Table of Contents
What is MYOG?
Make your own gear or MYOG for short is exactly what it sounds like – making your own backpacking gear rather than buying it. There are countless resources out there with tutorials for making your own gear. You can make everything from stoves to tents, to backpacks and more, all with a basic home sewing machine, some planning, and a little patience.
MYOG has many advantages. By making gear yourself you can customize everything to the exact specifications you want. Want an extra pocket there? Do you want that stuff sack to also serve as a pillow? You can have those features if you make it yourself.
You’ll likely save money if you make gear yourself, too. Ultralight materials are not very expensive. So if you’re willing to put in the time to make something, you’ll save a lot of money.
By making your own gear you also will learn how to sew. This is a valuable skill on long backpacking trips. You never know when you’ll have to repair something in the field. Also, making your own gear is fun! Many who get into MYOG get deep into the culture, you only have to look at the MYOG Reddit group for a second to realize this.
There’s nothing like the feeling of using a piece of gear that you made yourself, especially when it holds up to the stresses of backpacking!
MYOG in Backpacking Culture
MYOG is as much an ethos as anything else. The first ultralight backpackers had to make gear themselves because there wasn’t commercially available gear that fit their needs. Their needs were so niched that no company would ever consider making products for the few potential customers who would buy them. This is still true today as well.
Those first UL backpackers were fiercely independent, as you had to be if you wanted to thru-hike the PCT or CDT in the 80s. And, MYOG culture grew out of that independent mindset. It takes a lot of figuring it out yourself to thru-hike a long trail, and MYOG is a logical extension of that.
MYOG is tied with the DIY ethos present in many subcultures, too. Long-distance backpacking was certainly a subculture when the first thru-hikers started to hike across the country.
MYOG is also a great vehicle for creativity. Rather than spend hours compiling spreadsheets of gear to buy, you can dream up the perfect single item to fit in your minimalist backpacking kit to fill as many needs as possible.
And finally, MYOG has ties to minimalism. When you’ve paired down everything you carry to just a handful of items, every one of those items needs to be just what you need. And when everything has to perfectly fit your own needs, you’re probably going to have to make some of it yourself.
A list of common and creative ways to MYOG
A classic MYOG project is the cat can stove. All you need is a 3-ounce can of cat food and a hole punch to make this 10-gram stove. The stove also doubles as a pot stand.
- Step 1: Remove the cat food and wash thoroughly.
- Step 2: Use the hole punch to make a row of holes ⅛” apart and ⅛” below the lip of the can.
- Step 3: Add another row of holes below the first row. These holes should be offset to fall into the gaps between the upper holes.
- Optional Step: Use needle-nose pliers to crimp down the sharp edge of the can where the lid was. This will protect you and your gear from getting cut.
If you want more details, backpacking legend Andrew Skurka gives you the goods along with a video tutorial.
The easiest, lightest, and cheapest MYOG stove windscreen is an aluminum foil windscreen. It's super small too and can be folded and stored in your pot when not in use.
- Step 1: Cut a length of aluminum foil a few inches larger than the circumference of your pot.
- Step 2: Fold the entire piece in half lengthwise.
- Step 3: Fold over approx ½ inch of each long edge to add durability.
- Step 4: Wrap around your pot. If it’s too tall, adjust the height by folding the top and bottom edges to the desired height.
- Step 5: Use a paperclip to hold the two ends together while cooking. If it’s windy you can add further support by using rocks to hold the windscreen in place.
This website provides a how-to for a windscreen along with other MYOG stove designs.
Don’t want to spend $10+ on a titanium spoon? All you need is a bamboo mixing spoon (found at the nearest dollar store) and a few tools to make a durable, lightweight spoon.
- Step 1: Outline your preferred spoon size onto the wooden spoon.
- Step 2: With a small saw, roughly cut the spoon to size.
- Step 3: Use a knife, like a Swiss Army Knife, to finely cut your spoon to its final shape.
- Step 4: Sand the outside of your spoon until it’s nice and smooth.
- Step 5: Use a Dremel tool with a sanding drum attachment carefully carve the bowl of the spoon.
- Step 6: Do a final sanding of the spoon with fine sandpaper.
- Optional Steps:
- Drill a small hole in the handle and add a cord for clipping to your pack.
- Add a mineral oil finish to increase the longevity of the spoon.
Here is a reference post with pictures.
