How to Make Your Own Gear Part 1: Sourcing Fabric and Materials

Trends & Top 10Bennett Fisher
MYOG How to Make Your Own Gear Fabric and Materials Ultralight Backpacking DIY


Are you an adventurer on a budget? Do you love the technical side of gear? Do you consider counting ounces a game? Do you enjoy working with your hands? Can you imagine the pride you’d feel walking down a trail using something you created? 

Then, welcome to the big wide world of MYOG. 

In this series, we are going to cover Make Your Own Gear basics. From materials and design to sewing, we are going to try to get you excited and comfortable enough to take on this challenge. 

Maybe you have thought about making your own gear for a while but didn’t know where to start, or perhaps you never thought of even trying. Either way, hopefully, you will find these articles helpful.

MYOG How to Make Your Own Gear Fabric and Materials Ultralight Backpacking DIY


If MYOG does not interest you at all and you still want/ need a new pack, please check out Matt over at
Red Paw Packs or Brandon at Superior Wilderness Design, and they will take care of you. The only work you will need to do is send a few emails to discuss how you want your pack to look, share your credit card information and then hold back the urge to tackle your mail (wo)man when your custom pack finally arrives. 

I interviewed both Brandon and Matt separately to prepare for this series. They were incredibly helpful in sharing their wisdom and the story of how they turned their MYOG projects into a passion and then a business. 

 

 

Getting Started

Before we get into where to source materials, here are a few terms or tips that may be nice to know.

MYOG How to Make Your Own Gear Fabric and Materials Ultralight Backpacking DIY

 

Fabric Weight - Each fabric will have a number in front of it, stating the ounces. That means how heavy a fabric is per square yard in ounces. The main difference this will make is the durability of the material. If you compare 5oz fabric to a 6.5oz, the total difference on a finished backpack would be around 2-3 ounces.


Fabric Thickness - The next thing we need to know is what the number with the lowercase d means. The d stands for denier, which is the thickness of the fibers that make up a fabric. This pretty much translates to the strength and durability of the fabric. Comparing X Pack VX07 to X Pack VX21, the 07d weighs in at 4.8 oz per square yard while the 21d comes in at 6.0 oz per square yard, which shows that the same fabric in a higher denier (d) is a thicker, more durable fabric.

MYOG How to Make Your Own Gear Fabric and Materials Ultralight Backpacking DIY

 

Down Fill - This is the number that accompanies down. It is usually around 800 to 900 on ultralight gear but can be as low as about 600. This is measuring the quality of the down and, in simple terms, is telling you how fluffy the feathers are. The higher the number, the more space the down takes up, requiring fewer feathers to achieve the same loft. This is why a 900 fill quilt at a temperature rating of 10° weighs less than the same bag with an 800 fill that has the same warmth.

 

Insulation - A tip from my interview with Matt: If you want to try and make a quilt or jacket, it may be easier to use Climashield Apex insulation first since it is synthetic and comes in sheets that are easier to sew (versus loose feathers). 

 

MYOG How to Make Your Own Gear Fabric and Materials Ultralight Backpacking DIY

Samples - Asking for samples of the fabrics you are thinking about using is a good way to feel the fabric in person before committing to an entire online order. 

 

 

Where to Source Materials

Now, what is a piece of gear that you wish you could afford or you wish had a deeper pocket or better fit? Alright, think about that item and what components you need to make it yourself. If you have a hard time picturing what you need, search your favorite brand online and look at what material they use for their product. Often, they will include the fabric and/ or key accessories in the product description. 

Now that you have some fabric and accessory ideas in mind, here is a list of companies for materials sourcing:


Ripstop by the Roll

MYOG Make Your Own Gear DIY Fabric Source Dyneema Ripstop by the Roll


The best one-stop-shop for outdoor fabrics I have used is
Ripstop by the Roll. Their website is easy to navigate and even has a filter to search by the project, such as shelter, pack, or quilt. They also carry insulation and accessories, such as the buckles and zippers used by many cottage outdoor brands. 

They have the MYOG customer in mind and allow you to purchase fabric a yard at a time. This way, you don’t have to buy a ton of a specific material to get what you want for each project, and then waste the extra. I also recommend using their custom sample option to affordably feel several fabrics in person to make sure they’re exactly what you want before investing in a larger quantity. After all, one of the benefits of MYOG is you can make exactly what you want, and you don’t want to settle for a fabric that isn’t perfect. For $3 (and shipping), I think that’s worth it.


Seattle Fabrics Inc.

