How to make a light pack (610 pack, version 2)


I needed a new pack. I always needed a new pack. The original 610 was a great size, but the torso was a bit too short, and I wanted more flexibility with regards to load size, features, and suspension.

I weighed the Tamarisk the other week, and was surprised that even with all that burly fabric, aluminum stay, foam pad, and a lid I’ve since built (which includes 3 ITW g-hooks), the whole mess weighs 33 ounces. This reinforced my conviction that light fabrics are not the best way to make light packs. By all means, use the most appropriate fabric for the job, but realize that the difference between a 1.3 oz/yard silnylon pack and an 8oz/yard 500D cordura pack is, all other things equal, likely less than 6 ounces.

The place to save weight is in minimizing features, webbing, buckles, and layers of fabric. The design brief for a light pack should thus start with how to get the most function out of the least materials.


The suspension I used on the Tamarisk goes a long way here. It was copied almost exactly.  The bulk of the pack was made from VX-07.  It’s a bit cheaper and lighter than VX-21, costs a hair less, and I’d never used it before.  210D dyneema gripstop formed the pockets and back panel.  Before hybrid cuben became the flavor of the month, this fabric got more credit than it deserved, but the fact remains that the stuff Thru-Hiker sells has a great tight weave and provides good abrasion resistance for the weight and cost, without the unpliable bulk of cordura.  Bottom is WX-40, about the lightest fabric I’ll use for a single layer pack bottom.


The main compartment is 9″ wide and 6″ deep below the side panel contours.  Functional height once the rolltop is cinched is a bit more than 27″, which happens to be the length of the long shaft section of my Werner Shuna.

The back pocket is meant to function like a whole ‘nother pack: it’s 6″ by 8.5″ by 21″.  In theory, when food and other dense goods fill the main compartment at the start of a trip, all my clothes and most of my summer sleep system can fit in this pocket, and be transferred back inside as food gets eaten.   The 3/4″ quick release straps are big enough for something like snowshoes to be strapped on top of a full pocket.


Very top of the roll sleeve is TX-07, to save weight and bulk.  Roll tops are the most weight in-efficient closures.  To be done well they need a fairly substantial stiffener on at least one side, and they eat a lot of material (6″ of the throat in this case).  They are the simplest of the truly waterproof options if you want to avoid zippers.


On these last few packs my sewing is finally to the point where I can make things as I want them to be made.


Hipbelt shown is not a permanent solution.


Interior detail.  The white scrim of the VX-series is a great feature.  Given the roll top, I’ll probably seal all the interior seams.  As an experiment if nothing else.

All this weighs 28 ounces, including that too-heavy experimental belt.  A very satisfactory figure, given the quality of suspension and profusion of features.

Nothing is for certain, but this should be the pack I use for almost everything in 2014.

12 responses to “How to make a light pack (610 pack, version 2)”

  1. You’re getting really good at this, Dave.

  2. Very nice. I was already noticing the finer detail on the stitching and others before you mentioned it. It’s all looking really impressive.

    Would you be up for doing a post some time on how to do the elasticized side pockets? Also, where’d you get the shoulder straps?

    1. Shoulder straps are off the 2012 Jam.

      Side pockets are easy. Plan for a user-side height of 6-8″ when finished, and an other-side height of 14-16″. Cut the pocket fabric so it’s 2.5 times wider than the pack panel against which you’ll sew it. Punch grommets with little reinforcing fabric patches, turn the fabric, sew, thread the shock cord, and done.

      I used VX-07 for the back half because the stiffer fabric holds the shape better. Gridstop against the body is more durable and drains water.

  3. Your fabric choice and location shows quite a bit of thought goes into these, and the fabric combinations look pretty slick as well. I like the theory of second pocket; it allows you to keep that slim and streamlined look you’re getting very good at.
    How does the closure work on the pocket, hard to tell from photos.

    1. There’s a loop of half inch webbing in the middle to hold the cross strap. In retrospect said strap should have been an inch or so lower.

  4. Awesome! Now’s the time to do mine. Got to do a light packing too :)

  5. I saw in one your previous posts, that you were wearing Carhartt’s in the snow? Do you do that often? Also what do you recommend for a three season hiking pant?

    1. The fabric in the original Dungarees is quite high performance if you keep it dry. If it’s cold enough Carhartts are fine for casual stuff (I was wearing a pair when I shot my deer this fall). The seat wears out fast if you ride a bike too often.

      For proper 3 season pants, the old Patagonia Traverse pants remain a favorite. The current Rock Craft pants aren’t near as good, but are an adequate substitute. A light (~5 oz/yard), trim cut, minimally featured pair made of a nylon weave with a bit of stretch seems to be most versatile.

      1. The traverse pants are back. Not sure how they compare to the old ones. Another good lookin pack. Agreed on light fabrics for packs. Is it just the pad sleeve that’s the dyneema grid or the whole back panel?

  6. Nice! Aside from the ankle zips and different pockets they look similar. Now if they only made them in tan..

    The back panel inside the pad sleeve is VX-07, with reinforcement patches at the top and bottom of the stay sleeve so I don’t have bartacks through only one layer of fabric.

  7. […] with 5.3 oz/yard hybrid cuben fiber. Second, fix the mistakes/things I didn’t like about this pack. To whit; a too-short torso length (you’d think I would know better), less than ideal […]

  8. […] year I made a more complicated version with a similarly sized main compartment and flexible suspension system.  It was a good pack, but […]

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