Simple Pack Cover

Most pack covers are made of silnylon fabric with an elasticised drawstring sewn into their edge. I find that these slip off the top and bottom of the pack, often when you’re trying to quickly grab something from the top compartment of the bag; you pull the top of the cover off a bit without loosening the drawstring and the whole thing seems to work its way off the pack. I’ve noticed that most bags’ hip belts are often sewn flush with the bottom of the pack, giving the cover’s elastic cord little to wrap around. Attaching the bottom of the pack cover to the base of the bag seemed like a reasonable solution, so that’s where I began.

I’ve numerous fabrics, including coated poly and treated silnylon, but chose to sew a prototype out of a camouflage pattern. The cover would be used on one of my favourite packs, an 80 litre Mountain Equipment Co-op AlpineLite barrel bag. The cover’s sewn from a large rectangle of fabric (45 x 85 cm) and its top half is identical to the conventional design—rounded edges with elastic cord. The bottom edge has a 5 centimeter fold along the bottom edge of the cover. A short length of elastic cord is passed through said fold, connecting between one hip pad to the other as tightly as possible. The top half of the cover is then pulled up and over the lid of the pack, the elastic cord holding it tightly. When the cover’s removed from the top of the bag, it’s easy to pull back on.

Additions to the second prototype will include a sewn fold (~2 centimeter), plastic hardware to quickly attach the elastic cord or webbing between the hip pads, a clasp or buckle to tighten the latter, and a short length of webbing holding the sides of the cover taught against the sides of the pack across the back pad, beneath the wearer’s shoulder blades. Updates will be posted here.

Modified Chest Packs

In May of 2018, I purchased a used fanny pack for $5.99 with the intention of modifying it into a chest pack. I figured it’d carry a VHF radio, binoculars, field notebook, Leatherman, my Samsung S8, maybe a Garmin and/or InReach, and a handful of miscellaneous items. Since the first prototype, I’ve constructed a second chest pack. This time, out of a small, used Arc’teryx shoulder bag purchased for $4.99 (pictures below). Nowadays, I tend to wear a chest pack while in the backcountry whether it’s for work or fun. Pictures of both versions are below.

TLDR: find a small pack that will fit across your chest between your backpack’s straps, sew two loops of webbing on either side of the to-be chest pack’s base, sew/attach two small and sturdy male end buckles to either side of the chest pack’s top seam, and attach the corresponding female ends to either side of your backpack’s sternum strap. Buckles and short sections of webbing can be poached from dog harnesses purchased at thrift stores. Their hardware and materials are generally sturdier than what’s available at crafting/fabric stores—and much cheaper.

Version 1: I began by removing the waist belt and bar stitched two short lengths of 1/2 inch webbing to either side of the small pack, along the top seam. These were used to attach the male ends of two small buckles. Then, two lengths of hook-and-loop velcro were sewn along each side of the pack where the waist belt had been—these would secure the base of the chest pack to the backpack’s straps, preventing it from swinging back-and-forth as the user hikes. Two female buckles corresponding to those on the pack were attached to short lengths of webbing, double-backed onto themselves, creating two small loops. These were clipped into the sternum strap attachment points on the backpack’s straps. Using the chest pack: put on your backpack, clip your sternum strap, attach the chest pack to your backpack via the two small buckles, and velcro either side of the pack to your backpack’s straps. When removing your pack temporarily, you can detach one velcro strap and unclip one buckle, letting the chest pack hang—quick to reattach once you put the backpack on.

Version 2: The Arc’teryx chest pack doesn’t attach to the backpack’s straps. I passed a skinny chalk bag belt through the loops of webbing sewn into the bag’s bottom seam and clipped it around my torso. This way, I can take off the backpack without removing the chest pack—more convenient. I’d need additional webbing and two female end buckles to make it a standalone chest pack; it could then be worn underneath the backpack, completely detached. Pictures of Version 2 are at the end of the gallery below.

Sewing a Backpack Rifle Sling

I observed the advantages of using a rifle sling during a trip to Northern Rocky Mountains Provincial Park, British Columbia. A good friend and coworker swore by these holsters and over the course of our trip, I'd watch him use poles and scramble up steep rock without fussing with his rifle. Most days were spent hiking uphill and I often found myself opting to cradle my rifle—this required one or both arms—rather than have its conventional sling constantly slide off my shoulder.

After receiving the materials, making the first sling took roughly an hour. And most of that time went to considering how it would get put together. The rifle sling is composed of two parts, a holster-type piece attached to the hip belt of your backpack (holds the butt end of the rifle) and a small attachment point for the rifle’s barrel, placed on one of the backpack straps near or at the sternum strap. The large holster piece supports the vast majority of the gun’s weight, while the barrel strap prevents it from jostling around. The barrel strap is a short piece of webbing that’s velcro’d to the backpack strap. A section of this webbing (~10 cm) passes around the rifle barrel before entering a camming buckle. Unholstering the rifle is quick: you flick the camming buckle open, the forend of the rifle falls into your hands, and the butt end of the rifle lifts from the holster as the gun’s shouldered.

Tip: I found that it is important to size the rifle butt piece carefully to avoid your recoil pad getting snagged when you unholster the gun. Selecting a finely woven webbing appears to help as it's less likely to bind on a soft recoil pad. Also, I find that using a camming buckle larger your webbing’s width makes it easier to thread the webbing through on account of the additional clearance.

For those interested, here's a materials list:

  • 2 x 26" pieces of 1.5" velcro (hook and loop; lower 1/2)

  • 3 x 9" pieces of ~2" webbing (lower 1/2)

  • 1 x 9" piece of 1.5" webbing (lower 1/2)

  • 1 x 3" piece of 1.5" webbing (lower 1/2)

  • 1 x 1.5" slide buckle (lower 1/2)

  • 1 x 13" piece of 0.75" webbing (upper 1/2)

  • 1 x 0.75" cam-locking buckle (upper 1/2)

  • 2 x 9" pieces of 0.75" velcro (hook and loop; upper 1/2)