This will be the first of a couple “Make Your Own Gear” posts.
Many a thru-hiking conversation revolves around gear, and many folks fantasize about making their own gear. The advantages are obvious: you can customize your gear exactly to your wants, you can save money, and you get a real sense of accomplishment. However, while I enjoy various sewing projects, I am no expert, so the thought of designing and sewing my own gear was pretty daunting.
I was fortunate enough to meet a few people on the Appalachian Trail who had made their own gear! I met a couple with 2 homemade backpacks, a homemade sleeping quilt, and a homemade tarp tent. They directed me to Ray-Way kits, designed by Ray Jardine. Jardine is a rock climber/adventurer who is regarded as one of the pioneers of ultralight backpacking. He and his wife sell kits to make your own gear, which include the patterns and all necessary materials (except for the sewing machine and thread). I met a couple other hikers on the trail who had made the Ray-Way backpack, one of whom had never sewed anything before. I decided I was ready to give it a try.
Now, the cost of the kit is not as cheap as simply designing your own pack and buying the materials, but I am not advanced enough for the design portion, so I was willing to spend the money for the detailed instructions. The kit was around $80, so it was still cheaper than the $200+ price tag for a new store-bought pack.
I had read online that experienced sewers can complete the pack in a day. I am not that experienced. After my full first day I had managed to complete the shoulder straps and back panel. It took me another 2 days to fully finish the pack. The instructions are very detailed, and for the most part easy to understand. I did have a few moments of confusion, but I figured it out after a couple of minutes. I did make a couple mistakes and have to rip a seam a couple times, but again nothing major.
My pack is now complete! It weighs only 10 ounces, about 2 lbs. lighter than my last backpack. The pack is frameless and has no hip belt, so it is definitely for a lightweight load. It will be an adjustment but I am ready! Now that I have experience making my own pack, I’ve already been thinking about how I might make modifications in the future. This project gave me a lot of confidence to start taking on more DIY projects for our outdoor gear. Coming Soon: I’ll be making the Ray-Way 2 person quilt!
Here are a few links I have found helpful in researching and planning MYOG projects: