Just starting my own pack

Posted by: brady

Just starting my own pack - 07/11/10 12:01 PM

I'm making my own pack and wanted some input on the ideas I have for it. A big part of my choice in materials is price and availability, I'm a poor college student.

I bought a frame from an army surplus store along with some open face belt buckles, and I'm using nylon webbing for all the straps. I had seen an old post on here about padding... I got the idea to use my clothes for the padding (t-shirts for kidney pad, socks and underwear for shoulder straps, sweatshirt and pants for back). All the pockets for the "padding" will have liners made from ironing plastic shopping bags together making them water proof. The main problem I have right now is deciding how large to make the main pocket on the bag, it doesn't need to hold clothes after all.

Any other ideas will be much appreciated.
Posted by: DJ2

Re: Just starting my own pack - 07/11/10 12:42 PM

The size of pack that works for people varies a lot. My bag, for example, has about twice the volume of what some people here prefer.

I suggest you get all of your gear together and put it into whatever bag you can find (e.g. paper bag, plastic garbage bag, pillowcase, etc.) Then measure the volume of that bag and add some for margin of error.
Posted by: Jimshaw

Re: Just starting my own pack - 07/11/10 01:23 PM

Be reasonable. Give yourself a chance. Socks that stuff into shoulder pads etc etc is a really bad idea. What if you have to wear that sock and the other is wet and needs to dry? Maybe your first pack sould look like a normal pack and your clothes still need to fit inside it - think about it. Even if your tee shirt goes against your back, it still has the same volume. On the other hand if you want a 5 pound pack and don't care if you freeze, starve, or get soaking wet - go for it. Since this is you first post I'll say - camping is about getting out and enjoying the out of doors with enough gear to keep you warm dry and fed, not about assembling a lighter pack than your friends. Cute UL packs are nice on the trail but lacking in camp.
Posted by: brady

Re: Just starting my own pack - 07/11/10 04:38 PM

What are your reasons for it being a bad idea? If something is wet when I take it off then I can stuff a rag that I would be caring in its place until it has dried. Other than that I can't think of anything else that would cause a problem with it. Although, there maybe something that you are thinking of that I am not. Also the main reason I thought of this was for the sweat shirt and pants, both are bulky items. Yes, they do have the same volume where they're at, but the padding is something that I'm going to have any way, so by using my sweat shirt and pants as padding I take out the volume of what ever else I would use for padding.
Posted by: Jimshaw

Re: Just starting my own pack - 07/11/10 05:22 PM

May I ask exactly what you intend to pad? As far as shoulder straps, using a piece of foam for insulation would weigh how much? an ounce, maybe two. Consider the extra design and construction work making a pack with a slot and or zippered shoulder strap that you can stuff a rag into? (I suppose you could carry food in your shoulder straps). What else? The waist band. Do you want a comfortable waist band that fits, or do you want a big lumpy waist band that completely disappears when you have to wear those clothes? A very high quality fully padded large waist band weighs 10 oz. You can probably get an ok one for light camping that weighs between 2 and 6 oz. So we are talking about a 4 to 10 ounce savings - maybe - for using clothing items to pad your pack.

One thing you can do is use unpadded shoulder straps and put your folded socks under them, and if you're going under say 15-20 pounds, you don't need a padded waist band anyway, but every time you stop the socks fall out.

Why do you suppose that other UL members of this group do not use their clothes to pad their shoulders or waist? But most of us put soft folded items next to our backs. Do not flaunt conventional wisdom completely when designing, without understanding why other people, most other people, do it differently. If your idea was new and not one already sort of rejected, then you might say that you are inovative, however yours is not an innovative idea, no offense. smile
Posted by: DJ2

Re: Just starting my own pack - 07/11/10 05:31 PM

The Gossamer Gear Mariposa pack uses the "clothes as padding" concept. Here's a sentence I copied from their website.

