Saturday, March 1, 2014

Camping Gear: Doing It Ourselves

"I can do it myself!"

We've heard that a lot in our house over the years.  And now we're saying it together about camping gear.

It started when The Man started researching the Superior Hiking Trail.  It's been a goal for him from the first time he heard of it's planning and finally he would now be able to section hike it himself.

In the process of choosing gear, he came across Ray Jardine.   Ray's style of ultralight backpacking was so appealing that we jumped in up to our ankles head first!  He explains it best himself HERE but - since it is my blog - I'll show you what we did!


Since they were going to be backpacking, The Man decided the first items we would make would be the backpacks.

These backpacks are our very first.  Made with the pattern and materials available HERE, we made them all ourselves from a stack of fabric, webbing and some really great, step-by-step instructions.  The Man made his own doing all the work himself though he had not stitched an inch since junior high.  That's right!  You do NOT have to be an experience seamstress to do this project.

Tarp and Tent

The whole idea of a tarp was foreign to me until we started researching the Ray-Way.  The best way to show it is in photos of the finished products.

This is Bicycle Boy's two-man tarp.  He made it all himself and it packs down to about 4in x 4in x 8 in and weighs less than 27oz with the stakes it needs.
And here he is in his net tent that he also made himself.  It packs to a slightly small size and weighs 13 oz.

These two pieces fit together to make a versatile shelter that keeps the ticks and mosquitos out but still has great ventilation.  

On the trail! Lightweight bamboo poles were used as their uptight poles - which was very handy on the trail for keeping their hands from swelling during long walks. (If you have a pole in your hand, you don't let them hang and they don't swell up in a dependent position!)

Doo-Dah's two-man tarp and net tent (also made completely by him).  Note you can pitch these great shelters at different roof angles and heights depending on your needs and space.

Quilts and Flat Mats

A quilt is the replacement for a standard sleeping bag.  Shaped roughly like a mummy-style sleeping bag without one-third of the body section, it has some great advantages we had never thought of before!  Since the insulation underneath the body doesn't insulate once compressed, it's eliminated from the design to reduce weight and bulk.  Since the directions in the quilt kit include custom sizing, the result is a perfect fit in the smallest, lightest package possible!

Sleeping mats are the protection from the ground in two ways.  The first is to keep the happy camper on a cushion.  But the second - and most important to us in the North - is to insulate the camper from the cool ground.  In the past, we used self-inflating mats.  Now we use the sleeping pad kit for everyone!

These are out Toddler Versions of the sleeping mat as modeled by Oh Brother and Party Girl.

Do-It-Yourself leads to Custom Made

The most important and basic thing we learned from Ray & Jenny was "you can really do this yourself and come out with a much better product that is easier to maintain".  And we are certain we have!  This process has pushed us even further to think of the things we can do and adapt to our unique needs.

I've even made custom-fit toddler 'quilts' made from polar fleece.  Completely machine washable and light enough for a tot to carry themselves.

And THAT, in a nutshell, is our current camping and hiking gear set!  It's meeting our needs so well that we've actually given away our sleeping bags and inflating mats.  Encouraged by the things we've learned and the success we've had, I suspect this will be the last big change we have in our camping gear styles.  It suits us well!