November 20, 2015 8:16 PM MST - Subscription purchasing, account maintenance, forum profile maintenance, new account registration, and forum posting have been disabled
as we prepare our databases for the final migration to our new server next week. Stay tuned here for more details.
Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Make Your Own Gear: Five Yards to SuperUltraLight Part 4 - Pack
Display Avatars Sort By:
John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Make Your Own Gear: Five Yards to SuperUltraLight Part 4 - Pack" on 11/22/2009 16:03:46 MST Print View

Great article and pictures Jay.

My first attempt at this pack garnered some oohs and ahs from my wife and son. I was rather well pleased with it myself especially due to the much lower cost compared to purchasing a SUL pack ready made. I added a large pocket on the front and "fancied" up the water bottle pockets with a felled seam two tone effect to match the front pocket material. I used a polyester/nylon shirt for the material and inserted elastic in the bottom hem of the shirt material to save construction time.

picture of homemade SUL backpack

Could Jay post some pictures and maybe some detailed instructions or explanation how to easily sew the seams at the side panel/front/bottom/rear of the pack? This was the only place where I really struggled.



Edited by Newton on 11/22/2009 20:00:23 MST.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
"Make Your Own Gear: Five Yards to SuperUltraLight Part 4 - Pack" My second attempt on 12/07/2009 21:53:25 MST Print View

Once is not enough! Leave it to me to clutter up a "minimalist" design. I added webbing to the front of the shoulder straps. I modified the design to incresase strength and add some functionality.

.picture of homemade SUL backpack

I slanted the water bottle pockets to increase accesibility. I added some gear pockets to the upper side panels for often used items such as water treatment tabs.

homemade lightweight pack

The shockcord compression has some added loops and passes to help control any items in the pocket in addition to overall pack compression and closure.

homemade lightweight pack

There is a removeable 1 inch hip belt added that will hopefully aid in load control. Fully loaded weighing on the bathroom scale with and without the pack my wet weight works out to 15.5 pounds. I'm not sure where the extra pound came from compared to my first attempt. I used 3/4 ladderlocks, webbing and watchband buckle on the straps and closure. On the first pack I used 1 inch webbing, ladderlocks and a 1 inch side release buckle on the closure. I doubt if this pack gained a pound in material alone. I guess I'll chalk it up to my lack of a high quality digital scale. Anyhow it still beats my 2008 wet weight of 30 + pounds.

homemade lightweight pack

I am considering adding a sternum strap only for a comfort measure if after I take this pack out for a test run I see that it might help.

Party On! 2010


Lucas Boyer
(jhawkwx) - MLife

Locale: 38.97˚N, 95.26˚W
re: pack mods on 12/08/2009 09:00:11 MST Print View

Nice work John. I've got some old running shirts that need retiring. Guess where they're going?

JJ Mathes
(JMathes) - F

Locale: Southeast US
Small pockets on 12/08/2009 10:42:50 MST Print View

John- very nice job, I especially like the pockets at the top for water treatment and other small items needed during the day, excellent idea.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
re: re: pack mods and small pockets on 12/11/2009 01:07:53 MST Print View

Thanks for the kind words Lucas and JJ.

I put together the sternum strap tonight as visions of hipbelt pockets danced around in my head.

A hipbelt pocket would allow quick convenient access to my camera etc. I'm keeping the hip belt, sternum strap and hip belt pockets "modular". That is they are all removeable if I do not care for or need the extra few ounces of weight that they add.

Party On! 2010


Update: In an effort to be ultralight on my wallet and my pack I took a trip to the local Post Office to use their scale. My pack in its current configuration including the newly added sternum strap tipped the scale at 9.7 ounces. By sewing my own pack I have managed to lose 2 pounds of dead weight from what I carry.

I consider this my own Christmas present to myself.

Party On ! 2010


Edited by Newton on 12/18/2009 09:16:01 MST.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
SuperUltraLight Pack, Part "Deaux" on 01/02/2010 11:44:38 MST Print View

Deet will not get rid of the MYOG bug. :-)

I had the idea for these hip belt pockets floating around in my mind all through the Thanksgiving,Christmas and New Year holidays. They were completed this morning.

front view of pack, hipbelt pockets and sternum strap

Above is the front of the pack showing the two new hipbelt pockets and the sternum strap that was recently added.

watchband clip attachment detail

The second photo shows how I used some grosgrain ribbon and watchband clips from Quest Outfitters to avoid having my hipbelt pockets slide off my hipbelt every time I unbuckle it. I doubled over and sewed the adjustable end of the grosgrain so that it wouldn't accidentally slip out of the watchband clip.

grosgrain belt loop detail

I used 3/4 inch grosgrain ribbon to make 3 belt loops per hipbelt pocket. The ribbon that attaches the pocket to the belt with the watchband clip is sewn under the most rear belt loop at 90 degrees to the loop. All attachment points were boxstitched.

storm welt detail and zipper pull

The last photo shows the detail of the storm welt covering the waterproof zipper. (I can't stand wet gear!) Both metal zipper pulls were removed and replaced by lighter string type zipper pulls.

