A Custom Backpack – Designed by You

I worked with R2 Packs to design and build my dream pack, and report on my experience.

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by Will Rietveld | 2007-12-19 02:08:00-07

A Custom Backpack – Designed by You - 1
My pride and joy, a custom ultralight frameless Backpack by R2 Packs.

Introduction

Who makes the perfect backpack? It’s all in the eye of the beholder. The perfect backpack is a utopian concept. Each of us has different needs and preferences, so a standard backpack rarely fits and satisfies every hiker and every need. Manufacturers try to balance it out, so their pack’s fit and features satisfy as many people as possible, and that’s appropriate. The challenge for the hiker is to find the backpack(s) that fits best and meets his/her needs. Most of us end up with an assortment of packs for different types of trips and conditions, and each pack is selected because it comes closest to meeting our needs and preferences. We find ourselves searching for the perfect pack, and never seem to find it. And some hikers have an unusual body shape, or a special need, that an off the shelf backpack won’t satisfy. There’s another alternative - have a custom backpack made that exactly fits your body and needs.

Why Get a Custom Backpack?

Fit is probably the most important factor - getting a pack that fits your body like a glove, so it feels like you are wearing it rather than carrying it. Perhaps the next most important factor is the feature set - having everything exactly the way you want it. We all have individual needs and preferences, which might include a particular size and shape, a particular fabric choice (very light or very durable), or a special feature set. Perhaps you want a pack designed to carry specialized gear for packrafting, climbing, skiing, fishing, photography, or adventure racing. Or perhaps you want a special pack for long-trail hike, a Himalayan trek, or an alpine expedition. Or perhaps you are a veteran hiker who wants a personalized backpack designed by you - something special, your pride and joy.

A custom pack at R2 costs more than a stock pack ($250-$350), but you get what you want. Once you make the investment, you may use it for a lifetime. Look at it this way - instead of your spouse getting you a GPS (or other electro-wizardry) for your birthday or Christmas, why not drop a hint for a custom backpack, something you can really use? Conversely, you can treat your significant other with a custom backpack, something he/she will prize forever. After all, other people spend thousands on their motorized toys, so what’s wrong with spending a few hundred for a killer backpack?

I had the opportunity to design and test a custom backpack made by R2 Packs, a new company entering the custom packs business, which gave me the idea for this article. Rather than review the backpack, which is one of a kind, I would review the process and report on my experience. The key points I want to address are:

  • How easy is it to go through the design and decision-making process to have a custom backpack made?
  • Did the pack meet my expectations?
  • Is the final product really worth the cost and effort?
  • What would I do differently next time?

Custom, Customized, or Stock - the Choice is Yours

To my knowledge, R2 Packs is the only true custom backpack manufacturer in the United States who will construct (almost) any type of backpack from scratch. Their slogan is “Custom packs, designed by you”. R2 uses a systematic interactive process to design your custom backpack, much like the blueprints and specifications for a custom home. They will build any type of pack you want up to about 3500 cubic inches - frameless or internal frame, bristling with features or clean cut, or activity specific. This includes conventional backpacks, ski packs, and adventure racing gear. A wide range of fabrics is available, from Cuben to 1000 denier Cordura, to satisfy any need. This article will focus on R2 Packs and the custom backpack they made for me to illustrate the process of having a custom pack made, and to assess the key points listed above.

My original plan for this article was to contrast the process of having a custom backpack made by R2 Packs versus McHale Packs (www.mchalepacks.com); however that didn't quite work out. In my contacts with Dan McHale, I learned that his company doesn't make custom backpacks per se, rather they make customized backpacks. Basically a customer selects the pack model he/she wants from McHale’s proprietary designs, and the pack is built to the customer’s specified fit and options. McHale also makes stock packs with pre-selected options and fabrics for a lower cost. McHale has built an excellent reputation as a backpack innovator and customizer; however, all of their packs have an internal frame and emphasize durability. Only one model is lightweight by our standards (the Sub-Pop), so lightweight and ultralight backpackers will have limited choices in a McHale pack.

