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Make Your Own Gear: Five Yards to SuperUltraLight Part 4 - Pack
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Benjamin Smith
(bugbomb) - F - M

Locale: South Texas
Make Your Own Gear: Five Yards to SuperUltraLight Part 4 - Pack on 01/23/2007 21:57:50 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Make Your Own Gear: Five Yards to SuperUltraLight Part 4 - Pack

Einstein X
(EinsteinX) - F

Locale: The Netherlands
Re: Make Your Own Gear: Five Yards to SuperUltraLight Part 4 - Pack on 01/24/2007 03:49:45 MST Print View

Very nice. I've been looking forward to reading this article. Makes me wanna start making my own.

How long did it take to do this part of the project?


scott Nelson
(nlsscott) - MLife

Locale: So. Calif.
I made this Pack and it split wide open on 02/10/2007 12:20:11 MST Print View

I made this pack according to the directions. I used 1.9 Urethane coated ripstop for the back and Spiniker fabric that I got from Gossamer Gear for the rest of the pack. They sell their spinaker fabric as a ground cloth. I experienced two problems. 1) the pockets are too tight for a Nalgene liter water bottle. Wtih the pack full, it was a strain on the pack to get the bottle in and out. 2) The seam between the shoulder strap and side panel split wide open! I was standing up with the pack on. I had to reach my arm accross my body to stand up in balance, and the seam opened up. The Spiniker fabric tore away from the seam on the dotted line of the stiching. Fortunately, I could return to the car and switch to another pack. The seam was single stitched that connnected the side panel to the back.

Benjamin Smith
(bugbomb) - F - M

Locale: South Texas
Re: I made this Pack and it split wide open on 03/05/2007 20:52:39 MST Print View

I actually meant to post this shortly after the article was published. As an MYOG junkie with a fetish for streamlined packs, I rushed to follow Jay's directions as quickly as I could! In true OCD fashion, I made not one, but TWO of these nifty packs on consecutive nights, one slightly smaller than Jay's model (for those insulation-free South Texas nights), and one at the recommended size, but with two larger side pockets - I found the one in the article a bit snug for my preferred bottles when the pack was fully loaded. The first one took me about 5 hours, the second one about 3.

In response to the previous poster - I haven't had any trouble with the seams on my packs, but to this seamster it sounds like the fabric itself tore, which just means you exceeded the strength of the VERY light fabric that was used. Lots of guys have had lots of luck with spinnaker and cuben, but my personal preference is to have a pack made of slightly sturdier fabric - even standard 1.4 oz silnylon - just so I don't have to fret about my gear. The design is solid, so give it another stab with a more durable material!

Another idea would be to take the top stitch that Jay uses to reinforce the seam where the shoulder strap tops join the pack bag AND where the front panel joins the bottom, and do this down each side seam. This would increase the strength dramatically.

Here are some pictures for your edification:

pack 1 back

:Pack 1, back view

pack 1, side view

:Pack 1, side view - you can see here that the backpanel is just the same silnylon that I used for the rest of the body. The shoulder strap lower attachments and the facing parts of the shoulder straps themselves are made of uncoated 1.9 oz ripstop nylon. The failure of this pack was that I used the 5/8 inch grosgrain I had lying around instead of the 3/4 inch, which would have matched my ladder locks. This slipped - a LOT. It's an easy fix, and the pack is a nice size.

pack 2, back

:Pack 2, back view

pack 2, side

:Pack 2, side view

pack 2, front

:Pack 2, front view - for this pack, I made the backpanel/bottom out of Dyneema gridstop - about 4 oz/yd2. It's not light, but it's a fabric that I don't have to worry about if I dump my pack on our local blend of cactus and acid-etched limestone, or take the occasional booty-scoot on a particularly nasty bushwhack. I also substituted some of the grosgrain for actual webbing - however, the proper size grosgrain worked just as well and is lighter.

pack 2, worn

:Pack 2, worn - notice the full 1L Platypus in each pocket. The "failed experiment" with this pack was trying to use spectra line for the pocket drawcords. Not only do I miss the elastic bungee, but the microscopic cord locks from don't grip the slick cord very well.

Jay's article was fantastic - I really didn't have any trouble following along, and his suggestions were just the ticket when it came to modifying the pack to fit my needs.

Edited by bugbomb on 03/05/2007 21:00:34 MST.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Make Your Own Gear: Five Yards to SuperUltraLight Part 4 - Pack on 03/06/2007 08:04:16 MST Print View

Your pack matches nicely with the couch pillows, Ben. Just kiddin' with ya'. Your construction looks great. I especially like that you used the grid-stop for the backpanel. I have one pack that's constructed of 80% spinnaker and I'm afraid every time I set it on the ground.

Jeremy Cleaveland
(jeremy11) - F

Locale: Exploring San Juan talus
as a bombproof daypack... on 09/01/2007 12:19:59 MDT Print View

I'm looking into making some (15+) daypacks for the camp wilderness program that I guide with in CO. I've been drawing up patterns on the stuff sack with straps idea for cheapness and easy construction - is a stuffsack with straps going to carry floppy compared to DIY patterns like this? it seems either way it would be basically a rectangular pack. could I get away with 2" webbing for shoulder straps? I will definitely be using much heavier materials for bombproof daypacks for teens to abuse...
great pattern and instructions!!

Jon Rhoderick
(hotrhoddudeguy) - F - M

Locale: New England
Re: as a bombproof daypack... on 09/01/2007 16:14:59 MDT Print View

Well if you want some good shoulder straps, look at the Thru hiker. com ones. Tho they are 9.95$ a pair, they will add alot of comfort without the hassle of making the straps like Jay did. Rectangular packs would carry much better than those stuff sack backpacks from Nike that are popular these days. Pockets would be useful for a daypack, but not completely necessary. Probably the cheapest idea is to go with a straight up stuff sack idea, but make sure it has a rectangular bottom.

R Alsborg
(FastWalker) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Question for Benjamin Smith on 09/01/2007 17:25:46 MDT Print View

Where did you find the Dyneema Gridstop for the backpanel/bottom of your pack?

Benjamin Smith
(bugbomb) - F - M

Locale: South Texas
Re: Question for Benjamin Smith on 09/01/2007 21:19:44 MDT Print View

Hi Roger, used to have it. I just checked, and they no longer do. I'm not aware of a good source for DIYers anymore. I like the fabric - it's sturdy, has a good coating, and looks really slick. However, the main reason I use heavier fabrics is for abrasion resistance. I don't think that the Dyneema grid offers any significant improvement over plain ol' cordura in that regard.

Joe Kuster
(slacklinejoe) - MLife

Locale: Flatirons
5 Yard Pack project on 10/08/2007 16:57:43 MDT Print View

I just made this pack last night. I think it took me about 4 to 5 hours but I was taking my time. Overall I’d say the pack really turned out nicely. I do however have some recommendations for tweaking your instructions / patterns or recommendations to others wanting to make this pack. I did modify it a bit to fit my needs and I did resort to Silnylon since I had plenty on hand. I’m ok with the extra ounce of weight for now but might remake it in spinnaker later.

Front of Pack

Pack Back

Pack Side

Pack Top
Given the nature of the fragile fabric I’d suggest a specific distance from the edge for all of the straight stitches in the instructions. I know this is in the stitching primers but it doesn’t necessarily spell out a recommended seam allowance. This isn’t obvious to most beginners but if they sway a little too close to the edge the seam will be very weak.

The reinforcement triangles aren’t on your pattern at all (that or I’m blind). These kind of seemed a little left out on the instructions and were more of a cut to this size as a guess, then cut it down a bit more later type of thing. Judging from my results you could probably make your final recommended size a firm number and put it in the pattern as it seems to work very well.

I’d add in a step to roll the bottom of the webbing straps and the grosgrain ribbon in the compression system to ensure the straps do not slide out of the buckles. The slick grosgrain and webbing I got from thru-hiker didn’t even make it out my living room before sliding off from handling.

