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Kid's Backpack
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Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Kid's Backpack on 09/04/2010 13:21:27 MDT Print View

I want to make a backpack for my 7-year old son. I know people have talked about this before, but couldn't find any good posts with the BPL search.

I plan to use the BPL "5-Yards to SUL" article as a guide, but wanted to get tips on how to scale it down to his size (and maybe leave some room to grow). Also I'd like to get suggestions from people for material selection since little boys are not known for being careful with things.

Any help is appreciated.


Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Kid's Backpack on 09/04/2010 13:44:24 MDT Print View

My beef with commercial kids' backpacks is that those packs weigh 2 1/2 to 3 lbs, which is close to half the load that the average 6-year-old should carry.

On the other hand, I've found (through experience with my grandkids) that kids do need a supportive pack frame. The #1 complaint, at least with the three grandkids, is the pack's putting too much pressure on the shoulders. IMHO, a good frame and load lifters are pretty essential. I finally got my oldest grandson a Deuter Fox and he (at age 9) could carry 12 lbs. with no discomfort. Still, he could have shouldered a bigger share of the load if the pack body had been a pound lighter.

On the other hand, a commercial pack (like the Deuter Fox or the REI Comet) with a good supportive frame has over half its weight in bomber-proof nylon, a zillion pockets, heavy zippers, daisy chains and many other gewgaws. What's wrong with just a simple Dyneema pack body with lightweight compression straps and a couple of mesh outside pockets? I wouldn't want to use silnylon or cuben with a child; on the other hand I'm a strong believer in teaching children to care for their belongings. They should be supervised enough that they don't drag the pack over rocks or throw it off a cliff!

I'd be wary of making a pack with insufficient support. What I'd do, if I could sew, would be to find a good supportive child's pack on sale, completely remove the pack bag and incorporate the frame into a simple pack made of Dyneema. That would give you the best of all possible worlds--a highly supportive frame and a lightweight pack!

Tohru Ohnuki
(erdferkel) - F

Locale: S. California
Re: Kid's Backpack on 09/04/2010 14:19:29 MDT Print View

I would pick a more durable material like 200D pu coated nylon at least for the bottom, maybe 70D for the sides. 1oz silnylon may be a bit delicate for a kid's usage. Seattle fabrics has a sale on the heavier stuff now.

ALso, you can make a frame out of lightweight materials like coroplast, sew in a pocket in the back, same size as the back, to hold the coroplast and possibly a cut down sleeping pad, which can serve double duty as a sit pad.

If you make it just right for him now, it will start to get small later, but longish shoulder straps and extra length on the straps and hipbelt webbing can help for a while. Then it might still have use as a daypack. Consider that this will probably not be a 'make once' but more of a 'make a few times with improvements.' If you're lucky, your kid will get the DIY bug...

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: Kid's Backpack on 09/04/2010 14:37:22 MDT Print View

I followed the "5 yards to SUL" plans for my son's pack. I left all dimensions the same with the exception of shoulder strap length and the length of the back panel. I kept the extension collar length, but shortened the back panel by a couple inches, based on a measurement of my son's back.
I also added side pockets, a hip belt (not padded, but fabric wings like found on a GoLite Jam). I also replaced the back pocket with mesh.

I don't believe kids need a frame- with my kids starting backpacking at ~40 pounds, they were going to be miserable carrying any more than 8 pounds or so...I'd be sure to keep loads at or under 25% of body weight, which doesn't take much. No frame is needed- use a CC foam pad to give the pack structure. They both use torso length Gossamer Gear Nightlights. I think stays and framesheets are total overkill for managing a load less than 10lbs.

Here's a link to the first pack I made.
Now my son is using an SUL packs I made for myself, similar to a GoLite Ion. It has no hipbelt, so I can cinch the shoulder straps short and it works. He outgrew the one in the pictures in the link- now it's my daughter's.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Little Brother's Pack on 09/04/2010 15:32:01 MDT Print View

My younger brother got an internal frame pack when he was 9 and loved it. The only problem again was that it was heavy but it worked well. We tried a frameless daypack stiffened with a sleeping pad once and he said it was okay but he prefered his internal frame for most loads.
Recently I made him a frameless pack sized just for him that he really likes (he is 12 now but hasn't hit his growth spurt yet). One thing I did was make the pack pretty narrow. That helped keep it stiff an prevent it from collapsing. He did need a bit more help learning to pack it right.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife
Kid's Backpack on 09/04/2010 15:35:38 MDT Print View

Just a reminder--an 8 lb. pack is nothing to an adult. To a 40 lb. child, an 8-lb. pack is the equivalent of 36 lbs to a 180-lb. adult. Can you carry 36 lbs. in a frameless pack? I doubt you'd find it very comfortable! Also remember the child has immature bones and joints which are more sensitive to pressure than those of most adults.

I have tried several different types of packs on my grandkids--fully framed, partially framed (Gossamer Gear) and frameless. The only packs they were at all comfortable with were the fully framed packs that included load lifters to take the pressure almost completely off their shoulders. Without the load lifters--well, think of an 8-year-old collapsing in tears after only a mile carrying a 8-lb. pack, due to the pain in his shoulders! This is the same child that carried 12 lbs. (at his own request) in a Deuter Fox 30 a year later and was outhiking his father!

Please try not to judge the physiology of small children by what works for you as an adult. IMHO, it's more important that the children learn to love backpacking and not associate it with pain!