A better comparison is Rodney Liwanag’s Packs (www.freewebs.com/litepacks) located in Manila, Philippines. Rodney has a sizeable local business making custom sewn products including packs, groundsheets, tarps, rain jackets, wind shirts, pack covers, and repairs. For the past 10 years he has also made standard and custom packs for the ultralight backpacking community in the United States and Canada (his custom pack business is limited to the US and Canada because he has relatives who travel back and forth who can carry the packs with them to reduce shipping costs). Rodney’s custom packs are limited to ultralight frameless backpacks. A customer can request a customized version of one of Rodney’s standard packs, or create a unique design. Rodney is willing to build most anything (within reason) using a wide range of modern nylon fabrics. A custom pack will cost about $85-$95 including shipping, which is an outstanding value and comparable to standard packs offered by other manufactures. He usually has a number of already made packs for sale on his website at very reasonable prices (currently $40-$47). Rodney has found that e-mail communication is very effective to communicate to him what a customer wants. He asks for complete body measurements (torso length, height, chest size, waist size, weight, and photos), plus a detailed description of the pack they want. His method to be sure he has the correct information is reiteration - he checks and double-checks (especially on factors pertaining to fit) to make sure there are no misunderstandings. Rodney currently makes about 40-50 packs a year for US/Canadian customers. (Disclaimer: Surely, there are other custom pack makers around that I missed, and I encourage them to speak up in the attached forum to let us know about their offerings.)

If you don’t want to go through the custom pack process, there are many excellent backpacks available from established small companies - like Gossamer Gear, Mountain Laurel Designs, Six Moon Designs, Fanatic Fringe, and Ultralight Adventure Equipment (to name a few) - that are specifically designed for lightweight and ultralight backpacking. If you can get a good fit with these packs, you can buy two of them for the cost of a single custom backpack by R2 Packs or McHale Packs. The choice is yours.

The Design Process

Develop a Concept - The first step in approaching your custom backpack is to “decide what you want to build, before you start building it”. Most experienced backpackers already have a vision of their perfect pack, so having a concept isn’t a problem. Others may need to think on it for awhile, and R2 has some alternative approaches to assist with the process.

A fundamental first step is to decide what the pack will be used for - any special needs, and the types of trips and conditions. In my case, I go on frequent two or three day trips, with a total pack weight less than 20 pounds, so a frameless pack with about 3200 cubic inches of total volume is about right. I typically hike off-trail routes which involve scrambling and bushwhacking, so the pack needs to be fairly durable. And I frequently encounter afternoon showers in the Southern Rockies, so a waterproof pack would be really nice so I don’t have to bother with a rain cover. So, I settled on the concept of an ultralight, frameless, durable, waterproof pack for summertime backpacking in rough and sometimes wet conditions.

The next step is to identify the attributes of a pack that are most important to you. Again, most experienced backpackers can do that in a heartbeat. But if you’re not sure, it helps to do some research - survey a variety of available packs to find ideas, and peruse the options available and design process on the R2 Packs website (www.r2packs.com). You should end up with a design concept and a list of the attributes you want to incorporate in your custom pack.

Make Contact

R2 likes to do a phone interview with each customer to discuss their project. The purpose of the interview is to discuss the project in detail and make a number of tentative decisions about the type of pack and its construction, materials, and features. The result is a shared concept of the custom backpack to be built. In my communications with Ron, I found him to be exceptionally easy to work with. I never received a “that won’t work, because…” response; he was always supportive and accommodating.

In my case, I had two initial interviews with Ron. The first time around, my concept translated to a frameless backpack very similar to those manufactured by Mountain Laurel Designs or Gossamer Gear. That made me realize that it doesn’t make sense to design a custom pack that is very similar to one I could buy off the shelf for a lot less money (which is certainly a logical decision in many cases). So, I dug deeper. I realized that my custom backpack needed to have more of the “wow factor” - I needed to be really stoked about it. Then the idea hit me - develop an ultralight frameless waterproof pack with lots of convenient outside storage. Now I was getting excited!