The grosgrain ribbon I received was simply too slick to work in the buckle for the compression so I switched it out with the webbing. I suspect this would be the case for most buckles.

I’d go ahead and spell out some recommended pocket configuration options. I know from my use I want one on each side (water on right, camera on left). I made my right pocket a bit taller and a bit wider for my 1L platty and it turned out nicely for my uses. Also, it doesn’t clearly show if the person is supposed to stitch the angled in piece of pocket where the cord lock is, I’m assuming so.

I too used the pack straps from Thru-hiker as a short cut. I’ve had decent experiences with them so I knew they’d be comfy enough for my use yet fairly light. It is probably cheaper to go this route than hand make them since you’ll be buying more foam than you actually need.

To avoid fraying every time you cut the webbing or ribbon you can take a flame to the edge. A quick flash will keep it together nicely without being a melted mess.

Mentioning a thread and needle size would be helpful. I went with the stuff I had on hand from Ray Jardine’s web site. It’s just a light reference bonded nylon but I’ve had good luck with it on gear in the past.

Another big tip is if someone has a walking foot it will help feed the material drastically; or at least on my machine it does. A cheat if you don’t have that is to feed strips of present style tissue paper under the fabric to help the machine grip the slippery & thin fabrics you’ll be using. The tissue paper tears out cleanly when you’re done.

I also have a simple way I make centered cord pulls for the main compartment that is a bit more robust. Go ahead and sew the “tube” for the draw string shut. Take a 3/4” long piece of grosgrain webbing and cut a hole in the center and seal the thread on the inside with a quick flick of a flame. Sew it on the inside of the tube on the top and bottom only in line with the tube. With a seam ripper carefully snip through the inner most layer of fabric.

Take an ink pen cartridge from a pen that comes apart and tape it to the end of your keeper cord and thread that through the hole and worm it around the edge and back out. You now have a centered cinch cord that is less likely to tear your main fabric and only added a tiny piece of ribbon extra.

Cord Lock Trick

Also, what are the extra 2.5” loops for? I’m speaking of the two that aren’t in the compression system, are these just to attach things to? I am using them to run my poles through for my TwinSpin shelter.

Edited by slacklinejoe on 10/08/2007 16:59:20 MDT.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Re: Make Your Own Gear: Five Yards to SuperUltraLight Part 4 - Pack on 10/08/2007 17:27:30 MDT Print View

Joseph -

Thanks for the insightful photos and words. Your creation looks very good. I personally am planning on sewing my version of it using silnylon as well. I'm very happy with my spinnaker tarp but prefer a stronger material for pack construction.

- Sam

Dan Whalley
(thedanwhalley) - F

Locale: peakdistrict natonial park, UK
MYOG jam ham pack on 12/23/2007 13:16:05 MST Print View

Here is our Jay Ham Based pack, with some added extras, a hip belt, 2 side pockets but no rear pocket, 2 lycra stretch panels to use a sleep pad as a back pad and a roll top velcro closure to add water protection.

heres the pics!

Jeremy Cleaveland
(jeremy11) - F

Locale: Exploring San Juan talus
Make Your Own Gear: Five Yards to SuperUltraLight Part 4 - Pack on 04/01/2008 21:08:56 MDT Print View

I recently found a bit of dyneema gridstop in my boxes of fabric and figured it needed to become something. I had just enough for the SUL pack, and it is sweet. I've had a Golite Gust for 6 years, and Cilogear packs for 2 years, and this took the best of both, and chopped some weight and volume.
9.3 oz, full dyneema gridstop, except the inside fabric on the shoulderstraps is Momentum. It has one outside pocket (doesn't fit a waterbottle well, so I might put on a zipper and put snacks or little essentials in it). Instead of the bungee compression, I put on the Cilogear D-clip system, spaced right so it could clip to my Cilogear 60L.
The pic is of it loaded up with my bare bones SUL kit (it is only about 1/2 full in the pic. the rolled up pad makes it look more full)

the web isn't being nice now, so I'll post the pic later...

