Make Your Own Adventure

These 4 DIY workshops show you how to craft your own gear

By Serena Renner

December 17, 2016


Photo by ninelutsk/iStock

You know how produce tastes better when it’s grown in your garden? Hobbies, too, become more rewarding when you craft equipment by hand. The Maker Movement has expanded beyond macrame and pickling to include furniture and household products, and now, outdoor lovers have more options than ever for building that perfect board, bike, or backpack. In our increasingly computerized, mass-produced world, people are turning to crafts for the same reasons they’re taking to the woods and going back to the land: to slow down, challenge mind and body, and reconnect to age-old traditions.  

“Many [people] have very little experience working with their hands but have found that connection to be missing in their lives,” says cyclist Dave Bohm, who teaches frame-building courses out of his shop, Bohemian Bicycles, in Tucson, Arizona. “[There are] lots of Excel sheets and PowerPoint presentations, but the tangible nature of working with metal and seeing physical results at the end of a long day has its rewards.” 

Bohm says frame-building workshops exploded in the past decade. Other sports and hobbies are following suit. From ski-making and surfboard-shaping to carving your own Norwegian knives, these four “craft camps” can help you create the outdoor gear of your dreams. What’s more, each of them offers gift certificates—perfect for last-minute holiday shopping (hint, hint). 

  Bohemian Bicycles
Photo courtesy of Bohemian Bicycles 

Bohemian Bicycles in Tucson, Arizona 

While dozens of bike-building schools have popped up around the world, Dave Bohm might operate the only one that works with carbon in addition to steel. “This is real honest-to-god ‘rocket science,’” Bohm says. With 24 years under his work belt, and a penchant for ornate lug work (his side hobby is jewelry-making), Bohm transfers his skills to the next generation of bike-builders through seven-day carbon-fiber classes, and 11-day courses on steel. With only two students per course ($3,250 to $6,000) and a 15-second commute time—two guestrooms are attached to the workshop—Bohemian Bicycles offers a truly comprehensive, immersive bike apprenticeship.


Community Skis
Photo courtesy of Community Skis (photograph by Will Saunders)

Community Skis in various locations 

What started as a trailer churning out ski orders from the foot of the Eastern Sierras is now an off-the-grid factory powered by solar panels and two Honda generators. Community Skis owner Michael Lish—who has been building skis and ski factories for more than 30 years—along with his business partner, Kristin Broumas, tows the mobile workshop to some of the most beautiful corners of the western United States. There, the duo makes custom skis and trains private groups and individuals in the centuries-old art of ski-making through one-day workshops ($950). Broumas serves gourmet meals while skis are curing, and in winter (the trailer can run at 15 below), students can test their new gear in fresh powder. (Plus, dogs and drinks are more than welcome.)


Photo courtesy of Grain Surfboards

Grain Surfboards in York, Maine, and Long Island, New York 

Handmade using sustainably sourced northern white cedar, traditional boat-building techniques, and CAD (computer-aided design) technology, Grain Surfboards reflect classic and modern milling techniques. Workshop participants can learn to shape their own, wooden version of such famous designs as the Channel Islands “Biscuit” or Jon Wegener “Mini Simmons” over four days ($1,750) at the farm in Maine or at Grain’s new outpost on Long Island. There’s also a mobile board shop—which rolls into West Coast towns, including Cardiff, California, and Portland, Oregon—as well as special shaping getaways.


North House
Photo courtesy of North House

North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minnesota 

Indigenous crafts of the northern hemisphere are the focus of this folk school, situated on the north shore of Lake Superior. Since 1997, North House has offered a full roster of courses inspired by the Scandinavian concept of folkehøjskole (or learning for learning’s sake). They range from Inuit kayak and kick-sled building to deerskin mitten sewing, tool forging, and constructing traditional yurts. North House cofounder Mark Hansen specializes in birch skis and traditional transport (think canoes, sleds, and snowshoes). Come in June for the Wooden Boat Show or in November for the Winterer’s Gathering and Arctic Film Festival—a multiday showcase of crafts, customs, and stories from the north. Prices vary.