The goals for my custom pack were now as follows:

  • Shower-proof, so I don’t have to carry a pack cover
  • Frameless, to carry loads from 12 to 20 pounds
  • Ultralight, less than 14 ounces
  • Durable, with reasonable care
  • Lots of convenient outside storage pockets

Even though R2 Packs has a diversity of fabrics to choose from, I chose to look for something really cutting edge. I settled on Dimension Polyant X-Pac TX2 fabric (also known as VX-2), which is a durable waterproof tri-laminate weighing 1.8 ounces/square yard. The sandwich construction consists of (from outside to inside): 0.25 mil PET (polyethylene teraphthalate) film, grey adhesive with UV-resistant additive, X-ply of 840 denier black polyester yarn inserted at 22 degrees and 0.75-inch spacing, and a 20 denier white nylon taffeta backing fabric.

A Custom Backpack - Designed by You - 2
Close-up of the Dimension Polyant TX2 fabric used to construct my custom backpack. It has an exterior PET layer, which is waterproof.

Dimension Polyant developed this strong, lightweight fabric specifically for tents and packs. When I contacted the company, I found them to be very supportive of our project and anxious to see their fabrics used in new applications. They generously provided the fabric for our project and shipped samples of several of their laminated fabrics to R2 Packs to use in the construction of my pack and to experiment with in future projects.

The outcome of the interview process, plus perusing the options on the R2 website, is a list of specifications for the custom pack. With the concept, goals, and fabric for my custom pack solidly in place, I was ready to move on to the next phase. Following is an abbreviated specifications list for my dream pack; the actual list is more detailed than this:

  • Dimension Polyant X-Pac TX-2 fabric throughout
  • 3000 to 3200 cubic inches of total volume (including all pockets), approximately 1800 cubic inches in the main compartment
  • 20.5 inch torso length, 34 inch waist
  • 18 inch high pocket on each side with #3 watertight zipper
  • Front kangaroo pocket with mesh side and bottom attachments and #3 watertight zipper
  • Fixed 6-inch high top pocket with #3 watertight zipper on the head side
  • Drawcord closure with top strap and two connecting straps for the top pocket
  • 3D mesh hipbelt wings with oversized pockets, #3 watertight zippers
  • 3-inch wide padded shoulder straps with 3D mesh inside face
  • Water bottle bungee cord attachment on left shoulder strap

Preliminary Design

After we thoroughly discussed and developed a list of specifications for my new pack, Ron went on to develop what he calls the “Design Packet 1”, which is essentially a blueprint for my pack. It comes as an e-mail attachment, using Adobe Acrobat’s Review Session Technology, so I can make comments directly on the Design Packet and send it back. The eight page document provides front, side, and backpanel drawings of the pack accompanied by detailed specifications and a cost breakdown. At this stage it was very important for me to examine it carefully and make any needed corrections and changes.

A Custom Backpack - Designed by You - 3
Illustrations showing different views of my custom pack contained in Design Packet 1.

Final Design

The next stage is Design Packet 2, which incorporates all of my corrections and changes. This is a critical stage, where I need to be certain that everything is the way I want it. I opted to make a few changes, including adding a sternum strap pocket, and seam taping to ensure the pack is waterproof (more on that later). Note that additional volleys can be added to the design process, as needed, to finalize the design. Up until now, no cost has been incurred to the customer, other than a phone call or two.

A Custom Backpack - Designed by You - 4
A page from Design Packet 2, showing frontpanel details and specifications. The eight page Design Packet is like a blueprint, it includes complete drawings and specifications for the pack.

Authorization

Once the customer has settled on the design, R2 will send a final approval contract and cost of the pack. The pricing schedule consists of a base price (depending on the size of the pack), plus an itemization of additional costs for the options selected. An average pack will be in the $250-350 range.

Pack Construction

After R2 receives the go-ahead, he will build the pack. When the pack is finished, R2 will contact the customer to request payment before the pack is shipped. It normally takes him about four days to sew a pack and he typically delivers it within a week, which I consider amazing.

The Pack Arrives

First Impressions

When I opened the box, I was definitely impressed by the new pack! The Dimension Polyant X-Pac TX-2 fabric, the unique feature set I designed, and the prominent R2 logo clearly say “this is something special”. The design was exactly as expected; I got what I wanted; it is truly a one-of-a-kind backpack.

