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  1. #1
    Senior Member SteelToe's Avatar
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    Smile REI XT 85 Pack Cover: Turned out Better Than I Hoped

    I recently upgraded my 65L REI Ridgeline pack to the ginormous XT 85L. I wanted a pack cover that would be capable of accomodating my personal vision of this pack's loadout.



    At first, I checked out one of REI's "Ducks Back" pack covers, like the one I'd used on my Ridgeline, but I wasn't impressed with the sturdiness of the bottom fabric panel. My heavy pack would make mince-meat out of taffeta in short order if it rested on it directly. It looked like I'd have to pretty much remake the REI cover to suit my needs anyway, so I decided to build a cover from scratch.

    I picked up some nifty paper-thin "PU Coated Polyester Taffeta" at the local Joann's, and set to work on design. I wanted a reinforced bottom for the pack to rest upright upon, so I set up the seam design to place a 1ft squar(ish) fabric panel at the bottom. The design was for an "H" shaped fabric panel to cover the entire sides and middle-back of the pack, and two smaller panels to cover the lid and bottom. The edges of the fabric would wrap around the front, stopping at the internal frame. To that edge, I would attach a "skirt" of sil nylon (the PU coated stuff is very grippy) to cover the remaining exposed areas of the pack.

    After rough-measuring the panel dimensions, I basted them onto the stuffed pack, using it as "dress form" (for lack of a manly simile). Once the seams were positioned, I trimmed off excess fabric and replaced the basted connections with French seams for a very clean look.



    Unlike most (all) pack covers I've used, I decided to use a hook-eyelet method to attach it instead of cinched-down elastic in channels. I've always had issues with the fabric bunching up and binding the elastic in the channels, leading to uneven tension and worn-out elastic. I often have to fiddle with the cable a bit to get the cover back off the pack. Also, on this particular pack, the hip belt attaches at the very bottom of the frame, so there isn't much for the "shower cap" type covers to wrap around.

    For my cover, I designed the top of the cover to slide onto the tall floating lid, while cables pull the bottom edge up and grab eyelets on the sides, keeping the bottom of the pack from sliding back. This design makes for a very form-fitting pack cover that fully covers the bottom fabric and still allows me to reach my side-pockets. The tensioned eyelets are just above the pocket openings, so the fabric below (covering the pockets) is somewhat slack. I also left a large allowance at the top to keep water off the upper back while still allowing me to access the carry handle.



    I'm not quite done with the cover, though the hardest parts are definitely over. I still need to waterproof the seams (can PU be treated with silicone?) for it to be truly functional.

    I also have visions of attaching my fishing rod case, snowshoes, and some other gear to the outside of the cover (since it would be too difficult to stow it inside) on some type of MOLLE straps, or something. This is only possible because the shell is so taught on the pack underneath; no fabric flopping around like on the REI covers I've used. Finally, I will install a clear vinyl pocket at the top of the pack to hold a small solar panel and speaker, so I can have tunes during the mid-day siesta (I'm in Texas, so no hiking around noon) without unpacking anything.

    TCB

  2. #2
    STinGa's Avatar
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    Awesome work and a great narrative. Thanks for sharing.

    STinGa
    Sarcasm is a dying art.

    Eagle Scout September '85 Troop 339 Smyrna, TN

  3. #3
    MAD777's Avatar
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    Your cover has an excellent fit! Nice work.
    Mike
    "Life is a Project!"

  4. #4
    Moderator raiffnuke's Avatar
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    Nice looking cover! Great work!

  5. #5
    Senior Member SteelToe's Avatar
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    Thanks for the compliments, I'll be sure to give a report as to how well my less-orthodox attachment scheme works out.

