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04/09/2021 01:32PM  
So I’d been considering this and building it in my head/on paper for a number of months.

As a UL Backpacker in a canoe, I wanted a portage pack that met my needs (& peculiar demands) for solos & single-portaging - and knew there was really not one on the market. If there were, I’d be the only customer.

I was looking for:
*Very light - empty pack weight under 20 ounces.
*Short height - anything above the shoulders may interfere with my 4.5 oz solo yoke (Build thread here )
*About 45 - 50L for the pack body…plus some pockets.
*Padded hip belt
*Comfortable enough at 25 - 30lbs
*Accessible pockets - both for portaging but also while in the canoe

That last item is tricky. Traditional pack pockets are:
1) on the sides (and if they zip it's on the pocket’s top)
2) on the top/lid
3) on the ‘front’ (the side away from your back)

When I drop my pack in the canoe I put it behind me (dog goes in front). I always have the shoulder straps and hip belt facing up - otherwise the straps, hip belt and back of the pack are soaked, and then at the portage, so am I.
That position makes accessing a traditional pack’s pockets from the seat of the solo very difficult, even impossible.

So my design centers on accessibility from the wrong/other side of the pack.

Next-to-useless photo of my sketches/notes below.

I will post updates during the build...

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04/09/2021 03:10PM  
The hip belt I fashioned with some closed-cell foam that I swisscheesed to allow it to breathe. The outside is 1.9oz breathable ripstop nylon and the inside is 1/8” 3D spacer mesh (that's the black stuff).

04/09/2021 03:10PM  
04/10/2021 07:36AM  
There are going to be two side pockets.

One will have a waterproof zipper, and that zipper will go across the top and then all the way down the back side (facing the humanoid). That side will be up in the canoe…again, easy access from the paddling’ seat.
04/10/2021 07:38AM  
Side panel & attached side pocket. It's a big zippered pocket at 18x9x2.5".

04/10/2021 07:40AM  
The other pocket will an open pocket with some elastic; this will hold water bottles. It's pretty large as well.

04/10/2021 03:26PM  
The most challenging component I ended up buying and modifying. That part is the shoulder strap harness. It’s a running-vest vest style with several pockets built right into the shoulder straps. These should make accessing a myriad of smaller items easier while paddling. Too complicated for me to make sight unseen, though if I want another one I might try it myself.

04/10/2021 03:29PM  
Shoulder strap webbing attachments

04/10/2021 03:30PM  
Three colors of 1.6oz Silpoly make up the body of the pack. High-stress areas around the shoulder strap attachments and the hip belt attachments were reinforced via lamination - gluing two layers of silpoly together with silicone sealer.
04/11/2021 08:00AM  
Starting to assemble, back to sides with hip belt and shoulder strap webbing sandwiched in...

04/11/2021 08:03AM  
04/11/2021 08:03AM  
04/11/2021 10:50AM  
Sides and back are united!

04/11/2021 10:51AM  
Bottom attached

04/11/2021 10:51AM  
Tried it as a rectangle but found the zipper impossible. Had to do some math, but got the corners rounded with the same perimeter length.

I debated using a roll-top, but decided that a zipper is faster to access. The zipper goes around one long and two short sides, essentially facing the back of the human.
04/11/2021 10:54AM  
The front side going on - biggest single piece of fabric.

You can see I've also been adding grosgrain loops in spots.

04/11/2021 11:29AM  
Haul loop
04/11/2021 11:30AM  
The shoulder strap harness was a pain to attach. I did it one way, realized it needed to be shortened up, and had to rip a lot of stitches out. The way it is pictured in the photo of the haul loop is the final version.
04/11/2021 01:13PM  

04/11/2021 01:16PM  
04/11/2021 01:17PM  
04/11/2021 01:24PM  
Not sure I’m in love with my color scheme, which I probably came up with after my second Surly Furious IPA.
04/11/2021 07:02PM  
One aspect of the design I failed to mention...

I need about 40 to 42L of pack space for a week's solo.

This pack is bigger. ~49L for the body, 6.5L for the big zippered pocket, plus the XL water bottle pocket...and then the 6 pockets in the harness straps. Perhaps 60-63L total.

So no doubt I will have a lot of extra space.

My idea here was to make it a bit bigger to accommodate a partially-inflated wide thermarest, folded & against the back - basically an air suspension.

More testing required, but I am initially pleased with this. You can load it up, and with the valve by the zipper, add air to really firm up the pack. Seems to work even better than I'd hoped.

04/11/2021 07:12PM  
Final Weight:
04/11/2021 07:13PM  
Will report back in the coming weeks with the results from some trial runs...

Next up - building two removable hip belt pockets!
Grandma L
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04/12/2021 09:04PM  
Wow, I would really like to see this in person. You have some good ideas incorporated into the pack. I usually try to make mine as simple and straight forward as possible. I don't do "pouch" pockets. For me, they just get caught on things in and out of the canoe and they never seem to be the right size for my stuff.
As for straps, I do closed cell like you but don't cut the "cheese" affect into them. I attach them to the top of the pack with a rectangle header and use webbing on the bottom to buckles.
Keep us updated as you complete this fun project!
04/18/2021 12:06PM  
Grandma, thanks for the kind words.

My sewing skills are poor at best...but I am pretty excited to use the pack this season.

You make a good point about the pouch (waterbottle) pocket. That could catch...I'll need to be careful.