But all was not perfect. When I stuffed a sleeping bag in the pack to fill it out, and tried it on, I found that the fit was not quite right. The webbing on the shoulder straps was barely long enough when fully extended; same for the hipbelt. The main issue was that the torso length was too short. I measured the pack torso length at 18 to 18.5 inches (distance from the underside of the shoulder straps to the center of the hipbelt), which was about 2 inches short of my specified 20.5 inches. When I contacted R2 about these problems we discovered that we had miss-communicated on torso length measurement; R2 measures pack torso length to the bottom of the hipbelt, which accounted for the 2-inch discrepancy.

I decided to use the pack on a couple of overnight backpacking trips to try it out, and found that the problems were real. The shoulder strap and hipbelt webbing were definitely too short, especially when I wore insulated clothing. The shoulder straps were too tight around my shoulders and cut off circulation. And the torso length was definitely too short; when I positioned the hipbelt in the right place and tightened it, the shoulder straps wrapped around my shoulders and down my back. It didn’t fit right, and Ron and I both regretted the miss-communication that had occurred.

No problem. R2’s immediate answer was “Our solution to this situation is a new pack. We will correct these issues. A custom pack that does not fit is hardly custom. We guarantee 100% satisfaction, and we stick to it.” This makes “customer support” an understatement!

Another issue that emerged is the iron-on seam tape did not stick well to the Dimension Polyant fabric. It took 6 hours to install the seam tape in the first place, and added 3.3 ounces to the weight of the pack. It obviously turned out to be a bad idea, and I took the opportunity to omit the seam tape in the construction of the new pack. Because seam taping is so time-consuming, it is cost prohibitive, and R2 no longer offers it as an option.

The Pack Arrives Again - Second Impressions

The replacement pack fits perfectly. The workmanship is impeccable. The final weight is 15.4 ounces, which is not bad considering the durable fabric and numerous features. The cost with my selected options, including the special Dimension Polyant fabric, added up to $338.

A Custom Backpack - Designed by You - 5
Views of my custom R2 backpack. The pack is made entirely of Dimension Polyant TX2 fabric (1.8 ounces/square yard) and all zippers are water-resistant. The front (top left) has a large kangaroo pocket with a space behind it to stuff gear. The backpanel view (top right) shows the pack’s 3-inch wide padded shoulder straps, large hipbelt pockets, and sternum strap pocket. Each side (bottom left) has an 18-inch high pocket. The top (bottom left and right) has a fixed lid with a 6-inch high pocket.

A Custom Backpack - Designed by You - 6
Some of the extras I selected for my custom pack are a front kangaroo pocket (left) that has dry storage within it and space to stuff gear behind it, large hipbelt pockets (center) with watertight zips, and a sternum strap pocket (right) also with a watertight zip.

I have used my custom backpack on several more backpacking trips this summer and truly love it. Having a backpack that fits my long torso is a pure delight. As with most frameless backpacks, it comfortably carries up to a 20 pound load. The 3-inch wide padded shoulder straps help a lot to distribute the weight. It’s also nice to be able to access most everything I need on the go, without having to remove the pack. I also managed to test the pack’s durability when squeezing through tight places while bushwhacking, and put it through one unexpected fall, and the pack fabric held up well, no punctures or cuts.

Overall, the final pack is impeccably constructed, fits me perfectly, and has all the features I want. It’s my dream pack, and I’m very satisfied. The design process went smoothly, in spite of a communication glitch, and resulted in my getting the pack I wanted. I couldn’t ask for anything more.

A Custom Backpack - Designed by You - 7
Is it waterproof? Nope, not under these conditions. Without seam sealing, and with 30 pounds of water pressure, cotton towels inside the pack got pretty damp after 10 minutes in the shower. After seam sealing with silicone, the pack was highly water resistant under field conditions, meaning it leaked very little while hiking in an afternoon shower.

Conclusion

Is a Custom Backpack Worth the Cost and Effort?

To conclude this article, I would like to re-visit the questions I raised at the beginning. Every endeavor is a learning experience (and this one is no exception), so what have I learned from my experience?

