Here is a collection of gear that I use. These are all items I have made myself, most from my own design. For lightweight fabric I usually use 1.3 oz/sq yard silnylon. For breathable light weight fabric I use Momentum 90 or the new M50. My insulation tends to be 900+ fill down or synthetic primaloft.
My Gear Closet:
Inspired by a jacket done by Brendan Swihart posted on BPL I decided to modify my thru-hiker kinsman pullover pattern to make a new pullover that was down instead of synthetic. Made from M50 material and 900 fp down this jacket looks to be a new staple in my backpacking kit. The final jacket weighs 5.1 oz and uses 2.25 oz of down. I changed the kinsman by reducing the arm girth by 2", reduced the collar height by 1/2", and shortened the zipper by 2". I had to make some modifications to how the pieces were assembled to work for down instead of synthetic insulation, but surprising this was not as hard as I had anticipated. I could not have been more pleased with the fit. Much better fit than my Montbell Down Inner or the Pantagonia Nano Puff.
I turned a blunder into an interesting jacket. I had originally made a primaloft pullover jacket based on an adjusted thru-hiker.com Kinsman jacket from gray M50. I washed the jacket and unfortunately it got wound around the agitator and the spin cycle left the inner primaloft shredded into clumps. Instead of throwing it out I carefully removed all the primaloft, sewed baffles, and stuffed the jacket with 3.5 oz of 900 fill power down. The finished jacket weighs 6.5 oz. The resulting pullover is significantly warmer than my first down pullover (orange) with a weight penalty of only 1.4 oz. I use new one on trips at and below freezing. The "Down Max" version uses only horizontal baffles and includes a draw cord at the waist.
I had the opportunity to pick up some new and exciting fabric from thru-hiker.com. The fabric is called M50 and it is the lightest down proof fabric available to the public. I checked mine and it weighed a ridiculous .71 oz/sq yd. Having already planned to do a new summer quilt this fabric was exactly what I needed. The finished quilt weighs a crazy 10.80 oz! Compared to many other lightweight quilts this one does not scrimp on size. The top width is 50" then is has a 2/3 taper to a 38" footbox. It also retains the ability to open up flat or form a footbox using snag free velcro. The quilt has sewn through baffles, but still lofts between 1.5" to 2" inches. I expect this quilt to be good to 40 degrees or a little lower with added clothes. Lastly I find the orange color to be extremely attractive.
Click this link to download instructions on how to make your own!
One of my latest projects was to return to the basics. And nothing is more basic than a flat tarp. The version I made is a simple one person that is approximate 8 ft by 5 ft. It has 8 tie outs and can be pitched in multiple ways. The final weight of tarp is 7.00 oz.
I developed the following tarp to to be optimized for A frame pitching. It provides more room near ones head by sacrifising width near the feet. This tarp has a trapezoid shape and a nice 3" catenary curved ridge line. It is 8' long, 5' 9.5" wide in front, and 4' 3.5" wide at the end. It has 8 ties outs made of 3/4" gross grain webbing. I used a olive brown silnylon rather than my standard gray. The final weight of tarp is 6.75 oz. This tarp pitches tighter than any other tarp I have owned.
Here are pictures of my first cuben fiber project. It is a tapered tarp with a catenary ridgeline and was made from .51 oz cuben fiber. The tarp was bonded with Hysol U-90FL. It is 57" wide in front, 45" wide at the rear and is 106" long. The finished tarp weighs 2.7 oz.
Here is an instruction set that I put together in case someone wants to reproduce the tarp.
The following bivy was designed to extend the storm protection of my tarp, minimize heat loss from wind, and provide insect protection. The bottom is 1.3 silnylon, the top is momentum 09, the window is nanoseeum, and it has a chest zipper for entry. The bivy was designed to be minimalistic and only weighs 5.65 oz. It is unique in the fill width partial netting window. I find this superior to half moon or full net hood bivy's as it significantly increases ventilation (over partial window) but also provides storm protection from the top.
Bivy Design - If interested in making your own bivy here is a simplified version of my original design. This was developed with BPL member Chris Muthig. Chris has made the original version. Please use caution as the final dimension have not been checked.
Here is a link to BPL where Chris provided pictures and details on his version.
After using a number of small light weight packs I decided to design my own with the features that met my needs for a pack that could carry base weight below 8 lbs and a few days of food. Features that I desired were light weight (of course), side and back pockets with mesh, an improved top closure to the traditional draw cord, and ergonomic shoulder straps. At these low weights I find sternum straps and waist belts uneeded. This pack was made from 1.2 silnylon (sides, front, pockets & collar), 2.2 coated nylon (back & bottom), and 4.0 mesh (pocket bottoms).
The finished pack weighs 4.95 oz and will hold approximately 1800 cu in (30 liters) including the pockets and extension collar. The main bag holds approximately 1200 cu in. Here is the final design loaded with about 6.5 lbs of gear (20 degree kit), 2 days of food, and 1 liter of water.
The use of quilts in lightweight backpacking is increasing in popularity. The first quilt I use was a Golite Ultra 20, sadly this quilt is not longer produced. I decided to design my own quilt with the following features: minimal weight, fairly wide torso girth, good to 20 F, will open flat, formable footbox, and minimal packed volume. My final quilt is made from 800 cu in fill down and .9 oz downproof breathable nylon fabric. It is 52" wide in the torso then half tapers to a 40" footbox. The final quilt weighs 21 oz.
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