MYOG load carrying scrambling pack
Jan 15, 2019 at 6:36 am #3573189
We do off-trail trips on the Colorado Plateau. I have been using a variety of Seek Outside packs, which all performed good. But being a tinker I found enough issues that I wanted to make my own Plateau Pack. Or rather have my son make it with combined input.
Here’s the result. A few ounces lighter, but also smaller than a Seek Outside Divide.
60 liters, but with 50 lbs carrying capacity. In the desert we often have to haul lots of water, while clothes and bivy gear represents a comparatively small bundle. Food is somewhere in between. In the end the load seems to be characterized by low volume – heavy weight.
Dual 7075 T6 aluminium frame stays directly inserted into a full wrap, vertically stiff hip belt, with two truly independent belt buckles. The use of 7075 is essential to this packs carrying comfort due to the rigid belt and load lifter’s tendency to deform lesser alloys.
Designed for scrambling. The hip belt to pack interface is firm and the top load lifters go directly to frame ends. The pack is narrow’ish for squeezing thru canyons, with side pockets of very sturdy non-stretchy marine grade mesh. They terminate a distance above the bottom of the pack to limit abrasion and create a snag free shape.
The upswept pack bottom is 1000d Cordura, with a seamless compound shape and<span class=”Apple-converted-space”> </span>built-in smooth foam padding. This allows safe face-out or side ways down climbing of the steep featureless sandstone so common on off-trail scrambles on the Plateau, while also keeping bottom abrasion at a minimum.<span class=”Apple-converted-space”> </span>Patterning this was a fun challenge.
Balanced front/back haul loops for straight up and down suspension. Quick release connectors on the hip belt allow it and the shoulder straps to be tucked into the top of the pack for snag free hauling and lowering.
The pack’s large, structurally rigid, low profile side pockets are designed to hold 3 liter water bladders securely.<span class=”Apple-converted-space”> </span>
In addition there’s two water bottle holders sized for Nalgene 1 or 1.5 liter bottles firmly tucked into the small gap between the hip belt curvature and the lower outside corners of the pack. This is a convenient yet solid place for on-the-go water. The holders are built to take the serious abrasion inevitable on a low hanging accessory on a scrambling pack, but are also easy and inexpensive to replace.<span class=”Apple-converted-space”> </span>
Together this provides secure carrying capacity of at least 9 liters (2 gallons) of water, all of which are completely separate from the main compartment.
The top closure is an improved roll top requiring only one buckle on a straight non y-strap. No Velcro, snaps or side fasteners. Four pre-formed stiffeners retains memory to intuitively close like a narrow lunch bag. By far the quickest top opening we’ve used, beating the stuff-sack style.
No 3D mesh anywhere to limit the collection of dust and sand, and keeping prickly desert debris from catching and bugging the heck out the wearer.
Compression straps are all on the back, where the typical UL pack sports a bulbous mesh pocket. Compressing across this face limits barreling with only half the number of straps, plus it keeps the user form overloading a poorly placed large volume pocket.
Stretch shoulder strap pocket sized for bigger style phones in cases.Jan 15, 2019 at 6:39 am #3573190Jan 15, 2019 at 8:24 am #3573193BrookBPL Member
Thank you for the sharing. I really like the fastest top-opening design!
Btw, do you have a pic showing a water bottle fixed between the small gap between the hip belt and the pack bottom?
I had one small comment. The side pockets are long and efficient/stable for holding narrow & long objects like the poles and water bladders. But if some small things like a pack of stakes are within the pocket bottom that have to be dug out, then the upper part of the mesh pocket is not that efficient.Jan 15, 2019 at 11:58 am #3573198
Thanks for posting! Many of your products at Nunatak have an interesting design twist, and you’ve carried that over to the pack.
Can I ask about the carry? How do you find that inserting the stays directly into the belt works compared to suspending the belt from the Seek Outside style U frame? It’s a simpler and lighter approach, but is it as comfortable with that level of load? People rave about the Seek Outside suspension, but perhaps it’s overkill if you’re not carrying out an elk? How did you stiffen the belt? If you have any pics of how you’ve done the suspension they would be appreciated.
