Heavyweight Ultralight Backpack

After completing the first section of the Sierra High Route last summer I realized it was time to build a much more burly backpack. Since there was nowhere to resupply on these remote trips I needed something that would comfortably hold ten days of food and a bear canister. I also needed a pack that could withstand the beating that comes with scrambling through cross country terrain in the High Sierra. I decided it was time to make my first Heavyweight Ultralight Backpack!

The Heavyweight Ultralight Backpack.

I used heavy duty 210d Dyneema X Gridstop from Thru-Hiker.com for the bottom and the first few inches of the main pack body. The same material worked well for the side pockets and lower rear pocket. I like to keep my rain gear in the large lower rear pocket so I left a few inches of extra material both vertically and horizontally. The side pockets also feature a few inches of extra material to allow for holding food, water and some warm items like a hat and gloves that I like to have within reach without taking off the pack.

For the rest of the pack I used 1.43 oz/sqyd cuben fiber from Zpacks.com. I've used this material on all of my other packs and it has worked well. According to Joe Valesko it is rated to last about 2,500 miles, which is plenty for me.

I also added some 3D Spacer Mesh from Questoutfitters.com for the inner side of the shoulder straps and hip belt which is extra wide for a more comfortable feel. This time the hip belts are 6" at the body and only narrow a few inches to the ends. I also used wider material for the hip belt straps, 1.5" nylon webbing. For the padding on the hip belt I borrowed from the ULA design so I could easily remove the padding as needed. This ended up working well because I was able to add different sizes of padding after finishing the pack.

I like carrying a Gossamer Gear Sit Pad as a pad against my back. The flexible 3/32" cord from Zpacks.com worked to keep the sit pad attached to the pack, while still making it easy to remove at rest stops. I also added two cuben corner pockets to keep the pad in place.

A few extras this time include a pocket for my SPOT II locator beacon and a pocket for a permit on either side. I've found that being able to get my trekking poles out of the way without having to remove my pack makes it easier to change from trail hiking to boulder scrambling. I have been using two trekking pole holders, one at the bottom of the left shoulder strap and one at the bottom of the pack on the left side. 3/32" flexible cord and a few cord locks hold my trekking poles in place.

I added two the inner pockets inside each of the two larger pockets on the rear of the pack. The upper pocket is sized to fit my maps and the lower pocket is made using heavier material to hold titanium stakes. Each pocket has a lid with velcro to keep things in place.

Gossamer Gear makes Custom Aluminum Frame Stays so I ordered an extra large 25" frame to fit inside the pack. There are two dyneema frame channels on the inside with locking mechanisms at the top to hold the frame in place. Once I put it all together I bent the frame to fit my back and keep the load in place.

So how does this pack hold up in the backcountry? I had the opportunity to find out recently when I took a fall while climbing a granite wall along the North Fork Kings River. The pack not only padded my fall well but it handled the lengthy slide along the granite well. Aside from a few holes and scratches it came out fine, which is more than I can say for my serenity that day!

I also added a cuben fiber camera holder on the left hipbelt with 1/8" foam and nylon on the inside for protection. It has a ziper in case it rains and a velcro tab to for easy access under normal conditions. On the right hipbelt I added a small pocket with a velcro closure to hold small items like Chapstick and premixed Aqua Mira in a small plastic 1/4 oz bottle.

The final weight? Without the removable internal frame but with all of the other extras it weighs 14.4 ozs. The internal frame adds 4 oz.

If you are interested in building a pack like this and I can answer any questions feel free to send me an email.

210d Dyneema X Gridtop on the bottom

In the backcountry with 7 days of food.

Padded hipbelt
Foam insert.

Padded shoulder strap

Removable internal frame

SPOT pocket.

Permit pocket.

Sit pad attachment.

Sit pad corner pockets

Internal map pocket (open)

Internal map pocket (closed)

Internal pocket for stakes (open)

Internal pocket for stakes (closed)

Adjustable rear pocket (open)

Adjustable rear pocket (closed)

Adjustable rear pocket (open)

Adjustable rear pocket (closed)

Adjustable side pocket (open)

Adjustable side pocket (closed)

Trekking Pole Holder
Trekking Pole Holder


  1. This backpack is, I don't know if a backpack can be called gorgeous, but this pack is. Great job man, I also like your passion for the Sierra Nevada. I can not get enough of the Sierra Nevada as well.

    1. Thanks cgaliano! I appreciate your feedback.

  2. Any idea on the volume of the body of the pack?

    1. The main pack body is about 2,300 c/i. The pockets add about 700 c/i. The dimensions of the body of the pack are 6" x 12" x 32".

  3. This is a beautiful pack!

  4. My friend just asked me to see if i could make a hiking backpack just because there so expensive for the ones he wants and we figure out it is actually cheaper to make one instead!! That how I came across your post I really do love it but I feel as if i couldn't do one this great!! lol I'm more of a purse and baby item sewer haha but i will try if i don't fail and i'll try to post a picture!! but great job man i'm jealous!!!

  5. Just read your article. Good one. I liked it. Keep going. you are a best writer your site is very useful and informative thanks for Sharing Go for the best quality product possible and research before purchasing one. Wasting money is not something anyone likes, better spend sometimes on research and get the
    best tactical backpack.

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.