How to DIY a Backpack part one – The Outline.

This is my third time sewing a DIY Backpack, and I’ve learned some things. Mainly I learned that none of the how-to articles I found online are exhaustive enough. So this will be exhaustive. Let’s Start.

First you need to know what size you are aiming for. This is a 30ish liter pack, you can increase the size if you need it bigger, just add more inches to the templates. This will also be a framed pack, if you want it to be frameless, simply skip the frame installation.

DIY Backpack
My First DIY UL Pack

I bought all the fabric from Here is the list of ingredients I used to make the pack.

1 yard of 420d Robic fabric.

.5 yards of pocket mesh. I could have used less.

.5 yards of 3d mesh. I could have used way less.

You will also need: buckles for the belt, roll top, and shoulder straps (4), shock cord (1/8th and 1 Section) , and webbing (1 section). I hit up my local thrift store for this stuff.  Just find a 7 dollar backpack with 4 buckles and a waist belt. If you do it right you might even get one with straps and a belt you like, then you can just pull those off and use them on this pack.

Side Note: If you want to use a wider webbing than 1/2 inch for the waist belt, you will need to order a different buckle for that belt. You should use a wider webbing if you are sensitive in the waist, or if you are going to have a load over 20lbs. You don’t need wider webbing if you are putting hip belt pads on though.

I also recommend some power stretch Lycra if you want some stretchy pockets. You can find this online here or, if you want to be thrifty, use an old pair of stretchy boxer briefs or a stretchy dress. Wash them first.

I’m also going to save wight by using Zing-It (1 section), to make the bottom of my shoulder straps, but this is optional.

From Wal-Mart I bought this:

2 carbon fiber arrows,  the Allen Eliminator model. (This Amazon link is a better deal per shaft.)

A roll of green foam camping mattress.

A universal Zipper.

Things I already had:

Camouflage and blue Hexxon fabric. 

If you don’t have a Sewing Machine I recommend this one very highly, It’s a great value for what you will be doing, and handles fabric from the heavier main body of this pack to the super light stuff I am using on my tarps with no issues.

Also you will need a Dremel or an Angle Grinder with a cut off wheel to cut the arrows to length.

When Sewing a pack there are really only a couple of ways to put it together. You can sew everything on a flat section of cloth, sew the two ends together to create a tube, and then seal the bottom and create some type of opening seal on the top. Or you can create the sides, front, back and bottom in what I’m calling panels, and then attach them together.

This series of how-to posts will show you the panel method, and later I’ll do a tube method. Maybe. Now the panel method is most common, and has a million way you can vary the size, shape and number of panels as well. I will use 5 panels. Two sides, a front, back and bottom because it’s easy.

In order to make this pack you need to know what you want out of it.

I want it to have a roll top closure, because it can add compression, and it is a better seal against rain than a drawstring. I also want to have a long side pocket, an under pocket, a big back pocket, a mesh web on the lower back  for wet things, and hip belt with a square zip pocket on one side, and a dump tube on the other. Lastly I want it to have mesh water bottle holders sewn into the shoulder straps, and I want the water bottle holder to have built in stretch pockets. Oh and a super light frame. Oh and it needs to be waterproof.

This is a beautiful thing. I know of no manufacturer that makes a pack like this. I know of a few that would make one, but it would be hundreds of dollars, and if something wasn’t quite right you would have to send it back to get it fixed. That is why I’m making my own.

Part Two will talk fabrics, then we will move on to making templates.



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