I like that closure, and am planning to use it in my next pack. What did you use for the stiffener? I had a chance to play with the design on a retro daypack by the Lake District cottage producer MIllican and it works really well – quick and fuss free. For a thru-hike pack, if the bag is big enough for a bear can I guess you can sacrifice the Y strap.
The oversized side pockets are interesting too. It puts the load in a more stable position, improves compression, and looks less likely to hang up when scrambling. But I’m struggling to visualise what you’re doing with the Nalgene pockets – again, pics would be appreciated.
Brook, if you like the big side pockets but need easier access, these guys in the UK have been playing with modular zipped side pods that offer the option of adding 20 liters of capacity to your system. There’s a slight weight penalty because you’re duplicating one side of the pocket, but it means that a high wear point is easily replaceable and you can strip the pack for climbing, air travel etc. If you need more ventilation you could add some mesh to the pockets.
Once again, thanks for posting. It’s amazing how much scope there is for tweaking the design of the humble backpack….Jan 15, 2019 at 11:59 am #3573199matthew kModerator
Very interesting. Thank you for sharing.
Are you happy with how it carries? Do you have any planned changes for future revisions?Jan 15, 2019 at 1:17 pm #3573201Alex HBPL Member
@abhittLocale: southern appalachians or desert SW
Very cool, you have basically moved the back stuff pocket to the sides. How is the mesh holding up because that has always been a week spot for my desert packs. Cheers on the whole integrated hipbelt, stay, load lifters; too many makers don’t get this right.Jan 15, 2019 at 3:05 pm #3573211Daryl and DarylBPL Member
@lyrad1Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Sweet!Jan 15, 2019 at 5:50 pm #3573232Lester MooreBPL Member
@satoriLocale: Olympic Peninsula, WA
Nice looking pack with functional design features for scrambling. The up-swept pack bottom looks especially sleek and low profile for chimneying or tight scrambling. The bottom has a surprising lack of wrinkles given its pronounced curvature and one-piece (no-seam) design.
What challenges did you experience designing and constructing the up-swept bottom? Do you think such a bottom design would work on a frameless pack with no hip belt, or is a stiff planar lower back panel required to allow the up-swept bottom to hold its shape well?Jan 15, 2019 at 10:09 pm #3573265
Thanks for the interest guys! I tried answering the questions below. If I missed anything let me know.
@brookqwr asked about the water bottle holders. Pics below!
@geoffcaplan asked about a comparison to Seek Outside. I never pressed the Seek Outside packs I owned to anywhere close to their limit – which clearly is high. For the weights I do carry this one does at least as good, but would likely fail at higher numbers where the SO would keep delivering.
The belt is a make up of 1/8” 15lbs density foam sheeting (very stiff) and ½” EVA soft foam. Both are high quality products from a foam manufacturer that does not do direct to consumer sales.
We have experimented a lot the last many years with laminates for belt, shoulder straps and other stiffeners. Using the right glues and material coatings it is fun and provides new ways of approaching pack building. The belt here is a laminate of 210 Dyneema grid, 1/8” foam and 100d PU coated nylon. Onto this base all the webbing is sewn. Then we used Duraweave on the inside to house a removable piece of EVA. The belt finally gets an edge application of binding tape. The result is a pro looking belt with strong vertical stiffness.
On the shoulder straps all the webbing and pockets and other things are sewn to the 210; which then is laminated to the EVA before sewn to the liner material and turned right side out.
@matthewkphx Haha yes, never stop tweaking! First goal is a sub 40oz version.
@abhitt The mesh is okay durability wise. It’s by far the strongest mesh we have worked with. But pack pockets will get holed whether they are mesh or stretch material (Schoeller Dynamic etc) or solid fabric. It’s only a question of which type of fabric you’d rather see with holes in it, lol. Personally I prefer mesh with wear holes. Besides it’s easy to repair mesh with a small hank of waxed twine.
