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Ultralight IKEA-Bag Backpack (sandiegomitch.com)
404 points by drusklo on Nov 22, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 130 comments

What an amount of negativity!

This was clearly done as a DIY project, I love it! It's definitely not worth the time/money, but isn't that the definition of a hobby?

I'm very happy for OP, I always enjoy checking out projects like this: the computer made of marbles, the big CPU made from logic gates, esoteric programming languages... More content like this, please!

>What an amount of negativity!

Sad but true, if you don't have constructive feedback to someone's DIY project, why bother giving it? Maybe it's a great invention, or maybe it's a horrible one that is their stepping stone to that great one later on. Encouragement really helps DIYers and inventors as a whole.

DIY stuff is cool and this project definitely is. Just understand the limitations of it and use it in situations where it is safe and logical to do so.

I feel like that's inherit to the term "Do it yourself" and I'm not sure why people feel like they need to explain it every time someone has a DIY project.

Because it is worth discussing what is and isn't good about something? Just blindly saying "cool beans" isn't really a fun discussion at all. And if a topic wasn't meant to be discussed, it shouldn't have been posted to a message board.

There is definitely some unnecessary negativity though.

Some comments often miss the problem the inventor was trying to solve when they pick holes.

The most useful criticisms was the comment about the material degrading in sunlight because of uv. Useful thing to know.

I usually like "do it from scratch" projects but people thinking this is anything but an educational, "what-if" project makes me laugh.

That one commenter putting sunscreen on a plastic bag... talk about polishing a turd.

Whats up everyone. I am the maker of the website and the backpack.

This was my first sewing project, but it turned out much better than I expected.

I loaded the pack with 30 lbs to test it out before I take it on a multi day trip, and it had no problems.

I'm currently working on moving my images to a remote site so wish me luck on keeping the site up.

I love this project. Post it to http://www.ikeahackers.net/.

Done! Sent them my info.

Feel free to share my website anywhere

Love the spirit of the project! I look forward to seeing if you iterate/modify/improve on the design after using it.

Awesome job, Mitch! I've always loved the ubiquitous Ikea bag. I still use mine from uni for the laundromat, and have a separate one for car camping for all the miscellaneous items. It's essentially the West's version of the "ghana bag" / "chinatown tote" (apologies for the potential derogatory term, but don't know it by any other name).

I've always though it'd be pretty rad to make a backpack or bike panniers out of the blue Ikea bag. It's the idea of building your own otherwise-expensive camping gear for on the cheap. Yes, it won't function as well as something made by a proper company with years of experience, but it's yours. It's like when you were a child, and your parents wouldn't buy you the toy you wanted, so you made your own.

Great job! I looks a lot like the designs by Ray Jardine which were my first sewing products. http://www.rayjardine.com/ray-way/Backpack-Kit/index.htm

Nice job! Keep it up.

Great job! I've been thinking of doing a MYOG pack; but my minimum requirement is I have to fit a bear vault; and I think some kind of dedicated frame would be a must. Your idea of using the sleeping-pad as a frame is genius!

It can actually hold 4 BV500's: http://imgur.com/a/fK8sj

Very inventive, congratulations on your project! I forwarded your website to my wife as she's very much a DYI person and she was impressed. Keep up the good work, would like to see more projects like this.

I love it! So if you really would like to make more of them, I'd definitely be willing to purchase one! Great work!

Contact me through my website! I'm getting a list of people who are willing to fork over $200-$250 for an IKEA bag + a lot of time!

There seems to be quite an IKEA hacking community.

For anyone who has managed to miss it until now, the classic LACK Rack: https://wiki.eth0.nl/index.php/LackRack

> There seems to be quite an IKEA hacking community.

Indeed! https://www.reddit.com/r/ikeahacks/comments/5e1k2s/my_17oz_d...

What a coincidence that the space between the table legs exactly match that of a server rack.

I wonder if IKEA designs the stuff to 50 cm and it just happens to be in tolerance to 19 inches (48.3cm)

these are common on /r/homelab.

