Upcycling a baby carrier and an umbrella into a load-hauling backpack
Feb 10, 2019 at 3:03 pm #3577755
First post placeholder for editing.
Did you hear about the elephant who went to the beauty salon?Feb 10, 2019 at 4:05 pm #3577761
Nevermind, it’s pretty ear-elephant.
TLDR: I made a pack:
Upcycling a baby carrier and an umbrella into a load-hauling backpack
For a while I’ve been playing with ideas for a pack that will be rugged enough for bushwhacking among the dense evergreens of New Hampshire, big enough for both winter loads and carrying family gear, and relatively lightweight. On my last two winter trips, my packs came up short. On the first, I used my old Lowe Alpine Contour IV, which performed well, but weighs close to 9 pounds, for a total pack weight of 45 pounds.
For the next one, I used a Golite Pinnacle, which weighs about 7 pounds less, but buckled severely in the torso, especially when snowshoes were strapped to it.
In thinking about this pack, I did a lot of sketching of the possibilities, and kept changing the design. I was especially excited by Dave Chenault’s and Luke Schmidt’s fantastic articles on MYOG load-haulers:
I’ve also been very inspired by Bill Fornshell’s contributions to BPL, specifically his efforts to build “Super Ultra Light, Super Ultra Cheap.” On one of his last posts here, he talks about experimenting with a pack fabric “made from something that’s meant to be thrown away.” One element of Bill’s brilliance lies in finding applicability for backpacking in items that previously had nothing to do with the topic—such as cuben fiber. https://backpackinglight.com/forums/topic/21443/
Bill got me wondering if I could totally upcycle my pack from unconventional sources.
The pivotal moment was Dave’s article on the Osprey Poco Plus child carrier,
when he stated, “these mods finally allow me to use the very rigid Poco frame to the limits of it’s capabilities, which are considerable.” It got me thinking–I noticed that the Poco frame was shaped somewhat similarly to the frame he used on his MYOG packs. It makes sense—child carriers have to hold a lot of weight while being relatively low-profile. I began to peruse Craigslist for child carriers with a similar shaped frame (having let mine go a long time ago)—and found it in the Kelty Kids Pathfinder (note: a few other Kelty carriers share this frame shape, but many don’t). They often are sold for $60-80 but I found a well-used one for $20. You may be able to get one even cheaper if a baby had spit up or a diaper blowout in one (if the seller’s honest about it!).
Here’s the child carrier on the left, next to an old Camp Trails external frame that also provided some parts:
Here is the part of the child carrier frame that goes against your back, pulled out of the baby carrier. You can see it’s a trimmer, more curved profile than most external frames. It’s got a neat adjustable torso mechanism, but it felt way overbuilt and heavy.
So here it is, stripped down with a hacksaw, edges sanded smooth. The welded-on horizontal piece was cut off, and I cut the frame at about 22 inches, right before the top curve/ horizontal piece. The plastic caps for the ends of the tubes came from the feet on the bottom of the baby carrier (stick the ends in boiling water to loosen the glue, and use a rubber glove to pull them off).
When I was cutting the second side, all of a sudden the frame collapsed and I thought I had broken or severely bent it. What was really going on though was that the tube junction fell apart a few inches down from my cut—I should have realized the tubing wouldn’t have come in a seamless closed loop. For now, the extra piece sets in the frame with a piece of smaller diameter tubing, and is taped with packing tape. I may end up securing it permanently with a strong glue or JB Weld, or may cut off the other side, stick a piece of smaller diameter tubing in it and have an extended frame when I want it and a shorter (closer to torso size) one when I don’t.
I harvested all the buckles, hardware and a lot of webbing from the baby carrier, filling a gallon-size ziplock.
My father-in-law is thrifty and handy, always scoping out yard sales and curbside throwaways for useful stuff. One day, he came by the house with an armful of green fabric from a broken porch umbrella. “I thought you could use this for something,” he told me, noting that the material was made to be outdoors long-term in rain and sun. Although, both sides were once green, the side facing the sun had faded to a light grey–however, when I cupped some fabric in my hand and poured water in, not a drop seeped through to the other side. As an umbrella, it’s made for water-resistance and UV resistance, but time will tell how durable the fabric is for bushwhacking. It looks a lot like packcloth, but has a slicker feel.Feb 10, 2019 at 4:17 pm #3577764
The bottom and flap fabric came from a 1980s kid’s Camp Trails external frame backpack that has been down in the basement for years, that I didn’t foresee either myself or my child using in the future, as did the hipbelt, which I love. There was some debate not long ago on a BPL thread about side-pull vs. forward-pull hipbelts; I think this “seatbelt-style” buckle is a good solution—forward pull without all the extra loops and hardware of a Scherer-cinch, and the extra webbing hangs down the side, out of the way.
