Making your own ultralight Dyneema Backpack
Make your Own DCF Ultralight Backpack
If you've been thinking about making some of your own backpacking gear, then go for it!
All you need are some basic tools (i.e. an inexpensive sewing machine and fabric cutting tools) and lots of motivation. When starting out making my own gear, it doesn’t matter if you have never used a sewing machine before. Give our DIY Kits a go and start experimenting before you move onto sewing a full backpack.
The first thing you need is a solid plan. The goal for this pack, is to make the pack out of just 1 1/4 linear yards of 1.43 ounce Dyneema Composite Fabric. The diagram below shows how to cut out all the pieces with almost zero waste.
Lots of other parts and pieces too...reinforcement patches, shock cord, webbing, grosgrain, mesh...
After cutting out the main pieces, work on the subassemblies, meaning all the parts that will attach to the main body of the pack. First the shoulder straps. The shape is angled at the top where it attaches to the pack body, allowing the straps to be slanted to match your shoulders. At the bottom, they taper in on the sides.
Opening the shoulder straps, fold the top and bottom edges for a nice clean seamed edge. Notice the top fold is much larger...this is so the material is double thick where it gets sewn to the pack body.
Then folding it inside out, sew the side seam, leaving the top and bottom open for now.
Now turning it right side out, sew the 1/2" webbing onto the bottom that will attach to the ladder lock, making the length adjustable. Put the singed edge of the webbing in between the outside layers so it doesn't rub anywhere. The x-box stitch, is a very strong one for an application like this.
Then trace the outline of the strap onto a piece of 3/8" closed cell foam padding and cut it out. Baby powder is your friend...coat the foam and it will make slipping it into the strap much easier. It smells nice too!
After inserting the padding, sew some very lightweight 1/2" grosgrain (thinner and lighter than the webbing at the bottom), to make a daisy chain so I have the option to attach things to the shoulder straps. For this, use a series of bar tack stitches.
The completed straps are set aside for now, the tops still open.
The padded hip belt is made similar to the shoulder strap, tapered slightly down on top, and rounded with the stitch closing in three sides.
Turning it right side out, cut and insert the foam similar to the shoulder straps, this time 1/4" thick padding. The 1/2" ladder lock is attached for the shoulder straps, an upside down design as compared to most packs. A quick release buckle is attached with 3/4" webbing to secure the hip belt, and place the plastic buckle on the side for comfort.
Onto the side pockets. We used the Cuben material for the sides, and some mesh material for the bottom so any rain can run right out.
Sewing the rectangular mesh onto the bottom is a bit tricky, and patience is a virtue!
The top of the side pocket gets some elastic sewn into the top seam to gather the material, keeping the contents nice and snug.
And the completed pocket, angled to be lower in the front so it's easier to reach into without removing your pack.
Now that all of the subassemblies are complete, move onto the main pack body. The top closure is just like a stuff sack, and it requires a draw cord channel. At each end fold an angle...
Then sew them so they stay put.
Fold the top down twice, first 1/4", then 1/2", and make a nice long stitch along the bottom.
The completed draw cord channel, a beautiful thing.
You can measure and mark directly on the pack where all of the pieces would be attached. If you plan on making more, then use a large piece of construction paper to make a full size template.
Then you can tape the pack body in place over the template...
...and because you can see through the material you are able to easily mark all of the places to attach things to.
Everywhere there is a stress point, top corners of pockets, tie out points, shoulder straps, hip belts, etc, get reinforcement patches sewn to the inside of the pack body.
Lots and lots of reinforcement patches!
Since there area lot of tie out points, use a tight zig zag stitch, (not quite a bar tack stitch), and sew forward, then backwards at an angle, and forward again. That way you don't have to turn the material as much, and it is very strong.
All of the tie out points are complete.
Now attach the hip belts using a zig zag box stitch, then attach the side pockets, overlapping the hip belts.
The rear pockets are all mesh, and overlap the side pockets for a nice clean finish.
The dual rear pocket design it makes it easy to keep things organised.
Next it's time to close up the pack body. With the pack inside out, make a stitch down the side leaving a 1/2" seam allowance. Use a felled seam for the main closure because it's quite strong. Simply "fell" the end over and sew right through it, attaching it to the pack body.
For the bottom, fold it over then use a zig zag stitch.
In order to make the bottom of the pack rectangular, sew the ends, cut off the excess, and do one more stitch.
Finally, attach the shoulder straps using a zig zag x-box stitch.
Add the draw cord and some shock cord, and the pack is complete.