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).

RayWayGorilla

Compared to the Gossamer Gear Gorilla.

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

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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.

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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.