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

Best DIY $7 Bladder Dryer

I recently got a new to me running pack for my as yet budding trail running fun, and it has a unique feature: a bladder sewn to the waist belt. Now I need a bladder dryer.

Bladder Dryer

Innov8 gave it a wordy title: The RacePro X Extreme 4. The whole thing weighs 6.7 oz and is a blast to run with. But after I used it the first time, I realized I had an issue. How do I dry the bladder? My inner DIY came out and I made this bladder dryer setup. Now it’s not pretty, but it works.bladder dryerbladder dryer

Here’s what you will need:

  • A pack with a bladder attached, or just a bladder.
  • A child’s cup from a restaurant. I used a PF Chang’s cup. Any small cup or thing you can make into an air funnel will work, but it needs to have two wide openings.
  • A razor blade. You probably have these just lying around.
  • A small fan, to provide the drying action. I bought this one because the USB will run off a battery pack, meaning I can leave it anywhere there is room.
  • A thick book. I used The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson.
bladder dryer
The Way of Kings is a very cutting commentary on war.

I placed the razor 1/4″ up, and began to cut the bottom of the kid’s cup off to make the exit of the funnel to the bladder dryer.bladder dryerbladder dryerbladder dryerFrom there insert the cup into the bladder like so:bladder dryer

Then set up the fan in front, and maybe use an old GoPro to prop up the funnel.bladder dryer

It will take a few hours to completely dry, but it’s pretty fast. A better fan would be faster. You want to have the fan a few inches away in order to maximize the air flow by the bladder dryer. Having it a few inches away allows the funnel to utilize the Bernoulli Principle. This is the same principle behind the Thermarest Speed Valve, that pulls more air from the surrounding atmosphere into the funnel as the air from the fan goes into the funnel. I have no way of testing this other than to put my hand by the side of the fan to feel the airflow, but it felt like it was working. After a couple of hours the bladder will be dry.

How to Sew a tarp

So this post is going to be in a this is what I did, this is what you should do format. Before you ask, yes I messed it up.

What you will need:

Cutting board:I really like my Fiskers.

Circular cutter: Fiskers again.

Material: I got 10 yards of 1.1 Silpoly from Here

Tie out anchor: I use .5 inch Polypro.

Tie out:I use TarpWorms.

Guy line: This is good stuff. You might need two sets depending on how long you want these to be.

Thread:Gutermann Mara 700 is good and should come with an order from

Pattern: You don’t need this, but it’s cheap and very helpful.

Disclaimer !! Right after I bought all this stuff, started to offer pre-cut tarp kits. It would have saved me some heartache, but been  little bit more.

When I got this I immediately opened and spread out the pattern.Diy-TarpIt’s huge. Hidden under there are a queen size bed and a wife. It also has gauges on the bottom to help with the cat cuts that aren’t 100% necessary with Silpoly for stretch, but are if you want a consistently taught pitch. Cut it out on a large open area. I used my cutting mat and circular cutter on my bed. I just made sure to keep the mat under my cutter.


Realize that this pattern is a quarter pattern. It doesn’t say it is on ripstop’s site and looking, it’s obvious. So fold your material in half. You should end up with two 5 yard sections, cut them out. Then fold each of those 5 yard sections in half, pin the pattern to the fabric and cut out the tarp. Repeat for the other piece.


Fail to realize that it is a quarter pattern even though it’s obvious. Fold the ten yards in half and then cut out the pattern. Leaving me with one five yard piece, and two 2.5 yard pieces.

Pin the template to the fabric so it doesn’t move around as you cut it.


Hem the edges at this point. If you sew the two pieces together now you’re going to loose strength. After hemming, sew the two pieces together on the long straight edge to form the tarp. If you want some extra strength, sew some Grosgrain over the two edges.


Sew the pieces together. Realize what I did. Swear. Say F@#k it. Start hemming. Break the needle on the crappy sewing machine I’ve had for years. Get frustrated and call my cool Aunt to see if I can use her super nice Bernina machine. She ends up sewing the rest.


At this point you have the edges hemmed, the Ridgeline sewed, and all you need to do is to put on the tie out points. For this I used 2 inches of the 1.5 inch Grosgrain and the same length of the .5 inch polypro. Sew the poly pro onto the corner of each tie out. Then wrap the corner with the Grosgrain and sew it on along the edges. It’s important to remind you to sew the reinforcing stitches along the polypro once the Grosgrain is on and not before. This put the tension on the Grosgrain, then the cat cuts of the tarp, which is what you want. Then seam seal with this silnet sealer.


I had my Aunt sew it. But I bought a new machine.