The Kelty frame has holes on the lower sides where the “kickstand” pieces bolted on. I noticed they were in a similar location to the holes on the Camp Trails frame for the hip belt, so just transferred it over. The hip belt, as is common on old external packs, also has a set of side pull straps that go through a ladder lock buckle attached to a grommet. In the picture you’ll see those straps bolted on the outside of the frame, while the main straps holding the hip belt on are bolted on the inside (through the same bolt). I’m not sure if I’ll keep them or cut them off.
Here’s the finished pack!
Compression strap going under the pocket:
Compression strap going over the pocket, holding it tight to the side:
The haul loop tucks away into the pocket, keeping it away from your neck while hiking:
My digital scale is finicky, so I can’t trust this, but it measured 2.9 pounds without the front compression pack. The volume is comparable to my old Lowe Alpine from the first picture, but at a fraction of the weight, and while it’s slightly heavier than the Golite Pinnacle, it feels much more versatile, comfortable and capable.
Upon initial testing, I am concerned about the durability of the umbrella fabric, especially as it’s showing itself to not be super resistant to abrasion. But at the very least, I’ve got a pattern I’m happy with, and I’m already testing another “throwaway” fabric that is extremely durable. I’ll update soon!
Thanks for reading this very long post! I’m very grateful to BPL for all the inspiration over the years. A big thank you to Dave Chenault and Luke Schmidt for the ideas and for answering my questions, to Dave Thomas and Jan from Nunatak for the concept of using HDPE jugs for the rolltop, to Greg Mihalik for sharing his extra grosgrain, and Bill Fornshell for pushing the envelope. I also really appreciate Seek Outside’s innovation of the external/internal frame hybrid, which has inspired so much creative MYOGing here and beyond.Feb 11, 2019 at 1:49 am #3577844Diane “Piper” SoiniBPL Member
@sbhikesLocale: Santa Barbara
I love it when people take other people’s junk and turn it into something useful.Feb 11, 2019 at 2:37 am #3577852rubmybelly!BPL Member
@sleepingLocale: The Cascades
Really nice work Greg. Bravo!Feb 11, 2019 at 3:02 pm #3577898matt kirkBPL Member
@matthew-d-kirkLocale: southern appalachians
Love it. I did something similar once my son was too big with an old Deuter Kid Air Comfort bought off Craigslist. My tactic was to modify the pack in such a way that it could be easily converted back to kid mode if there’s a #2. After unscrewing and removing the kid seat, I sewed up a ~4000 in^3 roll top bag from some heavier coated ripstop I had lying around; added a daisy chain down the back for for the side straps to pass thru (main attachment points for the bag to the frame). Empty, it weighs just under 3 lbs. Unsurprisingly, the frame on these kids packs are pretty stout. Haven’t had to haul a heavy load yet, but it’s nice to have a big framed pack in the gear closet again for family outings, especially one that was fairly easy to come by from materials we had laying around. Your approach is more sophisticated. Kudos.Feb 12, 2019 at 10:58 pm #3578145
Thanks so much, Piper, Doug and Matt!
While I’m not a hunter, I do appreciate the philosophy of “using the whole animal,” when it comes to these projects, trying to create as little waste as possible. The extra tubing from the child carrier will be made into pole jacks for my ‘mid. The compression front pack with the LL Bean patch (which I’ll cut off eventually) is the front panel of a thrifted pack whose straps are being used for another project and whose Cordura bottom will patch up a pair of Carhartt pants.
Matt, it’s cool to hear of your similar project using a child carrier. I have really enjoyed your videos and MYOG experiments over the years, and started a sub60 pack a while ago using a safety orange construction vest for the mesh.
Here’s a picture of me wearing the pack. I originally thought the hip belt padding terminated too early in the wrap but I think it will work. The curve of the frame along the back feels just right.
</div>Mar 3, 2019 at 12:33 am #3581403Iago VazquezBPL Member
@iagoLocale: Boston & Galicia, Spain
Looks great!Nov 3, 2019 at 8:24 am #3617083Luke SchmidtBPL Member
Just saw this. Good work. Glad its worked out for you.Nov 3, 2019 at 11:44 pm #3617172Daryl and DarylBPL Member
@lyrad1Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth
Congratulations on a successful and rewarding project.Nov 4, 2019 at 12:12 am #3617180
Thanks iago, Luke and Daryl and Daryl.
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