Thursday, 29 October 2009


I’ve shown my earlier attempt at a map case. It worked okay, but going into it I knew it would be a stop gap measure to tide me over. I already had the plans for something considerably more elaborate worked out in my head. And this is it. 
The design of this was driven primarily by canoeing, although being on foot or on bike was another scenario I envisioned it for. When in a canoe, on a large windswept lake and I need to do a map check, I want to be able to do that quickly and with little fuss. Same with things like getting an oft needed piece of equipment out – compass, GPS, binoculars, camera, radio.  I’ve tried having things on a belt, but when seated, as in a canoe or kayak, it’s both uncomfortable and hard to access stuff. Up on the chest is a better spot for it.  
There are similar items out there, HSGI’s admin panel being one, OSOE’s NSW admin panel being somewhat similar. My issue is that I use maps that I’ve printed out and laminated at a size of 8½" x 8½". Considerably bigger than what anyone is offering. 
5 rows of PALS and 6 channels wide. About 10" x 10" all told. It’s big.
PALS on the back would have been overkill, and I couldn’t put any on the sides due to the zipper. What I could do, and what works very nicely is the Thomas’ Attachable Bag System, or TABS for short. It allows me to clip in side release buckles, siamese clips or anything else that works. 
So far I’ve used the Kifaru shoulder straps that you can get for the Tailgunners or that come with the Scout. Works like it’s made for it. The two front male buckles jack into the two female buckles in the top corner tabs, and the two back male buckles jack into the bottom side female buckles.
At other times I’ve used the Kifaru shoulder strap, and carried it slung over one shoulder.

I can also clip it into buckles that I place on the shoulder straps of a pack.
I can also mount the Map’mups on the face of a pack when I’m in transit.
A few views from different angles. The sides were done with 2" webbing at the back and 1" at the front. On the inside at the back I placed several slot pockets and PALS webbing to mount pouches for GPS, compass, etc. necessitating that the back be wider than the front which would just house maps.
With the Prune’mups, Saw’mups, Leatherman Wave and Camer’mups
Mounted on the Kifaru Express.
Bottom with drain hole. I put PALS webbing on here (as well as the corresponding part on the inside) not because I had any real purpose for it, but I figured what the hell. I may at some point find a pouch or something to stick there.
Along the back on the inside, behind the PALS webbing is a pocket that houses extra maps, note pads, guide books, etc. On top of that sit five 12½ cm (5") deep pockets - four that are about 8 cm (3") wide, and one that is 16 cm (6") wide. One of them has four slots for pens. These are for a note pads, a fresnel lens, map tools, protractors, a roller ruler, etc. Along the back are also four 550 cord loops, two on the top and two on the bottom, for tying dummy cords to.
Along the top at the back is also a Velcro strip for patches. Ones that are rotated out can be stored there.
Behind the map case is another slot pocket for storing extra maps. The map case itself can hold about a dozen maps, so the two extra slot pockets are great for the overflow.
The map case itself was something I wasn’t completely certain about. I used vinyl from a portfolio page. I don’t know how it may be different from the clear vinyl in other admin panels and the like. In the back of my head was the idea that it might not be as strong. For that reason I opted to make it removable. If for some reason there’s a problem with it, it will be easier to repair or replace that way. Another idea I had was to make a separate module for actually doing mapping. A thin board with bungee cord at the four corners to hold the paper down. Velcro on the back just like on the map case, so that it could then be popped in if the purpose is to go out and notate information. (shortly after I finished this I saw that CPGear had come out with their own take on this and saw that theirs featured a removable map window. Maybe my idea wasn’t such a compromise after all.)
The map case opens at the top with a zipper. 
At the top corners are two tabs with grommets for the 550 cord to keep the front from flopping right down. 
The next things I have to tackle are some pouches to mount along the back. I’ll make them out of some lighter pack cloth. I need one for a compass, one for a flashlight (currently wedged into the PALS webbing), and eventually one for a GPS, and maybe a PLB or Spot. Some other things probably as well.
The top row of PALS has a 1 inch strip of Velcro sewn on to it so that there is 3" of Velcro for patchy good fun. It may well be covered up if I need the real estate, but so far it’s just been for sticking patches onto.
This is definitely the most complex thing I’ve made so far.
There are places where I have several layers of Cordura, webbing, zippers. 9 layers in one spot. 

Oh and wait for it – drum roll please – the whole thing was done by hand.

All in all, it works just like I had envisioned it. I figured it all out in my head, executed it, and it was just what I had hoped it would be. Nice feeling. Mounted on my chest, it’s both comfortable and very solid. I can run with it, paddle, climb - whatever. One added and unexpected benefit is that it tends to sway back and forth a little, adding a nice fanning effect. Lovely in summer. I can get at all the stuff I need easily and quickly.

The only things that I think are weak areas are the fact that with the weight of the pouches on the front, when opened it tends to sag a bit. Not majorly, but it does droop a bit. Also the zippers and the webbing they’re sewn to tend to puff out at the sides a bit. That’s not really a big deal though, just a bit of a cosmetic thing.

So now that I have this done, I’ve already got a whole new design floating around in my head. Taking some of the ideas from this, and then taking it in a whole other direction. Part of it is realizing that I could have done certain things an alternate way construction wise, and also just some very different ideas about how to approach the problem design wise. And that is all part of the fun. Designing it, making it, trialling it, and then making a good thing even better.


  1. By Hand? Amazing work. How has it held up in the 3 years since you've made it?

    1. Thanks.

      I'm happy to say it still looks like it did when I made it. It's gotten quite a bit of use (I take it on every hike I go on, clipped to front of my Kifaru Express pack) and I haven't treated it that gingerly. Mainly to see what sort of abuse it can take. So far, so good.

  2. Cool little pouch, nice work. I have a matching OD MollEx, usually run an organizer and a 2 quart, but have long pockets too. It's also my most-used pack, but that hasn't stopped me looking, have a G2 Zulu on the way....

    Thanks for sharing, pretty cool blog!