About two weeks ago I made my first attempt on sewing a backpack and it didn't go so well. I basically stopped 90% of the way through because I wasn't happy with how it was coming out. It wasn't a complete waste though, I learned a lot and thought I was ready to attempt pack number two. The main fabric I used in this pack was LiteSkin LS07.
This time I am very happy with how it came out:
The pack came out to be about 35 Liters at its max in the main compartment and then I added a Dyneema mesh pocket on the back that is accessible with a zipper and two side water bottle pockets.
The entire pack weighs in at about 14.07 ounces.
I wanted a roll-top style backpack because I like how they can basically change size depending on the adventure you are embarking on. My one problem with roll-top style bags is they can be a pain to access gear quickly. To fix that, I put a small Dyneema mesh pocket on the back for snacks and small items and then I put a zipper down the entire length so there is quick access to the main compartment.
When packing this I pull the zipper down just above the height of my gear in my pack and when I roll it down the roll covers the zipper opening. I can just see the zipper pull hanging down and then I can quickly unzip and re-zip when the pack is off my back. The best part is it opens up nice and wide making it easy to grab the gear from inside.
Next, I will go into a little of the build process for this pack pointing out lessons I learned from the first pack.
The shoulder straps I basically followed what I did in my first pack which you can read about here.
I didn't make the seam allowance mistake that I made on my first pack and made the straps on this one the right width the first time around.
The only real change here was that I added a zig-zag stitch where the 3d spacer mesh ended.
The Back Panels
Like my first backpack sewing attempt, I wanted a zipper down the middle to gain access into the main compartment. On my first pack attempt, I made the zipper only go up a little bit of the way and let's just say it didn't turn out super clean.
This time I planned to just have two main back panels and sew the zipper down the entire full length. This made the back panels basically just two main pieces.
In the above picture, I am using chalk to mark out where I want the shoulder straps to attach to.
Since the shoulder straps were being added to almost the center of those to pieces there was not an easy way for me to hold them in place while I was sewing them on my V1 pack. This time I purchased basting tape which is essentially two-sided tape that you can sew through. This helped me position the shoulder straps exactly where I wanted them to be and they didn't move while sewing. On Backpack V2 they didn't slide and they came out even this time!
Here are a few more pictures of attaching the shoulder straps:
Now in the V1 pack, I used 3D spacer mesh on the back. It was kind of a pain to sew through and keep everything straight so I decided to not use it this time.
To cover up the ugliness and protect the seams I cut out some rectangles from some extra LiteSkin LS21 fabric I had leftover from pack V1.
I used my basting tape to apply to the top and bottom of these two rectangles to fold them over to have nice finished edges when attaching over the straps.
And then started to sew.
The Center Zipper
The center zipper on V2 was much easier than V1. Since it went the entire length of the pack and there was no 3D spacer mesh this time it was pretty easy.
Once again I attached them with binder clips which have been awesome during this whole process.
Last time, the seam allowance on the back end was annoying and in the way of the zipper and hindered access into the pack. This time I added a zigzag stitch to pull the seam allowance out of the way and make it a much more flat zipper.
The zig-zag stitch kinda gave it a cool look paralleling the center zipper. I didn't have enough seam allowance to do a straight stitch which may have looked better but the zig-zag pattern has grown on me.
At this point, I decided to just reenforce the shoulder straps a little with a zig-zag stitch too.
The side pockets were not much of anything on V1. They were just a flat square of Dyneema stretch and it honestly looked pretty boring. This time I wanted drawstring pockets with a little flair so I made them diagonal.
Water bottle used to determine exactly how high I wanted the pockets to be.
There were a number of ways I google to make drawstring pockets. I used a few ideas from different guides and did a little of my own engineering. I wanted to make sure the drawstring was securely anchored so used some small ribbon to tie it to.
I then used a small knife to puncture a tiny hole to have the string come out so it would be accessible when I sewed both ends to the side panel.
I then used more basting tape to roll the fabric over and make a small channel for the drawstring cord.
And finally, I attached it with binder clips and brought it up to the sewing machine.
After sewing both sides of the pocket to the side panel I then kind of tuck and folded the bottom part of the side pocket and used binder clips again before sewing. I was a little nervous about this part but it folded easily once the sides were sewn in and it was super easy.
And now it is starting to look like a backpack!
Back Panel and Dyneema Mesh Pocket
For the back panel, I wanted one giant Dyneema mesh pocket but with a zipper closure so my snacks or other items have a chance to fall out while I am hiking.
I basically just cut a piece of Dyneema mesh the size of my back panel and thew a little diagonal in it for some flare.
I first sewed the zipper into the Dyneema mesh before sewing it onto the back panel. I figured if I was a little off with location on the back panel at least the mesh stretched...
Once I had the zipper on the Dyneema mesh I then just traced it to get the angle and line onto my back panel with chalk.
While sewing I just made sure the zipper was right on that line as I sewed and it actually came out pretty good. I thought this part was going to also be a lot harder than I thought.
Lastly for the zipper, I folded over some 1-inch strap to on either end of the zipper. I saw these on a lot of packets and never really knew what exactly they were for. I assumed they helped keep debris out from where the zipper ended. But now that my pack is compete they are really nice to hold with one hand while the other hand pulls the zipper.
These should have been really simple to add on, but it was pretty thick to sew through them and the zipper. I think I rushed this part and one of them is not perfectly straight. Next time I will go a little slower hear and take my time.
The last small but big thing I did on the back panel was my loops for where the red bungee cord would go. One my first backpacks sewing attempt I didn't pre sew them on and tried to add them while sewing together all the main panels and ended sewing one under the Dyneema fabric...
This time I decided not to take any chances and I pre sewed them on.
At this point, it was just sewing all the main panels together which was pretty easy using binder clips to fold them in place. Since I didn't change anything in my technique with backpack version 2 you can see more how I did that on V1 here.
Sewing the bottom onto this pack I only had a slight change in technique. Last time I used binder clips and clipped each side before I started sewing. This time I just did one side at a time starting with the two long sides. This just made everything a little bit easier to handle through the sewing machine.
Roll Top Enclosure
For the rolltop enclosure, I followed pretty much the same method I used in my large Dry Bag for Kayaking that I made a number of months ago. That guide also has a good YouTube video by Ripstop By the Roll that is pretty helpful for making roll dop enclosures.
I had to make some slight changes due to one side being split by the zipper but it wasn't too bad.
Here are some pictures of my experience on this bag: