Here is a fairly basic backpack for those outdoor types who wouldn't mind making
their own gear and go through the trouble of putting their hands (and feet)
to work with scissors and a sewing machine. For the sake of simplicity, I'll
dub our project as the LAB (for Lightweight Adventure Backpack). This actually
came into being after I constructed the "van Peski" pack or the GVP
G4 pack posted at a site some time ago. And yeah, I was able to download a copy
of the instructions and diagrams. Unfortunately, the site is currently unavailable
and I believe the authors are updating and rewriting the instructions.
I had great success with the van Peski pack project, in fact
I have already made three of them with each subsequent model sporting improvements
in comfort and utility. The next step for me was to conceive of a pack similar
to the former but smaller in size (good for up to 3 days max of lightweight
backpacking) and one that has a lid cum pocket to cover and secure the top opening.
Yes, I know that this addition will add weight but a hiker friend of mine insisted
of putting a lid on the van Peski-type of pack. He actually liked my homemade
GVP pack that he asked me to build one for him but with the lid on it. I also
adopted the way a ground pad is attached to the pack, which also serves as the
frame. Ditto for the front no-see-um mesh pocket. Some of the major innovations
I added were primarily focused on the hipbelt area. They are the load-transfering
system (LTF) and the ability of the webbing hipbelt to be completely extricated
from the pack.
The LAB has a capacity of about 1800 cu in which is
ideal for a sub multi-day lightweight backpacking trip. Because of its limited
main packbag capacity, one will be encouraged to bring just the most essential
items. However, it also has an extended volume of 2300 cu in (500 cu in for
the extension collar and 100 cu in for the front mesh pocket). You may have
to roll the lid/top pocket inwards so that it's out of the way to accomodate
larger loads. This fully-extended mode, you'll be using the 500 cu in volume
offered by the extension collar. It has a tapered profile which is wider at
the base to accomodate space-consuming sleeping bags and provides a nice, cushy
area that stradles the user's sacrum or hip area. An innovative feature of this
pack is that it incorporates a set of snugger straps at the hipbelt region.
The hipbelt webbing is not sewn to the bottom side seams but runs through a
sleeve at the sacrum area of the pack. To achieve an effective and comfortable
load-transferring system (LTS), one just has to clip the one-piece webbing hipbelt
around the hips (just as you would wear a normal belt) and cinch tight. To activate
the LTS, just cinch the snugger straps forward to transfer the load to your
sacrum. This is actually the system behind many of today's internal frame packs.
I just reduced it to the most rudimentary layout possible such that it is still
effective. Another plus for this design is that it enables the user to remove
the hipbelt webbing entirely - perfect for those occassions that require us
to travel really light that a hipbelt is not needed at all.
To help us organize our gear there are two zippered
pockets sewn on the lid. One is made from mesh and the other one is of solid
fabric. A single 3/4" side release (SR) buckle at the front tip of the lid secures
it in place. There's a wide no-see-um mesh pocket at the front which is great
for drying wet or soggy items while trekking without having to worry that it'll
drop on the trail unnoticed.
The compression system was adopted from packs of the
old days where a lace system was used to control the load. Some use it to lash
additional gear. Others find multiple uses for the "lace" (i.e. cord) at camp
or in emergency situations. I personally like how it actually compresses the
load together to form a nice, lithe shape. It provides more effective compression
for a given area compared to the normal horizontal strap system. It is adjusted
by a single cordlock attached to the ends of the lace after it has been threaded
through the ear loops at the pack seams. The shoulder straps are constructed
in an S-shaped (curved) fashion to follow the contours of the user's torso.
For simplicity, you may just make a straight pair (recommended for the beginner).
There is also an adjustable attachment option for a sternum strap to further
secure the pack load to your body and prevent shoulder strap slippage during
off trail hikes.
1. The layout of all the parts for the back/bottom
panel is shown in photo 1. The parts for the bottom shoulder strap reinforcement
and webbing hipbelt are also included.
2. Cut the no-see-um mesh backpad holders (2 pcs.)
and 5/8" wide grosgrain (gg) ribbon according to figure 1. We're going to use
the gg as an edging for the former. I find it helpful if you crease first the
middle line running along the ribbon before you sew it to the edge of the mesh.
This way, it will come out neat and straight. Refer to photo 2.
3. Sew mesh backpad holders onto back panel as shown
in photo 3. Their respective placements are given in figure 2. It is best to
draw them out with tailor's chalk. After sewing, cut off excess mesh panel ends
and sear to prevent raveling. Cut off a 14" length of 5/8" wide gg and sew to
the bottom edge of the bottom mesh backpad holder to neatly cover the exposed
4. Cut the webbing hipbelt sleeve from 420d nylon
packcloth as shown in figure 3. Fold edges 3/8" inwards around and sew in place.
