Making backpacks, have questions

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    Thomas Conly
    BPL Member


    Locale: Lots of canoeing and snow

    I am making a couple new backpacks, and would love to get some feedback on what other people have done. I have made a few bags before, including two Ray Jardine style bags, and one of my own designs. I got the patterns for a Pa’lante simple pack, and then I was planning to make a bigger pack with a hipbelt. I bought the Mountain Flyer 40 pattern from bag buff, but plan to make a lot of changes, if I use it at all.


    So, here are my questions:

    Previously, I have just used cordura on the underside of the shoulder straps. I am going to try using spacer mesh with the simple pack, and will use it with the next pack if I like it. What kind of foam would people suggest using in the straps, in terms of thickness and stiffness? I have used a blue foam sleeping pad before, but I think I’ll need something thicker for the bigger bag. The foam that comes with a Ray Jardine pack is very stiff, and I really liked those straps, but don’t know where I would find foam like that.


    When using spacer mesh, I have seen people bind the edges of straps. Can you just sew it inside out and have the seams inside, or does that cause problems with spacer mesh?


    I saw somewhere (YouTube I think) that the stretchy mesh shoulder pockets and bottom pocket on the newer Pa’lante packs are folded over a couple times at the edge to prevent items from falling out. However, it looks like all of their shoulder strap pockets now have an elastic drawcord. I’d like to try the rolled over thing on the bottom pocket at least, but am not sure how to finish the edge. Obviously I roll it over, but should I sew some flat elastic to the mesh first, or is the stretch mesh enough?


    How would people suggest finishing the top of the side pockets? I have always just done a drawcord casing with an elastic either sewn in or tied off, but a lot of packs seem to have a cordlock to adjust the elastic. Is there a big advantage to this that I’m not seeing? Seems like added weight for something I’d always just keep tightened anyway.


    Finally, not so much a question and more that I can’t make up my mind: Should I do the side pockets in Ultra 200 or Venom mesh from Ripstop by the Roll? I imagine the Ultra is a little more durable, and it’s a little lighter, but stretch is nice.


    Thanks so much in advance. If anyone has any other suggestions or features I should be including, I’m all ears.

    matthew k


    I’ve always appreciated a cord lock on side pockets. I definitely change the tightness depending on what I’m carrying and whether I want easy access or more security.

    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    I’ve used 3D spacer mesh from and from – same product.  I’ve used 1/8″ but I see RSBTR also has 1/4″.  More than padding, it provides a comfortable surface.  Maybe I don’t sweat so much.

    I just sew it around the sides to the shoulder straps and back of pack.  Leave raw edge – it doesn’t unravel.  If you fold it over and sew it, it gets so thick…

    I’ve tried different foams like blue foam, but I’m not really happy.  I’m looking forward to seeing other ideas.

    My last pack I sewed 2″ nylon webbing on the outside which stays flat better.  I just found some 3″ nylon webbing at local fabric store, the mill end store.  Maybe I’ll try that.

    I use Ray Jardine’s “box bottom” technique to make bottom of pack.  Fewer seams than sewing a square piece on the bottom, and maybe stronger.

    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    I see the website conveniently puts a link in for RSBTR and 3d spacer mesh.  How convenient.

    (Which bothers some people – I don’t really care myself)

    Bob .
    BPL Member


    Locale: Vancouver Island

    I like the side pockets on my LiteAF Ultra 35L Curve.  I think they are are Ultra 200 (my pack is) and they have an elastic and cordlock on top.  Zoom in on some of the examples here, especially the ones (last 2) showing the view from shoulder strap side.  They show the cordlock and the finishing at the top of the pockets.   Other pics (especially the bright color packs) on their site show the pocket detail nicely as well.

    Since the Ultra 200 doesn’t stretch, the elastic and cordlock are essential IMO to adjust the pocket for one water bottle vs two.  I fine tune the adjustment so I can easily get a water bottle out while hiking but tight enough so they don’t fall out.  I like them.

    Foam in the shoulder straps.  I would make a quick call to LiteAF and ask what they use.  Their packs have really nice cushy foam shoulder straps.  The best I’ve tried.

    Eric Blanche
    BPL Member


    Locale: Northeast US

    Good advice here already!


    I’ve never had a need to change the elasticity/tightness of my side pockets on my MYOG packs or my Ohm 2.0. Set it and forget it!


    That said, if you don’t have a powerful (industrial) machine, installing shockcord into a side seam could be a bit of a chore and you may need to find another method (making it far more difficult/time consuming to construct).


    Good luck and if you want more detailed answers on anything PM me here or #dextergear



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