For all those that want to get into making their own outdoor gear, a word of caution. It’s very addictive.
I got into making my own gear for a couple of reasons. First, I hate the commercialism in the hiking world. I’m sure the commercial grade stuff is great but it also comes with a heavy price tag.
Marketing companies don’t want you to know that you can actually Make Your Own Gear (MYOG). Even in the MYOG world, people can get incredibly opinionated on fabrics and other things.
But you can MYOG Backpack with traditional materials found from a fabric store.
Ultralight vs internal frame
Technology has come a long way and with that comes a lot of consideration when selecting fabric and other components.
One of the biggest factors to me making my own backpack is the weight. A traditional Internal Frame backpack weighs around 3.24 lbs. An ultralightweight backpack, like the one I just finished, is 1lb 1oz.
Ultralightweight MYOG Backpack has no internal frame. Because of this, more effort needs to be taken when packing the bag.
You need to make sure you have proper support from your back. The straps also will play a role in supporting the pack and giving its proper shape.
There are a couple of types of materials most people use in the ultralight MYOG backpacking world. X-Pac VX07 & Dyneema® Composite Fabric.
These are both laminate style fabrics or Cuben fiber fabrics that are flexible, reinforced, waterproof, and tear-resistant. They replaced ripstop nylon. They also hold up better than a traditional ripstop material.
Tyvek home wrap is another product people use, but it has mixed reviews in backpack applications.
3D Spacer Mesh is also used in areas where the pack touches the skin, like waist belts. It wicks away moisture and adds softness.
All of these fabrics are found at Ripstop By the Roll. The company sells fabric in smaller increments so you only purchase what you need. They are in-demand right now and have long delivery times.
Can you find MYOG materials at a local fabric store?
The problem is, I’m impatient and don’t want to mess around with expensive fabric while I’m making my first pack.
I am only planning on doing 1 hike this summer with the pack, maybe two, and both are weekend-only trips. I’m willing to risk it on inferior products. If the design works well, I’ll upgrade to a better grade.
In Minneapolis, you can find a good-grade nylon ripstop for around $5 – $6 a yard on sale from a local fabric store. Before buying the fabric I put it through a few puncture tests in the store, trying to pull and stretch it to see its quality.
In place of the 3D Spacer Mesh everyone uses, look for a moisture-wicking mesh fabric. I found a Nike brand fabric that has some great properties. I’m confident it’s a good supplement.
It runs about $6 a yard. I probably only needed ½ yard. For foam padding used in the straps and hip belt, I used a $10 sleeping pad from Walmart.
MYOG Backpack Materials List
1 1/3 yards of Ripstop Fabric
1/3 Yard of Mesh Netting for pockets
1/3 Yard of Moisture Wicking Mesh
56 inches Fold Over Elastic
Heavy Duty Needles
Tissue Paper for Pattern Making
Fabric Tape Mesure
MYOG Backpack Pattern
After looking at dozens of designs and instructions for MOYG backpacks, I decided to make my own pattern. It was the most budget-conscious way to make it, replicating a similar design I saw online.
With something as big as this, it’s imperative to create an actual pattern. On previous projects, I’d eyeball it. With something like this, in a prototype mode, you need a record of exactly what you made to re-create it for a second pack or upgraded materials.
With larger patterns, tissue paper works great. Using a flat surface, a cutting mat and a straight ruler is all you need. The pattern I made accounted for a 1/2″ seam allowance, a mistake I made on my Compression Sack.
This model doesn’t include a hip belt pocket, but crafty people can add it in. One of the biggest complaints amongst hikers is that the pockets are too small for cellphones or snacks.
The current size of the hip belt is much too small for most cellphones. Most people usually stop to eat snacks on the trail or have a pant pocket for their phone.
There is an added daisy chain system on the pack straps and allowing you to clip on extra things if needed.
Tips for Sewing the MYOG Backpack
If you decided to start this endeavor with me, I’m guessing you can probably conceptualize how to put together the pack. I’m also assuming you have some basic sewing skills.
For that reason, I’m not going to get into every detail. Instead, I’m going to go over some of the problems and solutions I ran into. Feel free to email me with any questions.
When making a pack, it’s important to work on each panel individually before putting it all together.
When cutting foam, make sure its ½” smaller than the fabric on all sides in order to fit.
Have a large workspace, double the size of the final product. At the end of the project, you don’t want half your bag falling off the table, while trying to sew a straight line.
Back of Pack
Each part of the bag is assembled in panels. The back panel has two pieces, the hip belt, and the straps. They can be done in either order, but when it comes to putting them on the bag, start with the hip belt first.
Following the instructions on the picture below from D.I.Y Gear Supply with a few modifications. If you don’t have a heavy-duty sewing machine, you probably can’t sew through the foam.
To get around this, cut a 6-7-inch-wide center section of foam. Leaving a 1-inch gap to sew the belt to the backpack.
Instead of creating a buttonhole or other component on the wings of the hip belt, create an overlapping pocket. I did this by cutting the waist belt pattern (on the dotted line) and adding an extra inch to each side.
Folding over the edge and hemming it. Then layered on top of each other, matching the original size of the pattern. This gives a pocket for the nylon webbing strap to come out of, instead of at the end of the belt.
Add the hip belt strap, but have it slightly off-center. Unless your clips lock on both sides, you’ll only be able to lock the strap to the female end.
To ensure you have plenty of sinching room, have the male end of the clip barely come out of one side, leaving plenty of room to adjust the clip on the other side.
The belt will get sewn to the back of the pack, so you can’t change its position once it’s attached.
Sew down foam in place and bottom of the pocket. Make sure to leave a 1/2 -5/8-inch seam at the bottom of the bag to sew the bottom of the bag together.
Trace around straps from a backpack you have at home. Make sure to add a couple of inches to the top of the strap for your seam allowance. Add any Daisy Chain Strap to the fabric.
Each chain link has a 1-2 inches gap. Start at the bottom of the chain, looping your clip through, and work your way up. My chain used 12″ of nylon webbing.
Mark the placement of the center sternum clip. Add a 10″ strap there with a clip on the opposite side. Sew together outsides. Turn right side out and add foam.
Adding straps to the back panel
Affix Center Loop to back panel. See below diagram for placement.
Add one strap to the left of the center strap, length 25 inches, with 1 female end of the clip clip and 1 male clip at the end.
Secure one strap to the right of the center strap, 2-3 inches long with a female clip.
Add the two shoulder straps, approximately 2.5-3 inches apart, over the other straps.
Place gross gain over the top of everything to secure it. I started mine too close to the top of the bag to add this. I was also having difficulty sewing through all the layers. A heavy-duty sewing machine would have helped.
Add two triangular-shaped pieces of fabric with 17 inches of 1″ webbing, 1″ from the bottom of the bag. The backpack straps will attach to these.
Front/Sides of Bag
Add a 4-inch loop of 1-inch webbing centered on the bag, about 2″ from bottom of the bag, creating the gear loop.
Add 26.5 inches of fold-over elastic trim to Mesh Bag (G) Gathering as needed.
Affix the bottom of the mesh 2.5 inches from the bottom of panel (E) along dotted lines
Sew down sides & individual pockets of the mesh bag along the lines indicated on the pattern.
Create 6 triangles with straps, 4 with latter slider adjustments, angled down. 2 with 17″ of 1″ webbing pointed up. Place as indicated on the pattern.
Add two nylon straps to each side as indicated on the pattern, angled up. The bottom one is 11″, the top one is 15″. They will align with the latter straps. You can clean up the look of the front by covering it with some grosgrain ribbon.
Add a 17″ strap to the center of the bag.
Top of Bag
Add A & D to the top of each panel. Sew the sides of the bag together. Hem the top of the bag. Add 28″ of webbing to the top of the bag, positioning two male clips on the center of each side.
Sew on the bottom of the bag. Once you’ve confirmed that all the clips are in the correct position, fold over and sew straps so they don’t fall off on the trail.
The final dimensions should be:
Back 11″, Sides 6″, Front 15″ Hight 20-27″. It holds roughly 30L -35L inside. More when you include the pockets.
Weight Reduction Options and other Tips
Use ½ straps and buckles. (I used 1″ as that was what I had on hand)
Only include hip belt wings. Or do not include the center portion with extra padding.
I added a few extra inches of strap everywhere just to be safe. You can probably get away with less.
In other patterns, you’ll see the use of shock cord. I omitted that to keep the weight down.
Before securing your latter clips, make sure you have them the correct way to hold tension.
Would I MYOG Backpack for Hiking again?
I had a lot of fun making this. I would love to make a few more now that I have a better idea of how it works. This project did see the seam ripper a few times.
The problem with that is each time it adds little wholes along the way. This can compromise the fabric and create room for water penetration.
When I was done, I did whip up a little seam sealer and covered all holes on the MYOG Backpack. This was a lot of fun to do, and I can’t wait to get it on the trail.