MYOG: alpine pack

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!

*not packed the best, but separated trekking pole fits inside.

* compression, wand pocket, and ski loop /gear loop.

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…

* frame, inner of haul /lifter loops, support patch for straps.

* haul handle & lifter straps pull on frame. floating lid adjusters. 4mm foam straps perfectly adequate. black & grey fabrics = 500D cordura. blue fabric = CRISP PU nylon.

* clever removable back pad for sit mat or protecting your neo-air from sharp wood.

* snow /expansion collar with 4mm dyneema cord for emergency rappel tat. rope strap.

* whole lid is crudely constructed. pocket was made separately and floated from large seams to reduce number of stitch holes going straight into pocket from the elements outside.

* I prefer the chunky plastic zips to the fine coil type. 2mm dyneema puller. daisy-chain key loop attached to end of zip on inner to organise the little things.


* 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!

8 Replies to “MYOG: alpine pack”

  1. Thank you. Very satisfying indeed.
    We’ll need to have a sew round the fire at the next camp… all put our badges on like scouts 🙂

  2. I’m in awe of anyone who would have a go at something like this. I have an NI Wild patch that I haven’t had the confidence to sew onto my pack yet!

    Well done, it must be so satisfying.

  3. Hats off Craig, making a rucksack seems like a big step up from making a tarp or quilt! Really impressive looking work, looking forward to getting a nosey at it sometime. Removable back pads are a must for me ever since getting an OMM DuoMat. I use it so much as a sit mat or added insulation/protection for my sleep mat. That said the HDPE frame sheet used in some of the Golite rucksacks is extremely good at keeping the packs shape whilst still being light. One suggestion I have is concerning the lid. I’m really fond of how the Golite Quest lid can be detached from the rucksack as it is secured to the pack using straps rather than stitching. If you made the lid removable on your pack (maybe it is already?) then you could use your expansion collar as a roll-top lid like found on packs such as the Golite Jam? Would offer reduced volume and weight saving if required. Either way man, excellent effort, VIVA DYNEEMA 😀

  4. Thanks mate. The lid extenders are a bit hidden behind the lifter straps but I arranged it so the lid can be removed leaving only a little threading buckle. Front strap doesn’t come off so may need a secondary buckle for that if I was looking such an option.
    Also though that a custom 3-piece frame could be made that would morph into a tarp pole but it was too much bother and expense when I got a gucci molded frame for £12. An extra pole would still weigh less than a trekking pole.

    Viva Dyneema indeed… if only I could have acquired some dyneema fabric for the body!

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