website tracker
  kayaks on the San Juan river near Mexican Hat, UtahSplit Level ruin in Grand Gulch, Cedar Mesa, Utahpictographs, Quail Panel detail, Grand Gulch, Utahgoosenecks of the San Juan riverSan Juan river near Clay Hills takeout, Utahgraneries, unnamed canyon, Cedar Mesa, Utah  


Site Information

Trip Guides
Words of Caution
Going Ultralight
Desert Gear
River Gear
Homemade Gear
Gear Reviews
Survival Kit
Survival Knives
Primitive Skills
Making Fire
Water & Hydration
Maps & Navigation
Backpack Foods
Photo Gallery
Rock Art
Trees and Plants
Desert Links
Book Store
Gear Shop
Wilderness Kids
Expedition Vehicle
Desert Inspired
May, 1998 Manhunt
About Us
Contact Us







Homemade Ultralight Backpacking Gear-
Alcohol Stove, Backpack Journal

Homemade Gear Page 1
Homemade Gear Page 2

While most everything you could need in the outdoors is available commercially, there are a few items I have found that are still too big or heavy for my liking. There are a couple that just do not really exist- for example the "mayonnaise container toilet system" for river trips. Below are some ideas for homemade gear options.

Alcohol Stoves

Commercial stoves are one such item. I use a homemade alcohol stove. It is described on our Desert Gear Pages. I found plans for the alcohol stove at Since then the domain has apparently been claimed by someone else and the stove plans are no longer available. I have the entire web page saved and will look into the implications of making that available through the Desert Explorer website. In the mean time, visit for endless design ideas. Beware that many of the links that are listed are no longer functional, but you should be able to find a design to your liking nonetheless.

teo views of homemade alcohol stove

Toilet System for Rivers

toilet system made from one gallon mayonaisse jugsobtained free from a local deli.Some type of sealable toilet system is required on all western rivers. I carry 1 gallon mayonnaise jugs with screw lids which I get for free from the deli of the local grocery store. I wrap the containers with duct tape for added safety, probably not really necessary but considering the contents I take the extra time to do it. They have very secure lids and handles which I run a piece of webbing through to tie them into my boat. I use disposable, single use toilet liner bags which are designed to be used without a toilet system as well. They can be placed directly on the ground for use. The WAG Bag is available at REI in packs of 12 or individually. The Restop 2 Wilderness Containment Pouch is another option which is available in packs of 5. Both are acceptable for use on rivers, but require a sealable container in which to store the used bags. I bring along an extra container to carry out my trash. When the trip is over the containers can be disposed of with regular trash.

This system may or may not be acceptable as a backcountry toilet- some parks and recreation areas require an actual commercial toilet system. Check local regulations before you head out. As of the summer of 2008 this system is no longer allowed on the San Juan River- an ammo box is required for storage of used Wag Bags.

Backpack Journals

Whenever I head into the bush I make it a point to carry empty pages to fill, especially if I am traveling alone.  Being alone in the desert prompts all kinds of thoughts and ideas in me, and I make extensive technical notes along the way on all my treks.  Being an ultralight backpacker, I avoid any unnecessary weight. Instead of carrying a heavy, bound journal, or a too-small notebook, or even just some empty sheets of paper from my printer, I create and carry a signature or two of Tyvek covered pages.  In bookbinder lingo, a signature is simply a number of sheets of paper folded in half.  I turn these folded sheets of paper into a booklet by wrapping them with a Tyvek cover and stitching the pages and cover together. Eventually I will bind these signatures  filled with adventures and desert inspired stories into books. Detailed instructions for making your own backpack journals can be found at the Desert Explorer Blog.

Tyvek journals, numbered, dated and with trip locations noted on the covers.

Back to Top
Homemade Gear Page 1
Homemade Gear Page 2

Related Pages:
Going Ultralight
The Desert Explorer Ultralight Packing List
The Desert Explorer Ultralight Packing List Explained
Desert Explorer Recommended Gear

All Content © 2006- 2012-