@satori The bottom design is the trademark feature of the last series of packs we have been making. It took a long trial and error patterning process for each iteration, making mock-ups of cheap stiff material. If this is not something one enjoys – stick with a simple box bottom!
I think a frameless/beltless pack would assume this shape with as much barreling and distortion as any UL pack design goes thru with a sloppy or maxed out payload.
These are the modified metal hook buckles connecting the belt to the lower frame ends. The shoulder straps are attached only to the belt. Also seen is a transverse mini frame stiffener, which may or may not be necessary.
The laminated multi-part belt made up of 5 different materials plus webbing!Jan 15, 2019 at 10:42 pm #3573269
Thanks for being so generous with your trade secrets – much appreciated! Very interesting that you find the carry equals the Seek Outside in this load range. You saved me a round of prototyping there, I think, as I was going to compare the two suspension systems. Now I can focus on making a belt that works well with the direct connection to the stays.
That water bottle holder is something I’ve never seen before – if you’re finding that it works well, it’s a really smart piece of design. You don’t find it gets in the way of your arms as they swing?
If you can spare a moment I’d appreciate knowing what you used to stiffen the gusseted closure system at the top of the pack – it has to be lightweight but relient enough to survive some mistreatment, so I’m not sure what would work best…Jan 15, 2019 at 10:55 pm #3573272
An afterthought. I was wondering why you have decided to go with a stiffener within the hip belt? I just remembered this quote from Dan McHale in his usual robust manner:
You will not find plastic stiffeners in our hip belts either. The belts wrap so effectively that they create their own firm structure. Belt stiffeners are the current hallmark of high-tech packs. It is really too bad real people are not as insensitive as mannequins because we think the new crop of belts on the market are a step backward in comfort. Are the people designing this stuff really using it? We can safely predict that our belts will not go down that dead end trail.Jan 15, 2019 at 10:58 pm #3573273
Hey Geoff, I view our packs as open source. It’s a hobby. Too much invested in down gear to consider entering the already super crowded cottage pack industry.
Do note that I have considerably more field time on the SO design than this. The SO frame is unique to their packs and incredible well researched, reviewed and received. That this MYOG attempt is comparable at lower loads may just be that lower loads are easy to build to.
BTW, we have attempted to bend aluminium tubing to a compound shape like the SO. Forget it! We tried filling it with sand to resist buckling, torched it to coerce it into the sharp corner bend, built elaborate bending jigs with rollers and pulleys.
The stiffener in the roll top can be many things. Here’s what we have used, in descending order of preference:
Milk jugs cut into strips and straightened with heat (latter is optional)
The nylon binding tape holding heavy boxes together for shipping. Finding it wide enough is the hard part.
Scraps of the 15lbs density foam used for the belt.
Voting signs from the front lawn. A little too thick. Works well for frame sheets when laminated to foam.Jan 15, 2019 at 11:04 pm #3573275
McHale may be right. Actually, he’s almost certainly right! It’s McHale!
We just like to try things. It’s too much fun, especially when there’s no commercial responsibility of having to satisfy customers.
In fact the 15lbs thin foam is not really ‘plastic’. It’s foam. Squeezing it leaves indentations, and bending it in the ‘stiff’ plane is rather easy:Jan 15, 2019 at 11:35 pm #3573279
I’ll try the milk jugs – that’s a smart suggestion!
I think I’ll start with Dan’s approach of a relatively thin Evazote belt – as you say, he’s the main man in this game. But if that fails, I’ll try your idea of laminating with a sturdier layer. I really don’t like the very stiff belts you’re seeing nowadays like on the bigger Ospreys – feels like you’re wearing a corset. Your belt looks much softer than those.
