Can You Outfit Your Bikepacking Adventure With Only Homemade and Cottage Gear?

by Andy Amick on March 16, 2012

in Bikepacking, Gear

Earlier this week, I read Brian’s post on Planning for Unplanned Hikes describing his backpack that is pre-packed and ready to go for a weekend adventure.  That post made me think of my own gear organization and my Go Box for bikepacking.  It’s not pre-packed because I don’t always have the bikepacking bags on the bike, but the box has everything (except food, water, clothing) that I need for an overnight trip.

Bikepacking Ready Box contents

Contents of my Bikepacking Ready Box. Looks like a mess but it’s easy to pack in a hurry.

As I was sorting through my gear in the Ready Box to write about how people organize their gear and if they have some sort of Go Bag, Bug Out Bag, or other pre-sorted system, I realized almost 100% of it homemade Make Your Own Gear (MYOG) or cottage manufacturers such as ZPacks or Kooka Bay.

The gear organization post will come next week, but for today I  wanted to focus on small gear makers to see if it’s possible to get outdoors with gear that you either made yourself or that was made by a small cottage manufacturer.  My preference for small companies has been described before (Why You Will Never See Me At Wal-Mart).  When I have a chance, I try to purchase from small companies.

Note: When I think of cottage manufacturer, I picture a small shop or garage with 1-3 people making gear.  Obviously, when you get into clothing, shoes and bike tires, this idea starts to break down.  For those areas, the term small cottage manufacturer may include some companies with many more employees but they are still small potatoes compared to the giants like North Face, Nike, Shimano, and Specialized.

Is It Possible?

For backpacking, it would be quite easy to outfit yourself completely without large company products.  Footwear may be the hardest item but I’m guessing there are some small manufacturers of shoes or boots.

There are plenty of blogs that focus on making gear and backpacking with ultralight gear from small companies.  There are quite a few companies making ultralight camping gear with the majority of those companies being extremely small.

Blogs about ultralight hiking

Brian’s Backpacking Blog

Stick’s Blog

Gossamer Gear

JERMM’s Outside

Hike Lighter

Brett On Stuff

For bikepacking, there are a few problems with trying to have a full small company setup.  The most obvious of these issues is with the bike itself.  Yes, you could have a custom made frame and fork.  But what about the tires, drivetrain, seat, and other components?

Singlespeeds can solve all of the world's problems

A singlespeed setups solves the drivetrain and many of the component issues.  Frankly I think it solves just about any issue known to man, but I am biased just a bit.

Bikepacking resources

Kent’s Bike Blog


Pale Spruce Bikepacking 101

Revelate Designs

NoLogo bikepacking bags

What Needs To Change?

Current bikepacking setup with mostly homemade and small company gear


The Bianchi bike is the most glaring big company item that I currently have.  It’s been a great bike for over 10 years, but I guess I’ll have to get a new custom steel singlespeed.  (To my wife – sorry, but I have to have a new bike for the sake of small companies).  Back to reality for me and I know I won’t be purchasing a new bikepacking bike any time soon.  I’ll keep the existing bike for the sake of “using what you already have”.

Camping Gear

The current shelter and sleep system is 100% MYOG or cottage company made.  The ultralight camping community has so many resources in this area that it’s very easy and fairly economical to accomplish.

The other camping gear (personal hygeine, first aid, survival gear) are contained in my Pale Spruce StayOutThere kit.  The final camping piece of equipment is my MYOG coffee maker, which I detailed last week.


I’m not sure there are any small companies making cycling shoes.  Would Lake be the most cottage-ish of the bunch?

For clothing, maybe Twin Six or Ibex would be good places to start?  Do Mont-Bell, Marmot and GoLite also fall into this category of cottage manufacturers?  As you can probably tell, this is an area where I don’t have as much experience or information, but I’ll keep working on it over time.  If you have suggestions, please let me know.

Continuing down the MYOG and cottage road

Much to the dismay of my wife, I’ll continue to look into the MYOG options and also products made my small companies.  This mentality doesn’t require a spending spree to replace all gear that doesn’t match.  It just means that when replacing items or purchasing a new type of item, preference will go to MYOG or cottage products.

We bike over a covered bridge to a workplace where dogs greet our guests. It’s the perfect setting, actually, for the spirit of the artisan to flourish.

See, making outdoor clothing is really as much art as science. It’s about choosing the right fabrics, understanding the different properties of those fabrics, and knitting for specific outdoor activities. It’s about crafting more performance, comfort and style. And along the way, making sure that everything’s sustainable. That’s what we love to do. Which is how we create the most complete line of outdoor wool clothing available.

John Fernsell, Ibex

This quote from Ibex captures the small company personality better than I could ever say it.  It’s this type of attitude that makes me prefer the smaller companies so much more.  They can take the time and effort to make the best products and treat their customers the best while also looking at sustainability.  Do they all do this?  No, but I think the vast majority of them do.

Future posts will continue to cover product reviews, product ideas, and MYOG projects.  Other than electronics, it certainly seems possible to have a fully outfitted bikepacking kit without large company products.

If you’ve also gone the route of outfitting your backpacking or bikepacking gear with small companies, I’d love to hear how you identify which companies to purchase from.  And if you have ideas on products that would meet the standards of MYOG or cottage manufacturer, please share them in the comments below.

About Andy Amick
A little bit nutty in general, a lotta bit nutty about bikes. Each of his boys received a bike helmet for their first birthday and the three of them have been biking together ever since.

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