One of the coolest communities on reddit

I got lucky and was able to pick up a lack table with the bottom support and wheels for cheaper than the regular lack table. Use them to house a 4u server and my amp.

Another collection of IKEA hacks: http://www.ikeahackers.net/

Make IKEA Great Again...

Site slow for me, here is an imgur mirror http://imgur.com/a/J2957

I was happy when my site had 7 users on yesterday. Wasn't prepared for the 1000 when I woke up.

Adjustments have been made, and it should be running smooth now.

Going on 7.5 minutes and still not downloaded. In 2016? He would be wise to compress his images. Can't wait until it's done so I can look at the Network trace in DevTools and see what is going on ;)

top notch perf shaming right there

Maybe said with a bit of snark, but I mean well! What I should have said was, "If the images were compressed, he'd save 14 meg and the page would load quickly." I work in performance so much I lose sight when I'm being an ass, sorry. :)

Thank you for being great and apologizing!

Don't leave those ikea bags out in the sun, they fall apart rather...quickly....

I came here to say this... Those FRAKTA bags (http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/products/17228340/) are 100% polypropylene (thin strands, even). Polypropylene breaks down under ultraviolet light. The fact that the weave of the cloth is made from fine strands of polypropylene means that it will break down very quickly in the sun.

There's a "fix" though that should be good enough for a camping trip or two! Coat the bag with a powerful sunscreen. I'm not talking about those "SPF 50" spray bottles--those will wear off pretty fast. No, use Butt Paste:


Yes, it's diaper rash cream but it's 16% zinc oxide which is the primary ingredient in many sunscreen lotions/sprays. Even better, because it's a thick cream it will actually stick to that slippery blue Ikea polypropylene fabric and do a decent job at protecting it from the sun.

Making a cheap bag into a greasy, sticky cheap bag doesn't seem like a net gain.

Yes, butt covering with Butt Paste would be an excellent metaphor of its quality!

...which is precisely why I made my "protective" suggestion in the first place =)

Cheap? You can buy one from this guy for only $230 (!)

I found that very high at first, but then realized it's probably a pretty fair valuation of his time.

In the sense that you'd be silly to pay that price for that bag, but he'd be silly to sell it to you for any less if it takes him 10 hours to make it.

I am positively surprised to learn that a product called 'Butt Paste' exists.

Still seems that economically speaking it might be cheaper to create such a backpack from a more suitable cloth instead.

How about Anti-Monkey-Butt-Powder? [1] Popular in motorcycling communities.

[1] http://www.antimonkeybutt.com/

It exists, and it is wonderful. Hands down the best stuff for diaper rash I've ever used.

Only in DIY lala land do people apply sunscreen to their "hacked" backpacks...

Do you use Butt Paste as a normal sunscreen for yourself?

I've found it great for surfing. Granted, it makes me look like a mime, but the paste stays on in the water and blocks the sun.

No, unless you deliberately want to look like you just finished tussling with a toddler armed with a white paint brush.

How about nylon mesh bags? Nylon is not UV proof but its more UV resistant than the ikea bags. Some sources would be SOME mesh laundry bags and SOME mesh bags used by homebrewers to hold hops and stuff. For those folks who don't like filtering anyway. Or those folks who really do like filtering but don't want hops clogging up the filter, I guess.

Some (most? all?) HDPE is UV stabilized and you can get HDPE garden mesh in large amounts very cheaply. With a lot of sewing work I bet they'd look tolerably good and last a long time.

It's probably more interesting that it is self made than it is interesting that it is made out of IKEA bags.

I find making it from the bags an odd choice, fabric with particular chosen qualities would probably be $10-$20 a yard.

Cordura, which is what most robust backpacks are made of, is surprisingly expensive.

Yeah, I checked prices for ripstop nylon when I posted. Cordura doesn't seem to be a whole lot more expensive than I said.


It's also heavy. A better choice for this person's application would be Tyvek. (e.g., https://backpackinglight.com/forums/topic/18758/ ).

Maybe the licenses for the patterns I was buying it with pushed my prices up.

It's also incredibly heavy. There's a reason why no ultralight backpacks use the 600-1000D Cordura that more robust bags are made of.

