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Brian UL

Locale: New England
UL and MYOG on 01/14/2010 20:09:35 MST Print View

Ultralight backpacking is associated with MYOG only because in the beginning you HAD to make your own or modify what was available. You could not buy lightweight gear yet.
Ray Jardine encouraged people to make their own gear in his book and even included plans for his gear.
In fact ULA, MLD ,GG all got their start by making homemade gear and selling it to others who didn't have the inclination to make it themselves. These people happened to be real good at designing and sewing lightweight gear.
In the beginning UL gear was simple and decently easy to make- flat tarp, simple ruck sack, quilt, soda can stove.
Now we have complex tarp tents, clothing, stoves, shelters ect. that had a lot of time effort and talent go into designing and making them. It is not so easy to make a duo mid, Dbl rainbow, baffled down quilt, and caldera cone! Those take a whole other level of skill/time that way less people are willing to do. You will notice that the great majority of MYOG is still tarps and bivys with the occasional down quilt/jacket by the overachievers.
This begs the question, would Jardine have bothered to make anything if he thru-hiked today when you can readily buy UL gear?
If I remember correctly in his book he had an 8 lb base weight with shared gear and he included a solo gear list that came to about 12 lbs! And that sounded crazy back then!
8-12 lbs is pretty normal today and easily achievable with off the shelf gear and you can have a double wall tent and a frame pack and still make those numbers.

John Whynot

Locale: Southeast Texas
Re: UL and MYOG on 01/14/2010 21:00:46 MST Print View

Ray Jardine was a successful engineer and innovator before he started developing his ultralight backpacking techniques and equipment. He's still making his own equipment, and encouraging others to do the same. I think he's the type of person who looks at what's available and says "I can do better than this", so yes, I think he'd still make his equipment.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: UL and MYOG on 01/14/2010 21:24:38 MST Print View

I think there will always be people who prefer to MYOG -- regardless of store availability -- at least for certain gear pieces.

We have stores galore -- but there will always be tinkerers.

Brian UL

Locale: New England
Re: UL and MYOG on 01/14/2010 21:51:18 MST Print View

Good point about Jardine, but I think what I meant to ask was - would there be so much MYOG going on if UL gear was as easliy available
or to put it another way, are less people getting into MYOG now and in the future because of it? I doubt I would have ever learned to sew if I started backpacking now. There doesn't seem to be as much of a reason too. Even financially, its easy to buy used discounted UL gear now. In the past finding ul gear at all was hard enough let alone a market for used discounted gear. Today we are spoiled for choice.

Rand Lindsly
(randlindsly) - MLife

Locale: Yosemite
Re: Re: UL and MYOG on 01/15/2010 14:38:11 MST Print View

At the risk of perhaps re-casting the conversation, I believe you will find the answers to this problem in economics and specifically in terms of the market driven supply/demand curves. I suspect there are real live economists on this board that can explain all this in terms of supply/demand curve shifts, market equilibrium, Veblen goods, Giffen goods, Game theory, etc etc etc. Would love to hear their insights on this.

However, from my non-academic, manufacturer point of view, it seems the dynamic for one cycle works like this:

1) Little or no broad based market demand for a specific UL product exists, so what little market there is, is satisfied individually by MYOG efforts.

2) As time passes, and MYOG efforts identify, iterate and improve on what the market really wants, starts to spread the word, and generates a larger demand.

3) Capitalists take notice of the larger demand and invest in raw material, inventory, tooling, trademarks, patents, logos, packaging, distribution chains, etc to build the MYOG item cheaper, in larger volumes/man-hour-of-effort and at a higher/more consistent quality level.

4) Repeat....over and over again.

The way I see it, once a large enough market self-identifies itself through the MYOG efforts, the capitalist community will eventually step in to deliver products into that space at an arguably better deal than you can pull together yourself.

Speaking to my narrow little Caldera Cone corner of the world, the price break, coating options, material property specification advantages we get purchasing hundreds of pounds of aluminum at a time over what you can get from Home Depot buying standard flashing is an advantage right there. Then the ability to quickly make a unique custom cone that can perfectly fit one specific pot in a field of 50 or so pots requires tens of thousands of dollars worth of tooling, machines, shop space and infrastructure that you couldn't justify if there weren't a somewhat established market to consume the cones. With respect to the cone, our tooling can do in 10 minutes for any random pot what would take a MYOG guy the better part of a weekend to do one time from scratch for a very specific pot.

In summary, I guess my point is that the MYOG effort is excellent at identifying and narrowing market needs at the one end, and giving the builder the pride of accomplishment in creating your own gear on the other. However, outside a fundamental upheaval in what we all think of as the stereotypical supply/demand driven marketplace where vendors step in as a market self-identifies, I see the 4 step cycle above kinda driving the behavior.


