June 16, 2022
Sometimes off-the-shelf gear just doesn't cut it. That's ok, because there is a whole world of ultra-lightweight gear makers out there creating some incredible stuff. Whether you are looking to get a custom tarp made, or an ultra lightweight hammock, chances are you'll find the right company below.
All bikepackers are product designers in hiding. We are intimately connected to our gear and really feel it when something is missing or isn’t working the way we need it to. This leads to ideas, and ideas can lead to products. However, most of us will hope that a company has already created a product for our needs that’s sitting on a shelf somewhere. This usually leads to much disappointment and quick fix solutions that never perform properly.
On the flipside, some of us will take that inspiration and do something about it. This is a list of the ones that have done something about it—the indie and custom ultralight gear makers.
The first time I saw a piece of custom-made gear for bikepacking, it was a pillow created by Esoteric Fab Works for Miles Arbour of Bikepacking.com. The pillow was a simple lightweight fabric bag that Miles could stuff a sweater or jacket into at night to put under his head. I have had nothing but troubles with pillows while bikepacking and this simple idea blew me away. More importantly, it opened up the idea that I could connect with small makers like Esoteric Fab Works to create the things I needed.
Some companies on this list are pure custom gear makers, some are small batch indie creators, and one is even a pattern maker to help you do-it-yourself. Most of them are focused on lightweight backpacking, which of course has much crossover with our world.
A huge thank you to everyone that helped compile this list of rad lightweight gear makers. 🤘
|Alpine Luddites 🇺🇸||Jump|
|Autumn Outdoor Gear 🇺🇸||Jump|
|Craderson Carriers 🇺🇸||Jump|
|Esoteric Fab Works 🇨🇦||Jump|
|French Light Outdoor 🇫🇷||Jump|
|Hofman Outdoor Gear Supply 🇨🇦||Jump|
|Lesovik Outdoors 🇵🇱||Jump|
|Little Shop of Hammocks 🇨🇦||Jump|
|Northern Ultralight 🇨🇦||Jump|
|Orb Ultralight 🇦🇺||Jump|
|Saunter Packs 🇺🇸||Jump|
|Stitchback DIY Trail Gear 🇺🇸||Jump|
|Terra Rosa 🇦🇺||Jump|
|Volpi Outdoor Gear 🇲🇽||Jump|
|Walkman Gear 🇮🇹||Jump|
|Wilderness Threadworks 🇦🇺||Jump|
|Wim Works 🇯🇵||Jump|
“Made by hikers for hikers” is Adotec’s motto. Hailing from Georgetown, Ontario, Adotec makes pretty much anything you might need. By looking at their extensive line up you can easily see that Adotec understand their craft deeply. They offer a range of lightweight packs, tarps, stuff sacks and more. Check ‘em out.
The Bronx could be the last place you imagine amazing ultralight gear to come from, but here you have it, Bronx Gear. The name Allmansright was inspired by a Swedish law that gives everyone of that country the right to public access or the 'freedom to roam'. Allmansright is a team of two that cranks out some thoughtful and beautiful ultra lightweight gear including custom packs, bags and more.
John Campbell aka Alpine Luddites, creates some beautiful made-to-order climbing packs and bike bags. With decades of climbing, hiking and cycling experience, John knows how to make a solid bag and his passion is pretty visible. No matter what sport you are doing, John makes the bags for it. Check out that Fugazi patch. Solid, solid stuff.
Founded in North Carolina in 2000, AntiGravityGear is the quintessential UL company. They make everything you might need for a serious bikepacking trip including sleeping bags and shelters, all weather apparel, stuff sacks and more. You can find their entire lineup on their website beside many other proven brands and products. This is a one stop shop for all your ultralight needs.
Anne Marie Akers (aka Autumn Leaf, aka Autumn Outdoor Gear (formerly Autumn Ultralight)) creates stunning handmade hammocks, slings and sacks. Each hammock is designed for clients' height and weight and has a 12 week production lead time. So, get in line now. These are a real treat for people that like to sleep in the trees.
Craderson Carriers is a one man shop that specializes in lightweight packs and quilts. They have also worked in the past with bikepackers to create custom lightweight and compact gear. Craderson Carriers is also working on a new line of four-panel hats and other sun blocking apparel. This is true indie, custom work.