You can find it very cheaply in some cases. I once called a ripstop manufacturer and got 75 yards of slightly miscolored fabric for free.

Tyvek would probably make more sense for a project like this. $30 will get you 10 yards on Amazon

Tyvek is loud. I used it to sew furniture covers for a cabin that is left unoccupied in winter. Shaking out the bed covers to put them on is deafening. Walking with a Tyvek pack might drive you mad.

Those IKEA bags are pretty freakin loud too. Both are materials I wouldn't want near me.

I don't think tyvek would be strong enough for a backpack. It is used a lot in backpacking for ground sheets and even shelters.

Tyvek also breaks down in UV light.

He paid $6 for the bags, so it may have been cheaper this way and/or more convenient.

Oh, it was obviously cheaper. But he spent 25 hours stitching. If I were doing that, I'd spend $25 getting the properties I wanted.

I think it looks pretty cool. And now he has the knowledge of how to make the backpacks without mistakes, so he can move onto more expensive material with confidence.

If your hourly rate is $10 dollars an hour, then that works out as a fairly expensive bag!

If you do it in your free time, it's an extremely cheap bag. People tend to overestimate the value of the time they spend not earning.

If you're spending that free time with family or friends or doing something else you value significantly, then sure, there's value to that time. If you're browsing photos on Reddit or watching TV, it's probably not that valuable if you honestly evaluate it.

Plus, you can get exactly what you want. There's such a rush from creating what you really want, and you get a little bit of that rush every time you look at your work again.

It is easy to consume. To create or make is so much harder, getting exponentially harder the higher the final quality needs to be.

Anyone who has ever burnt or messed up their dinner while cooking and still ate it will attest to the power of personal time investment.

Some 20 years ago a homeless friend showed me how to make a backpack out of the fabric of a discarded umbrella.

I wasn't going to rummage through bins for broken brollies, so I bought a new one to break up, which he found immensely amusing.

I wouldn't recommend it, it worked but only if your standards are low enough.

If any backpackers are intrigued by the idea but not keen on spending hours and hours hand stitching something, Ikea bags work great as waterproof pack covers if you don't have an actual pack cover. We used them on a two week trek around Patagonia with great results.

You can get a 6x5 ripstop nylon tarp for free with purchases at harbor freight. Cut your patterns from that rather than a bunch of Ikea bags.

I was thinking that too after I saw the material the original bags were made from. It almost looks like IKEA has been shopping at HF too.

Awesome job. Here's an idea for v2: keep the IKEA bag intact and find a way to wrap/fold it in such manner that you are able to mount it on some sort of shoulders/waist strap. You then use the same bag handles to hold/transfer the weight to the shoulders/waist. This assembly seems easier and the bag can still be used as such. Bonus: if the bag breaks you can replace it and have a new backpack for $1 :)

I'm thinking around messenger bags from Morrison's plastic/cloth shopping bags. Just need to work out how to stitch the stuff without a machine (sailing type needles or something and really strong cotton) and what to use for a strap.


Looking at other stuff on this guy's website, he seems to be one of the most creative persons I've ever heard of. Amazing stuff there.

Now if only I could get a job in a similar line of work haha. Thanks

I'd like to ask a related question I've been meaning to get to doing some research on for a while but have been a little stumped on where to start with. Thought I'd borrow this thread to get the chance to ask HN.

Public transport in my area is really awesome so it's how I get about the most, and I occasionally carry a couple of reasonably heavy items (20kg+ / 44lb+) on short trips. I'm currently using a medium-size Macpac bag for almost everything, but it has no spinal support and I tend to hunch when it's full, and on the occasions all my items go beyond 10kg I have to split everything into an extra bag.

I'm currently wondering if there are unicorn backpacks out there that are reasonably light (not ultralight), reinforced to handle 20kg+ loads, and built to last for years.