Rand :-)

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: UL and MYOG on 01/17/2010 17:12:38 MST Print View

Part of the allure of backpacking is self-sufficiency. Some people want to make their own gear. I have had ideas for gear that does not exist. As soon as I own a sewing machine, I'm going to make some of my ideas. Without a sewing machine, the things I have made have mostly been recycling projects. I enjoy knowing that I've saved something from the landfill and given it a new life as a piece of lightweight gear. I also enjoy being a little further on the "dirtbagging" end of the scale of backpacker types, rather than on the high-tech end of the scale.

Just having stuff available for purchase is not sufficient reason for all people to give up making their own gear. Just for most of them.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Re: UL and MYOG on 01/17/2010 22:19:08 MST Print View

Another element of the situation is that a lot of UL backpackers tend toward the obsessive. That tendency also leads to wanting a piece of gear that is precisely what they want - not just serviceable or close to what they want. The only way to get that , usually, is to make it yourself.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: UL and MYOG on 01/17/2010 23:52:42 MST Print View


You're so ultra you don't even show a first or last name! How did you manage that?

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: UL and MYOG on 01/18/2010 02:46:19 MST Print View

I'm sure there are different forces driving different members of the MYOG crowd. For myself it started out being because I lacked the funds to buy things that I could make at lower cost.

But that was decades ago. What drives me now is the pleasure I get from all phases of the creative process ... brainstorming, design, building, testing and ultimately using things. It fulfills a personal need, similar to how being outdoors fulfills another personal need.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Re: UL and MYOG on 01/18/2010 21:24:06 MST Print View

Benjamin - I don't know. I've tried to change how my name displays but without success.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: UL and MYOG on 01/19/2010 00:47:49 MST Print View

Hi Paul

If you send me the URL for your Profile page I will take a look.


Andrew Wilson
(andreww) - MLife

Locale: Vosges
Early obsessors on 01/19/2010 05:51:02 MST Print View

I got into LW after reading Jardine's PCT guide in preparation for my 1998 PCT hike. There was nothing available commercially at that time. I was out of college with plenty of time, and I had a perfectionist/DIY mentality. I made backpacks for me and my buddy, as well as a set of windpants and windbreakers for each of us. We ended up with a bout 10lbs base, a little more as I carried an SLR camera. For a shelter (8'x10') and groundcloth (5'x7') we used ubiquitous blue woven poly tarps.

With quality commercially available LW stuff now, I now I think DIY is less about superior functionality or even price (if you count your labor as having monetary value), but simply about thinking outside of the box. Economic parameters limit what kinds of products one can use to create a viable business. While UL stuff can drive this, the fringe will always be thinking beyond what is available to what is possible.

Since I was socialized into LW hiking by making my own gear, I'm probably going to continue to do it to some degree, as it gives me pleasure. Lately, I've tried to think less in terms of getting or even making my own gear, but on rerouting mass market items for my outdoor use. I used a poly tarp on a two week cycle vacation with my family in Belgium this last summer, and besides a few incredulous looks, it worked flawlessly.

Outdoor gear is priced quite high because it is a luxury good, and dedicated hobbiests with personal investment in the identification with the activity spend lots of money (and time if they DIY). But other markets have very similar products with perhaps 90% of the functionality. You always pay a hefty premium for that last 10%.

In addition to "Lightweight" hiking, I like the idea of "cheapwweight" hiking. Repurposing products from other markets is the kind of creativity I'd like to see more of.

Josh Leavitt
(Joshleavitt) - F

Locale: Ruta Locura
UL and MYOG on 01/19/2010 09:02:45 MST Print View

Ultimately the reason you see people make what they do as MYOG projects, is because a simple tarp, quilt, pack, and a pot to eat out of, are all you really need. And the simplicity goes hand in hand with light weight.

Back in the '80s when my father was building climbing gear in the garage, the talk around the campfire was about what Chinourd, Lowe, Jardine, etc. where doing, and how it was changing the sport and the business. Not unlike the "UL and MYOG" community these days, nothing new, just another cog in the drive train. Jardine's MYOG philosophy, journeyed out of that very interesting gear and market evolution.

Re: UL and MYOG on 01/19/2010 21:59:21 MST Print View

Frankly UL will ALWAYS be MYOG!

Yes in the past people were paving the way for what today is a samll (10, maybe 20) company industry.

But to make the "perfect" pack or whatever it will have to be MYOG or a custom order (at quite a custom price).

I forget his name but there's a big dude on here (his avatar is him in a tan jacket, shorts and gaiters) and im sure his gear is quite different than Ben's.

Jardine is frankly the man. All his mods seem to come from trail and error and tempered in the fires of experience. I dont do the RAYWAY completely but lets face it his ideas and templates permeate all we do, have, and use.

He definately would still be MYOG and I suspect even more people will experiment with MYOG when hours of internet shopping prove fruitless and MYOG is cheaper.