Honestly, I didn't know the definition of esoteric until I met Kyle, the man behind Esoteric Fab Works in Vancouver. Esoteric means “intended for or likely to be understood by only a small number of people with a specialized knowledge or interest”. I couldn't imagine a more perfect name for one of Canada's best custom ultra lightweight gear makers. Kyle specializes in bike bags, tarps, apparel and pretty much anything you need. Message him.
Another one man shop, Fjäder (aka Joel) is creating some beautiful lightweight bags and packs. Joel documents his processes on his Instagram which makes for some great lightweight gear surfing. He also does fully custom work, so get in touch.
French Light Outdoor is the only French representation on this list. Reading an interview with Florent, French Light Outdoor's founder, we learnt that UL gear may not be as pervasive in Europe as it is in North America. Hence, Florent got to work and started creating his lightweight bags and quilts. DM him.
Maybe you are looking to build that piece of kit yourself. If so, Hofman Outdoor Gear sells a range of lightweight supplies to get you started. Not only do they offer diy/myog materials, accessories and kits, but they also sell their own gear as well.
You have to respect companies that do one thing, and do it well. From Warsaw, Poland, Lesovik is exactly that company. They make some beautiful hammocks, and all the accessories that go with them. We love Lesovik.
From Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, the Little Shop of Hammocks is a hammock creator that will work with you to get that perfect sleep setup. Alongside custom hammocks, the Little Shop offers all the accessories and DIY materials you might need to get it done yourself. As they say in their Instagram profile, this is “the best of the best”.
In Nelson, British Columbia, Northern Ultralight has produced trail-proven outdoor equipment since 2018. The team was clear that they do not do any custom work, however their packs and stuff sacks leave us itching to hit the ‘buy now' button. This is super-fine indie kit.
Moab, UT, based Nunatak builds some best in class ultralight sleeping bags, quilts and garments and have been doing so since the 90s. Of course, Nunatak is mostly a backpackers brand however, they have been sponsoring Jay Patervary since 2016 and that's more than good enough for us. 🤘
In Sydney, Australia, Peter Wrigley (aka Orb Ultralight) is creating DCF, hip sacks and dry bags for pretty much anything you need. A few years back Peter taught himself how to make gear using his mom's sewing machine—which we absolutely love.
Gregory Lambert has been making gear in Portland, Oregon since 2019. I love how Greg is clear about who he is and how he got into gear making. Check out his About Me highlight on his Instagram for the full story. Greg currently makes one pack (with some other hip packs and food bags) and has plans to build his lineup. Watch this space.
Stitchback is the passion project of Drew Soderborg, an industrial designer from central Utah. Stitchback stands out on this list as they offer a range of patterns for the DIY and MYOG crowd. We are absolutely loving (and severely tempted) by the $7 handlebar bag pattern. You know you want to try it.
As I added companies to this list, I asked everyone who they would also like to see included. Almost every single person I spoke with mentioned Terra Rosa. I'll admit, when I first spoke with Evan, Terra Rosa's founder about being on our bag makers list, I didn't realize the clout he had in the custom gear community. Not only does Terra Rosa build some of the best custom sleeping bags, quilts and tarps on earth, they do bike bags as well! This makes us wish we were starting from scratch and were able to build a complete Terra Rosa setup. Drool.
Volpi is the first company we have had on our lists from Mexico 🤘 Volpi's mission is much larger than selling awesome lightweight, adventure packs. They also work hard to employ the elderly and the vulnerable of the country. We heart companies with rad missions like Volpi.
Walkman Gear is building some great lightweight packs, bags and wallets in Italy. Walkman is a relatively new company and we are excited by what we see so far. Can't wait to see how the company develops.
For the past 10 years, Dan Pitt has been creating durable, efficient lightweight gear in Queensland, Australia. Not only does Dan create awesome frameless backpacks, but also does custom bikepacking bags as well. Love these.
Our only representation from Japan, Wim Works' Instagram profile simply states “the world is yours and the world is mine”. A simple yet meaningful explanation for any company that cares about the planet and how we all experience it. Wim Works creates nice DCF sacks, hip packs, and more. We absolutely love this micro toothbrush kit. Want.
Who did we miss? Tell us in the comments below.
Barry has been cycling and creating digital products around the world for 20+ years. He was a design leader at IDEO, IDEO.org and Nike’s Innovation Lab.