I agree that trying to replicate the Seek Outside frame would be non trivial. Here’s a guy that’s a Seek Outside fan and built his own variant. He used flat bar, and says he likes the additional flexibility at lower weight ranges: Like you, he used 7075 T6. He says it’s much the best pack he’s made and that it carries really well. It’s not all that different from your own design, You both have the floating belt – it’s just that you didn’t bolt the cross stay to the bottom of the vertical stays as he did.Jan 15, 2019 at 11:57 pm #3573289
Oh yes, Brendan. I think I know him. Yes, a nice pack for sure. Looks like he’s got a bar tacker – big envy there!Jan 16, 2019 at 1:25 pm #3573356Hoosier TBPL Member
The hip belt sounds similar to the way I built mine and it has worked extremely well for heavier water loads. I also used the same 7075 T6 stays and they’re amazing. What thickness and width did you use on the stays out of curiosity?Jan 16, 2019 at 2:39 pm #3573358
.125″ x .500″ – 26.5″ long.Jan 16, 2019 at 3:58 pm #3573363Daryl and DarylBPL Member
@lyrad1Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Thanks for all the info about how your pack was put together. Interesting and helpful.Jan 18, 2019 at 3:49 pm #3573696
Some quick comments about this pack and MYOG packs in general.
Obviously we made this for a specific purpose; ie scrambling in and out of remote canyons with a sizable load. To perfect this use we tossed one very important feature out the door. See below.
When in bear country (excluding some higher reaches of the Colorado Plateau) I choose to always carry a bear canister. Personal choice, not preaching.
This unwieldy, hefty item needs special considerations to be transported comfortably and efficiently; a challenge that’s especially hard to meet in the world of UL packs, or even lightweight packs.
I feel there’s tons of innovation possible here. With the trend of 35-45 liter belt less, frame less thru hiker designs currently flooding the field this topic is nearly completely ignored.
‘Strap the empty canister on top during the day; fill it and stash it at night’ is the common solution. Not ideal, especially not for nerdy MYOG’ers seeking the satisfaction of solving design issues.Jan 18, 2019 at 6:19 pm #3573718
Well, there’s one obvious solution to the bear can challenge – just make a pack that’s large enough to carry the can internally, and make sure you provide good compression. The extra weight is negligible, and when you’re not carrying a can you can employ some of the extra capacity to carry your down and insulation with less compression, preserving its loft.
I genuinely fail to understand this current US fad for tiny unstructured packs. As research by BPL has shown, they are objectively inefficient as soon as you have to carry any significant weight of food and water, and people seem to find it hard to fit everything in when they need to carry bear cans and snow gear.
we were talking about Dan McHale, and as you might expect, he has posted an entertaining rant on the topic:
My own strong preference is to carry a pack that’s highly ergonomic and big enough to carry my max possible load, even at the cost of a few extra ounces.Jan 19, 2019 at 4:36 pm #3573858James MarcoBPL Member
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
I must admit I am fairly baffled about bear cans myself. I always carry them inside my pack, horizontally. They take up around 500ci of space. This is roughly the same as my food bag at the beginning of a trip. Somewhat bigger around at 8.5″ vs my food bag at 7.5″ but shorter at around 10″ vs about 11″. This makes a bear ball a bit more awkward getting it in and out, but really doesn’t effect carrying comfort. And, there is really no reduction in volume as you hike through several days. ‘Corse, I use a sleeping pad as a frame, and it cushions the bear ball. It fits into my Murmur for example and still carries about 6-7 days worth of food when traveling through the high peaks area of NY.
No, of course I wouldn’t use a Murmur in winter. A -20F bag, snowshoes/skis, and extra clothing needed would fill the pack to begin with. You really have to use another pack in winter. I would not use a UL pack designed for three season packing, nor, would I use a large heavy duty backpack for summer. Rather, I would select the proper tool for the job at hand.
