Homemade, High-Tech Gear

A do-it-yourself guide for sewing space-age hats and other performance outdoor gear.

We've made our own stuff sacks, ground cloths, and fleece hats. Primed for another challenge, we scanned the Web for sewing patterns-and found everything from rain parkas to bivy sacks. We also discovered cutting--edge materials like siltarp ripstop nylon, a silicon-impregnated cloth used in ultralight tarps and packs.

We settled on making a waterproof/breathable hat from a pattern by Controlled Exposure (Habitat Hat #25) and fabric from Outdoor Wilderness Fabrics. The directions were thorough and easy to follow, though this kit (like most) required a basic knowledge of cutting and sewing. Our hat cost only $20, less than half the retail price of a comparable lid.

Should you make your own gear? Certainly, if you enjoy saving money and choosing your own features. Here's where we've had the best success finding patterns, fabrics, and sewing advice.

> Outdoor Wilderness Fabrics, (800) 693-7467; www.owfinc.com. Fabrics, insulation, cordage, and webbing. If they don't have what you want, they'll find it.

> Quest Outfitters, (800) 359-6931; www.questoutfitters.com. Fabrics, insulation, foams, poles, thread, fasteners, cordage, sealers, and patterns.

>Seattle Fabrics, (206) 525-0670; www.seattlefabrics.com. Fabrics, insulation, foams, hardware, webbing, zippers, patterns, and books.

> The Rain Shed, (541) 753-8900; www.therainshet.com. Fabrics, insulation, hardware, webbing, zippers, patterns, and books.

>Sewing Outdoor Gear: Easy Techniques for Outerwear that Works, by Rochelle Harper (800-477-8727; $25).