I never try making stuff (except for trouble ) because I found it easier to figure out what I want, then look for a lightly used one. Some people like the process, but I don't have the skills or equipment to do it. If I bought a Ray Jardine kit for example, I'd have to have someone assemble it for me. Not to say that's such a bad idea; I don't think it is, but it kind of defeats the whole saving money, do it yourself idea. I found a really nice pack for $40 brand new. Don't laugh, it spent three weeks in India no worse for the wear and now is in Iceland for a few weeks. Not on my back, but loaned out to friends who are travelling, not hiking. There are bargains out there, if you look.
As far as pads go, I've used the blue foam pads and now have a Ridgerest and Therm-A-Rest blowup pad. I stack them for winter. Air mattresses, as already noted, will suck the heat out of you in short order unless they are also insulated with down or something else.
Edited by TomD (01/18/13 01:13 AM)
Don't get me started, you know how I get.