Ray Way pack kit review

The other week I purchased, and with a few modifications built, a Ray Way pack from the kit sold by Mr. Jardine on his website. The pack shown below is a 2400 cubic inch model, size XL (RayWay packs are sizes by shoulder/chest circumference).


Compared to the Gossamer Gear Gorilla.


Back view, showing the very thick (5/8″) and dense foam shoulder straps.


I angled the side pockets, and made the body out of VX-07, rather than the generic 2ish oz/yard PU-coated ripstop nylon included in the kit.


The RayWay design is a modern classic.  Pretty much every “ultralight” pack sold today has a significant intellectual debt to this design, even if most have traveled a considerable distance since.  The pack is intended to not use a hipbelt, so I opted out of ordering the optional pattern for that.  I tried to be faithful to the learning process and follow the directions exactly, but couldn’t resist the temptation of a few tweaks and fabric substitutions.

The kit costs 70 dollars plus shipping, and comes with complete written instructions, paper templates for the non-rectangular pieces, and all the fabric, webbing, cord, and plastic hardware required.  I found the instructions comprehensive and, with a few exceptions, easy to understand.  The whole project, from cutting to finished, took about 4.5 hours.

If you’ve never built a pack, and are interested in getting into doing so, buying and building a RayWay kit is a great first step.  The kit isn’t a bargain, but it’s a fair price for all the stuff you get and good learning experience it provides.  You’ll learn a lot of good design and execution basics in the process, and be better equipped to branch out of your own after.

It’d be nice if the Jardines sold their kit sans materials, or at least provided a wider variety of more modern materials to choose from.  I order walnut brown, sky blue, and translucent for my back, main body, and extension collar, respectively.  The brown is a generic and unexceptional nylon.  The blue has a nice thick PU coating and is great for an extension collar.  The translucent was a particularly thin and crinkly silnylon which feels like it has a sub-standard silicone coating.  I used the blue for the extension collar, and as mentioned, VX-07 for the rest.

I’m rather skeptical about how much I’ll use this pack, but come summer I’ll give it a fair shake.  I’m inclined to say that we’ve learned a lot since Ray’s design, but you never know without trying it.


8 responses to “Ray Way pack kit review”

  1. What are your thoughts on the upside-down shoulder strap webbing/buckle design?

    1. Not a big fan. I find it less easy to use, and it puts the buckles down where it can add an additional abrasion point. Only shoulder strap webbing I ever wore through was on a CCWorld pack with an inverted adjustment buckle. Ray’s objection that it adds a potential chafe point being on the strap is well taken, but you can design around that.

  2. offthegrid05@yahoo.com Avatar

    The timing of your article is excellent for me becuase recently I dug my Ray Way backpack (made by a young company called GoLite) out of my gear closet. I must say that I find the carry very comfortable. I lespecially ike the position of the shoulder starps, i.e., where they are attached to the bag at top. The shoulder straps aren’t even shaped but the carry is very good when I pack the bag correctly. Note that I added a sternum strap. Not sure Ray would approve but it works for me. Also, I am going to add 2 compression straps when I get a chance. I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts after you use your new pack for a while. Mike

    1. It’s interesting that so much of the pack is outwardly primitive, and yet the shoulder strap angle and spacing is quite precise. These things matter, and some companies still ignore them.

  3. This would make an intersting project. Wish I had the time. Do you need a sewing machine to make it?

    1. Yes, though the kit is well designed such that any functional machine would suffice. No bulky fabric layers to sew through (and break needles), for instance.

  4. Great post and beautiful pack! Just sewed my shoulder straps (like step 25 of 80) of my Ray Way pack. Any long term thoughts on this pack after using it for a couple years? I’ve been a fan of my Ray Way tarp and quilt for a couple years and thought it was time for me to make the other “big 3” item.

    1. I think the world has moved on from Ray in a variety of ways. Having one torso size for all, even without a belt, makes for less than ideal load carriage and wastes space. The pockets are a bit primitive by todays standards as well, though that doesn’t stop (for instance) HMG from copying the design almost exactly. All his big three were hugely influential, but the pack is probably the one which has aged fastest.

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