How easy is it to go through the design and decision-making process to have a custom backpack made?

If you are an experienced backpacker, the process is fairly easy, because you are already familiar with backpack anatomy and already have a fairly good idea of what you want. Also, if you are a detail-oriented person, the pack design process can be an enjoyable experience, especially if you take your time and think things through. However, if you’re not a detail person, or agonize over decisions, the process can be tougher and less enjoyable. In that case, R2 provides “Design by Feature” and “Pack Template” approaches to walk you through the decisions, followed by an interactive phone call or two to make sure you end up with your dream pack.

The best advice I can give is to think a lot before you act. This applies at two stages: 1) in the concept stage, so you design a pack that really meets your needs; and 2) in the Design Packet 2 stage, so you review every detail before you give the go-ahead. No matter how thorough you are, you are bound to overlook something (I did). Good communication is critical, so it’s always good to double check to be sure.

Did the pack meet my expectations?

Yes, in the end. On the second pack, every feature was exactly as I specified, and the torso length and volume were right on. It was unfortunate that R2 had to construct a second pack in order to provide the torso length I wanted, and to lengthen the shoulder straps and hipbelt. The misunderstanding was based on how pack torso length is measured, and R2 assured me that they will strengthen their communication on all factors related to fit so it will not be a problem in the future. Overall I am totally satisfied with R2’s customer service and the quality of the product.

Is the final product really worth the cost and effort?

The answer really depends on the person. Many people will readily pay a fair price to get exactly what they want, or to give a special gift. For me, it did require quite a bit of effort to consider every facet of the pack and decide what I want, but it’s something I enjoy doing. The cost ($338 including the cost of the fabric) is admittedly substantial for a frameless backpack, but I received a truly unique, one of a kind backpack that will be my pride and joy for life. Backpacking is my passion, so I’m willing to invest my gold in a custom backpack. Other hikers may flinch at the high cost, and may want to take a hard look at the stock backpacks offered by several ultralight gear manufacturers, or consider getting a custom backpack from Rodney Liwanag.

I found designing my own backpack a fairly intensive experience (although R2’s design tools help a lot to successfully navigate the process). Some decisions I found especially difficult to make are the pack dimensions, amount of volume in the main compartment and in the pockets, and how many features to add. My concern was running up the pack’s weight. Most of the weight in a pack is not in the fabric, but in the features. Adding features adds more weight in the form of extra zippers, straps, and buckles. Even with a custom backpack, the design is a balancing act.

In my opinion, it is much easier to modify the design of an existing pack, rather than create my own unique design from scratch. It is not that hard to select different fabrics to increase durability or reduce weight, and modify the feature set. McHale Packs are based on that approach, and it seems to work quite well. Many customers also use that approach for designing a customized pack from Rodney’s Packs.

What would I do differently next time?

As you may have surmised from the description of my custom pack, I overdid it a bit on outside pockets. Although my calculation of the total pack volume is approximately 3000 cubic inches, nearly half of my summer backpacking gear will fit in the outside pockets! Admittedly, items needed on the trail are handy, as desired, but the pack I designed has too much volume for an overnight trip, and is just right to hold everything for a five day trip. To fill up some of the extra space in the main compartment on overnight trips, I partially inflate my torso length sleeping pad and stuff my sleeping bag in the bottom. You can tease me about being a pocket fanatic, but the space is there when I need it and I don’t have to use all the pocket space; it’s there when I need it. Even with a custom backpack, the design is a balancing act.


Citation

"A Custom Backpack – Designed by You," by Will Rietveld. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/r2_custom_backpack_design_and_review.html, 2007-12-19 02:08:00-07.

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Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » A Custom Backpack – Designed by You


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Benjamin Smith
(bugbomb) - F - M

Locale: South Texas
A Custom Backpack – Designed by You on 12/18/2007 22:24:07 MST Print View

Companion forum thread to:

A Custom Backpack – Designed by You

Roleigh Martin
(marti124) - MLife

Locale: Moderator-JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group
Re: A Custom Backpack – Designed by You on 12/19/2007 08:48:29 MST Print View

What a fascinating article.

