The last thing I needed for the GR20 was also the most complex to design and make – a rucksack.
I took numerous measurements from commercial bags, looked at photos and made paper mockups and sketches: trying to decide on the features I wanted, the style and the size. Too small would defeat the purpose of needing a larger pack. Too big would go against my ethos of small, light packing. The Crux AK47 was my main inspiration, but the Berghaus Arete, PODsacks Alpine, and Lowe Alpine Attack were also consulted.
I ordered fabrics, buckles and webbing, a zipper, and 4mm closed cell foam (for the straps) from Point North; and 4mm dyneema cord for the closures/emergency rappel tat. 8mm EVA foam for the back pad was acquired cheaply on eBay as a safety floor tile, and I bought a spare part molded aluminium frame from a notable rucksack manufacturer (who were very nice and didn’t mind that it was for a homemade pack and not one of their own).
Paper templates for various parts were drawn up and the complex order in which construction had to occur was written out. Measure three times, cut once. It took me a good 4 working days to produce. Another few days probably went into all the planning and design. It was thrilling to see it all coming together: oh, I’ve made straps that look like straps!… and they are symmetrical… that’s a bag you could put stuff in… now it has straps on at the same angle… a working snow collar… a floating lid… with a pocket… and a key clip… completed!
The pack looks about 45L and was just the right size for trekking in Corsica with all my gear (quilt not compressed). I think it looks pretty darn good, and although it still cost about £60 for all the bits, at 720g, it is half the price and weight of most commercial alpine sacks and infinitely closer to my heart. I want it to be my trusty pack for years to come: I brought it into the world, now to take it around the world. I’ll give the debrief below, but first a look at the construction and features with the aid of many photos…
* The frame tubes need extending to support the top of the sack better.
* The frame velcro strap needs extending to better secure itself.
* The eyelets in the top collars ripped right out although are non-critical.
* The webbing is ALL really slippery or the plastic catches are useless; nothing stays tight so need to improve.
* Needs a hip-belt for bigger loads. Was ‘shouldery’ above 11-12kg.
* Some rolled hems came undone in places and some stitching came out – just signs of shoddy work, but completely non-critical.
* Otherwise, not wanting for features or size, stable and comfortable.
* Was more comfortable without the chest strap. Simple works!