The shoulder straps and hip belt are designed to accept unused articles of clothing as padding. Foam inserts are included if you are disinclined to use sleeping socks, gloves etc as your padding.
Posted by: DTape

Re: Just starting my own pack - 07/11/10 05:33 PM

If you have a frame, what is the padding for? Unless you are talklng about the shoulder straps and hipbelt for the frame (Alice pack frame by chance?). If so, I would advise not even using the frame. Like Jim, I am not a fan of using clothing for the shoulder straps. The weight savings will be negligible and you have to "play" with getting the stuff in just right to be effective "padding". For your money you are better off either A. purchasing a shoulder harness for the frame and making a simple bag to sttach to the frame. or B. ditching the frame and making your own rucksack using some cheap ccf as the padding in the shoulder straps. A rolled up pad in the rucksack is the "frame" and provides substantial padding against your back.In general making your own gear is not about saving money as it is the joy of designing and making something. To get it right, often the DIY stuff ends up costing just as much if not more than if you went ahead and purchased what you wanted in the first place.
Posted by: Pika

Re: Just starting my own pack - 07/11/10 10:53 PM

If weight is enough of an issue that you want to use items of clothing for padding then why are you going for the extra weight of a surplus aluminum frame? If weight is not an issue then I guarantee you that foam padding will be more comfortable than using extra, and possibly wet, items of clothing. I would suggest that you check Quest Outfitters http://www.questoutfitters.com/patterns-packs-cart.htm#G-4%20ULTRALITE%20BACKPACK and look at the pattern and kit for a G-4 pack. It is roomy, light, and gives you the option of using clothes or foam padding for your shoulder straps and hip belt. It uses your sleeping pad as a "frame". I have made one and think it is a very good light weight pack. It will handle over 30 pounds if carefully packed and the price for pattern and kit is less than $40. Buying a kit for a field-tested pack is a lot simpler and cheaper than using trial and error to design a pack of your own. You can also get a kit for a somewhat smaller pack from Ray Jardine at http://www.rayjardine.com/ray-way/Backpack-Kit/index.htm. I have made one of these as well and found it to be a good kit.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Just starting my own pack - 07/12/10 12:46 PM

I assume that as a "poor college student" price is the main reason you are making your own pack. By the time you are done, I do not think you will save much over searching the internet for packs on sale. External frame packs are really cheap and although when you get some money, you may prefer an internal frame pack, you can do a lot of backpacking with a $50 or less external frame pack. I picked up a nearly new Kelty external frame pack at the REI "Garage Sale" for $20. You are young and strong - a bit heavier pack may not even be an issue for you right now. In my "poor" days, I had heavy but adequate gear and just put up with it, got out and did a lot of backpacking. Then when I got a job, I steadily replaced the heavy stuff with lighter stuff.

On the other hand, if you really enjoy the idea of designing a pack, go for it! When designing and making your own stuff, it is a lot of trail and error before you land on a good design. I do not think you end of saving much money in the process, but if you enjoy it, it is a lot of fun.
Posted by: Spock

Re: Just starting my own pack - 07/15/10 10:16 PM

Advice to lurk your local Goodwill is sound. You can get lots of mileage out of secondhand packs.

If DIY is part of your thing, you can make a simple, top opening, straight-through rucksack based on the many designs available from many web sites. Ex: http://www.backpacking.net/makegear.html or http://thru-hiker.com/projects/
And don't miss the instructional articles at the latter site.

Some designs have 'stuffable' shoulder straps, some just use a thin piece of foam. I prefer to use microcell polyethelene upholstery foam. Automobile upholstery shops sometimes have scrap barrels full of the stuff. It is VERY light.

You can get useful fabrics for under $6 per yard from owfinc.com - either silnylon or packcloth. You can make a fine pack with one yard of 60" fabric. Even made from packcloth, a simple rucksack will weigh much less than most frame packs.
Posted by: sparkyy

Re: Just starting my own pack - 07/16/10 12:36 AM

How much weight do you intend to carry?