Sew sleeve on its designated place on the lower part of the back panel. Make
sure it is centered and that it is sewn at the top and bottom edges only. Make
several stitch passes per sleeve edge. Leave the sides unsewn (i.e. open) for
the webbing hipbelt to pass through. The dimensions of this sleeve is cut so
as to accommodate a range of webbing widths from a minimalist 3/4" wide to a
very comfy 2" wide hipbelt.
5. Cut the reinforcement for the bottom shoulder straps
from 400d honeycomb polyester nylon (since the shoulder strap top and bottom
parts alike receive a lot of stress during use, I recommend at least a moderate-weight
fabric, 330d or more, for use in these areas) as shown in figure 4 (2 pcs.).
Fold crosswise and sew short, square edges in place. Refer to the bigger, triangular
assembly at photo 4. Next, cut 2 pcs. of 3/4" x 25" nylon webbing and sear ends
(figure 5). Sew webbing into triangular reinforcement assembly by folding the
latter into two and inserting the former into the open slit. Then sew around
edges and reinforce the sandwiched webbing by making several passes over it.
Cut of the very, very short, excess end of the webbing and sear (refer to the
6. Sew reinforced, bottom shoulder strap assembly
onto its proper location at the bottom side portions of the back panel with
the bottom tip (apex) of the assembly level with the bottom edge of the hipbelt
7. Construct snugger strap assembly by threading 3/4"
x 4" nylon webbing through 3/4" ladderlock (LL) buckle. Make 2 sets for both
sides of the hipbelt. Then sew each over the triangular bottom shoulder strap
assembly by positioning it level with the middle portion of the hipbelt sleeve.
Refer to photo 5.
8. To keep the backpad really in place (even though
the pack isn't full), especially at the bottom portion, sew vertical stitch
lines about 1" from the ends of the bottom mesh backpad holder. Refer to photo
6 (shown by red pointer).
9. Construct the webbing hip belt assembly from your
choice of hip belt width. I used 1 1/4" x 50" nylon webbing and of course a
corresponding size of side release (SR) buckle (figure 6). For the snugger strap
connection, cut 2 pcs. of 3/4" x 15" nylon webbing. To produce a properly fitting
assembly, sew first an end of the hip belt webbing to the non-pronged side of
the SR buckle. Afterwards, thread the other end through the pronged side. Now
you have a loop connected by the SR buckle. Unclip SR and wear around hips (sacrum
area) and clip shut. Tighten belt by pulling the webbing end emanating from
the pronged side. Center SR buckle in front and mark with chalk on the webbing
2" forward from where your iliac crests protrude (do this on a per side basis).
These two points are where you'll sew the ends of the snugger straps (they're
the yellow 3/4" wide straps in the respective photos) to complete the entire
hip belt assembly (photo 6; laid out on top of the back pad/panel assembly).
10. Refer to photo 7 for the parts layout. The padding
for the shoulder strap is actually a laminate of 10 mm thick EWA (open-cell)
foam (and yes, it's the white pad you see in the photos) and 2 mm thick closed-cell
foam (yellow), which is stiffer and denser. Remember to cut the components for
the shoulder strap in mirror image of one another (L and R portions). Cut the
pads according to figure 7 and laminate the corresponding pieces together with
quick drying contact cement or any other appropriate adhesive. Let it dry completely
(refer to photo 8; it is the laminated, yellow R shoulder pad at the rear portion
of the machine).
11. Cut the shoulder pad sleeve from two types of
material (figure 8). The inner side (the fabric next to your body upon shouldering
the pack) is cut from 210d coated nylon while the other side (where the violet
strap is attached is cut from 400d honeycomb fabric. Tip: cut the outer side
according to the pattern while for the inner side, cut a big enough fabric panel
where the outline of the former is drawn.
12. Sew violet strap onto outer side (4ood honeycomb)
of shoulder strap sleeve according to photo 9 (at the straight end area only).
Assemble and sew sternum strap adjusters (also shown in the same photo).
13. Sew the sleeves with the corresponding panels
together inside out. Sew 3/8" from then add an additional (reinforcement) stitch
line about 1/8" from the edge parallel to the previous stitching. Afterwards
cut off excess (inside) fabric along the outline of the outside fabric of sleeve
14. Turn sleeve inside out. Viola! Now you're ready
to insert the pad laminate with the stiff side (closed-cell foam) of the pad
adjacent with the honeycomb side of the fabric sleeve. But first, stitch the
rounded end of the sleeve (photo 10) to form the flap where the LL buckle will
15. Insert pad into sleeve. It may help if you wet
the pad first lightly with water to make insertion easier. Make sure pad is
inserted as far as it can go inside. Then sew the sleeve end (open end) shut.
