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Make Your Own Backpacking Clothes


The video above looks at some basic priciples for choosing ultralight backpacking clothes. The rest of this page is about making your own backpacking clothes. I lost most of my desire to make my own gear after the first hundred tedious hours of sewing. But lightening your load can lighten your wallet quite a bit, and believe it or not, there are some backpacking clothes you can make cheaply and quickly. A few examples follow.

Make Your Own Ski Mask

Take an old polypropylene thermal underwear top or bottom. Cut 12 or 14 inches off a sleeve or leg, and pull the piece over your head. Mark where your eyes and mouth are with a pen or marker, then cut holes. You now have a balaclava. Mine weighs less than an ounce. You can sew the top shut if you want, or just pin it shut with a safety pin. Making backpacking clothes can't get much simpler than that.

Make Your Own Hand Warmers

Take a pair of light socks and cut five holes in the end of each (put your hand inside and mark where your fingertips are). You now have 1-ounce hand warmers that leave your fingers free. You can use them under other gloves or mittens in colder weather. Then when you need to remove your mittens to tie your shoes, you won't totally expose your hands.

A Two-Dollar Insulated Vest

Buy 1/2" poly batting at any fabric store (I bought mine at Walmart). Cut a piece 2'x4', and put a hole in it for your head. You wear it like a tunic. Worn under your jacket, this is one of the lightest insulating vests you can have, and probably among the lightest backpacking clothes you'll own. Mine weighs four ounces. I took it, along with my homemade balaclava, over glaciers, to the top of 20,600-foot Chimborazo, in Ecuador.

I also wore it to the top of Mount Shasta in California, and on numerous other trips. I made it as a disposable vest, but it has held together for a long time now. If you have made any simple backpacking clothes or equipment, let me know. I would like to expand this page. If it can't be explained in a paragraph, though, it is probably too complex and time consuming for me. I want to backpack, not sew.

Other Homemade Backpacking Clothes and Gear

You can cut the top off an old fleece hat and use it as a neck gaiter. Old raincoat sleeves can be made into lightweight stuff-sacks with a little sewing. Socks, especially if they are thicker, make good water bottle insulators when you want to keep your water cold or hot. As I come across the ideas, I will be adding more ideas for making your own gear and backpacking clothes.


The Ultralight Backpacking Site | Make Backpacking Clothes