I made a backpack

For a long time, I used a Haglöfs Tight Evo XL as my everyday backpack. It was not optimal: it’s a bit too large for my everyday needs, but a bit too small for extended trips. It’s not too stylish, either. However, I didn’t want to spend money on a new backpack. Luckily there is a simple solution: make your own gear.

My main inspiration was the DIY IKEA backpack which is made out of IKEA shopping bags. We didn’t have any spare IKEA bags, but there was a worn-out Clas Ohlson bag which is made of similar material. My girlfriend’s colleague gave me a piece of parachute cutting waste and a broken Haglöfs backpack for scavenging webbing and buckles. I was set for materials.

I came with a list of design constraints:

  • Should have enough space for a 15” laptop and headphones, but not much else.
  • Needs to have a convenient place for a bicycle U-lock.
  • Must look cool!!
  • Should be simple enough so that I can actually make it.

I realized that I have no idea of what I’m doing. In this kind of situations my usual solution is to copy from others. Thus I started by taking measurements from a Kånken and modifying them to accommodate a 15” laptop.

I wanted to have a top-loading pack and zippers seemed expensive and tricky to sew, so I opted to have a drawcord closure with a lid on top. I also added open pockets to the front and the sides. I don’t like limp packs, so I added an internal pocket for a framesheet. I drew up a pattern and found out that there’s just enough fabric for a one bag. Perfect!

At first I thought that I would make the shoulder straps out of the webbing scavenged from the broken backpack. That didn’t work because there wasn’t enough of it. Then I realized that I could just use the old backpack’s shoulder straps as-is and get comfy straps for free.

It took me one Saturday to make most of the pack and then a couple of evenings to finish it. I did end up buying a cordlock, some cord, and a piece of cardboard to be used as a framesheet. Total budget: about 6 €.

I made the pack in May and I’ve been using it almost daily ever since. I’m really happy how well it turned out. The size is just right and I like the looks. The side pockets are great for the U-lock and as a bonus feature, the framesheet pocket is great for transporting stacks of paper.

I’ve had to fix it a couple of times. I didn’t know how to attach the shoulder straps and as a result, they’re falling off. Unfortunately it’s hard to fix without taking the pack apart. The material wasn’t as sturdy as I thought. It should have been folded for reinforcement in the places with most stress.

Anyway, making a backpack was fun, easy, and rewarding. I’ve made a pair of pants before, but making clothes is hard because they need to actually fit you. With bags, the exact fit hardly matters.

I’m not much of a maker, but it’s great to make something concrete every now and then. It also made me appreciate the high quality of factory-made backpacks more – they might be worth the money after all.


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