16. Stitch the violet strap at the middle section
of the pad (photo 10; it is the lower, semi-finished shoulder strap). And yes,
you have to stitch through the pad. A high clearance (presser foot) sewing machine
is ideal for this. Go slow and be careful so that the needle is not over bent
while stitching or you'll knock the "timing" off .Tip: you may use your hand
in turning the flywheel (manual override) instead of using the (foot pedal)
motor to power the stitching.
17. To finish the shoulder strap, insert the sternum
strap adjuster and then the LL buckle. Stitch the then doubled back violet strap
at the "flap" end. Reinforce your stitches by making several passes at one line.
18. Sew the top ends of the shoulder straps as shown
in figure 9. Reinforce stitching by sewing in a crossed box pattern (photo 11,
although the stitching is more visible at photo 12 which shows the wrong side
of the back panel). Ditto for the grab loop. Then sew the 1 1/2" x 12" nylon
webbing over what you have sewn (photo 12 and 13 for visual guidance).
19. If you want, you can
incorporate a built-in internal pocket for your water bladder (i.e. hydration
system). The given dimensions in figure 10 can accommodate a 2.5 L bladder.
The pocket itself is pleated at the bottom and has a top flap secured down with
hook and loop fasteners to keep the water container in place. It is then sewn
onto 1.0 oz nylon fabric with the same cut as the back/bottom panel. This entire
assembly is then sewn at the wrong side (inside) of the back/bottom panel (photo
20. To provide an exit port for the drinking tube,
cut a divot at the middle top edge of the back panel as shown in figure 11.
Next, fold the divot flaps inwards and sew flat at the folded edges to form
a sort of rectangular notch. Refer to figure 12 for a graphic representation.
Then cut a 3" x 1 3/4" piece of fabric similar to the back panel and sew the
short sides and a long side 1/4" inwards. These are the so-called "finished
edges". This will then be sewn over the notch to form a shingle-like cover.
Sew at the two short sides and at the long, unfinished edge that coincides with
the edge of the back panel. The unsewn long side (finished edge) is where the
hose exits. Photo 14 shows the water bladder pocket assembly already sewn to
the wrong side of the back/bottom panel. The yellow stitch line (can you see
it?) denotes the outline of the water bladder pocket. Note the notch at the
top middle edge where the hose exits.
21. Cut the front panel components according to figure
13. A layout of it together with the side components is shown in photo 15. Start
construction by sewing the flat garter at top end of no-see-um mesh as shown
in figure 14 and photo 16. Note: the garter is intentionally cut shorter than
the top edge of the mesh such that when you sew the mesh assembly onto the front
panel, it acts as an elasticized closure system.
22. Sew (front) mesh assembly onto front panel starting
at the sides. Since the bottom edge of the mesh exceeds the bottom edge of the
front panel (in terms of width), you have to make two pleats at the mesh end
before sewing it shut to the latter. Then sew the (long violet) 3/4" wide strap
that connects with the SR buckle of the lid at the bottom center edge of the
assembly. Option: You may want to add some accessory loops to the bottom edge
of the previous assembly before sewing it to the bottom panel. I personally
used 3 1/2" x 5/8" grosgrain ribbon for the pink loops you see in photo 21 that
holds the yellow bungee cord down the front panel.
23. Make sure to cut the side panels in a left and
right pattern. To make the loops to serve as the "ears" for the lace compression
system, fold the 12 pcs. (6 per side) of 3 1/4" x 5/8" gg ribbon into two and
sear the open ends. Sew each at their designated points at the edges of the
side panel as shown in figure 15.
24. The lid/top pocket is a bit complicated to construct
because in involves the use of zippers and panel cutouts for articulation. The
top pockets are made from two types of material: the one at the rear is made
of mesh (heavier weave than no-see-um) and the front is made of fabric. Since
they are sewn together, there is a fabric divider in between to prevent contents
from mixing with one another. I used # 3 zippers for access but if you feel
that it isn't strong enough for your needs, than go for a bigger zip (# 5).
First, study the layout of the components as shown in photo 17 and in figures
16 & 17 and figure out how they connect with one another.
