten by picking it up off the shelf.
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