    TCB

  6. #6
    Senior Member WetRivrRat's Avatar
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    pretty cool!
    nice pics

    I would turn the hooks inside, so you don't scrape your arms - if it comes close enough to do so -

    Awesome idea for the clear plastic pocket for solar pwr - I think you just solved my dilemma on how to keep my tunes charged when I'm out in the rain - I only listen to music when its raining and I need to keep my spirits up - but if you're 3 days into a rain storm... battery is pretty well shot -

    thanks for sharing your journey - good luck
    cheers-
    We all know of the original "Walk off the war" thru-hike - but, check out these guys, they're helping folks 'walk off the war' today -
    Donate to help fund gear for the warriors who are coming back home and need help walking off the war!
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  7. #7
    Senior Member SteelToe's Avatar
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    Yeah, those hooks are pretty crummy, I'll replace them with gentler plastic ones eventually (maybe those pins you push through a grommet, then turn sideways to lock in place). Gotta save those grams . I had some worn-out mini-bungees laying around is all.

    I really hope the solar thing works as well as I think it should. I still think it's possible that sealing it from rain could be a nightmare (liquid nails?).

    TCB

  8. #8
    Senior Member WetRivrRat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SteelToe View Post
    {...}I really hope the solar thing works as well as I think it should. I still think it's possible that sealing it from rain could be a nightmare (liquid nails?).{...}
    I would think that you could get by with just some clear silicone, or maybe just taping it would be fine too (bottom for sure and maybe between pvc/nylon fabric layers)
    We all know of the original "Walk off the war" thru-hike - but, check out these guys, they're helping folks 'walk off the war' today -
    Donate to help fund gear for the warriors who are coming back home and need help walking off the war!
    WarriorHike.com

  9. #9
    Senior Member SteelToe's Avatar
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    Just finished "Phase 2" of my pack-cover design. I added a 1ft x 6" grid of PALS webbing on the left and right sides, and a 7.5" x 3" grid behind my head. Depending on how well the bar-tacks holding everything together seal, I'll put another grid on the upper-rear panel of the pack.

    I'm not one for "tactical" stuff on my gear, but this attachment method is flat out ingenious and very adaptable. This mod allows me to fasten my fishing pole rod/reel case on one side, hiking poles on the other side (or other gear), and the grid I'll try to add later will contain my filtering kit. The area right behind my head will be for a generic storage pocket (or pillow, I suppose ). Of course, I can always change out this equipment with whatever I feel like. I think it'll be very nice to have ready access to a portion of my rain-ambivalent gear during a downpour .

    I also reinforced the fabric the webbing attaches to, so it's capable of carrying some weight without tearing out, but it will never be as strong as mil-spec MOLLE setups. The pack cover is soaked with mineral spirits and silicone at the moment, so photos will come in a few hours. I may have to install some kind of webbing structure on the inside of the cover to grab onto the frame bars, if the attached items cause the cover to shift too much.

    In case you want to try this yourself:
    PALS webbing consists of horizontal rows of 1" webbing, with vertical bar-tacks every 1.5". The same pattern is then sewn onto whatever you want to attach. On the removable item, a length of webbing (the length of the pattern) is sewed at the top of each "column" of loops, where it is then woven between the item and pack's loops. The bottom of the webbing piece has a button-snap that ties it back to the removable item.

    Wikipedia link in case my explanation isn't clear

    TCB

  10. #10
    Senior Member SteelToe's Avatar
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    Here's the completed (and waterproofed) pack cover PALS webbing. The black webbing on the near side is also on the opposite side. I used basic ballistic nylon pack-style strapping for the sides, and climbing style loop webbing for the head area (since it was light grey ). The grey webbing held water, so I soaked it with silicone solution. Now it sheds water



    Here's the fishing rod case (baby's first DIY ) I added webbing to as well. You can see where the attached weaving straps button down at the bottom.



    Here's the pack with the case attached to the side. I still need to test the setup in the shower or something to see if it's sufficiently waterproof. If good enough, I'll add some more webbing to the back face of the pack where it narrows, to keep my filtering gear handy.



    TCB
    "We sit together, the mountain and I, until only the mountain remains."
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