Is it still necessary?

Posted by: devkrev

Is it still necessary? - 01/22/08 07:14 AM

Hey everybody,
I guess this is more of a philosophical question then a technical one, but, has anyone who has been making gear for a while noticed the increase in well-made lightweight specialized gear?

I thru-hiked the AT in 2003, and a lot of the gear that I had hiked with I had made, mostly because the only real lightweight stuff was from GoLite, and that was pretty brand new at the time.

My girlfriend and I are planning on doing the Long Trail this fall, and I admit that I have strayed from backpacking and long-distance hiking for other pursuits (mostly rock/ice climbing and ultramarathons) and it seems like one is able to get commercially made equipment(even from some of the big manufacturers) that is lightweight.

This is a big change from a few years ago, when Gossamer Gear was just Glen Van Peski giving people his instructions, and Tarptent was Henry Shires telling folks he wasn't planning on making his tarpie commercially.

So what are peoples motivation now? I seen there has been a shift into using strange new alien fibers(cuben) to make superultramegalightweight stuff, as well as more specialization into what people need specifically, and experimentation that would never happen in "the industry".

Why do I plan on making more gear for this future adventure? Because I am a recent college graduate that prefers the freedom that my current economical and employment situation gives me over the financial security of a career. In other words, I'm poor because I like to take a lot of time off, and I wouldn't be able to take that time if I had a "real job".

I think when it comes down to it, we will always be able to make lighter gear, because commercial gear is plagued with "features" and what we make only has what we need. Besides, its cool to be able to say "I made it myself!"

So, why do you do it?
Devin Krevetski
Buddha AT03
Posted by: hootyhoo

Re: Is it still necessary? - 01/22/08 08:30 AM

In other words, I'm poor because I like to take a lot of time off, and I wouldn't be able to take that time if I had a "real job".

Right on.
I could not have put better myself. I think a lot of folks get caught up in the American Way, and spend their earthly time (in this vessel/body anyways) pursuing material stuff. More power to them. Sorry corporate america, I want to spend my time on other pursuits.

If I can make it better, lighter, cheaper then I will. And if I do make it, I always seem to enjoy it more. I am not super great at making my own stuff, but that does not stop me from admiring my accomplishments - and what better time and place to do that than in the the great outdoors as I cook on it, pack my gear in it, snuggle up in it, wear it, or dash under it in a sudden rain storm. I must admit that right now, during winter I don't think there is anything other than MYOG clothing in my pack, but as weather warms I will get MY stuff back out for another season.
Posted by: Earthling

Re: Is it still necessary? - 01/22/08 09:29 AM

Devin you noticed right, there is gear now available that is lighter in weight than what was offered to the public in 2003. Innovation has come from folks like Bill Fornshell who has lead the way in using the most innovative ideas for a single person. I'd just like to see him get more credit than he does.

I thru-hiked the Long Trail and it is a great place.
Posted by: phat

Re: Is it still necessary? - 01/22/08 05:25 PM

My main motivations:

1) Sometimes (not always) I can make it cheaper
2) I can make some stuff (like hammocks) that work better for me than the commercial stuff
3) It's sometimes just fun to be out in homemade gear.
Posted by: jasonklass

Re: Is it still necessary? - 01/22/08 06:53 PM

Philosophically, I think DIY gear will always be necessary for this reason:

Often it's grass roots DIY designs that inspire and motivate cottage industries to make lighter and better gear available commercially. Then, it sometimes filters down to the more conventional gear companies. This is a necessary catalyst for the overall evolution of UL. If Ray Jardine hadn't started tinkering with making his own packs, you wouldn't be able to walk into an REI and buy a Golite pack that weighs less than 2 lbs. Who knows, if DIY gear heads hadn't started putting lighter designs out there, we might all still be carrying 9 lb. external frame packs in 2008!

DIY spawns a sharing of ideas that serve as a think tank to generate new approaches to gear and overall, benefit backpackers.

Personally, I will always experiment with DIY gear because I find it rewarding and that sometimes, it fills a particular niche that isn't available commercially (yet). That's why I do it.
Posted by: TurkeyBacon

Re: Is it still necessary? - 01/22/08 07:45 PM

It seems that people assume that the only reason that people make gear is to make it lighter weight.
There is a very intersting parallel hoby of making skin on frame kayaks, the true greenland/aluet kayaks. The process of making a SOF kayak is so personalized that it can not be commercialized very well at all. As a result, no one tries to keep industry secrets and there is a huge amount of sharing ideas and giving advise. I recenlty met the co-founder of Heritage kayaks on a paddle trip. He was obviosly more versed in the kayak making industry than me, but yet he loved my kayak and had all sorts of questions about how I made it. He was envious of my crappy boat. It was odd that "the industry" was envious of my stuff. The process can not be industrialized and no one makes a SOF boat to "one up" anyone other than themselves. People do it because they want a unique boat and love the process of making them. What a simple concept.
DIY gear making is different. There seems to be competition with "the industry" to make things lighter weight or somehow better. I do it simply because I can and enjoy doing it. Cheaper?... who cares. Lighter weight?... its a toss up. Much more rewarding for me?... yup.
Posted by: devkrev

Re: Is it still necessary? - 01/22/08 08:07 PM

I do it simply because I can and enjoy doing it. Cheaper?... who cares. Lighter weight?... its a toss up. Much more rewarding for me?... yup.

