As a young Eagle Scout, Scott Donovan of Lone Star Ultralight found his way around a sewing machine and began making his own UL backpacking hammocks, shelters, and quilts.
Not wanting to waste those pricey scraps of Dyneema Composite Fabric, he also started making wallets and pouches, and eventually sold them to family and friends.
“I thought I might as well start selling some of it, which would allow me to purchase more material to experiment with,” Scott said of his hobby.
That experimentation led him to launch Lone Star Ultralight in 2019, a small brand that sells lightweight backpacking creations, including its flagship product, the water bottle pouch.
Weighing about as much as two nickels, these ultralight water bottle sleeves secure those ubiquitous Smartwater bottles (1L or 700mL) to the outside of your pack for easy access.
According to Scott, there are similar products out there, but they require the backpack to have horizontal webbing for the pouch to attach. “Not all packs have that. I was really trying to go for something that was universal and that would work on any pack that existed.”
And they do. The brand’s water bottle holders promise to attach to both horizontal and vertical strap webbing … even your old JanSport.
Working out of his Plano, Texas home, Scott initially made each pouch to order. “But, I very quickly found out that that took a lot of time!”
Once he started making them in batches, not only did it drastically reduce production time, but the quality improved as well.
Before long, his sister got a little annoyed with him using her sewing machine all the time, so Scott dusted off his great grandma’s Singer Touch & Sew that had been stored in the attic. “These were the first machines to use plastic gears, and after 50 years, plastic breaks down!” Scott laughed.
He cleaned it up and replaced all the gears on the underside. “It was an interesting learning experience, but I was spending a lot of time doing maintenance on that machine just to keep it running,” he says.
Eventually, Scott invested in an industrial Juki. “That was a complete game changer! Quality went up drastically, the ease of using it was so much better, and the time it took was so much lower.”
Now with a perfected prototype in hand, knowing exactly how and where to start selling was all new territory to Scott. “Taxes, legal stuff, DBA filed with the county, sales tax ... I had no idea what those responsibilities were. All that was challenging!”
Landing on Etsy, and now GGG, Scott gets excited and motivated as his brand gains traction and publicity. “With extra exposure, it’ll allow me to really explore these ideas that I’ve had that I want to bring to the market,” he says.
Scott has long possessed ingenuity. “I’ve always loved building things,” he said. “As I got older, I started focusing on the mechanical side and learning how to make things move.”
As a full-time mechanical engineering technology student at the University of North Texas, he applies the concepts from his coursework to his business operations.
“I’d say that’s really helped me when I approach some of these problems — what steps I need to take to put this together in a way that works.”
Not only does Scott express appreciation for his customers, but he’s indebted to other small cottage brands in the ultralight gear industry, too.
“Even though we’re competitors, I don’t think a lot of us see each other as competition; we’re all willing to share information.”
“We all want to push the industry, drive as much innovation as we can and get the best products,” he said. “And that includes sharing techniques. It’s been amazing. I don’t know any other industry where you’d see that level of sharing.”