New packs

While I’ve been mostly happy with the last couple packs I’ve made, I’ve been wanting something more simple and durable.  Climbing in and out of canyons is especially hard on packs, and I’ve been getting about a year out of VX21 before it’s pretty patched up.  Canyon walls, especially while traversing ledges, has been the most frequent cause of damage, along with the occasional haul in scrambling sections.  I received some samples from Cubic of some of their hybrid Cubens and was pretty impressed.  The laminates with the heavier face fabrics come in around 5oz, are impressively abrasion resistant, and absorb basically zero water.  I would have probably gone with one of these had Cubic had any small pieces in stock to avoid a minimum order.


DX40 is really good stuff and would have been fine, but  I feel like the face fabric could be better constructed.  It’s surprisingly easy to tear along the 125d polyester fill and the X ply and ripstop could be done away with if there were some dyneema in the fill.

I ended up with a full dyneema/high-bias cuben laminate.  It was pricy, but still quite a bit cheaper than buying a new pack and with careful planning and combining with other fabrics, I could get two packs out of a yard.  Simple and adaptable design means it should last a very long time.  It’s a bit over 5 oz/sq yd and was super easy to work with.  Aside from price and the mandatory white, it’s hard to imagine a better pack fabric.


Measure six or seven times, cut once…


The big one:  34″circumference at the bottom up to the shoulders, 38″ from there to the top, 39″ tall, 11″ wide back panel.  Daisies are about 9″ apart.  26.5 oz with stays and foam sheet, without hipbelt.  I made a hipbelt but the shape needs some work.


Harness is DX40 with VX42 in the hipbelt/lumbar area for added stiffness/sag resistance.


Hipbelt attachment is via velcro behind the lumbar pad.  Lumbar pad is a sandwich of 3d mesh, 1/4″ evazote, 1/8″ 12lb density CCF, VX42.  The evazote and 1/8″ foam are both from North Shore Inc.  I was looking for some good stiff foam for hipbelts and harness components and requested samples from any foam suppliers I could find who would do small orders, and North Shore was by far the winner.  The 12lb is great stuff, as is the evazote.


Inside out to show inside of lumbar section.  North shore mistakenly sent me the 1/8″ with a backing adhesive, which turned out to be be pretty good and gives even better structure to a critical area of the pack.  The top part looks like a rodent got to it because it was a bit high and dug into my back so I tore some away.


Rest of the inside.  Pad sleeve goes to the lumbar section.  I decided to not have it go all the way so I could attach the lower stays directly to the pack body/lumbar section.


I’ve used flat stays on the last couple packs I’ve used, but this is the first time I used 7075 aluminum (from Online Metals).  The difference from 6061 is substantial.  Stays are 1/8″ x 1/2″ and weigh about 5oz for the pair.


I don’t have too strong of feelings on closures.  I generally prefer roll tops that attach to themselves (as opposed to the sides), whithout velcro or anything to snag on things, and with a good stiffener (webbing doesn’t cut it…I used cheap thin cutting boards).


Shoulder strap attachment and load lifters.  Straps are 2.5″ wide, spaced 2.5″ apart.  We’ll see if the load lifters stay.  Between excellent fitting shoulder straps, the tapered side, and stays that extend above the shoulder strap attachment, even a heavy load is remarkably stable and comfortable and the pack sits basically where the load lifters would adjust it to.  In other words, they aren’t doing much.

The little one:


The smaller pack is 28″ circumference at the bottom, 31″ for the upper part, 34″ tall, 9.5″ wide back panel.  16.4 oz with foam framesheet.


Size comparison.


The harness on this one is basically the same, minus the stays and dense foam inside the pack.


Inside showing full length pad sleeve.  The daisy bartacks are backed by extra fabric at the compression straps and all of them Seam Gripped.


Pfaff 138 in action.  This machine is about 75% ideal…I also have a walking foot head for this table, which is nice for packs, but the Pfaff still gives a pretty good stitch through lots of layers and can bartack.


I added looplocks to both packs for easy strap attachment.


Overall I’m quite pleased with both.  Even without a to-be-made hipbelt, fit and carry is excellent and I’m itching to break ’em in.   Questions and comments are welcome.


10 thoughts on “New packs

  1. Very nice job! I noticed from the photos of the interior of the small pack, you did a single row of stitching without any seam tape. Has this proven to be strong enough? What stitch length did you use? I am attempting to make a couple of packs from DX40 and 3.7% Cuben hybrid, and what I have read is that since non woven Dyneema and Cuben fabric will tear out if not sewn right. Any info would be great.


  2. Hi Bill, I’m not sure which seam you’re referring to, but the main seams on both packs are actually felled. If you mean the top flap of the pad sleeve, it’s hard to see but that’s actually integrated in a felled seam above the shoulder straps as well (although I wouldn’t be too worried about that being single stitched…It won’t see much stress compared to other parts). I’ll be using Seam Grip and/or tape on all seams for waterproofing and some extra strength as well.

    The cuben hybrid will have much stronger seam strength than cuben on its own, but taping or using some Seam Grip would be a good idea. Use felled seams wherever possible. Stitch length was around 4mm.

    • That makes sense with the felled seam. The photo I was referring to is the one of the interior if the smaller pack. It appears to be a raw edge on the fabric used in the back panel. Upon closer inspection, I can see the felled seam. The NWD packs I have seen made by commercial manufacturers (Cilo and Figure 4), have seams that are taped, and I assume are stitched prior to applying the tape.

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  4. Wow! Love your site. Your MYOG is really impressive. Can I ask a couple of questions? Where did you get the dyneema/cuben fabric from and what kind of thread did you use to stitch it? Also I’ve been looking at the panel photo and I can’t quite figure out which piece goes where. I assume the larger pieces are the front and back panels (and they fit together where the taper is?). The small curved pieces are the side/bottom panels, the rectangle is the bottom panel (?) but what is the triangular piece with the curve in the top?

      • Hey Jeremy,
        Fabric was from a pack company that uses it. Not sure they want it advertised, but I just asked around. Thread is B69 bonded nylon. All the pieces in the photo are for the big pack except the front/sides panel for the small pack. The rectangle is the back panel/extension collar above the load lifter attachment. The trapezoid is the bottom. The trapezoid/small curved pieces could be combined with the back or main panel, but I did separate pieces to maximize what I could get out of my yard of fabric. I couldn’t fit everything without making them separate pieces. As a general rule I like as few pieces as possible.

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