Seattle Fabrics is much like Ripstop by the Roll and has lots of options for high-quality outdoor fabrics. They carry polar tech fleece, so if you are looking to make a mid-layer, this may be your shop. They also sell patterns to help you with dimensions and fabric cutting, but we will talk more about that in the next installment in this series. 


Quest Outfitters

A place recommended to me by Matt is Quest Outfitters, which he said is an excellent source for carbon fiber tubing to make backpack frames. They also have a lot of other great fabric options and resources, so check them out!

MYOG How to Make Your Own Gear Fabric and Materials Ultralight Backpacking DIY

Duchware

Another option for materials is Duchware. They also have a good spread of technical fabric and well-organized sections to quickly find what you need for your project.


Joann’s/ Hobby Lobby

Yes, these are big box stores and probably will not have the fabric for your final creation, but this is a great stop for materials while learning to sew and prototype your gear. They often have fabrics on sale, and who knows, maybe a prototype pair of pants featuring glow-in-the-dark Halloween prints will become your favorite pajamas … at least that’s what happened to me. 

Pro Tip: with these companies, you need to use their apps to get a good deal. You can usually get at least 40% off one item at checkout in person, and they won’t usually ask for it, so be sure to mention that you have coupons at checkout.


Home Depot/ Lowes

Again, convenient brick-and-mortar stores where you can find some useful materials. Matt at Red Paw Packs recommended hardware stores as a place to get items such as ¼” aluminum flat bars or poles for backpack frames on a budget.


Walmart

Remember, some of us are here to save money, and again, you can thank Matt for this recommendation. I was curious where to get closed-cell foam for shoulder straps, and he recommended cheap Coleman sleeping pads. They are closed-cell foam and will work for a backpack hip belt and shoulder strap, but are not super high-quality and may break down/ lose their cushioning before finishing a big trip like a thru-hike. 

If you want to make a practice pack first, I would go with his advice before investing in and cutting up the expensive stuff. 

Walmart may also be a more affordable option for buckles, buttons, or other accessories, if you are willing to forgo quality over price.


*For more information on fabric types or descriptions, use the valuable resources on these websites linked above.*



Conclusion

MYOG How to Make Your Own Gear Fabric and Materials Ultralight Backpacking DIY


I hope you feel well-informed and excited about your next project! Next time I will be discussing how to design your gear. 

After that, we will be talking about sewing, where I will share the tips I have learned, along with what machine to use and what tools may be helpful to have…

I’ll give you a sneak peek: one thing you’ll definitely need is a seam ripper.

If you have any questions you want answered in the next article or advice for others, please leave a comment. 


Bennett Fisher

 

Other Articles in the MYOG Series: 

Trends & top 10

8 comments

Brigham Facer

Brigham Facer

Thanks for this blog series! I’d love to learn how to tackle big projects. I have messed up some in the past and it sucks. What is the best way to systematically approach a project with a lot of details? Thanks for what you’re doing!

Trent

Trent

I’ve been wanting to take this on for awhile now. Although not an ULer, I want to make more rugged equipment for heavier gear (cast iron etc). Any advice on working with canvas/waxed canvas would be appreciated.

Jane Cobb

Jane Cobb

Liza, a basic sewing machine will handle most outdoor fabrics and can be purchased for less than $100. A high quality sewing machine will cost perhaps $500. You need very few other specialist tools, certainly not the “thousands of dollars” you suggest. An average household tool kit will handle most of the hardware requirements and even specialist tools will cost only a few tens of $$. I made most of my early kit by hand without any machinery at all.

Bri

Bri

Therainshed.com is another excellent source for materials. They carry a variety of technical fabrics, hardware, and other notions. I’ve ordered Polartec fleece, merino wool, Goretex, shock cord, etc. from them and have been very pleased.

Franko

Franko

Another great source is Sailrite. (https://www.sailrite.com) Used them for a source when I built a few bikepacking packs. Their tech support is great from material selection to equipment help. You don’t need to spend thousands on an industrial machine – many home craft machines are plenty strong enough.

Greg Wheat

Greg Wheat

If you want to learn how to sew using a sewing machine, contact your local community college to see if they offer classes. You can also check places that sell sewing machines.

Liza

Liza

What was not covered would be the thousands of dollars one would have to invest in sewing equipment and accessories that could stop one on their tracks.

Jackie

Jackie

Thanks for the help! As an ultralighter I’ve been altering gear for years and it’s not for the faint of heart. Finally I came up with the Unightie! But I have had professionals manufacture it because they are equipped to handle flatlock seams!

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