Editor’s note: Last week, Rafael ‘Horsecake’ Mujica shared his thoughts on the role of r/Ultralight, and how he went from a backpacking noob to being a moderator of the largest community forum on the Internet for all things ultralight backpacking, with more than half a million backpackers subscribing to this particular Reddit forum, or 'sub' as it's called in Reddit lingo.
This week, in Part 2 of our series, we again look at the role Reddit plays in serving as a UL meeting space, this time turning the spotlight on two thriving and quite complementary subreddits: r/MYOG and r/ULgeartrade. Enjoy!
Make Your Own Gear (MYOG) is a sub where beginner and advanced gear makers alike come together and learn how to make gear, or modify what they already own. We ultralights wouldn’t be anywhere without the gear makers who have the grit and imagination to break barriers, solve problems, and make gear lighter.
Most ultralight backpacking cottage brands are just one-person operations, or made of a small team of talented individuals. Even Garage Grown Gear, your favorite place to read ultralight backpacking articles and support small businesses, staffs only a handful of folks.
Some subscribers to r/MYOG (like myself) only modify what we own, or just want to keep track of the vast amount of ingenuity on display on a daily basis. Yet others join r/MYOG in the hope that they can go for a walk in the woods with their own bespoke backpacking kit. The sub has a vast amount of resources that make this possible, like free patterns and tutorials sourced from veteran gear makers.
A candid picture of me fighting for my life on this sewing machine. I mostly do simple repairs of my gear and clothes, and the occasional gear modification. It’s definitely a skill worth learning.
Some r/MYOG users become so advanced, they feel comfortable selling their gear on r/ULgeartrade, to make a small profit or cover the cost of the materials needed to keep their hobby going.
Daniel Dodman, or just Dan to his customers, was one such gear maker. “I started making gear for myself. Hammocks at first, but packs quickly became an obsession. It just seemed like the epitome of backpacking,” Dan said.
Dan would make a pack from scratch, field test it, and come back with hundreds of ideas on how to improve his designs.
One of Dodman’s Dandee Packs out in the wild.
“I began selling my drafts on r/ULgeartrade. At first, just for the price of materials, so I could keep building. But as I invested more time, and became more confident with the design of my packs, I slowly increased the price to cover the cost of my time and energy,” Dan said.
It was around this moment that I personally became more aware of and infatuated with Dodman’s designs. They were sleek and minimal; exactly what a gram-weenie like myself looks for in a pack. The best part was that Dan was an absolute gentleman to work with. I’m on my second Dandee Pack, and I haven’t looked back.
Daniel Dodman working on the next batch of Dandee Packs to be shipped to Garage Grown Gear (new batches of Dandee Packs are dropped monthly on GGG).
“I don’t think I’d be anywhere without r/MYOG. There was an overwhelmingly positive response, and that fueled me to keep working and improving the pack design,” Dan said. “I immensely appreciate everyone from that community; everyone who put their faith in me to build them a pack. I would be nowhere without their trust and feedback.”
Of course, there are other ‘Dans’ in the world who started their cottage gear brand on Reddit too … like Dan Gerken of ANDA Ultralight. Looking for a way to further connect with his newfound love for backpacking, Gerken began browsing r/MYOG.
Dan Gerken of ANDA Ultralight on the PCT in 2021.
“After the John Muir Trail in '18 and the Pacific Crest Trail in '21, I became completely obsessed with backpacking,” Gerken said. “I had also always had this romantic idea of crafting stuff for a living. I’d just browse r/MYOG to see everyone’s latest projects, and see the gear they would sell on r/ULGearTrade. Eventually, I figured that making my own gear was the logical obsessive next step down the backpacking rabbithole.”
Much like myself, Gerken had a hard time at first figuring out how to use his sewing machine. “I literally had to watch a YouTube video on how to thread the machine.”
Soon enough, he got the hang of it though, and spent the next few years with his wife, living as nomads and working on backpacking gear projects on the side. r/MYOG became a larger part of his life; from how to sew certain patterns to where to source materials for his gear projects.
Gerken working on a batch of ANDA Uno Mas Tarps.
“I settled on using Ripstop by the Roll’s ECO recycled line of SilPoly fabrics. The fabric is more expensive but the idea of using fabric made from recycled materials resonated with me more, and seemed like the better choice for an outdoor brand — to consider the impact on the environment and the outdoors,” Gerken said.
Of course, all that glitter is not always gold. As I covered last week, Reddit can have a dark side as well.
“Like anything with the Internet, there can be complete trolls. Reddit can be a very sarcastic audience, for better or worse — usually in good fun, at least in my experience,” Gerken said. “Just like with writing, or anything creative that you make yourself, it is scary to put out there for the world to see, especially online. But in general the outdoor Reddit community has been totally amazing and helpful. Not only with learning to sew outdoor gear, but just sharing info about something we all love.”
Gerken setting up his Uno Mas Tarp in Joshua Tree.
I spent most of last week talking about my own experiences with Reddit, and how I went from a backpacking noob to being a moderator of the largest ultralight backpacking forum out there. So I feel it’s appropriate to end this series by talking to one of the moderators of r/MYOG. It was fun to hear that Carderson Carriers’ experiences largely mirrored my own.
“I saw a video on YouTube about making gear, and it piqued my interest. I thought maybe I could make my own down quilt. Again, all my searches brought me to Reddit and Backpacking Light. I could not fathom the rat hole I was entering. Through r/MYOG, I learned to make my big three, and then began tweaking each to get exactly what I wanted. I enjoyed interacting with others as we bounced ideas off one another and shared photos and write-ups of our finished projects.”
(left) Carriers enjoying the fruits of his own labor out on trail, the myogers dream. (right) Carriers working on his next running pack. Thanks for reading: )
Carriers also expressed how cool and fulfilling it was to see some of the 100,000 plus members of r/MYOG thriving on websites like Garage Grown Gear and subreddits like r/ULgeartade.
“In the last couple of years, I’ve seen more and more familiar r/MYOG names popping up on r/ULGeartrade to sell their creations. It’s great to see other users react with enthusiasm and encouragement,” Carriers said. “Some makers put cash back in their pockets to support their MYOG habit. Others are starting their own companies. Global supply issues extended wait times from many of the established brands and created demand for additional cottage shops.”
“r/ULGeartrade provides a space for makers to sell and ultralighters to connect with someone who can make them EXACTLY what they want,” Carriers added. “It’s a great resource. I haven’t bought gear at a big box store in years.”
Rafael is a freelance writer and adventurer based in the Mountain West. You can find him trail running, backpacking, or sampling the best tacos during his free time. Follow all his adventures over on Instagram, or read more of his work over on his website.