Backpack mods.

The backpack that I’m using for Simon carbon dates to around 1990. It was my climbing pack and served me well on many trips. You know the pack’s dated because in this photo I’m wearing an early-era Swatch. Hard to believe they were as cool as rolled up sleeves on a blazer.

The Mountainsmith pack is made out of good old Cordura, a fabric that has long since fallen out of favor with outdoorsy people, who have been lured away by the sexy sheen and pleasant weightlessness of ripstop nylon. Who can blame them? When we decided Simon was coming along, I went to REI to see if a newer backpack would serve as a better mobile kennel.

After looking at dozens of backpacks, I decided that my twenty-something bag was the best candidate for the job. It’s the Chuck Taylor of backpacks, and look how well that uncomplicated shoe has served multiple generations. The nylon packs don’t offer enough structure; at higher speeds the walls would be snapping at Simon’s face.

The first thing I did was put a foundation in the bag so Simon could easily shift around. I took a cheap plastic stool that happened to be the perfect size and cut off the feet (the legs stayed on for extra bracing), as well as any raised edges. Next, I used a heat gun to push out all the curves that encroached on the underside, buying Simon just a little more room. Finally, I covered all the rough edges with duct tape.

We learned on one of our test rides that if the backpack gets knocked around enough, the stool — despite being wedged in there — could flip. I sewed velcro retaining strips on the inside to prevent the stool from moving.

Initially I just left the top part of the pack unzipped so Simon could look out. Although he never tried to jump out, he did like resting his upper body along the edge that was open, which resulted in poor weight distribution. I ended up buying some fish netting and sewing it on so he could look out but not violate outer airspace restrictions.

The side portholes are just big enough for his head to fit through. To prevent him from being able to push extra hard to rip them open, I sewed two layers of hem tape around the edges of the portholes. If he can push past that fortification, I’m going to have him genetically tested because it may mean he’s a Chupacabra in a dog suit — who wouldn’t love to claim they own a genuine Goat Sucker? I sure would.

Throw in some ass-soothing pads* and Simon has a Cadillac ride.

He is so delighted with his home away from home that all I need to do is unzip the pack and he’ll climb in. I can only hope that halfway into the trip in Nowhere, Utah or Empty Hell, Nevada he doesn’t have a nervous breakdown, because other than flagging down a car with a driver willing to return him to San Diego, he’s screwed.


* It’s an ungainly mix because of our motto: WWMGD? Yes…What Would MacGyver Do? MacGyver, the greatest creativist ever, certainly would not be caught dead at a crafts store buying a chunk of perfectly sized foam.

    • mike_in_la
    • June 24th, 2011

    Nice work, but I’m concerned about the lack of roll over protection for Simon. I’ve popped a couple Camelback bladders in off-road get-off’s. I’m thinking a lightweight aluminum tube box in there to maintain shape should Simon become the meat in a Zina and earth sandwich.

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