I know the military use industrial carrying frames to handle their crazy 50kg+ (110lb+) loads, and I think I'm looking for something similar to that, since that's a situation where you have to provide good support or you risk serious spinal damage, and the thing has to last for a while while it's out in the field where it can't be easily replaced. That said, I don't want to be stick out like a sore thumb carrying a massive camo-fabric sack around.

isn't the ikea bag same material as those blue tarps? Why not just use those plastic tarps which are already in tailor-friendly parallelograms

I can't be sure without touching both at the same time, but my memory of each says that the tarps are a lot thicker and heavier.

that's pretty cool. reminds me of me wanting to learn sewing, stitching and that stuff. knowing how to do that allows to alter suboptimally fitting clothes or repairing them. not to mention ... what this text is about ... designing yo I'mur own clothes, bags etc!

More generally, skills that make you good at reliably sticking things to other things are very useful. When you have mastered tape, glue, nails and screws, sewing is definitely a good next step.

I'm so impressed by this guy, it's well done and the initial problematic very interesting. It would be awesome if you could made a real website for it (and training your web-skills as you mentioned you are wishing)!

This is pretty awesome looking!

Honestly I'd buy this from you depending on the price. I don't want to make one myself, but I love the idea of a lightweight pack and (personally) don't mind the look. Actually quite like it. :)

Nice work.

Seems like something that would make you suuuupersweaty on the back

Is that Pacific Beach drive? I use to live right down the street from where that pic with frankenstein was taken, over on Riviera Drive.


"Roughly 25 hours of work" wow!

still, the bag looks pretty great. nice job!

Interesting as a DIY project, but I would strongly advise not using this for anything where functionality matters (camping, hiking, travel, etc). For just going to work/school it is a great fashion statement, but there are serious concerns

1. no chest strap to help distribute the load. I see a waist strap which is nice, but chest is generally the bare minimum

2. Those seals (stiches) aren't waterproof

3. It is only as durable as the stitching

4. The reason you pay for a "real" bag is for durability. That doesn't look like it would survive narrow trails that well. I am also sceptical as to how it would hold up on flights where you are forced to gate check all your luggage.

And before someone cites the ikea rope bag: Rope bags are generally what you use when you are climbing an hour or two away from the car/camp, at most, over fairly simple terrain. Farther or more strenuous than that and you are going to want a better more hands-free way of carrying that in addition to your gear.

Like I said, this backpack is cool and a nice fashion statement. But don't rely on it.

And if cost is the issue: Keep an eye out for sites like ebags. Can usually find great discounts and coupons throughout the year to get a solid Osprey (or whatever brand you prefer. I like Osprey) for on the order of 100 bucks. And while that is expensive (it actually isn't), understand that it should be lasting you at least 2-3 years, if not more.

Because I'm a little into ultralight backpacking:

> 1. no chest strap to help distribute the load. I see a waist strap which is nice, but chest is generally the bare minimum

UL backpacks usually don't have a lot of features, because they are built around the asumption that you optimize every single item for weight (best case by just leaving it at home). So it's not a specific property of that design, but in general for all UL packs that they leave features away that are meant for heavy load backpacking.

For anyone interested in a serious DIY ultralight backpack, I'd suggest taking a look at Ray Jardine's "Ray-Way Backpack Kit". Jardine was a pivotal figure in the modern ultralight backpacking movement; his designs have been used successfully by countless AT and PCT through-hikers.


Do all those backpacks have umbrellas on them? Do people hike with umbrellas? Why does every single bag have them? Are they part of some kind of system for something specific?

Indeed - I've hiked almost 3k miles carrying an umbrella. Worn rain gear is a compromise between breathability and waterproofness - even if you keep the rain out, you'll sweat and it's trapped inside. Umbrellas keep rain off you, are very breathable, and double as sun protection when it's really hot. Only downside is when it's windy and rainy, so it's nice to have a poncho too.

> 1. no chest strap to help distribute the load. I see a waist strap which is nice, but chest is generally the bare minimum

Chest straps don't distribute the load, they prevent the shoulder straps moving to the outside. It's a comfort thing (depending on where you prefer your shoulder straps to be) and not necessary at all. For hiking the waist strap is in fact the bare minimum, the primary load-bearing should be the hips, not the shoulders.

And this has limited relevance for ultralight since there should be very little load in the first place.