MYOG ULTRALIGHT PACK
Making an ultralight, frameless backpack takes sewing chops but is easier than you might think. Essentially, a pack is a big stuff sack with shoulder straps.
- Step 1: Select a pattern for your pack. The simpler the design, the easier. You can measure a pack you already have as a model or purchase a premade pattern.
- Step 2: Buy your materials. Most types of ultralight fabrics can be purchased in bulk online. Webbing, clips, buckles, and closed-cell foam can be found in most big box sewing or craft stores.
- Step 3: Sew the different panels of the pack separately.
- Step 4: Sew the smaller parts together to form your pack.
For an in-depth tutorial on how to MYOG backpack, read this guide.
BACKPACK COVER / PACK LINER
If you have access to a sewing machine making a pack cover is a relatively simple job. All you need is a piece of waterproof material, an elastic cinch cord, and a toggle.
- Step 1: Fill your pack to its maximum capacity. Lay your material out and set your pack on top. Pull the material around your pack to cover it in the way your finished cover will.
- Step 2: Trace an oval around where you want the pack cover to sit.
- Step 3: Draw a second oval that is 1.5 inches larger in each direction. This will give you extra material to create the drawstring channel.
- Step 4: Cut the oval with a pair of scissors.
- Step 5: Fold the extra 1.5 inches of material to the line of your original oval and sew a channel. Make sure to leave an opening to thread the drawstring through.
- Step 6: Feed elastic cord into the channel.
- Step 7: Cut the elastic cord slightly less tight than it needs to be to fit over your pack.
- Step 8: Pull each end of the elastic through the toggle and tie it off.
A full list of steps and pictures can be found here.
WATER BOTTLE HOLDERS
Easy access to your water bottles saves time and keeps you hydrated when hiking. Making your own is as easy as grabbing some cord and a couple of toggles. This design works best on a bottle with an indentation around it, like a Gatorade bottle.
- Step 1: Cord selection. Paracord or guyline works best. A stiffer elastic cord can work too. If the elastic is too springy your bottle will bounce around while hiking.
- Step 2: Place the cord around the shoulder strap of your backpack. If your strap has a loop for attaching gear thread the cord through to prevent the bottle from slipping down.
- Step 3: Measure how much cord you need to fit around your water bottle's indented section. Add an extra inch or so to allow you comfortably get your water bottle in and out.
- Step 4: Thread the two ends of the cord through the toggle and tie the ends together.
- Optional Step: Add a second strap for extra support using the steps above.
Pictures and more ideas for MYOG water bottle holders can be found here.
This is a challenging MYOG project. It can also be a costly one depending on your fill and fabric choices. The basic steps of making a sleeping quilt are outlined below. If you're serious about making an MYOG quilt, review this tutorial and thorough video.
- Step 1: Choose your fabrics, insulation amount, and quilt pattern.
- Step 2: Cut the fabric into the main pieces of the quilt.
- Step 3: Sew the seams and fabric together.
- Step 4: Attach the buckles and drawstrings.
- Step 5: Add the fill.
- Step 6: Sew the top of the quilt closed.
An MYOG pillow is an easy, inexpensive project. You'll sleep easy knowing you saved money.
- Step 1: Cut two rectangles of material. One of an ultralight fabric and one of a fleece. The size is up to you.
- Step 2: Sew the rectangles together leaving one end open like a pillowcase.
- Step 3: To use, stuff with clothes or other soft items and place the fleece side up. Bonus: it doubles as a stuff sack during the day.
One of the easiest MYOG projects is a simple foam sleeping pad. All you need is a tape measure and a knife.
- Step 1: Buy the foam thickness of your choice. One sheet is enough for two standard-sized sleeping pads.
- Step 2: Measure to size. For reference, the standard pad size is 20 inches wide by 72 inches long.
- Step 3: Cut to size. Use a rigid board to make sure you get a straight cut.
- Optional Step: To save weight, round the corners and cut them into a mummy shape.
A tarp is a straightforward MYOG project. The basic design is a single piece of waterproof material with added tie-outs.
- Step 1: Measure and cut a rectangle shape for the tarp. Size is up to you.
- Step 2: Sew on four diagonal corner reinforcements.
- Step 3: Sew on the midpoint reinforcements. One per side is fine, unless your tarp is large then consider adding two.
- Step 4: Hem around the outer edge of your tarp.
