Make Your Own Gear: Outdoor Equipment Ideas for Backpacking and Camping

Information on crafting back-to-basics outdoor gear.

Outdoor Gear Guide Fire

Learn to make a wool blanket poncho.


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In this special section on outdoor equipment, we've tried to present a sampling of some of the many functional, low-cost items you can make at home or—in some cases—on the trail . . . including several types of shelters, a backpack, a candle lantern, a compact cooking stove, a poncho, and a sleep-sack. 

How to Build the (Unofficial) Boy Scout Candle Lantern  

How to Make and Pitch Tarp Shelters and Camping Tents  

Make Cold Weather Camping Gear From Wool Blankets  

How to Make a Hobo Stove  

How to Make a Backpack: The Alaskan Packboard and All-Purpose Packsack  

One-Pot Recipes for Backpack Travel  

Sew Your Own Outdoor Gear  

But even all that, we realize, is only a sampling of the many possibilities open to make your own gear. So, the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors have assembled a recommended reading list . . . a mini-library of homemade backpacking and camping gear know-how.

Homespun Outdoor Equipment (and Related Projects)     

Make It & Take It. This article outlines the procedures for making a backpack oven, a fish-filleting board, a fanny pack, a crawfish trap and boot hangers.

MOTHER'S Back Pack Oven. A "shorty" article detailing the construction—in minutes—of a zero-to-$3.00 backpack oven.

Snow Caves And Other Shelters. There's no need to carry a shelter into snow country when this article tells you how to build snow caves, igloos and other winter abodes!

Making Natural Cordage. Here, Tom Brown, Jr.—the outdoor survivalist—tells (and shows) you how to make cord for bowstrings, fishing line, snares, lashing and many other uses. Nature will provide the materials, and the only tools required are your hands.

Dog Packing. A detailed guide to fabricating a pooch-pouch that will enable Rover to carry his own supplies on your next outing.

The Anyone-Can-Make-It "Copperhead" Survival Knife. No expensive shop tools or extensive metalworking knowledge are required for this knife-from-a-saw-blade project.

A Dandy Double-Fronted Hunting Vest. This includes instructions and pattern guides for a home-sewn, multi-pocketed hunting vest.

Do-It-Yourself Books 

Wilderness Gear You Can Make Yourself (Stackpole Books, 1973) by Bradford Angler. A vintage examination of hewing rustic outdoor items from natural materials . . . the ultimate more-with-less approach. It's an entertaining read!

Make It and Take It: Homemade Gear for Camp and Trail (Pacific Search Press, 1977) by Russ Mohney. Make It is 97 paperback pages in large format (8 1/2" X 11"), with instructions for homebrewing some 40 projects, each accompanied by well-drawn illustrations and delightful cartoons. The categories include cookware items, fishing gear, seafood traps and nets, hiking and camping equipment, carrying devices, and miscellaneous outdoor goodies . . . plus 11 pages of introductory material. 

Make Your Own Backpack and Other Wilderness Camp Gear (Ohio University Press, 1981) by Hugh Nelson. This one is also in large format, paperback, and runs to 131 pages. Make Your Own is illustrated with how-to drawings, and features photos of the completed projects. The book includes instructions for 17 projects, plus sections on tools, techniques, suppliers, kit-makers and more.

While Taking Care of Outdoor Gear (Stackpole Books, 1983) doesn't tell you how to make your own accoutrements, it nonetheless definitely belongs on this list. The reason is obvious: One of the best ways to avoid having to make, buy, or otherwise procure new outdoor gear is to take proper care of what you already have, thus extending its useful life. And Taking Care goes beyond what its title implies, also offering its readers sound advice on choosing and using equipment wisely. It's brand new, darned good, and suffers only one minor shortcoming . . . it's rather sparsely illustrated. Taking Care of Outdoor Gear was packaged by the editors at Stackpole Books, with help from various equipment specialists. Ranging from air mattresses to wool, the book discusses 53 items dear to the outdoors person's heart. Taking Care has 310 pages (in 6" X 9" format).