Ah, a hobbyist of sorts. The best analogy that I can think of here is someone that makes their own beer, or wine, syrup....or something.
Good point.

Posted by: Dryer

Re: Is it still necessary? - 01/22/08 09:09 PM

I like to make most of my gear because it becomes personalized to my specific need. No 'dead weight' or useless features, right down to the tags, buttons, and zippers. Yeah, I've noticed a retail movement to the 'ultralite' side, but still, it's generic to the masses, trying to please everyone and offend no bland lite beer.

Today was a good example. I've been struggling with what to wear under my kayaking drysuit, living here in Texas. Fleece? Long Underwear? Flannel jammies? <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" /> No local stores carry what I wanted. They are all starting to stock spring/summer stuff. REI is an hour away, and is usually way overpriced for what I want. Mail order takes at least a week and there is no guarantee the item will work. So, I went into the local sewing store and bought a couple of top/pants sewing patterns. In a couple hours I'll have exactly what I want, as many as I want to sew, in any fabric I'm willing to buy.....or salvage from something else....and be able to customize later as I see fit. I think I'll start with a nice Polartec 200 fleece, or maybe some of that $1 a yard Walmart fleece, or maybe cannibalize an old wool military blanket and go from there....decisions, decisions. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />

Making your own stuff allows a huge amount of flexibility and the skills learned along the way are priceless. I've probably ruined as much materials as I've successfully fabricated, so saving money probably isn't a valid benefit with me. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/tongue.gif" alt="" /> But I keep trying. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />

ps....I do own a Glen Van Peski 4 pack, back when he sold 'em from his house.
They've changed since then.
Posted by: Tango61

Re: Is it still necessary? - 01/22/08 09:20 PM

Why I DIY :

I like learning new skills - like sewing (after all, a sewing machine is just an indoor power tool).

If it breaks, I know how to fix it.

I have more choices and options to make it "just right".

I can combine features from different items to get the best of both.

My mistakes keep me humble.

It extends into other areas of my life - I can also do plumbing, minor electrical, tile, drywall, texture and painting etc. That saves me a LOT of money that I can spend on backpacking gear <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" />. Now, if I could learn to work on cars. And there's still that welding class I want to take.

Too much I want to do and not enough time.
Posted by: finallyME

Re: Is it still necessary? - 01/24/08 06:57 AM

I'm with Tango.
Posted by: Spock

Re: Is it still necessary? - 01/24/08 03:45 PM

I second, third and fourth everyone else. Those are all good reasons.

DIYers also keep the manufacturers and their mouthpieces (Backpacker Mag) honest - ish. We tend to know what light weight and performance really are.

The industry always tends to inch the weight up. Weight creep is inevitable as manufacturers respond to returns due to failure. It happens every time UL comes around - which has happened 4 times since I have been paying since the 1950s. The internet may keep UL alive instead of fading out until the next Ray Jardine or Gerry Cunningham pops up.

DIYers do something else - They keep it simple. Eschue complexification!
Posted by: DTape

Re: Is it still necessary? - 01/27/08 01:27 PM

This is my motivation too. I make it cuz I like making it. And us DIYers know that our stuff works better anyway. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />
Posted by: Woodlandfey

Re: Is it still necessary? - 01/29/08 08:14 AM

This is my motivation too. I make it cuz I like making it. And us DIYers know that our stuff works better anyway. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />

Yeah! I'm with yous guys! I do all my own home repairs and got a very nice sewing machine for Christmas and for my birthday lots of accessories. I'm bound and determined to start making my own gear. You guys are an inspiration to me!
Posted by: wildthing

Re: Is it still necessary? - 01/30/08 04:04 PM

Dryer and devkrev,
Yeah. All of the above. Except I'm drawing the line at packsacks. They are pretty technologically tricky to get something light and a good carry. Maybe above my technical capacity or something. I would take another stab at a tent, but only if someone can make me a caternary pattern for something I have in mind. It has to be a tent that is easy to get into and has at least a 45" sit up height. It is too darn hard to get everything just perfectly without a whole bunch of trial and error. Arrrgggg.

As for clothing, I'll buy it whenever I can as the fabrics are pricy and most everything can be had at a sale price around here making things like windshirts and fleece just not worth the effort. At least at the level of speed and picky detail I tend to sew at. Only eVent or Goretex Pro might be worth sewing into a jacket, pants or even a rainsuit as these pieces can cost you $200-400 for good stuff. I've actually been dreaming of a jumpsuit (with pit zips and a neck to crotch waterproof zipper for wet meadows that you add a pair of goretex shoes to for some wet traversing. You could lift it from the bottom for a quick pee under a tree. Sorry, haven't worked out the woman's model yet.
Posted by: Dryer

Re: Is it still necessary? - 01/30/08 04:46 PM

I didn't have much success making backpacks either. Ended up buying a GPV4 (gossamer gear, now) and a Golite in the end. When the UL bug first bit me, I did have success modifying book bags....which are really day packs....bought from Walmart or Target originally for my kid's school needs. When they replaced their book pack, I'd recycle the old ones by lightening the heck out of the things. Cut away anything that didn't seem necessary, added net pockets, whatever. Those bags actually made some useful 1-3 nighter packs that I still use once in a while....and they are really tough, and respectably light weight.
Price is right too. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />
Posted by: bulrush

Re: Is it still necessary? - 02/04/08 10:36 AM

I do it:
1) to see if I can
2) to recycle materials
3) to save money

About in that order.