How rugged is the fabric, Dimension Polyant TX2 fabric, that is used in your pack? Is it going to be as rugged as the fabric used in Six Moon Design's Starlight pack (a pack I have now).

I'd like to see a clone of the Starlight that has four alterations: (1) it could fit the Bearikade Expedition Cannister horizontally in it and (2) it would use a belt similar to either the Granite Gear Vapor Trail or the Osprey Aether 60 belt and (3) use a stronger but lighter fabric if one exists -- I'm curious about the Dimension Polyant TX2 fabric and (4) uses stiffer (stronger) stays.

Thanks!
Roleigh

John Haley
(Quoddy) - F

Locale: New York/Vermont Border
Re: Re: A Custom Backpack – Designed by You on 12/19/2007 09:29:30 MST Print View

This is obviously a nice design, well thought out by Will to be a POMP (Pack Of Many Pockets) that fit his needs. I know the amount of thought that goes into a pack such as this since I have a customized McHale being made at this time.

I wanted a lightweight, lightly framed, pack with a very clean design, so I went with a Q Bayonet, guide harness, 36" circumference LBP (Little Big Pack) version of the sub-pop. Total weight should be in the range of a Catalyst. The ability to have exactly what you want on a pack which is made to your exact measurements is great. I chose to go with a full Dyneema version.

BTW... Roleigh, I had flap added to the base of my double summit flap to hold a Bearikade Expedition Cannister under it.

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Dimension Polyant on 12/19/2007 09:32:27 MST Print View

I believe that is the same fabric used for much of my Mountainsmith Phantom. The fabric is tough as nails, I really like it. A custom pack made out of that fabric is very tempting.

Roleigh Martin
(marti124) - MLife

Locale: Moderator-JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group
Re: Re: Re: A Custom Backpack – Designed by You on 12/19/2007 09:40:41 MST Print View

John, when you get your customized pack, can you share some photos of it, loaded, with the Expedition cannister on it? Also, what is the weight of the pack, and the cubic inches volume of the main pack (and of the side pouches too)?

Do you have a link showing something similar at McHale Packs now?

Thanks!

Adam Rothermich
(aroth87) - F

Locale: Missouri Ozarks
Re: A Custom Backpack – Designed by You on 12/19/2007 09:45:16 MST Print View

I'm glad to see that Will chose to wear rain gear to test the waterproofness of this pack :P.
The Polyant looks really similar to fabric my MS Phantom is made out of. It has been tough as nail for me.

Adam

John Haley
(Quoddy) - F

Locale: New York/Vermont Border
Re: Re: A Custom Backpack – Designed by You on 12/19/2007 10:16:52 MST Print View

Roleigh (and others)...

Link to very similar pack (this one has a pocket added):
http://www.mchalepacks.com/images/Steve%20L%2036%20w%20zip%20pouch%209x12.jpg

Link to summit flap canister/water bladder holder:
http://www.mchalepacks.com/images/summit%20flap%20bladder%20holder%20VERTICAL.jpg

Edited by Quoddy on 12/19/2007 12:27:37 MST.

Roleigh Martin
(marti124) - MLife

Locale: Moderator-JohnMuirTrail Yahoo Group
Re: Re: Re: A Custom Backpack – Designed by You on 12/19/2007 10:22:49 MST Print View

John, do you have the link to the cover page that has text that talks about the pack whose pictures you provide a link to? Thanks! Want to share your costs with us too?

Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
Great article! on 12/19/2007 10:25:18 MST Print View

Will,
I enjoyed reading about your custom pack design process. Too bad my torso length isn't a bit shorter or I'd ask what happened to the first pack :)

JASON CUZZETTO
(cuzzettj) - MLife

Locale: NorCal - South Bay
A Custom Backpack – Designed by You on 12/19/2007 11:56:39 MST Print View

This is a great article. I may give R2 a try. I always wanted a larger version of my GoLite Breeze with two long exterior side pockets for 2 liter Water Bladders and a loop and lock system for my hiking poles.

I love the fabric used for this pack, also. I love seeing new material used. You really can't get this good of information from any other site. Thank you BPL!

