I recommend to everyone who’s not happy with any travelbag/gobag/backpack that they have bought and who can never find the right bag for themselves – to consider learning to sew (a great ability to have in general in life) and making their own mods, or buying some stuff to enhance your pack.
Let’s face it; sometimes you just can’t find the perfect pack no matter how you try.
Sewing, like I said above – is a great skill to have for many reasons; whether it’s for everyday life or for survival in a tricky situation.
You can sew a button on your clothes, patch a hole in a jacket in an emergency, sew up a wound even (in an emergency – you probably don’t want to take up home surgery), and such. And, of course, make mods to a backpack.
The photo to the right is of my modified Outdoor Products Morph backpack (the one on the left, the pack on the right is my Case Logic DSLR Backpack). In the photo below that is my new Leapers UTG Multi-functional Tactical Messenger Bag.
On a side note – a quick and maybe-amusing anecdote when it comes to go-bags/bug-out bags, etc – one day on Facebook I asked what people carried in their go-bags. A bunch of my friends and acquaintances who have go-bags or just like carrying useful things with them, listed off what they carry.
But one of my friends listed off a huge, massive number of things, probably about seventy-five or a hundred pounds worth of things! Maybe more. I, of course, had to razz him about his ability to actually carry something like that very far and/or very fast on foot. Or even move it to whatever you are using to move yourself to somewhere else. Not only would it be an effort to move it to a vehicle, but if you were injured or a smaller person needed to loaded it you’d be out of luck. That’s not even considering if you had to go it on foot with something like that.
Taking the crazy survivalist or Prepper thoughts a bit further – what if you were actually being chased by whatever (you fill in the blank) – in the case of my friend’s bag I’d probably be a mile or more away and maybe safe by the time whatever was chasing us had caught up with him as he tried to drag his massive go-bag very far, and subsequently he’d probably be in the process of being eaten/ shot/ tortured/ captured/ liquefied/ made to watch Sarah Palin speeches/ what-have-you while I was safely and quickly making tracks in the other direction.
The Morph is a nice backpack but not perfect. But what backpack is? Unless you make it perfect yourself, of course.
After having it for a while I set out to expand the middle compartment. In the stock backpack this was a small pocket that wasn’t very deep, only as deep as about a third of the way down the length of the backpack. It was indeed just a pocket.
After finding the appropriate water-resistant cloth (courtesy of my sister, though you should be able to pick it up in a fabric store – you could use anything but you probably want to match the water-resistant nylon that backpacks are made of) I measured out a large front and back rectangle corresponding to the size of the compartment I wanted it to eventually be, and sewed the two pieces together into a pocket using a heavy-duty thread and a sewing machine. If you have thick heavy material or canvas and want to use a sewing machine make sure you use a heavy-duty needle and thread. You want to watch the seams here as you might find yourself putting a fair amount of weight inside it. You can always sew extra cloth along the inside and outside of the seam to strengthen it and this even allows you to sew further outside the seam without taking up the space inside it.
I could have done this part by hand but it was easier to use a sewing machine for a nice even line of thread, and I knew I had some hard hand-sewing to do. A quick mention that a friend reminded me of – you may need a heavy-duty needle to hand-sew some of the thicker material and of course heavy-duty thread. Large curved needles can help you get around corners and tight spots, and you may even need to use thimbles or gloves to protect your hand and a small pair of pliers to get the needle through if you have REAL heavy-duty material to work with.
Next I slit the bottom of the existing middle compartment in the backpack and overlapped my new longer pocket onto that, carefully turned the whole thing inside out, and then got down to sewing.
This was tricky, especially where it got close to where the top of the original pocket was attached to the backpack itself. After a bit of extra sewing (and some strips of extra cloth to reinforce the seams) I had a nice compartment almost the entire length of the backpack, similar but not as roomy as the existing large compartment at the back of the pack. You can see it (now real well) in the picture above.
After some experimenting with stowing some random heavy hiking and camping sort of objects in it to work the bugs out; I went back and reinforced some seams again with more strips of cloth to finish and perfect the job. Adding strips of cloth allows you do sew out around a seam and add more strength by distributing the area you are connecting (sewing) to and around.
My next backpack project was adding some anchor/carabiner points/clips (highlighted in the picture to the right). The clip and the straps to secure them are canvas straps that I saved from an old bag of some sort. I made sure that I cut plenty of extra canvas strap to provide as much anchor as possible to sew onto the pack. I also sewed a strip of cloth on the inside to keep any thread from ripping out/through the backpack material itself, if I were to put some serious weight onto these clips.
Below you can see a few more mods that I added.
I don’t like a wide waist belt but a thin one can be useful to me, and the nice thing about a waist strap or belt (in addition to keeping the pack from bouncing) is that you can sling things off it if you need some extra space while hiking or walking.
I was able to add these straps in a favorable way to make them look as OEM as possible. Again – liberating some straps and clips from some other long-worn out pack or bag. You can also buy these straps and clips/buckles into sports supply stores or even Walmart sometimes. You can buy just the canvas straps or belts, and cut them to length or buy them with the clips and tighteners already on them. Or get a surplus backpack from a second-hand store.
The Morph already came with a few loops on the front of the shoulder straps but these were too few and mostly too high on the shoulder straps for my use. Again, some surplus strap and some hand-sewing was all that was needed. Two thicknesses of loops sewn into the strapping along the padded shoulder straps worked perfectly. You can see a good example of this on the left-hand strap (as you are looking at the picture) right below the waist strap – this particular one works well for mounting my Garmin Legend HCx hiking GPS (a beautiful hiking GPS) so that I can easily see it with just a glance. Above this you can see an accessory holster attached to one of the stock mounting straps.
My backpack is not real rigid (no internal frame) so I found that with the things I carry in it that stay somewhat towards the bottom of the various pockets (and with the mods), it can ‘slouch’ over if a hydration pack isn’t in it to give it some rigidity. A simple old piece of cardboard in the hydration pack pocket gives it a nice rigid structure. If your pack doesn’t have a hydration pocket or anything comparable you could of course just add a piece of cardboard when you don’t have it full of things. Or add in a hydration pocket! And heck – cardboard is light and you can use it for a lot of things if needed.
So you see that it’s not too hard to modify an existing pack if you use a little common sense and hone your sewing abilities.
I’m going to end this blog posting with not a mod but an addition. Whether your backpack is waterproof, water-resistant, or neither – you might be able to benefit from a backpack cover – like this one (this link isn’t for the same model shown in the pictures below). I got mine quite cheaply and it came in its own bag, which was a plus. The nice thing is it can fit over my DSLR backpack as well as other things. In a pinch it could be used into other ways and to waterproof smaller bags by wrapping it around them. It fits snugly and has a drawstring for adjusting it.