The penultimate pack

Just like with beer or coffee, every one is the penultimate.


I wanted to do a couple things with this one. First, experiment 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 shoulder straps, a bit too little space. Third, build with the minimal feature set I thought would do the job for, well, everything.






36″ circumference up to the shoulder taper, 40″ above it.  36″ tall along the back with the roll top completely undone.  11″ wide on the back, 10″ on the front.  Tall and skinny packs are cool, but I’m finally moving away from them for bushwacking.  Weight as shown, with stay, doubled ridgerest in the pad sleeve, and modified Gossamer Gear belt, is just a shade over 2 pounds.

The bottom and bottom of the pockets are VX42.  I also used a double layer patch of VX42 inside the bag as reinforcements where I attached the upper compression strap.  The outer layer of the pad sleeve, and the very top of the rolltop, are 300D diamond ripstop from Rockywoods.  I hoped it would be a lower-cost alternative to Thru Hikers 210D gripstop, but it is not as tough, and has a shiny sheen I do not like.  Not a bad fabric, but not great.  The upper part of the side pockets is said gripstop; everything else is hybrid cuben.  Which was very easy to work with, by the way.  I felled most seams, and will add some seam sealant to the bottom seams for durability.  I’m interested to see how it holds up.

The feature set amounts to one hanging inner pocket accessed via a #8 zipper on the outside, one daisy chain of 3/8″ webbing bartacked into the already felled seam, two large side pockets with paracord cinches, and two compression straps.  The zippered pocket is new for me, but after the Grand Canyon trip I really wanted my next pack to have something comparable.  The side pockets are a bit high for super easy access while walking, but I wanted them big enough to really expand the capacity (a whole hare in game bag fits easily), and high enough to not scrape along and get trashed.  Seek Outside made me a convert to the static cord arrangement, which can be manipulated while walking and allows you to lock the pocket shut when bushwacking.  The daisy chain and straps should carry anything from an ice axe and crampons to skis to a PFD with minimal fuss.  In theory, the compression straps will allow the pack to get small while keeping the pockets handy.

Lastly, I put an adjustable buckle on the rolltop closure.  The Grand Canyon showed me that this, along with plastic stiffeners in both sides of the closure, helps a lot when trying to cram a full pack shut.

As ever, I will report back.


22 responses to “The penultimate pack”

  1. Looks good, lot’s of work has gone into that pack, how long did it take to design and make. At least you don’t have to justify buying another pack when you make you’re own. I am thinking about making one without a hip belt. Keep up the good work and keep the inspiration going.

    1. Probably six hours of cut and sew time total. The design i’d been contemplating for a while, and draws on past projects, so doing final drawings went quickly.

  2. I’m glad that first line was there, since that’s what I was clicking through to comment based on the title alone in my RSS reader. ;)

  3. Dave, could you explain how your other pack ended up with too short a torso and how you corrected it here (how was your measuring process different)? I’m working on a pack whose suspension is inspired by your recent writings (folded foam pad and single stay ) and had planned to have the pad and stay both equal to my torso length (17.5″). Would you advise otherwise? My ultimate capacity goal is approx 70L, so there’ll be a lot above the shoulders. Thanks!

    1. Measure torso from the middle of whatever hipbelt you’re using, to the middle of the vertical distance gained by the angle of the shoulder straps. On the previous pack i just messed up the math.

      1. Cool. Does the stay then come down all the way to the base of the hip belt or does it end in the middle, at the torso measurement? Apologies for my dimness here.

        1. Yes on both counts.

  4. Impressive pack! How do you typically set up ski carries? Diagonal?

    1. Yep, my preference usually (to keep from hitting heels).

  5. Dave, glad to see the folded pad in a full length sleeve but surprised to see you go back to hip belt wings. Will be interested to see how you think the hybrid cuben holds up. Very similar dimensions to my large Kalais but without the taper above the shoulders.

    1. An illusion created by breaks in the belt foam caused by previous monkeying. It is worth noting that a softer pad works much better here, in order to get a good wrap.

  6. What made you decide to sew the upper compression strap into the middle of the side panel as opposed to the seam between the side/back panel, Dave? Stoked to see yet another iteration of your pack design.

    1. I thought the 10″ between those seams wouldn’t provide enough squish. Time will tell.

  7. […] or trying to replace it for a given task, just seems silly.  For example, back in June I brought this pack to save weight.  I regretted it the whole time, because the Unaweep would have done so much […]

  8. Care to share your thoughts on the 150d hybrid cuben 5 months on?

    1. It’s a very good fabric, but I’m not at all convinced that the price is worth it. Dimension Polyant X33, for example, is about the same weight, about the same abrasion resistance, as waterproof, and half the cost.

      1. How would you say the 150 hybrid stacks up against VX21? (As it’s a fabric I have experience with, and given the similar face denier and weight) How about against VX42?

        Frankly, I’m not too phased by the cost, if the durability is there; If I’m going to build a pack, it might as well be with the fabric that sits in the sweetest spot on the weight/durability graph. The new X21/X33/X51 series Dimensional Polyant fabrics do have my attention, however.

        Thanks for the insights!

        1. Scott, you’ll find this ( good reading if you haven’t yet.

          I think the 150D hybrid cuben is a bit beefier than VX21. Puncture resistance is quite a bit better. Tear strength probably is as well, but I don’t think that’s an especially relevant metric for packs provided you get above a certain figure. As the above thread alludes, the abrasion resistance of the hybrid cuben is a bit odd. It takes a modest amount of wear to get through the face fabric (which is good, but still 150D poly), after which the cuben does a damn good job at keeping things together, but not necessarily in a way which seems sustainable long term. If I pressed this pack into abusive service intensively I would expect it to get ugly fast, but I reckon seam grip could keep it alive for a while.

          I built a pack the other month out of X33, and initial impressions are that it’s comparable across the board with the 150D hybrid, but that’s tentative only. The X laminate is a lot more pliant than the VX version, which if it holds up to internal abrasion can only be a good thing.

          VX42 is definitely quite a bit tougher than either VX21 or 150D. You increase fabric weight by 50% or so but increase abrasion resistance by a lot more. Still currently my favorite.

          It’s also worth noting that when new the 150D is very stiff. A bit of a nuisance to manipulate if sewing tighter curves and the like.

        2. Brilliant. Thanks, as ever, for the insights.

  9. […] been enamored with the suspension in this pack, with a few significant reservations.  As readers observed, the foam pad is so wide it inhibits […]

  10. […] a hipbelt on a backpack I want some form of rigidish (read, metal) suspension, well anchored.  There are acute limits to just chucking a center stay in, but there are also very substantive benefits, and not that […]

  11. […] adjustable buckle at the roll top closure to aid in cinching down […]

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