Sunday, 21 July 2013


I decided I needed a deck pack for the kayak, but of course, decided to make rather than buy. Besides a bag that could sit atop the deck and allow me access to important stuff while afloat, I also wanted it to serve as a day bag, so that when I got out of the kayak to go and explore, I could take it off the deck with little fuss, put it on my back and head off.

Another motivation is that no matter whether I’m off on a Sunday afternoon walk, a five day hunt scout or a 2 week long canoe trip, there are certain items that I always want to have with me. Sweater, rain jacket, ground sheet, gloves, toque, spare socks, sun glasses, first aid kit, stove and pot, head lamp, TP and hand sanitizer, fire starting stuff, snacks, etc. The other stuff is what tends to change, or stuff that is superfluous if out for just a day. Amount of food, amount of insulation, hammock or a winter tent, etc.

I have tried a few approaches to this requirement – the Kifaru E&E, and I made the EscapePod™. Both were a bit too small for my needs. I had looked at the approach of Hill People Gear - one smallish pack on the outside to hold all those usual things, a pack bag for the changeable items, that is then lashed on to a frame. I like their stuff okay, but I wasn’t so keen on the zipper down the centre, and thought a panel loader would be better for my intended purposes. And, I just wanted to make my own, add my own little tweaks, etc. Good idea, but I’ll take it off in my own direction.

I knew my Kifaru PackFrame was going to be a component of this whole thing. I decided that I wanted this pack to be very integrate-able with it.

Carrying on an idea I started with the EscapePod™, instead of the usual PALS matrix, I’ve opted for tabs along the 4 sides, both front and back. (Or Thomas’ Attachable Bag System, or TABS.) I can add pouches along the sides, top or bottom, add compression straps, floating panels, route shock cord through it to stash a jacket, attach the YBDP to another pack, attach it to the deck of the kayak, etc.

The 4 horizontal and 4 vertical straps are to hold straps in place that I use to lash it to the KifaruFrame. I could have not put them on, but it helps prevent them slipping off.

Left and right side.
Top. Carry handle, but no hydration tube port. Two slightly different colour zipper pulls to make it slightly easier to determine if the zipper is actually closed.

Since this will spend a good deal of time on my kayak’s deck, I wanted it to serve as a large tray, to prevent anything from falling out. Hence the zipper was at the front rather than at the back. The panel allows me to open it a lot or a little.

Bottom. Added some 1000D Cordura for some added protection.
Back. I made part of it out of mesh, with the idea of adding some breathability. Don’t know if it will make much of a difference, or if I’ll regret it because it wasn’t so durable. Meh. It’s worth giving ideas a try, and if it doesn’t work, I’ll just make another one.

Oh and I took the lazy way out and used the padded Kifaru E&E straps that I got and never used for their intended purpose.

The mesh section also serves as a sleeve that the Kifaru CargoChair fits into. One, it helps act as a frame sheet of sorts, helps to give the pack some form and rigidity. Two, I can take it out and use it as a padded seat to place my delicate derrierre on. Third, it can attach directly to the Kifaru PackFrame.

I put two slots at the bottom for the points on the CargoChair that attach to the bottom of the PackFrame.
I also added some 1000D Cordura sections on either side of the mesh to help prevent wear in areas where it seemed likely to happen. The bottom of the CargoChair rubbing against my back seemed like the most probable spot for abrasion.
And at the top are slots for the points on the CargoChair that attach to the quick release buckles of the PackFrame. (I ended up having to go back and recut the hole, moving the bottom down at least an inch so I could actually get the buckle out.)
Closeup of the points where the bottom of the shoulder straps are attached. I put a triangle of very stiff webbing between two straps to help spread the load out. 
Since I liked Kifaru’s ChamberPocket just fine, I added loops so I could attach it inside to hold small things.
Turned inside out. Front, back, sides, bottom, top.
The 2 ½" webbing running down the middle is so that I can attach stuff to them. Given it’s meant to be mounted on a rocking, possibly windswept kayak deck, I wanted to make sure there was a way to firmly attach stuff sacks, pouches, etc. so they couldn’t fall out or be blown out.
You get the idea.

I decided to use some lighter nylon material that I had laying around - about 200 denier nylon I think, not certain. I used it mainly because it’s what I had, and wanted to get this project rolling. Not sure that it’s going to make that much of a difference as far as weight goes - a few grams maybe - the webbing and buckles certainly aren’t lighter - but it’s fun to play around with different fabrics. I doubled the fabric, but it is still pretty floppy. Had some doubts about it, but it survived the handling of me working it, and so far so good. Time will tell whether it is worth the effort, or if I wasted my time.

Oh, and the size of this is 45.75 cm (18") high, 30.5 cm (12") wide and 15.25 cm (6") deep. 

