Monday, March 17, 2014

Making personal trail gear

One of the things I like to do is to make some of my own trail gear. I have found that using handmade gear makes my outings even more special for me, especially when I want to do a very minimalist outing and move quietly, such as when tracking and observing wildlife. Leather is my material of choice as it is rugged, supple, and quiet. In the photo below, I have a photo of my basic primitive kit for a day outing:

Primitive kit

Making your own gear is not as difficult as you may think. The gear depicted above was made using a Swiss Army Knife, a ruler, an Ice Pick and leather mallet, leather glue, wooden clothespins, sewing needle and kite string. The steps are simple:

- I make a full-sized cardboard or paper grocery bag pattern of the pouch or belt bag I wish to make.

- I go to a leather store and dig through their scrap bin and select inexpensive leather for the project I have in mind [Usually costs no more than $5.00 for leather]. I take the cardboard pattern along with me to be certain I get the right size leather for the job.

- I cut the leather pieces out; I advance sew any difficult inside seams before gluing and sewing main body together.

- Bag/Pouch is glued together and allowed to dry overnight using the clothespins to hold pieces together.

- Next day I use the ruler to mark sewing holes, then punch them with ice pick.

- Pieces are sewn together using polyester kit string [cheap and very strong] using a large needle.

As a final touch I sometimes use a wood burning tool to smooth/fire burnish edges and to add petroglyph art, like the snake, which holds special meaning for me, as you will see in the following photos [I will also show close-up's of how I assembled these projects].

In the next three photo's I've shown my self-made Elk hide belt pouch. The hide was a gift from an old friend. It was sewn inside out then turn right side out to hide stitching. I used an old coin to make the button, using a ball peen hammer to concave the coin.

Elk hide belt pouch - exterior

Elk hide pouch - interior
In this photo above, you can see a pocket was built into the flap. I often use this pouch to carry a 1 pint USAF pilot's flask of water, and a couple of small snacks in the flap pocket.

Finally, here is the rear of the pouch showing the belt loop details:

Elk hide pouch - rear 

In the next photo, my PSK [Personal Survival Kit] pouch (left) and Firemaking porch (right) are shown:
PSK and Firemaking pouches - front view
Rear view of pouches
Each of my creations is a one of a kind. Sometimes I don't even take a pattern to the leather shop...I'll just buy a piece of leather and let it "talk to me" and see what it becomes. The Firemaking pouch was exactly done like that. Here's an interior view of the PSK and Firemaking pouches:

Inside view of pouches

And here's a gear dump of the contents:

Gear dump

The PSK is a tin that's been "Japan'ed"...held over a gas flame to produce a color-case hardened effect. the red pouch is a laminated glass U.S.N. MK III signal mirror, one of the best ever made. Firemaking pouch holds a match safe with waterproof and Storm matches, a lighter, tinder stick and swatches of cotton cloth.

I also carry a LEATHERMAN "SUPER TOOL 200":

Leatherman tool

Incidentally, I  didn't make this knife sheath. My Dad made it around 1974 and wore it every day of his life, carrying his CASE folding hunter in it. I inherited it when he passed, and so he goes along in spirit when I go out woods trekking.

Some people like ornately tool leathercrafted work. I do not. I like my gear simple and rugged. I don't want to be afraid to use it or to get a scratch on it. I also like my leather gear to be simple and primitive in it came right off a Mountain Man or Native Americans belt.

To conclude, I have attempted to show here that you don't need fancy leather crafting tools to make pouches and bags that are rugged and will serve your needs. A few simple tools, your imagination, and your time is all that is necessary. I think you will find making your own belt pouches personally satisfying and a means of enriching your outdoor experiences. Don't be afraid to try and if you make a mistake, big deal, learn from it and use it anyways!


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