- Step 5: Attach the corner and midpoint tie-outs.
Full MYOG tarp instructions here.
Now that you’ve made a tarp, you’re ready to make a tent. A tarp is just a tent without doors, a bug net, or a bathtub floor after all. A tent is another huge undertaking in the world of MYOG. You’ll first need to figure out what tent design you’d like to use and then come up with a plan on how to make it. Collect your supplies: external shelter material, bathtub floor material (which should be thicker than the main shelter material), noseeum mesh, a zipper for the entryway, guyline cord, line locks, grosgrain ribbon, and d-rings for the stakeout points.
You can purchase an MYOG tent kit, which comes with instructions. But if you’re at the point in your MYOG career where you’re considering making a tent you can probably figure out how to sew a bug net and bathtub floor into a tarp. Here's a video of someone who successfully made a two-person tent which might give you some more ideas and inspiration.
BUG MOSQUITO NET
- Step 1: Measure and make a pattern of what you want your final bug net to look like.
- Step 2: Cut out the pieces of mesh to match your pattern.
- Step 3: Sew the pieces together.
- Step 4: Add the mitten hooks the bug net will hang from.
- Step 5: Sew stake loops on the corners of the mesh.
Watch this detailed video for more info..
A tent is one of the most ambitious, and ultimately rewarding, undertakings in the MYOG world. In essence, a single-walled tent is a tarp with a sewn-in bug net attached to a bathtub floor. If you need inspiration, this plan and video tutorial will point you in the right direction.
- Step 1: Create your design and purchase the materials. The bathtub floor should be a thicker material than the tarp to increase durability.
- Step 2: Measure your fabrics and cut the pieces out.
- Step 3: Build each panel of the tent separately. Tarp, mesh sidewalls, and bathtub floor. If you’re adding extras, like storage pockets, add them now.
- Step 4: Reinforce the tarp corners and add stake tie-outs.
- Step 5: Sew the pieces together.
- Step 6: Seam seal and enjoy your MYOG shelter!
See our tent footprint post.
Grab a piece of travel towel, Chamois Towels, or any quick-drying fabric you can have an ultralight towel in no time.
- Step 1: Cut the material to your desired size.
- Step 2: Sew a line around the edges of your towel. This will prevent the towel from fraying.
- Optional step: Add a grommet to one corner so you can clip it to your pack for air-drying.
If you’re in a pinch you can cut a head hole in a large trash bag to make a quick poncho. If you have decent sewing skills and want a more functional MYOG poncho this guide has full step-by-step details. For a basic overview read the steps below.
- Step 1: Take measurements of your body. If you want the poncho to cover your pack as well be sure to add those measurements.
- Step 2: Cut out your pieces of fabric for the front panel, back panel, sleeves, and hood.
- Step 3: Sew each section of the poncho separately.
- Step 4: Add the zipper and sew the sections in the order the guide above outlines.
- Step 5: Once all the pieces are sewn together, seam seal to add extra waterproofing.
- Optional: Add a drawstring to the bottom.
Mittens are much easier and more forgiving to sew due to their simple shape. For material, use either fleece for warmth or a waterproof fabric for rain protection.
- Step 1: Trace your hand on a piece of paper starting and ending two inches below your wrist. Add ¾ inch around the outside and cut out your paper pattern.
- Step 2: Use the pattern to cut your fabric.
- Step 3: Sew the pieces together and flip them inside-out so the seams are on the inside.
- Optional step: Add a cinch cord around the wrist.
MYOG gaiters are made with stretch nylon or polyester material, velcro, and a couple of hooks. The sewing isn’t too difficult but is harder than other MYOG projects due to the trapezoidal shapes.
- Step 1: Make the pattern. Generally, gaiters are one size fits all, but tweak to your size if needed.
- Step 2: Cut the fabric.
- Step 3: Hem and sew the edges so they don’t fray over time.
- Step 4: Reinforce the tips by adding another piece of fabric. Most of the strain on the gaiters will be on this point. Make sure to sew this solidly.
- Step 5: Attach the hooks and velcro.
A more thorough guide can be found here.
To make an MYOG balaclava simply sew a hood out of lightweight fleece and add holes for your eyes.
- Step 1: Measure the dimensions of the wearer's head to get the overall size of the balaclava.