The storm welt was actually designed in to allow the ripstop to lap over at the zipper. This allowed me to join the pocket together at this point without adding more pieces of material. I closed up the ends of the pockets using the same method Jay Ham describes to close up the bottom of a stuff sack in his article. I sewed them across to close them and used one and one half inch measurements instead of one fourth the overall circumference to achieve the rectangular shape of the ends.

I added some small "belt keepers" to control the loose ends of the hipbelt made out of 3/4 inch elastic.

My hipbelt pockets are 1 1/2" deep, 3 1/2" tall and 9" in length. I started out with two 12 inch square pieces of urethane coated ripstop nylon. Trimming and waste were kept to a minimum. The size of the pockets should be determined by what will be in them and what is a comfortable and reasonable size on a hipbelt.

Party On ! 2010


Edited by Newton on 01/02/2010 11:49:37 MST.

Guy Bouchard
(gbouchar) - M
Downsizing on 02/12/2010 19:38:47 MST Print View

This design is really nice. What do you suggest as pattern modification to get a 20L pack from this 27L one? I'd like to build a winter day pack doubled as a summer mountain bike touring pack. I usually use a Large Jam 2. A bit narrower for biking would be nice. I plan to use a foam backpanel (i prefer this for biking) to keep it a little bit stiffer.


Andrew Sleigh
(AndrewSleigh) - F
My version of this pack on 03/09/2011 16:02:36 MST Print View

I made this a couple of weeks ago, and I'm planing a revised version 2. I've made all the pieces in this 5yards to SUL series in the space of about a month. Before I started I'd never used a sewing machine, now i've become obsessed. Thank you Jay, and all the commenters here who've got me excited about this stuff.

Here's a couple of pictures of the finished pack. I have documented the whole process in far too much detail here:

Pack 1 - frontPack 1 - Back

A couple of mods I made:
Elastic straps on each side to hold a wet tent, anorak, etc.
Elastic straps on the back panel (straight across at the top and in a V shape at the bottom) to hold a sleeping mat or just a piece of foam to give it some back support.

For version 2, I'm thinking of switching these to elastane/lycra/spandex panels, which I think is what Gossamer Gear use on their packs (I've only seen them in videos). I'm also looking for some kind of knitted mesh I can use for a large pockets across the front to hold wet gear, snacks, etc. And maybe a hip belt too.

Christopher Chiappini
(Juggles) - F

Locale: NJ/NYC
Substitute fabric for Spinnaker, Pack on 06/30/2013 11:34:03 MDT Print View

Can anyone please recommend a more "Durable, SUL" substitute fabric for Spinnaker, for the Pack? I am very interested in making this pack.


David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
sub for spinnaker on 07/02/2013 07:56:19 MDT Print View

Chris, you've got lots of option depending on what kind of performance and weight you want, and how much you care to spend. If you're new to this sort of thing, I'd recommend using something that isn't 20+ dollars a yard. You'll almost certainly want to make a new version with improvements in six months, and will have a better sense of what you want.

That said, 1.4 oz cuben would be the most equivalent fabric. Pricey, and I have misgivings about how well cuben would hold stitching in this design.

The 140D gridstop sold by Thru-hiker is a fine fabric, which is impressively durable for the weight. Very expensive for what it is (a PU coated fabric).

The lighter Dimension Polyant laminates are very waterproof and great to work with. VX07 or TX07 would both work. The former is a bit heavier and more durable, the later lighter and crinkly load at first but also semi-translucent (which I like, it makes finding things in the pack easier). TX07 has a spinnaker-esque feel to it. You can get these from DIY Gear Supply.

Something like a simple 200D oxford nylon would work fine for this pack, and be much less expensive than any of the above options.

Christopher Chiappini
(Juggles) - F

Locale: NJ/NYC
Rear grosgrain web loops on 02/09/2014 16:44:40 MST Print View

Does anyone know how the two grosgrain webbing loops on the back panel, up high, get incorporated into the compression system? It kinda seems to me that, that info is left out. I've got some ideas on how to do it, but wondering what you all think?


Edited by Juggles on 02/09/2014 18:06:10 MST.