For example a fully equipped UL baseweight for 32F/0C goes about 8 pounds not counting recreational gear. Adding a McHale pack it would be about 10 pounds or close to two pounds heavier, JUST DUE TO THE PACK. Not a couple ounces. And the carry would be somewhat more awkward because the pad would need to be carried lashed to the top or side, OR, placed inside reducing the internal volume by the volume of the pad. It has some nice features, yes…just not for UL trips. Somehow “winter” and “bear problem” doesn’t make much sense, anyway. I don’t think I would switch styles of pack for 30 pounds. (I carry more than that on my workouts.)Jan 19, 2019 at 4:58 pm #3573862Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
I have a MYOG pack. 14 ounces. I can carry a bear can horizontal but rarely go where it’s required. 20 pounds total weight. 21 or 22 a bit high – doable on the first day of hiking if it’s a short first day because of late start. 12 pound base weight plus 9 pounds consumables for 5 days.
McHale always humorous. I’ll accept that you need a frame for heavier weights like 30 pounds. But close to 20 pounds no need for frame and you save 1 or 2 pounds which is noticeable. And that weight stays with you every mile of every trip. If I start a trip a bit heavy, but the second and successive days are better, that’s a reasonable trade-off to me.
I don’t like all those pockets and flaps and straps and doodads. U.S. people are into all that stuff. Same with all sorts of tech stuff. I just want a one bag pack. I’d rather my water bottle be inside the pack where it stays a little cooler. But this is more aesthetic than functional, although you save a little weight and it’s more waterproof and stronger without that stuff sewn on the outside.Jan 19, 2019 at 10:01 pm #3573905Jarred OSpectator
RE: Packs with a scooped bottom.
This is a feature I wish I saw in more packs. Scrambling/class III/IV leaves me catching the bottom of my pack frequently enough that I would change my bag for that reason alone. I can think of several times where a catch has, despite careful movement, thrown me off balance or has required body positioning to what seems an egregious degree.
Can anyone think of packs in the 30-40L range which feature a heavily tapered bottom? I can think of the Atom Packs Ryder, the R50, and then a slew of major manufacturer alpine/climbing packs. But the number of offerings by cottage outlets seems small.
I’d go the MYOG route if I had the inclination to open that can of worms but I know it’s best to keep that box closed for the time being.Jan 19, 2019 at 10:28 pm #3573907
James and Jerry
I wasn’t suggesting we actually carry a McHale – that would be overkill for our kind of hiking even if we had the budget. He’s building bomber packs for expeditions.
What I am suggesting is that adding a couple of stays and a well designed belt will much more than repay the few ounces involved once loads exceed around 15 lbs. And adding a few liters of capacity to a lightweight pack adds a great deal of flexibility for a negligible weight penalty.
Obviously, for full winter conditions you might need a larger pack, but on a long trail you may well need to carry warmer clothing and traction at times, for example to traverse the Sierras on the PCT. It seems sensible to carry a pack that can accomodate this, rather then enter difficult country with all kinds of crud strapped to the outside.
In some circles there seems to be a kind of pissing contest where people boast about how small and light their pack is – completely losing sight of the fact that the resulting bad ergonomics beat you up over a long day as Dan McHale points out. One of the reasons, I suspect, why so many thru-hikers seem to relay on “Vitamin I” to manage the pain.Jan 20, 2019 at 3:34 am #3573940James MarcoBPL Member
@jamesdmarcoLocale: Finger Lakes
Geoff, yes, I understand. One of the packs I carry is the old GG MiniPosa. It has a couple stays, is of somewhat larger volume (I think around 3200ci/50L,) pad keepers, and, has 5 pockets. I believe it weighs about 15oz. I think this is 12-13 years old. Mostly it is used for heavy 2 week trips or UL three week trips. It has a fairly well designed belt, though there is no padding. And it has no padding in the shoulder straps, but they are wider than normal. Sometimes, I use tent poles as stays, but this is more for the tarp/net-tent (about 2 pounds for two people) with a partner. No problems with ever carrying ~25 pounds, even after multiple 20+mile days. Anyway, it has lasted a reasonable amount of time(12+years) through some fairly rugged terrain in the ADK’s. For a while it was my primary pack, but the Murmur was 3oz lighter and did away with the stays (though it was also 35 litter, not 50.)
Anyway, I always wanted to put together a somewhat thicker version of the Miniposa. A good MYOG project for somebody…
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