Ryan Corder
(demo) - MLife

Locale: Arkansan in Seattle
Re: Dimension Polyant on 12/19/2007 13:43:13 MST Print View

all the packs in the now defunct "Mountainlight" series from Mountainsmith were made from a combination of VX-21 and VX-42. I too can attest to their bulletproof-ness.

Will Rietveld
(WilliWabbit) - MLife

Locale: Southwest Colorado
Dimension Polyant VX2 on 12/19/2007 17:26:15 MST Print View

The VX2 is the lightest Dimension Polyant X-Pac fabric available. Its tough, but not bombproof, so it definitely requires some TLC. It's not nearly as tough as Dyneema Gridstop, for example. The former Mountainsmith Mountainlight packs brought our attention to the Dimension Polyant fabric, and it held up to the test of time. GoLite used some of it in their previous line of packs too. Ron found it fairly easy to work with for pack making.

Best,Will

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
The Holy Grail, at last. on 12/19/2007 18:29:18 MST Print View

Great article, Will. Many thanks for sharing with us. I, for one, will be talking with R2.

Ron D
(dillonr) - MLife

Locale: Colorado
Re: A Custom Backpack – Designed by You on 12/20/2007 08:21:34 MST Print View

Like John I am currently working with McHale on a customized backpack. The McHale offers the ability to customize fabrics, size, features, suspension systems and a tremendous range of options. Dan McHale is also more than willing to incorporate any special features or options that you want. But, I can't imagine McHale ever producing a sub 1 pound pack like the R2 in the article. Dan is too concerned with making durable long lasting packs that are very comfortable to carry. He does offer a lot a approaches to make the pack relatively lightweight with smaller packs, lighter fabrics and streamlined design. A feature I like about the McHale is that it is modular in many aspects. You can remove or use lighter versions of the suspension system and remove options to reduce weight or add them back on for increased weight or volume. The R2 website is more organized and process driven than the McHale one which looked like a real plus. On the other hand once you send Dan your fit measurements he sends a demo pack that you use to finalize the fit. I have probably sent a half dozen emails with photos of the demo pack with different weights and suspensions as well as multiple conversations with Dan on fit and features. It's a very individualized approach and I can't imagine the fit or design being wrong on the final pack. It really helps to have the demo pack at your house for a few weeks to work out what you really want to have in the pack and to see how the fit works. I spent a lot of time to see how different gear fit and tried weights ranging from 20 pounds to over 50 pounds. The suspension system is pretty remarkable, you don't even notice 20 pounds and loaded up to 52 pounds it was heavy but did not stress my shoulders at all (I don't plan to carry that much but had to try it out). I've never been able to say my shoulder don't hurt on any previous pack, even my old external frame. I currently use a Mariposa and I've been very happy with it up to about 25 pounds, unfortunately there are times when conditions, trip length or just the people you are going with mandate more weight. The McHale is perfect fit for those situations that the 1 lb or lighter packs can't handle and McHale's customized approach lets you get exactly what you want in a pack.

Denis Hazlewood
(redleader) - MLife

Locale: Luxury-Light Luke on the Llano Azul
Re: Dimension Polyant VX2 on 12/22/2007 19:09:40 MST Print View

Will,
The VX2 fabric seems to be the same as the LuxuryLight VX-02. Is this true? I have had the LuxuryLight VX-02 cloth cylinders for 3 years now. The first failures were caused by "slices" from sharp objects. Most likely tree branches or sharp rock edges. The good news is that the slices don't migrate past the polyester yarn grid. These slices were easily repaired with sail tape.

After two seasons of use the cylinders began to show wear in the form of small holes worn through the fabric. I have been very careful with the pack but small "hard" items seem to abrade the fabric and I now have many small holes, mostly on the bottom of the cylinders.

The VX-02 cylinders are still my favorites but they are not waterproof anymore. I now must carry a pack cover if I expect rain. I wish the fabric was a little more abrasion resistant.

LuxuryLight Pack with VX-02 cylinders

Jason Brinkman
(jbrinkmanboi) - MLife

Locale: Idaho
RE: A Custom Backpack - Designed by Me? on 12/24/2007 23:08:23 MST Print View

Who knew that such an option existed? I was familiar with the McHale variety, but not R2. Thanks for bringing this to our attention Will and BPL!