In fact, I'm not going to pretend this is the pack to take for buswhacking. On those trips, I will take a more compact, durable & heavier pack.
04/18/2021 12:35PM  
Removable hip belt pockets...

04/18/2021 12:39PM  
Learned about 'boxed corners' with these.

They are about 2.7 liters each.
04/18/2021 12:40PM  
04/18/2021 12:41PM  
That's 1.75oz for both.

Final weight = 15.5oz, with the hip belt pockets.

About 65 - 68 Liters, again with those removable pockets.
Grandma L
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05/07/2021 11:35AM  
Nice job and you are right - it is super light! Now you have to try it out and let us know how it works out in the wilderness!
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05/08/2021 06:40AM  
Wow, this is beyond impressive. Nice work! I’ll take an olive green/ brown scheme color mix.....
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05/10/2021 11:19PM  
Super cool! I too have been working on a pack for most of the winter. My sewing machine that I had at my disposal was a cantankerous beast. I bought it at a thrift store so what can I expect. Somewhere in between fixing the thing, I got a pack out of the deal. Mine is more traditional I suppose than yours since it's cordura and definitely heavier than your super cool set up! It was fun to build something to my specs though you know? I made a hybrid design from an old Kondos food pack, a custom CCS pack the outfitter I work at has, and a 1980s duluth pack I have. The result was a taller narrower pack with custom side pockets that fit a Nalgene and a spot gen case. I also made custom clips on the front for holding the pelican camera case. I definitely have a list of things I would do differently, but the project was just fun to work on! Congrats on yours. I hope you enjoy it!

PS, my pack survived its first trip without coming apart and I can say it took a test with a nearly 40 mile weekend trip through the Frost River. No major repairs needed yet. Fingers crossed that continues.

05/12/2021 08:15AM  
TreeBear, I like the look of yours - can you share any photos of the sides and how you attached the straps? Is there a hip belt?

Mine gets it's trial run soon.
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05/12/2021 09:32PM  
sns: "TreeBear, I like the look of yours - can you share any photos of the sides and how you attached the straps? Is there a hip belt?

Mine gets it's trial run soon."

I didn't do a hip belt. I went back and forth but settled against it. The straps were tough. I wasn't 100% confident that my sewing machine was beefy enough for it, but it seems to have worked. I sewed the straps into a triangle of Cordura (nearly identical process to yours) and then sewed it into the side seam. I'm not totally sold on how I sewed the top of the straps. I like how yours ended up in the seam. I think my pack was a little too tall for that to be comfortable, so I dropped it down a couple inches from the top. That said, I chose the heavier of my two corduras (the same I used to reinforce the bottom.) to make the straps out of and that might have been a mistake. The machine really struggled to get through two layers of that (at the seam) plus one layer of the regular.

05/13/2021 12:18PM  
Thanks for the detail! Your pack looks rugged...

My machine was a champ for the most part - most challenging in terms of the machine's abilities was when I had to sew through the shoulder harness, several fabric layers and the zipper; also sewing through the hip belt. Right on the cusp, but it worked.
05/15/2021 07:42AM  
Grandma L: "Nice job and you are right - it is super light! Now you have to try it out and let us know how it works out in the wilderness!"

I'm with GrandmaL on this. Fantastic work. Let us know how it holds up under the wear and tear of backcountry use.
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05/24/2021 02:42PM  
That's an impressive build.
06/03/2021 09:27PM  
I should check back more often - a cautious 'thank-you' on the build complements.

I'll let you know in a couple weeks if this was the real deal or vaporware...
06/16/2021 08:40AM  
Reporting back after a shorter-than-hoped-for & not-so-solo trip with my kids.

Pack worked well. We single-portaged, and I have zero complaints about the pack. It's made of lighter materials, and I was careful not to just sling it down on the ground like one made of cordura or canvas.

The one thing missing may be a map sleeve, though I just unzipped the top and slid it inside the main compartment.
07/14/2021 08:23AM  
Very impressive work! I enjoyed seeing the step by step process.
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08/03/2021 02:19PM  
I like what you are going for. I have used my Packs Arc Haul with the frame stays removed on my last three trips with great success. I wish that I could find a similar pack with about 20% more capacity for cooler weather trips. Waterproof Cuban fiber is a amazing fabric!
02/06/2022 02:08PM  
Reporting back on this after 3 trips last year...

First - functionally this was a big win. It performed exactly the way I wanted it to - good access to lots of little items that would otherwise be either inaccessible, loose, in a thwart bag or in a pfd pocket. The "air suspension" was a dream, and it's the most comfortable pack I have ever carried.

The lack of a pocket to put my map during a portage prompted me to add in a map pocket - just completed. This is a stretch mesh so I could also stuff raingear in there, though I won't because I want that in an accessible pocket.

Finally, and most importantly, I must confess that my choice of fabric will go into the category of "stupid light". I developed a couple of small holes where harder items inside caused fabric abrasion - this was certainly when I was sliding the pack fore and aft to trim the solo...the bottom of the canoe is quite rough.

Those holes were small and have now been sealed up nicely. And this map pocket will help with additional abrasion resistance in that vulnerable area. These items have added some weight, and the pack is now 18.5 oz all-in.

However it's just a matter of time. I am guessing this will last a few more years before it will need to be retired.

So I am probably going to make another one this winter. v1 used 1.6oz Silpoly. v2 will be very similar - maybe just a hair smaller - and the fabric will be HyperD 300, weighing 3.9 oz/sq yd. I'll be targeting 20oz or less once again. Stay tuned...
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