Your criticisms are pretty off the mark for ultralight backpacks. Nobody is expecting lifetime durability from a backpack weighing only 17 oz. Frameless bags (capacity <20 lbs) regularly omit the waist strap to save weight.

Some people want to buy a 5 lb backpack made of 1000D nylon that will outlast them. Other people want a 5 oz backpack made of an exotic material like Cuben or silnylon that will let them achieve a baseweight of under 15 lbs.

My point is more that this looks like it might not even have one trip durability. Even your example are two very durable materials designed to not tear. This is cheap plastic...

As for dropping the straps: You are right. A light backpack doesn't need them and I even removed them from my "taking a train into the city" backpack. But considering that one of the example pictures was a "look how durable this is! It carries 25 lb of rock with no issues", it is a factor.

Hence, if your use case is that you need something that looks nice while you go to school or walk around town, this is great. If you need any form of durability because having your bag break and needing to carry stuff by hand isn't an option: this isn't.

I can't verify at the moment (the site isn't responding when I tried to open it back up), but isn't this a backpack for ultralight backpacking as opposed to an ultralight backpack for (traditional) backpacking? If so, you're working with sub-20lb loads where chest/waist straps are no longer essential. Durability also no longer a top priority. The needs and expectations of an UL pack are vastly different from those of a traditional pack (which is what you seem to be describing).

The example/use-case he gives is loading it with 25 pounds of clothes, water, and rocks to test it before a multi-day hike. That gets into the range where all of that matters. Which was the point of my post.

In fact, taking something like that on a multi-day hike is a good way to earn yourself a Darwin award.

I took that as he was load-testing with more weight than he would actually carry. If it can carry the 25 pound test weight with no issues, it can carry his (just guessing) ~15 pound average load just fine.

Even if we assume there is a logical load, durability is still a huge issue. Ignoring the narrow path issues I mentioned other posters pointed out that polypropolene (sp?) deteriorates rapidly in the sun.

All of which is a HUGE problem on a multi-day hike.

Understand what your gear can and can't do. I have a really nice (Patagonia) backpack that I take with me when I go into town on the weekends and to work when I don't need a laptop. It is also great for going to the gym and for multipitch climbs where we are maybe ten minutes from a car. It is durable as hell and I can tie a small static rope to it if I am going to go up a chimney.

But it is tiny and it doesn't have a particularly secure top (draw string closure with a buckle). So if it is raining, I leave it at home. And if I am more than ten or fifteen minutes away from the car, I'll take my normal hiking backpack with me so that I can actually carry supplies and extra gear.

Does that make it bad? No, not at all. But it does mean there are some huge caveats to it.

Where in the world are you that you change bags when it's raining? us your walk very long or the rain particularly heavy?

Scrolling up, you seem to be exceedingly concerned for this guy and his backpack, almost to the point of an obsession. Maybe you should try to contact him directly to offer your insights?

Are we really at the ad hominem stage of things? Over discussions of the suitability of a sewn together plastic bag on a 3-day hike?

It wasn't a personal attack and I'm sorry if I gave that impression. I'm just saying that you seem to be extremely interested in his welfare, given how much you keep repeating the same "facts" about why his bag is so inferior to a commercial offering, despite that it's clearly just a hobby project. Your fervor on this subject is staggering, that's all.

How is backing up an argument and explaining limitations when questioned "fervor"?

I might as well accuse you of being obsessed with calling me obsessed because you bothered to reply.

When did we reach the point as a society where actually elaborating on a point and responding to someone is "fervor" and "obsession"?

> I might as well accuse you of being obsessed with calling me obsessed because you bothered to reply.

Fair enough. I just found it odd that you're repeating yourself to every single person who replied to you. Or maybe I'm the odd one for noticing? That's a possibility too.

Initially they came in a quick enough burst that it seemed prudent to respond. Then it became clear nobody was going to read what anybody else posted and there was no point because I could explain what the site/imgur page itself said until the cows come home and keep hearing "It doesn't need to be durable or carry anything"

But apparently we are both just obsessive people for having a conversation and not ignoring people

Obviously this isn't in the same league as a good functional backpack, but that's not the point, is it?