You should be able to find material for very cheap at a wal mart. Go to the camping section and get a blue foam sleeping pad, they are like 10$. Trim some of the foam off for all the padding you need, then use the rest as your sleep pad. Go over to the fabric section, they sometimes have a gray ripstop nylon for $1 a yard that is very light and strong enough if you are careful. I found some and bought all they had. If you think it isn't strong enough, double it up, it is cheap as hell. Some is waterproof, some isn't. If you get the kind that isn't just use a trash compactor bag as a pack liner. I do this on my G4. You can then sew on your webbing, some custom pockets for whatever you want.

Then when you get some spare cash...I found a warm fleece sweater at wal mart for like 15$. I found some fleece pants on sale for 20$ at sports chalet. Couple that with a wool or fleece blanket (can find those for 10$ at wal mart), a tarp, a groundsheet from home depot plastic painters cloth, and a pepsi can stove, you have a super cheap, pretty light, much more compact kit to fit in a smaller, lighter backpack.

Or like others have said, a good bet is Goodwill. I used to find all kinds of stuff there. Wool sweaters socks and pants ect, I am sure it is easy to find real fleece there too.

Less is more crazy

Posted by: Glenn

Re: Just starting my own pack - 07/16/10 07:04 AM

I'm not clear on whether you're building your own pack to save weight, or to save money. If it's to save weight, I'm not sure you're really doing it in the most efficient matter.

The idea that you'll pad it with clothing - lots of it, from the sound of your post - isn't going to save you much weight, because of the clothing load you're carrying. If your goal is to carry the lightest possible pack, then you can eliminate pretty much all the spare clothing except for a change of socks and your rain gear: wear nylon shorts with a mesh liner (no changes of underwear to carry) and a synthetic T-shirt (no spare T-shirts to carry.) Also, get a polyester (not cotton) fleece jacket and, if you need them, pants - you can pick these up at Goodwill or Walmart or a Dollar store for under $10 usually. They will be lighter than a sweatshirt and sweatpants, and will dry a lot quicker if you happen to get them wet. (They would also make great padding, assuming you intend to take them on every trip.)

If your intent is simply to save money, then go ahead with your plan to build a pack. You might want to look at the Gossamer Gear website - at one time, they offered plans for building a frameless pack; I haven't checked lately, but they may still do so.

Good luck, either way.
Posted by: Glenn

Re: Just starting my own pack - 07/17/10 10:33 AM


I sent you a Private Mail (PM) - there should be a flashing icon in the tool bar at the top of the screen, near "My stuff" - just click on it.

Posted by: Glenn

Re: Just starting my own pack - 07/19/10 10:46 PM

Since I never heard from you, I deleted the PM
Posted by: Kent W

Re: Just starting my own pack - 07/21/10 04:15 PM

Yes gossamer gear still ofers free g4 plans Or you can go to www.questoutfitters.com and order a g4 kit with all the materials plans etc for 36.00 Thats what I did as you get paper patterns included to cut the fabric. My next one will be made with silnylon that I have leftover from my tent.
Posted by: Paul

Re: Just starting my own pack - 07/28/10 12:16 AM

I'd rethink the padding idea if I were you. In the lightweight packs I make, which I and others have found comfortable up to about 30 lbs, all of the padding - shoulder straps and hipbelt - weighs a little less than 1.5 oz., and I'm confident it's more comfortable than the clothing idea would be.
Size-wise, everyone has different requirements, but you won't be too far off if you make something that will hold around 3000 to 3500 cubic inches - assuming you have fairly compact gear. You probably have some sort of duffel bag or suitcase or something that you can put all of your gear into as a test - then figure out how much smaller or larger than that your pack needs to be.
Posted by: DJ2

Re: Just starting my own pack - 07/28/10 12:26 AM

I've been doing a lot of experimenting with waist belts lately. What's your current favorite design for a homemade waist belt?
Posted by: Paul

Re: Just starting my own pack - 07/28/10 08:24 PM

Mine are conically cut, 4" wide at the back tapering to 3" at the front, uncoated 160d or 330d cordura, 1/4" FY20 foam from OWF, which I perforate using a hole punch for added breathability. 1 1/2" QR buckle.
Posted by: DJ2

Re: Just starting my own pack - 07/29/10 12:13 AM

Thanks. That's very helpful!