Using a formula of circumference being width plus depth times 2, divided by π, divide that sum by 2, which equals the radius. Then to get the volume, take π, multiply that by radius squared times height. Which got me a volume of about 30 liters or about 1860 cubic inches. That size is about the equivalent of a Kifaru X-Ray, or a bit bigger than HPG’s Highlander. It’s a bit less than three times the size of my EscapePod™.

Here it is with the Slurp’mups, and Ouch’mups attached to the sides.
Here I have a dry bag between the YBDP and the frame. While this is not ultimately how I want to have it set up, it demonstrates the general idea and what can be carried. I can carry a dry bag of some sort, a box, a barrel, whatever animal I bagged, etc. and still have this pack with essentials in it. I plan to make a pack sack of my own design, the same general shape, about double the volume, again with tabs on the sides and bottom. (The two side pouches definitely need to go on the main pack closer to my back when the YBDP is on there.)

The other thing about this is that I can carry the pack by itself, or attached to the frame. On canoe trips we often head out to explore on foot and use it as an opportunity to also gather firewood. Lash it to the frame, re-attach the pack and carry it back to the canoe. Go off on a hunt, have all the essentials in case you need to stay out overnight in the YBDP, but be able to carry the deer back, lashed to the frame.

Something else I can do with the pack is attach the ThomniBelt to it, lengthen the webbing at the shoulder straps and carry it lower down with the belt taking some of the weight on my hips rather than all the weight on the shoulders.
So, a little more about the CargoChair. I can either attach the YBDP to the frame with some horizontal and vertical straps.
Alternately, I can attach the metal tri-glides through the loops on the bottom of the frame....
....and at the top the quick release buckles are attached. One drawback to this method is that you can see how it falls forward quite a bit because I can’t tighten the strap enough. 
I can counter it a little by attaching some straps at the top, but that only helps a little. The whole pack sways quite a bit when carried like this. It’s attached, it won’t come off, but if I had to run for any distance, the swaying side to side would quickly become irritating. It was an idea I had, tried it out, and the reality was a bit disappointing. It works to a degree, but that is a part of design - sometimes you don’t know to what degree something will work until you get the idea into a physical form to actually try out. In a pinch, I’ll carry it like this, but I’ve found it’s not my preferred method. Straps to attach it seems to be the way to go. Or, with a pack bag in between the two seems to work a good deal better.

The issue of the straps will undergo some changes yet. At the moment it’s a little make do, but I’ll work out something better. One thing I’m thinking of making is a type of compression panel along the bottom, and press the pack against/into the frame. I’ve also become very enamoured of ITW’s G-Hooks, which will replace the National Molding Stealth Buckles I currently use.

Here it is with the Map’mups on the front, the Slurp’mups, and Ouch’mups attached to the sides.

So far, I’m happy with it. I suspect that I might tackle another one with some minor tweaks to it, some different material I suspect, maybe make the zipper a little longer, one or two other things, but all in all, it’s what I had envisioned. I will put it through its paces for a few months, actually try it on the kayak, and then I’ll see how far that iterative process actually needs to go. And the pack bag I plan to make may well play a factor in any changes to this pack as well.

Oh and wait for it, I sewed the whole thing by hand. 

There were a few places where it got a little nutty, along the bottom, and down at the bottom where the shoulder strap attachments emerge. Those I had to do with needle nose pliers, but everything else was perfectly manageable with just my fingers, and some rubber thimbles.


  1. Excellent work. I like your idea of the tabs instead of the PALS matrix. Keeps things modular, without looking too tactical. I imagine it reduces the weight a little too. I like the panel-load design also. Some people are anxious about using panel-loaders in the field, but I think that is an antiquated idea, left over from a time when zipper technology was unreliable. I'd like to see more panel-loaders on the market.

    1. Thank you!

      I like the tabs. At first I loved PALS because I could endlessly change things up - add all sorts of pouches to the outside of packs to figure out what worked. But once I figured out what worked for me, I figured out that tabs worked as well, still allowed for a degree of modularity, and actually gave me some more options.

      As far as weight savings, I thought that at first, but while I was working on this, I did the math in my head (each tab is 3", long, and there are 100 of them in this bag), I figured there really is no weight saving, maybe even a weight gain. Oh well.

      I think you are right about the zippers. That any hesitation people express about them is a vestigial fear, held over from zippers of decades past, or people buying cheap packs from WalMart using substandard imitation zippers. I’m using a YKK #10 zipper in this - not sure I can get any better or sturdier. I’ve had quality pouches and packs for many years, stuffed them to the gills, opened and closed them thousands of times and have yet to experience any problems. I suspect also that how well a packs zipper does also has something to do with how sturdy the actual fabric is. My worry with this pack is the fabric. I may regret using it, but unless I try it, and put the pack through its paces, I’ll never know. I may cry when it fails on me, or it may serve me fro many years. I will see.

  2. Wicked! Excellent work as always!

  3. That's pretty slick, Sir! Well done.