How to DIY a backpack part 2 – The Begining

In the last part I talked over planning the DIY Backpack in your head and the materials I used to make the pack. But I want you to know that materials are TOTALLY SUBJECTIVE AND SHOULD BE BASED ON THE PACKS INTENDED USE. You don’t want to make a pack out of 1.1 rip stop nylon and then take it on a bushwhacking adventure, similarly don’t make one out of cotton and then go on an extended backpacking trip in the Pacific Northwest.

The material you use warrants some thought. There are several good all-around fabrics, and a few specific ones, and I’ll be covering what my thought process is/was.

The first and most glaring choice is “Do I spring for DCF(Cuban Fiber) or not?” DCF in the weight and durability I wanted is available from ZPacks, and its about $15 per half yard. $30 isn’t much for a Cuban pack, but I’m not super confident dealing with it yet. And the robic was only $12.

The other option besides the Robic I finally went with is X-Pack, and while this would have been just as good in my opinion, it isn’t available through I didn’t want to make more than one order, and it was a little more expensive if I recall correctly.

The Robic was what I went with. Its a good price for the material, and it’s very durable. I think as far as a starter fabric it’s very forgiving, inexpensive and waterproof. Exactly what I wanted. Later I can play with DCF, but I want to get this pack down.

Making the templates. 

From here it’s time to make the plan. First, we need to know how big the pack going to be. I’m aiming at around 30 liters without accounting for the outside pockets. So to do that I found a bag that I like and I copied the dimensions.

The Gossamer Gear Kumo is the pack I modeled this one after. I like it because it’s a great platform for a UL to SUL pack. Anyway the Specs for the main body are:

  • 22″ tall
  • 11″ wide
  • 4.5″ deep

Add a half inch to each side for hems and we get:

  • 23″ Tall
  • 12″ wide
  • 5.5″ deep

This means that the front and back need to be around 23″ tall by 12″ wide if you are doing a drawstring, velcro, or button closure. If you are doing a roll top like me you will need to add somewhere around 5″ to the height of each of these. One important thing to remember is that this is for me, and if you are shorter or taller than me (I’m 6’3″) you should measure the distance from the top of your shoulder to the crest of your hip. This will tell you how long the pack body should be. Another option is to go to an REI and get yourself fitted. If you are shorter and want the same overall volume, just make the pack deeper. Take a look around for a pack that would fit you in the volume you want and use those dimensions. The overall themes here will still suffice to allow you to make the pack.

The bottom panel is easy, just a 12″ wide by 5.5″ rectangle.

I like to use cardboard for my templates, I feel it’s easier to hold in place than a cloth one, and I can find it easily. Others like paper bags, or even Tyvek.

DIY Backpack
The Template for the back/front panel I made.

This part is on you. Decide what you can get your hands on easiest and use that for the template. In the above picture I have laid out the plan on the panel. Since the Back and front are the same size I only made one template and then I planned out the pockets and straps using the folds of the cardboard, and a maker to label what went where. This is where you can see your pack start to take shape.

DIY Backpack

Next post is going to cover cutting out the templates, and then sewing basics for this and most outdoor projects.

Past Articles in this series:
Part One   Part Two

2017 Appalachian Ultralight Thru-Hiker’s Pack

As many of you may know, we were recently sponsored by Appalachian Ultralight, a maker of a few different kinds of ultralight gear.  We got to chatting, and Cody ended up sending me a prototype for his 2017         Thru-Hiker’s pack. There are going to be a few differences between mine and the finished version, but only in fabric. and I think it’s the right way to go. The Robic is stronger, although a little heavier. As a result the finished model will be around 0.5 OZ heavier than the one I have which comes in at 14.33 oz for a large 45 liter, but will be more durable.Thru-Hiker's pack

The total weight for the Final Robic should be 14.8 oz or so for a size large 45L.
The Thru-Hiker’s pack is available in 30 and 45 Liters, and the 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack will be offered in the same sizes. I asked for a 45 Liter size Large pack, and it fits really well.

Thru-Hiker's pack
The 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack will have a bucket bottom.

The new 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack has a bucket bottom, designed to help to protect the mesh of the water bottle pockets. The 2016 model’s pockets were flush with the bottom, which could result in the mesh tearing when the pack is set down and either scrapes or gets caught on something.

Thru-Hiker's packOne 1.5L Bottle

Also the new pockets are taller. Now they can fit a 1.5 L Smart Water bottle, or 2 of the 700mL per pocket.

The new roll top system is a now a compression system. The line-loks are compressed by Lash-It pull downs sewn into the bottom of the pockets.

Thru-Hiker's packTwo 700Ml bottles

The back pad of the 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack is actually supplied by you. The Gossamer Gear SitLite pad is just a bit too small, but a Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Mattress will fit perfectly. Everything is held rather securely by a series of straps on the back of the 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack.

Thru-Hiker's packThe 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack uses straps to hold the hiker’s sleeping pad as a frame.

Another thing that has changed is the zig-zag webbing under the back pocket. It now uses three shock cords attached to three clipping line-loks on the top, and lark’s headed to the bottom three attach points. The three shock cord attachment points are for your wet gear or a quick stow point for what ever you need.

Thru-Hiker's pack
Grid attachment points for your wet gear, and the back pocket for daily use items.

The back pocket is pretty ample, in there are my cook kit (the red bag) my funnel, first aid, gravity filter system and a stake bag.

Thru-Hiker's pack
The shoulder straps have two daisy chains, and the sternum strap is a knotted string and mitten hook.

The shoulder straps are nice and wide, with two daisy chains down either side. I really like the shoulder straps even though the padding is a little thin. I wore this thing without the waist straps for about a mile today and it never got uncomfortable. Surprisingly the sternum strap is rather robust, and holds the straps tight across my chest.

Thru-Hiker's packThe waist strap .

As 45L packs go, The 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack is big and light. The pack is close to the 54L CDT that I had custom made with a roll top. The main reason is that The 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack adds up to a 40L main body, the pockets added to that makes the pack I got closer to 50L than 45L. To be totally honest, I am pretty happy about it. The CDT can handle my winter gear with room to spare,  and The 2017 Thru-Hiker’s pack weighs close to 10 OZ less!!

Thru-Hiker's pack

Thru-Hiker's pack

  • It’s very light for it’s size.
  • Cody makes great use of minimalist design throughout the pack.
  • The pockets are deep and big.
  • The shoulder straps are very comfortable.
  • There is no hole for a water bladder.


  • Due to the nature of the compression roll top Line-Loks, you can’t use this like a traditional roll top.
  • The Lash-it used in the compression roll top is in the pocket, and it can get in the way.
  • The mitten hook sternum strap is awkward to use, even though it works well.

Mile Hike Guys is sponsored by Appalachian Ultralight, but we are under no obligation to give their items glowing reviews. All the opinions contained in this review are those of Ricky and no one else.