I’m very particular about everything I purchase – especially when it comes to outdoor gear. I spend an almost embarrassing amount of time reading reviews, making sure a product has all the features I require, making sure it doesn’t have a ton of features I won’t use, hunting down sales, etc. Last year, seeking to fill a gap in my Spring/Summer sleep system, I decided to build a 40-degree quilt, as I wasn’t too keen on dropping $200+ on an Enlightened Equipment quilt without having tried one before.

I had no idea how to use a sewing machine. But after a two hour crash course on YouTube and a visit to my Aunt to pick up a beater machine, I went for it. The seams were sloppy, the taper at the bottom of the quilt wasn’t even, the footbox didn’t quite close all the way, but it functioned beautifully (and still does), weighed 18.5oz and had exactly the features I wanted.

I was hooked.

With one fairly easy project under my belt, the not-even-remotely-logical next step was to build an ultralight pack. Having no idea how to even approach something like this, I hit up the MYOG subreddit & BPL, where Ray Jardine’s Rayway backpack kit came highly recommended. If you don’t know who Ray Jardine is, do some reading. He’s a pioneer in the ultralight movement, invented the SLCD for climbing, was the first to free-climb the West Face of El Cap, and sailed around the world with his wife Jenny on their 41-foot ketch. I purchased the kit without thinking twice, and went to work.

The following is a series of images from start-to-finish of building my Rayway backpack. Please note that out of respect for Ray & Jenny’s wishes, I’ve omitted some of the detailed pictures, as you’re primarily paying for Ray’s expertise and instructions when purchasing this kit.

Ray’s instructions were straight forward, and very easy to follow. From start to finish, the project took me about 20 hours, as I took my time to avoid making mistakes. I couldn’t be happier with how the bag turned out. It weighs less than 14oz, and handles a 9lb baseweight with ease.

I’ve seen some rumbles on the internet about the price of Ray’s kit, but in my opinion, it was well worth the $84. I didn’t only buy a backpack kit – I acquired the knowledge on how to build my own custom backpack, which I’m currently in the process of doing. All the features I want – none of the ones I don’t. More to come on that soon.

If you want to get your feet wet in pack building, Ray has my complete recommendation.