A dual stay light pack


As good as the Unaweep is, and every time I use any other pack I’m reminded at just how good and how versatile it is, there are inherent limits to the design.  Namely, the size and external presence of the frame.  There are rather few instances in which this is an issue, but problems exist simply to be solved.  Eventually.


I’ve been enamored with the suspension in this pack, with a few significant reservations.  As readers observed, the foam pad is so wide it inhibits ideal hipbelt wrap.  Unexpectedly, the single stay ended up being the limiting factor, as at certain weights it presents a point pressure against the lumbar, even with three layers of padding between it and the user.  This version has two stays, six inches apart, and a foam panel slot 8 inches wide.  As can be seen above, the belt attaches with velcro a la Gossamer Gear, so the pack can be run without the stays.  The shoulder straps attach with 1 inch webbing, which makes attaching them easier and allows me to swap straps.


I’ve become a firm believer in wide and thin packs, so the back on this one is 12 inches wide.  Felled seams throughout.  I did outsmart myself a bit here, as with no structure beyond the 8 inch center panel there is nothing to prevent the 2 inch strips on either side from barreling out and making the pack far fatter.  I improvised and sewed a velcro sleeve inside the full width of the back, which currently holds a 1/4 inch by 12 inch steel rod.  Not an elegant solution, but functional.


Bottom diameter is 32 inches.  Top diameter is 36.  Height is 34.  Standard feature set includes twin daisy chains from 3/8 inch webbing, two side pockets, and an inside zippered pocket.


Main fabric is X33, which remains a favorite.  The bottom is X51, a great heavy use fabric.  Side pockets, inside pocket, and the exterior of the pad sleeve are WX20, which is light and flexible.  I’m using an old Gossamer Gear belt, and Mountain Hardwear shoulder straps.  Stays are 1/8 inch by 1 inch 7075-T6, which is the only way to go.  Blue foam from Walmart.


I’ve only put a limited number of miles into it, but thus far it is promising.  The idea is to have the option to run enough suspension when the pack is totally full of heavy stuff (see top picture, with 2 days of packrafting and fishing stuff), and also run it frameless as well as beltless for smaller trips.  To this end the torso length is a half inch undersized.

I’ll keep ya’ll updated.


12 responses to “A dual stay light pack”

  1. I appreciate you sharing your progressions of packs. Question: how are the stays held in place? It looks like the stay sleeves are closed at the top so then the stays are inserted from the bottom. What holds them on the bottom, do they have pockets on the back of the hip belt?, If so, then you wrangle the stays onto the hip belt and then the sewn bottom of the mesh and foam panel holds it all? Also, the horizontal bar to reduce barreling, where did you put it, Shoulder strap height? Thanks

    1. The belt has two little stay pockets. Thread the belt in, get the stays situated, then press down on the velcro. This iteration is actually far less futzier than last years single stay job.

      The rod is right below (~1/2″) shoulder strap level.

  2. Dave- looks nice, appears your sewing-foo is getting better and better! :) weight? what do you think as far as a realistic upper load limit? Is the foam pad easily removable (ie use for a sit pad)?


    1. I don’t know the weight (scale is busted), but I’d reckon a bit under 2 lbs. I’m sure it will easily go above 30, hipbelt comfort would be an issue well before the frame starts to get stressed. Pad is removable, but fits tight enough (esp w/ stays in) that using it for snack breaks probably won’t happen.

  3. These posts always feel a bit like being apprenticed to a master; this pack may be a good starting point for making my own. Are the shoulder straps only attached via the webbing? Past designs seemed beefier in their attachment.

    1. Strictly speaking that is true; 1″ of webbing allows for less burl than 2-3″ of fabric, but I think the former is more than strong enough. Failure point is probably the metal triglide on the straps, which has to be at least a couple hundred pounds.

      In this case the 1″ webbing is sewn on, and then the 2″ webbing stay pockets are sewn (and bartacked) over the ends for even more reinforcement.

  4. Oh man, he’s reached peak redneck with the use of a steel rod in his pack!

    1. Lol. The alu stuff at the hardware store was too soft. I’d like to replace it with something, either a high quality alu flat stay, or something in good plastic. Virtue of steel is it will hard to bend.

      Overall I’m not thrilled with having to add this feature, but I can’t think of a better option yet, and it does work.

      1. Would a piece of alu or carbon tent pole do the trick of steel rod? As a short piece they don’t bend too easily either. In the other news, I lovethe pack. Lots of things I’d want froma pack. Maybe one really needs to make his own packs to get what one wants… Almost.

        1. A piece of carbon arrow is what I have my eye on.

  5. […] version is made from scraps and pieces of this pack and this pack, plus some from another pack which never saw the light of the net.  You never get as […]

  6. […] versatile suspension, discussed here, has proven to be excellent.  Without stays or belt the pack is light and flexible, and with them […]

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