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Custom application equipment

Oct 11, 2020
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I often choose equipment for custom applications. This may limit versatility but can increase speed and efficiency.

Grand Trunk's Evolution Sleeping Bag Hammocks are an example of what I consider custom application equipment. The integrated hammock and sleeping bag are not ideal for all conditions but simplifies setup and use.

Single wall tents like the Naturehike Bear UL2 have advantages and disadvantages but again reduce weight, bulk and simplify setup and use.

I often purchase, modify or make custom equipment for specific requirements. Do you have any favorite custom or limited use equipment that has worked well for you?
I have always lengthened or shortened my axe handles 28-30 inches (711mm-762mm) to make their length close to the same as the double bit cruiser axes I grew up using. For safety ie, hitting what needs chopping as opposed to whacking a leg with an under strike and preventing over striking which can lead to breaking of the handle.
I know many here, think a axe is excessive weight/dangerous/ blab, blab…. however I grew up using a axe most everyday. I don’t feel comfortable without one handy on a trip of any kind. TSA would prefer that I didn’t have one on my trips to Minneapolis and beyond, but I feel reassured that when bad comes to worst, an axe might just come in handy. I knew a state representative, who was a Athabaskan Elder from the Middle Yukon River, that killed many bears in his lifetime with just a axe.
Your topic may be intended apply to gear, but my most obvious uses of customization are my 16 canoes and kayaks and my 20-30 paddles. Each was selected for a "customized" paddling experience in different waters and/or for different purposes because, in my opinion, there is no do-it-all boat or paddle. Not if you want to be a versatile and efficient omni-paddler.

As to gear, I have managed to use a rectangular LL Bean 20° down bag for my entire canoeing and camping life. I customize it for different temperatures by either:

- Unzipping it and using it as just a top blanket.
- Sliding in a rectangular silk bag liner.
- Sliding in a rectangular fleece bag liner.
- Using only the silk or fleece bag liners themselves, either zipped or unzipped.

I also have five tents of different sizes, shapes and weights—including a lightweight single wall that can fit in the hatches of my outrigger canoe—all of which I have used by myself solo either base camping, van camping or canoe camping.

43 years ago I had Carlisle Paddles custom make me a nine-piece kit composed of two blades, two T-grips, two oar grips, and three shaft lengths, which I could convert into two same length oars, two different length canoe paddles, a long double-bladed kayak paddle, or a 12' pole with the oar grips on the ends. However, the Carlisle paddles were so heavy that I never used them. I did use the pole a lot, and the oars occasionally with my DIY clamp-on-the-gunwales oarlock contraption.
Many of my DIY projects were intended for custom applications. I still use the first backpack I made. I wanted a backpack with compartments appropriately sized for specific equipment. I was able to simplify the design and avoid incorporating unnecessary features.

Sometimes customizing equipment for a specific task can severely limit the versatility but the backpack has worked well. I discovered that in general, with the exception of food, the equipment I require for one night in the field is similar to what I require for several nights. Also, I now take equipment such as a chair, gravity water filter and full size inflatable sleeping pad which I originally never intended to carry but because modern equipment has become more compact the backpack still has adequate space.
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Probably 20 years ago I bought a cheap external frame pack at a lawn sale, with the intention to turn it into a canoe carry pack.
I removed the upper aluminum tubing hoop, and substituted a couple “Y” shaped yokes that would hold my thwart.
It worked well and I used it for the few years before I built a few much lighter weight solo boats. I still have the pack, yokes and OEM hoop stashed somewhere…
My canvas wall tent, originally 8x10', was too big for anything but motorized camping, (car, snowmachine, quad) I downsized it and its interior frame to 7x6', and now have over 100 nights in it, mostly backcountry, paddle-in locations. Same with its wood stove, I downsized that also.
wall tent.JPG

I was given an 18' Chestnut Cruiser, I downsized that to 15'9" by removing 5 center ribs
It's my favorite canoe now.
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