- Step 2: Measure the distance between the outside of their eyes and the distance between the top of the eyes and the crown of the head. This will ensure you make the eye hole in the correct place vertically and horizontally.
- Step 3: Use the measurements to trace a side view of the balaclava pattern onto a folded piece of fleece. Make sure the front of the face pattern is on the folded side. This will position the seam on the back of the balaclava.
- Step 4: Cut out the shape, including the eye hole.
- Step 5: Sew the seam on the back together and add sticking around the eye hole to prevent fraying.
Check out this tutorial for full instructions.
Tying thin cord or old shoe laces to a sole from one of your old shoes makes an almost-perfect camp shoe. See the different myog camp shoe options in our camp shoes post.
Breaking it down simply, a fanny pack is a small rectangular box with a hip strap and zippered pocket. With basic sewing skills, you can finish one in an afternoon. This guide has the full details, a brief outline of the steps is below.
- Step 1: Trace and cut your fabric pieces.
- Step 2: Sew together the body pieces and attached the zippers.
- Step 3: Sew the wing panels separately.
- Step 4: Attach the buckles to the hip belt.
- Step 5: Assemble the fanny pack by sewing the hip belt, wing panels, and body together.
There are many designs to sew a wallet. However, keeping it simple by using a plastic Ziploc is the easiest, lightest, and most waterproof option.
- Step 1: Grab a small plastic bag.
- Step 2: Insert a credit card, ID, and some cash. Voila, your new hiker wallet!
FIRST AID KIT
You likely already have most of the first aid supplies you’ll need at home. At a minimum, you should have a few squares of gauze, leukotape, antibiotic ointment, alcohol wipes, Ibuprofen, and Loperamide.
- Step 1: Portion out the supplies needed. Consider factors such as length of trip, expected conditions, and group size.
- Step 2: Package into a few small bags and place them into a slightly larger bag for extra water protection.
Take a deep dive into MYOG first aid kits by reading our guide.
STUFF SACK / BEAR BAG
A stuff sack is a great beginner MYOG project. All you need is a piece of fabric, a sewing machine, and a closing mechanism. Once you get the hang of it you can crank these out pretty fast.
- Step 1: Cut out your fabric. Size is up to you depending on your needs.
- Step 2: Fold the fabric in half the long way.
- Step 3: Sew the two folded ends together to create a tube shape.
- Step 4: Sew one side of the remaining two to seal the bottom of the bag.
- Step 5: For the closure, add a drawstring by sewing a channel in the fabric and threading in a string. Or you can add a roll-top and clip similar to this example.
Angle aluminum, pre-bent aluminum, is an inexpensive material found at hardware stores. It is measured in both the thicknesses of the aluminum and how wide each side of the angle is. For a trowel, choose a 1-inch angle with 1/16 inch thickness. You only need ~6.5 inches. If you’re lucky, see if you can score an offcut of a longer piece.
- Step 1: Cut your aluminum to 6.5 inches in length with a hacksaw or a coping saw. Make sure the blade is designed for cutting aluminum.
- Step 2: With a ⅜ inch bit drill 4 to 5 holes on each side of the bend approximately ½ inch apart. This will be your handle side.
- Step 3: Sharpen the trowel end with a file and smooth handle edges with sandpaper.
- Optional Steps: The handle can be cut slightly narrower, ~¼ inch, than the blade to reduce weight.
For reference, check out this post.
FIRE STARTING KIT
Vaseline, cotton balls, and a plastic bag are all you need to make your very own fire starting kit.
- Step 1: Put a glob of vaseline in a plastic bag.
- Step 2: Add cotton balls and roll in vaseline until coated. Leave the cotton balls more or less intact. This will keep some dry fibers on the inside of the balls, which will act as candle wicks.
- Step 2: Make sure to pack a lighter and you’re set!
Read our full article on fire starters for more ideas.
Rise of the Cottage Gear Industry
As you can see from this list, it’s pretty easy to make your own gear. But, it gets even easier to make the same piece of gear again and again.
Lots of Cottage Gear companies are just one individual making their own gear at home and selling it. These companies often started as one person making gear for themselves. Then, as they got better at making their own gear, they started making it for others as well. Many cottage gear companies grew into what they are today in this way.
So who knows, maybe the next big cottage gear company can grow out of an MYOG project inspired by something on this list? Next thing you know, you might be making 30 more of that tent you just designed and made yourself.