There's always something else, it would seem.
The heaviest loads I've yet carried in and on this pack have been on day trips, lugging all my ski gear (boots in the pack) up dry trails to access our miserable snowpack. I decided I needed a proper hipbelt. I had an old Mountainsmith lumbar pack in the scraps box, added some yoga mat to the lumbar portion only, and bartacked it on at the outside edges. Eh voila:
It's only attached at those two points along the sides, which allows a bit of sag when loaded, but also promotes a nice range of motion. A successful experiment.
As can be seen above, I also added a bit of webbing in the upper left corner to facilitate a diagonal ski carry, which has proven more stable and out of the way in brush than the traditional A-frame carry.
While I was at it, I put on some hipbelt pockets to keep snacks, maps, and compass handy.
The gray fabric is ballistics, same as the pack body. Zippers don't match, were scrounged from the scarps bin. Black fabric is a poly stretch woven job from some old and worn out Patagonia pants. The pockets fold down and stay out of the way when empty, but can easily hold three snickers bars each. The design does make the zipper opening fairly small when the pack is on. Not a problem given the larger items I put in them, but some might prefer to have the zippers out from the belt a bit for easier access.
Lastly, key this winter has been a vintage Sawchuk innovation:
I bit of shockcord and a cordlock on the shoulder strap makes for a perfect glove and/or hat holder when skinning uphill. Put the fingers up so you don't get snow in them. When doing some orienteering the other day, I realized I can stuff my trekking poles through the lower part of the shoulder strap, then cinch down the shockcord around the handle and have a nifty pole holder a la the Osprey Exos series. Nice for taking bearings on the run.
Making and refining this pack has been such a fun experience. I've had to tweak it a few times (load lifter height ended up being crucial, and quite finiky), but it works great and adds a bit of "soul" to my backcountry experience. It should be around for a while.