I was thinking of using a 5 gallon plastic bucket as a shape for a conically shaped belt. Is that close to what you have been using or is yours more tapered?
Posted by: Paul

Re: Just starting my own pack - 08/01/10 06:53 PM

I hope I can describe this clearly without a drawing. Here's what I do:
first draw a straight line 34" long. Make a mark 5" in from one end of the line. Now draw an arc, using the end of the line as the center point and with a 29" radius, so that the original straight line is in the middle of the arc. Then draw another arc, same radius, but using the 5" mark as the center point. You'll have two arcs that are not concentric, so that the belt will taper from the midpoint (which will end up at the center of your back) to the ends at the front. You can adjust the length of the belt easily to suit your needs. This pattern includes about a 1/4" seam allowance, and using 1/4" thick foam I cut the foam about 5/8" less than the belt (which means using radii that are 29 5/16" and 28 11/16", respectively, for the top and bottom of the belt, and using the same center points.
Hope that makes sense. It's really obvious on a drawing, but I don't know how I'd put a drawing into my post, other than having it as an image hosted elsewhere on the web, which I don't.
Posted by: DJ2

Re: Just starting my own pack - 08/02/10 12:39 AM

Your word picture makes sense to me. I'm looking forward to trying it with pencil and paper.

Thanks for taking the time to describe this.

Posted by: Franco

Re: Just starting my own pack - 08/02/10 12:48 AM

Some comments..
The GG Mariposa (Plus) does indeed take "clothing" as padding for the shoulder straps. A mate of mine has one...
However it should be remembered that it is a 23 oz pack meant to carry a max weight of 30 lbs and really only comfortable (for me) at under 15.
By comfortable I mean that my shoulder won't ache after a few miles.
Compressed clothing offers very little if any "cushioning"
Or to put it another way , I would not even use that as a day pack...
As far as
"All the pockets for the "padding" will have liners made from ironing plastic shopping bags together making them water proof"
they will not stay waterproof for long .
Posted by: DJ2

Re: Just starting my own pack - 08/02/10 12:17 PM

I just followed your instructions on a smaller scale with graph paper and a compass. Worked perfectly. Am looking forward to making an actual belt.

Posted by: DJ2

Re: Just starting my own pack - 10/29/10 11:18 AM


I've made several belts now, using your instruction for the pattern. Worked just as you said.

I've found that almost any shape that approximates the conical shape you described works well. Here are pics of two of my latest. Both weigh a little over 3 ounces and use 2" quick release buckles. I use nylon plumbing Ts on the belt to hold the bottoms of the carbon fiber pack frame.

The one you can see through is made of mesh. It is about 4" wide throughout. I didn't taper it like you did. The mesh grips me well. No slipping.

The opaque one is made from 3" webbing. It isn't exactly conical but approximates the concical shape by putting a tuck into the back center of the belt.

Both belts fit me well and are comfortable. I have found that I don't need foam on my waist belts if they fit me well. I get a lot of sweat build up under foam belts.

Thanks again for the help. You got me on the right track.

Posted by: finallyME

Re: Just starting my own pack - 10/29/10 11:20 AM

They look good DJ2.
Posted by: CamperMom

Re: Just starting my own pack - 10/29/10 07:01 PM


I'm sorry that you did not have good experiences with a Mariposa. I have to wonder if the pack was the wrong size, poorly loaded or adjusted, or some other porblem. I've used a Mariposa for years. I usually keep my pack weight lower, but did take off with 7-8 days worth of food and medications, plus 3 L water. My pack was close to 33 pounds. Not the best, but it carried OK. A few miles in, I added another 2 L of water (next reliable source was very far away.) I was not happy with the weight on my knees, but my back was OK.

Your mileage obviously varied.