Regarding your first point, I find a waist strap much more important, but then again, with a few more hours of work, a chest strap could easily be added.

I would argue that adding the picture of "Look, it can hold 25 pounds of rocks" implies it might be. And I know that the more tech oriented communities often don't appreciate ergonomics and have a tendency to just say "Oh cool, I can stick it to the man and save money!".

And this is one of those cases where there are some huge caveats.

I think having a waterproof backpack for any serious hiking is a losing proposition. It's better to individually waterproof things you put in the bag that can't get wet, not the entire pack.

Critical stuff you definitely double bag. But stuff like extra layers or even a sleeping mat are things that can get wet but probably shouldn't and adding the extra bulk of waterproofing them just isn't worth it (to me).

True waterproofing generally isn't worth it. But not having to worry about a light-moderate rain or getting too close to a river/waterfall (obviously not submerged ,but just getting sprayed) is very nice. For the heavier stuff, you should probably throw a tarp/poncho/whatever over even the waterproof bags anyway.

Although my personal feeling is that if I am caught out in a heavy enough rain that just wearing my softshell and relying on zippers isn't sufficient then I don't want to be hiking anyway and should be looking for shelter.

I've done most of my hiking in Iceland, weather's very erratic, just because it's pouring doesn't mean you need to seek shelter, it's just rain.

I found that everyone I hiked with who tried to waterproof their backpack would end up with things soaked anyway. Frequently having to open the bag in the rain means the insides inevitably get soaked, it's much harder to even semi-waterproof a much larger area than having a waterproof duffel bag for the small stuff.

Gives you a lot of flexibility too, e.g. I've crossed rivers and then just dragged the backpack over to the other side via rope.

REI has good ultralight backpacks for like $50 on sale.

Clicking though their 'ultra light packs'

The kids pack is 2lb, 4oz. https://www.rei.com/product/870881/rei-passage-38-pack-kids "I bought this for my 8 year old daughter's 1st backpacking trip."

And that's more than twice as heavy as his pack.

PS: Sure on it's own saving 1lb is not that big a deal. But, if you focus on saving a few ounces here and there it makes a huge difference.

when places like REI use the term ultralight, it means an entirely different thing than how an experienced backpacker thinks of the word. To an experienced backpacker, rei (or any chain) does not carry ultralight gear. There is an entire market of specialty gear makers making true ultralight gear and none of it is in retail brick and mortar.

I use this as an ultralight pack: https://www.rei.com/product/892074/rei-flash-18-pack

Too small for backpacking, unless you are one of those bivy sack people with a matching $500 ul sleeping bag.

Yes I agree, sorry I thought people were just talking about a light pack. By that measurement, the Ikea bag is in a similar situation. It doesn't look much larger, maybe 22L?

I think its more like 30; look at the picture with the full stuff sacks. those are at least 7L stuff sacks, there are two of them, and theres room for 2 more of the same size. I backpack with a 32 liter and the interior volume looks comparable.

Is there a non-arbitrary definition of ultralight? It seems yesterday's "ultralight" is tomorrow's "lightweight" gear.

Nope, nothing non-arbitrary. By my standards, you know something is ultralight if you had to specifically seek it out. Usually the big brands that appear in outdoor stores don't make UL gear because the materials being used are too fragile and it would cause a warranty nightmare scenario. A real ultralight pack requires care, taking note of the roughness of the surface you set it down on, etc.

I feel that the article ignores erginomics.

I don't know what to feel about this. It looks janky as heck.

Yellow IKEA Backpack would be more valuable and unusual :) OK. Very interesting.

That would imply stealing those yellow 'only-for-in-store-use' bags.

Other than the satisfaction from the DIY process, this is a massive waste of time (and thus, money). Instead you can get something waterproof and ultra light.

That’s a rucksack cover, not a rucksack.

It appears to be the correct order of magnitude for a cheap backpack: https://www.amazon.com/Mozone-Lightweight-Resistant-Backpack...

And in any case, you seem to require pre-made straps.

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