The past few weeks I’ve been piecing together a fast-packing backpack. It’s the first of its kind and hopefully will prove itself in the years to come.

Specifications:

  • Weight: 270g
  • Capacity: 30 Litres
  • Materials: VX21 Main Grey Fabric, 210D PU Coated Green Accents

Features:

  • Trash bottom pocket
  • Front and side mesh pockets
  • Elastic camera shoulder straps
  • Hiking poles loops
  • Ice axe loops
  • Drawstring closure

Why?

I’ve been asked this a few times now. Why would you make your own backpack when there are plenty of others on the market? Well yes there are lots of backpacks, but none like this. Here are some reasons why I decided to make my own backpack:

  • Inexpensive (ยฃ35 of materials)
  • Ethical production
  • Minimal ‘air miles’
  • Very few UK manufacturers making fast-packing backpacks
  • A very tailored fit
  • Unlimited colour options
  • Materials options specific to my use cases
  • A great learning experience!

Design Process

My design process for this bag was quite smooth sailing thanks to the plethora of sewing tutorials available on the web. I examined what I didn’t like about my current backpack and set myself some very vague specification points to work with:

Problems with existing backpack:

  • Too heavy
  • Canโ€™t have camera in front pocket
  • Water is difficult to access
  • Not tight to my back

Basic Specification Points:

  • Front water bottles
  • Camera compartment on front
  • Wide mesh shoulder straps
  • 30-35L
  • Ice Axe Loop

These specification points developed considerably in detail after making the prototype, which showed problems with materials fit and general design decisions.

I designed the pack using Rhino 3D and Autodesk inventor. These are probably quite overkill tools for what I was doing, but I’m quite handy with both pieces of software, so didn’t take very long.

I created a model of the pack in rhino, flattened the models into faces, then exported to Illlustrator. From there I could expand the faces to add the seam allowance.

Prototyping

Below is a photo of the prototype I made using some scrap bits of materials I had, including my sister’s old tights. I learnt a lot from making the prototype, from felling seams to sewing through 5 layers of fabric. It was frustrating at times since I was still coming to terms with a sewing machine. Despite a few hick-ups and errors I managed to make this prototype, which came in at only 110g!

The prototype after a few runs near my house

For the most part the pack was great and exceeded my expectations. However there were definitely some design improvements to be made.

  1. Shoulder straps were too stretchy when loaded with more than 6kg
  2. Weak seams and lots of break points
  3. Ladder-locks began to slip once wet (with sweat)

With these things in mind I ordered my ‘real’ materials from a UK materials supplier and set to work on the final pack.

Sewing The Pack

The first panel I made was the front panel with the big pocket. I opted for a jungle green accent colour ๐Ÿ™‚

The rest of my family were away making the most of the summer weather, the perfect opportunity to make a mess in the lounge!

Unfortunately the big back pocket doesn’t quite fit a laptop ๐Ÿ˜›

After many hours in the sweat shop that is my bedroom, I made my way through each panel. The hardest part of the build was making the shoulder straps, which proved to be a bit too much for my Granny’s sewing machine. However, it battled through and managed to get through two layers of VX21 fabric and two foam layers!

Without further a-dew, here’s the final weight. Not super accurate, but I would guess around 270g. This is 3x lighter than my previous backpack, which was considered ultralight.

Final Images

Overall I’m really happy with how it turned out and can’t wait to try it out on some upcoming fastpacking trips.

Thanks for reading,
Benjamin

Here’s a bonus pic of me with a 7.5kg load on a test run. Fingers crossed it holds up!

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