25. Start off by constructing the zipper assembly.
Cut the #3 nylon coil zippers (2 pcs.) according to figure 17. Insert the corresponding
zipper sliders (i.e. zipper pulls) one per into the coil zip and yes, it's easier
done than said. All right? If it is your first time to do this, it may take
a bit of effort to get the right technique because of the small size of the
# 3 zip. Next, sew the zipper fabric extensions to the ends with about 3/8"
seam (figure 18). One zip is slightly shorter than the other and sew this to
the straight edge of the panel for the fabric pocket. Be sure to center them
with one another prior to sewing. They are sewn in a similar fashion to the
way the fabric zip ends you just did a while ago, only this time you are sewing
along the length of the zip.
26. Next, sew the longer zipper to the mesh panel
at the zipper line specified in figure 17. The construction is similar to the
previous discussion but here; the zipper is sewn within the mesh panel (not
at any of the side). Cut at the zipper line then sew the zip. Cut off any excess
fabric zip extension/ends.
27. You should have something similar to photo 18
(right portion). Sew the curved edge of the divider to the shorter zip at the
28 To construct the articulation for the top pockets,
for each cut-out (V- and square-cut) bring together the edges inside out and
just sew a straight line along the length of the cut (about 3/8" from the edge.
Then finish the pocket assembly by folding the edges 1/4" inwards all around.
29. Sew the 3/4" SR buckle to the front tip of the
lid as shown in photo 18 (left portion).
30. Be sure to mark the outline for the top pocket
on the lid fabric. This would serve as your guide when sewing the "finished"
(folded inwards and sewn) edges of the top pocket assembly.
31. Open the zipper of the mesh compartment and sew
the bottom edge of the divider to the lid fabric sealing the two compartments
from one another (photo 19).
32. Sew the articulation areas at the lid fabric as
described in item 27.
33. To finish the assembly, fold 1/4" inwards around
the side and front edges (don't fold the rear edges) and sew.
34. Sew bottom panel edge with bottom edge of front
panel (1/2" seam). Then sew another stitch line parallel to it but 1/4" from
the edge (for reinforcement I recommend that you use seam tape to prevent fraying.
You can actually make your own seam tape from a length of 1 1/4" 1.0 oz. coated
nylon or any similar fabric.
35. Sew the rear edges of the top cover/lid to the
top edge (about 2 1/2" at the top sides) of the back panel wrong side out. Refer
to photo 20.
36. Sew side panel(s) assembly to the connected piece
in item 33 inside out with 1/2" seam (this is a main seam and we have to be
a bit lavish for the allowance). Apply seam tape and sew at least two more parallel
stitch lines all around these main seams for durability.
37. Turn everything inside out and you're ready to
connect the collar to the top edges. Cut the collar components according to
figure 19. If the fabric you're using has a noticeably coated (i.e. a bit sticky)
underside, we're going to sew the sleeve in such a way that the uncoated side
is adjacent to the cord. Otherwise, you'll have a little difficulty in cinching
the draw cord smooth and tight because the coated side of a fabric tends to
get caught with the cord.
38. Fold the ends of the collar 3/8" inwards (towards
the coated side) and sew. Then fold a long end (along the length) in a similar
fashion and sew.
39. Sew collar short ends together inside out along
(3/4" from the edge outline) the short ends but leave a 2 1/4" long unsewn end
(at the folded edge for the drawstring sleeve). Next, fold inwards the unsewn
end flat as shown in figure 20.
40. Now, we are ready to sew the sleeve for the drawstring.
Fold the "finished" long end of the collar outwards (or towards the uncoated
side) up to the 2 5/8" (from the edge outline) shown in figure 20.
41. Thread cord through sleeve and fasten cord lock
to the ends and secure with a stop knot.
42. Sew collar to top edge of pack bag assembly in
such a way that the cord lock seam line (it is where the collar short ends are
sewn together) is aligned with the center of the back panel. Sew the connection
seam again flat inside so your stuff won't get caught in an otherwise exposed
43. Thread all webbing (shoulder strap webbing, hip
belt webbing, top cover/lid webbing) through their respective buckles. Thread
the lace/cord for the compression as you would lace up a shoe and then secure
ends with a cord lock and a stop knot. Fold (about 3/4") and sew all strap ends
so that they won't accidentally unthread by themselves. You may add a sternum
strap assembly to complete your project.
44. Get out and use your pack.
I used a Kologn diet/baby scale with a 16 oz (with
1/2 oz gradations) maximum weight capacity to get the weight of each component/assembly.
- includes the padded
water bladder pocket
|1 1/4" wide hipbelt webbing assembly
|Front panel assembly
|Side panel (L&R) assembly
|Lace compression system (3mm cord)
|3/4" wide sternum strap assembly
|100 oz Camelbak water bladder (for comparison)
|Total pack weight
excluding backpad/frame and bladder
Yup, it's less than a pound folks (1 lb = 16 oz).
by Rodney Liwanag