Contributed byDJ, 2/17/2002    Updated on 1/27/2007


The attached photos show a one-pound, homemade frame backpack, versions of which I have tested and used over the last few years. I have used this for week long trips carrying up to 45 pounds. It is the lightest and most comfortable pack I have used in my 40 years of backpacking.


  • The 1 pound breaks down roughly like this:
  • Back Bag = about 4 ounces
  • Front Bag = about 3 ounces
  • Aluminum Frame = about 5 ounces
  • Waist Belt = about 4 ounces
  • Total = about 1 Pound

All of these items can be modified for fit, volume, durability and comfort. I have made versions ranging from 1 to 1.5 pounds total weight. The model shown in the pictures has a bag volume of roughly 4000 cubic inches and strap on capability for sleeping bag, tent, foam pad and ice ax.


  •  Pack is shown with a Mount Washington Pad and Sierra Designs 2 person flashlight tent on top.


  •  Large, back bag, is about 25" X 25" when laid flat.


  •  Front bag is about 20" wide and 16" tall when laid flat. I have tapered the top to make it hang better.


  •  The pack has a front bag and a back bag. When properly loaded they balance the pack in such a way that all of the load is directed downward. There is none of the backward pull that typical packs have. You won't be leaning forward with this pack when you walk down the trail. This is an old concept. I have seen 2000 year old pictures of shepherds carrying a lamb on their back with a counter balancing jug on their front.


  •  All of the weight from the front and back bags is directed to the top corners of the aluminum pack frame. From there it is directed downward, through the frame, to the waist belt. So all of the load is carried on the waist.

  •  Frame is 1/2 inch OD aluminum.



    (1) Front and back bag fabric is uncoated, 1.9 ounce ripstop nylon.

    (2) Waist belt is 2" wide nylon with a quick release buckle in front.

    (3) Pack attaches to belt with 3/8" nylon Ts from a plumbing store. For added comfort I sewed 1/4" pieces of foam to the inside of the belt where these fittings are attached.

    (4) All web is 1/2" and all buckles are 5/8" quick release types. I have attached about a half dozen extra buckles at various places so I can hang things from the pack (e.g bear spray, monocular, ice ax, wet clothing, cap, handkerchief, etc.).

    (5) Bags have drawstring closures like stuff sacks.

    (6) Bags and waist belt can easily be unclipped from frame for washing. Because the cloth is uncoated I can throw it in the washing machine.


    You can test the concept without a big investment. Take a frame pack and hang a day pack on the front of the frame by suspending it from the upper two corners of the frame. If properly fitted, the webbing from the front bag to the top corners of the frame will be taut and only lightly touch the top of your shoulders adjacent to your neck.

    DJ, 2/17/2002

    1/27/2007 Update

    My wife and I have 3 more years of experience with these packs(many backpack trips and she walked across Spain with one). I have made some improvements and thought this additional info might be useful to some of you.

    (1) I replaced the aluminum frame with one made of carbon fiber tubing and aluminum. Frame now weighs only 2.6 ounces. Here's a picture of the frame taken apart so you can see its components.

    The top bar is 1/2"OD aluminum. The two vertical tubes are carbon fiber with OD of about 1/4". The corner connectors are 3/8" nylon plumbing Ts. The nylon fitting fits inside the aluminum and over the carbon tubes. The inside of the Ts has to be drilled out to fit over the carbon fiber tubes.

    (2) I connected everything with 5/8" quick release buckles so the entire pack can be taken apart and put together in less than a minute. Here's a picture of the unassembled backpack( front and back bags, frame and waist belt).

    This feature allows one to carry the pack on the plane in carry on luggage. Once you reach your destination (e.g. Spain) you can quickly put it together and be on your way.

    (3) I came up with a nylon mesh waist belt that is very light and comfortable. I used a military hat liner that is cut in a slightly conical shape and appears to be made out of Leno mesh. Here's a picture of it.

    I used two 5/8"buckles for tightening it in the front rather than 1 big buckle. This allows me to get the tension on the top and bottom of the belt just right. The frame connects to the belt using the same nylon plumbing Ts as you see at the top of the frame picture. The two upper webbings in the waist belt picture attach to the pack and hold everything together. The two webbings attached to the nylon Ts connect to the shoulder straps of the pack.

    (4) I increased the size of the pack. Here are two pictures of the entire pack with front and back bags.

    The back bag is about 25"x30" when laid flat and has a volume of about 4500 cubic inches. This is large enough to hold the contents of four 5 gallon buckets. Front bag is about 15"X20" when laid flat and has a volume of over 1000 cubic inches. The top bar easily allows me to attach tent and pad. The total weight of the empty backpack(two bags, waist belt and frame), as pictured, is less than 16 ounces. If you eliminate the front bag you can get pretty close to 12 ounces.

    DJ, 1/27/2007

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