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Homemade Ultralight Backpacking Gear-
Mosquito Net, Sunshade

Homemade Gear Page 1
Homemade Gear Page 2

Projects Requiring a Sewing Machine

I have made a number of items with my sewing machine including a silcloth daypack weighing a few ounces, a mosquito net weighing about 4 ounces, and plenty of gear-specific stuff bags. For fabric, thread and accessories I use Outdoor Wilderness Fabrics. Visit their website by clicking the link, or call them at (208) 402-0110 with questions. They are very helpful with picking out the proper fabric for the project and have such obscure items as mini-cordlocks which I have found nowhere else.

Mosquito Net

This is a very simple piece of equipment to make and takes the place a bulkier and heavier commercial options. I used no-see-um netting that is about 50 inches wide and sold by the yard. The finished size will vary depending on your height and width. Mine is about 3 1/2 feet wide by about 5 1/2 feet long, with about 3 feet doubled up. It can feel a little tight at times, but I chose the smaller size to cut down on weight.

The shorter section of the double layer slides underneath my sleeping pad and holds the net in place. The 5 1/2 foot side then drapes over my head and continues down over my legs. It can be made more efficient by making the lower section that drapes over your legs, or sleeping bag, wider so that it can be tucked underneath and longer if you choose. You can stitch in one or two lines towards the head end to tie it up so it stays off your face. The whole thing shouldn't weigh more than 6 or 8 ounces. Mine is just over 4 ounces.

Mosquito Net Version 2- I will write more about this version soon. For now, the shelter alone weighs 9 ounces. The Tyvek groundsheet for underneath it weighs 3 ounces, four stakes weigh about 2.5 ounces. That is a total weight of about 14.5 ounces for the bug shelter. The photos below give an idea of the design. The main part of the shelter is a tent of sorts, requiring four stakes and a pole or tree tie off. A skirt covers the legs with a piece of shockcord and cordlock just above the knees for tightening the skirt around the legs. Another section of skirt drops down to below the knees and can be folded under the sleeping bag to hold it in place and keep the bugs out. There is plenty of room in the "tent" section for gear, and it is high enough to sit up in.

Sun Shade for Inflatable Kayaks

We created this shade last summer for our family float on the San Juan River. It worked well overall, and doubled as a sun shade for lunching on the shore when there was no shade available. The only issue was with wind- it became a bit unruly when the wind came up as it is so light and rather flimsy. The shade can be pushed from side to side easily on its fiberglass frame to give more or less shade on one side or the other as the you move down river. The shade is perfect for a river such as the San Juan or the Green, where you encounter few or no rapids and you are just laying back in your boat. It is not recommended for faster running rivers where it can interfere with your navigational capability.

Desert Explorer sun shade in use in inflatable kayak on the San Juan River.
The photo at left shows the finished sun shade in use on the San Juan River. Note guy lines from center of fiberglass hoops running to front and rear of boat. Also note placement of rods in boat to allow for the use of the paddle. We inserted the rear rods into a loop of webbing found on the kayak seat, a stable and secure location. Different boats will require different setup applications.

I used very lightweight breathable ripstop (1.1 ounce) from Outdoor Wilderness Fabrics (see link above). You could certainly use something heavier, with more UV blocking properties. The overall finished size, after hemming all edges, of the shade is about 5 feet in length by about 6 feet from "side to side"- threaded onto the finerglass rods across the boat.

The rods are 3/16th inch fiberglass. Again, you could use heavier rods to add to the strenght of the shade. I bought 5 of them, with 4 ferrules. I cut one in half and used crazy glue to attach a ferrule to either end of each 2 foot long piece. This is the center section of the frame. On one end of eah of the long (4 foot) rods I glued a protective cap. This is the end that is pushed between the floor and wall tube of the boat. I bought the rods and ferrules from the local kite store, Into The Wind. If you cannot find the these parts where you live, Into The Wind offers mail order. Just go to their search page and type in "ferrules" and "rods" and you will find the parts.

parts for sun shade for inflatable kayak.

The photo to the left shows the fiberglass rods- top rod is 2 foot long center section with ferrule attached to both ends. Middle rod is another 2 foot section showing a few wraps of duct tape in the very center- this helps hold the guy line (piece of 550 cord) tied to it from slipping. The bottom rod shows the glued on protective cap found at one end of each of the 4 foot sections.

I used a 4 foot long piece of 550 cord to tie the center of the hoop, with ripstop attached, to each end of the boat for stability- the cord wraps around the rod, not jsut the cloth. I burned a smalle hole in the very center of the ripstop, just outside of the hem, using a heated nail, to run the 550 cord through. Be sure this tie is strong. The wraps of duct tape as noted above help keep the 550 cord guy line knot in place.

Desert Explorer sun shade in use in the bank of the San Juan River at lunchtime.

The sun shade set up on the bank of the San Juan providing shade for lunch. The guy lines were not necessary here. The sand was enough to hold the rods securely in place.








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

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