Jeremy Cleaveland
(jeremy11) - F

Locale: Exploring San Juan talus
Make Your Own Gear: Five Yards to SuperUltraLight Part 4 - Pack on 04/02/2008 08:32:32 MDT Print View

SUL pack
there it is. Last night I put a zipper on the side pocket.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Make Your Own Gear: Five Yards to SuperUltraLight Part 4 - Pack on 04/02/2008 12:09:15 MDT Print View

> I recently found a bit of dyneema gridstop in my boxes of fabric

Jeremy - You are a lucky man for such a find. Excellent job on putting it to good use. I like that you added in the Cilogear attachment system.

mark henley
(flash582) - F
Finished the pack today on 05/25/2008 12:38:17 MDT Print View

Great article ..... great pack.

Camera's on the fritz or I would post pictures.

I used AYCE's premade shoulder straps from Thru-hiker and it saved a lot of time.

I'm going to make another out of Sil and Packcloth when I get a chance.

Nick K
(nkline) - MLife

Locale: Northeast U.S.
Re: Five Yards to SuperUltraLight Part 4 - Pack on 02/17/2009 18:34:12 MST Print View

At this time, I am not quite ready for SUL but I would still like to build this backpack to handle a Light Weight category load (under 20lbs.). I will most likely use SilNylon and the dimensions of the backpack will be larger.

This will be my first time sewing, so I am seeking recommendations on how to adjust the instructions to meet my needs.

As another member mentioned earlier, a seam allowance is not specified in the article.



Joe Kuster
(slacklinejoe) - MLife

Locale: Flatirons
Make Your Own Gear: Five Yards to SuperUltraLight Part 4 - Pack on 02/18/2009 00:33:38 MST Print View


As a heads up, the frameless design really falls flat with heavier loads. Even if the materials can handle it, there isn't any weight transfer. I made 4 versions of this pack before I got one acceptable for 20-25 lbs loads and I had to resort to a framesheet and hip belt. I've got a few that were modified to be bigger but I usually failed to get the straps aligned just right and the pack sucks with bulkier loads.

To increase capacity by making it wider, increase the width of the panel that is against your back and the matching outside panel by the same amount but leave your shoulder straps in the same location.

To increase capcity by making back of the pack further from your back increase the side panels by a few inches but you'll have to do both sides and increase the back panel by the same amount since it forms the bottom and that needs to match up. By increasing these, it makes the weight sit further back making the load less snug against you, so increase with caution.

Adding zip-open large side pockets is a very fail safe way of adding capacity and adding organization but is a bit more complex. The pack rides very round so that'd be the optimal approach if you only want to add a bit more storage but don't need it all in one big compartment.

Use 1/2" seam allowances and silnylon for the fragile areas and use a coated nylon against your back. That'd be what I used in the photos above. Before you sew the pack, consider adjusting the size and material used for the side pockets if you are making them. On the version that I actually liked, I didn't use silnylon but instead bought a $4 stretchy spandex/lycra shirt from Target. It snugs up against items of unusual size much better and won't tear and you can skip the elastic top to it.

Having tried both, roll tops were more forgiving of stuffing the pack full and gave a point of volume adjustment. Cord locks wouldn't hold the strain so I ended up tying it shut manually each time. I also added a "kangaroo" pocket on the back using the same lycra t-shirt material to hold my wet tarp or jacket.

Edited by slacklinejoe on 02/18/2009 00:39:13 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Make Your Own Gear: Five Yards to SuperUltraLight Part 4 - Pack on 02/18/2009 02:21:20 MST Print View

Hi Joe

Cord locks may not hold, but wheel locks usually will. See: for Wheel locks


Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: Make Your Own Gear: Five Yards to SuperUltraLight Part 4 - Pack on 02/18/2009 08:18:57 MST Print View

I've made a few versions of this pack.
If you're new to this I strongly suggest cutting out the pattern in heavy paper, assembling it with tape, modifying size/fit/measuremenets on the paper version, and then moving to fabric. This will save you a lot of trouble and ensure your getting the right size.