And great pack design Will. I couldn't part with my external mesh water bottle pockets at this point, but your huge hip belt pockets and sternum strap pocket got me excited about the possibilities. Then I recall the truly waterproof (and floatable) design of the Arctic pack, and well... I will be spending the next little while daydreaming about my perfect pack.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
2 Packs - One price? on 12/27/2007 05:48:04 MST Print View

I am extremely impressed with R2 and have seen them before (I think a link was posted a while back on them). At the point I am at, I would probably go with a custom next. R2 will most likely be them - I'd even take the same one you had designed!
I do have a question...when you state a mis-communication, who do you feel mis-communicated? Do you think R2 would have replaced the pack if you DIDN'T work for BPL? Not trying to stir the pot, just very curious as R2 had to take a hit on the pack. Unless they modified the first one? Or had someone lined up to purchase it?
"Mis-communication" during custom work over the phone/internet could potentialy happen rather easily. Looks as though they have covered all angles with their layout scheme...
Any thoughts?

Edited by Steve_Evans on 12/27/2007 05:49:00 MST.

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: Dimension Polyant VX2 on 12/29/2007 17:44:41 MST Print View

This caught my eye enough to get one.

I actually had some very specific things I wanted in order to get this pack.

I was shocked that absolutely every last thing I've I wanted in a pack, was no problem for them.

This thing is pimped out exactly the way I wanted it with the exact displacement I want.
Ron is awesome to work with when it came to the design process as well.

Don't be fooled by the computer lay out and be thinking that you have to pick from only those options.

These packs are 100% custom to the designer’s imagination.

Edited by awsorensen on 01/06/2008 00:11:07 MST.

Kai Larson
(KaiPL) - F

Locale: Colorado
Out of Business on 08/14/2008 18:05:58 MDT Print View

R2 is out of business.

Kai Larson
(KaiPL) - F

Locale: Colorado
Out of Business on 08/14/2008 18:06:53 MDT Print View

Sadly, R2 has shut its doors

YAMABUSHI !
(THUNDERHORSE) - F
Ahhh on 11/30/2009 21:53:25 MST Print View

the quest for the perfect pack....

an endless search

William Murphy
(33972) - MLife
Maybe not closed or maybe I was lucky... on 12/31/2009 12:23:29 MST Print View

I do not know if Rodney will make packs for others again, but he just did one for me.

Designed was via 20 or so emails with pictures and lots of text.

I've only seen pictures so far, I will post more here about it after it arrIves and I've tried it out. So far all I can say is that he was great at communication, flexible and understood my goals for the pack well. Price for a 12 oz custom minimalist pack along the lines of 75% of a g4 was less than 1.5 x the sale price of a g4. That's outstanding in my opinion.

I'll say more once I've hiked with it.

--Bill

Sebastian Boenner
(racoon-on-tour) - M

Locale: beautiful Rhineland (Germany)
an other option for custom made packs? on 01/05/2010 01:36:47 MST Print View

Anyone who does not hesitate ordering from overseas, will soon have a further opportunity to gain a custom made backpack. A UL backpacker from Germany has designed some really lightweight backpacks. Using a computer-programmed packconfigurator one can simply choose from different options (size, volume, material, hipbelt, pockets,...). In addition one can specify other special requests such as a back pocket for a sleeping pad.
Some of the prototypes he has already presented here in the forum (when he was still designing them for his own):

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=16980

Unfortunately he doesn't have an official website yet and the backpacks are still "pre-production models" as he calls them. This shows at least that customized backpacks are not extinct. Several European UL hikers are currently testing some of these backpacks and are totally thrilled.

http://theotherface.wordpress.com/2009/09/02/laufburschegear-pack/
http://beuteltiere.blogspot.com/2009/12/laufbursche-schlagt-wieder-zu.html
http://rioleichtsinn.wordpress.com/2009/11/30/laufbursche-pack-ultralight-rucksack/

I'm sorry for my english but unfortunately it's not my mother language.