Backpacker turns Ikea's strangely tough shopping bags into an ultralight backpack

Ultralight backpacks cost a pretty penny, so why not save some cash and make your own? With $6 worth of Ikea reusable shopping bags, a chopped up wet suit from SeaWorld and inspiration from a DIY Reddit thread, Mitch Nodland did exactly that.

Nodland frequently backpacks for a week to a month at a time, and set a goal of cutting his pack weight to less than 10 pounds. After spending months drooling over packs with $450 price tags, he decided to try building his own.

The San Diego-based computer programmer is no stranger to design. Nodland’s skills range from stitching together custom Halloween costumes (which is why he had a SeaWorld wet suit lying around) to remodeling his family’s house, but this was his first attempt at creating a backpack.

He used Hyperlite Mountain Gear, ZPacks, and his own Osprey Exos 58 backpacks as design inspiration. Just $30 worth of materials finished the pack. The final product weighs in at a lithe 17 ounces.

Nodland said he purchased a few extra Ikea bags just to integrate the printed handles into his backpack design.

“I saw a [Reddit] post talking about how strong the Ikea bag material was,” he said, “and I also liked the crazy idea of walking around with an Ikea backpack. When I wore it out, a lot of people asked me if it was made by Ikea!”

The material itself is water-resistant, but Nodland said he didn’t waterproof the seams. “That’s one thing I might look into for future backpacks.” The roll-top closure also helps to keep water out, while the minimalist design keeps the weight down.

The pack is supported by a Thermarest Z Lite sleeping pad tucked into a custom-sized pocket sewn into the rear wall of the pack. “The frame feels just like my Osprey Exos backpack,” Nodland said. This is due to a cinch strap he attached to the shoulder straps that adjusts tension across the sleeping pad to create support similar to an internal frame pack.

There’s no reservoir for a water bladder, but Nodland deliberately designed it this way. “I had a water bladder when I hiked the John Muir Trail with my Exos backpack, and didn’t like it because I couldn’t see how much water I had left. This bag was purposely designed to hold water bottles on the side.”

Specifically, they’re built to hold the 1.5 liter Smartwater bottles, which Nodland said he prefers due to the thicker plastic. “I met a guy on the trail who said he’d been using his for five years.”

Other features missing from Nodland’s Ikea pack include a vented back panel, sternum strap, and hip belt pockets, though he’s considering adding the latter two.

“It did shift a bit without the sternum strap,” he said.

After a successful test hike carrying about 30 pounds of water and rocks, Nodland is planning to take his Ikea backpack on his annual 100 mile trip in the Sierras some time in the spring or summer.

Nodland listed his Ikea backpack for sale on Ebay at $275. After admitting to only spending $30 on materials, Noland said he set the price based on what he thinks the pack is worth to him.

“I’m not necessarily expecting to sell it, but there is a niche market for novelty backpacks,” he said, “and if someone buys it, I’ll make another one.”

Sure enough, someone bought the pack on Ebay. We followed up with Nodland, who said that he’s considering starting work on a replacement – which he might put up for sale as well.

For more details and photos of Nodland’s Ikea pack, check out his personal page.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: 1-handed drone control, a pot that stirs itself

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

These laptop bags will keep your notebook secure wherever you go

Choosing the right laptop bag is no easy feat -- after all, no one likes to second-guess themselves. Here are some of the best laptop bags on the market, from backpacks to sleeves, so you can get it right the first time around.

The best sleeping bags to help you conquer the cold, no matter what season it is

A proper sleeping bag has the ability to make or break a camping or backpacking trip. Here are our picks for the best sleeping bags on the market to help you choose the correct bag for any type of outdoor adventure.

Bags with brains: Smart luggage and gadgets are making travel smoother

The bag you use to tote your stuff can affect the experience of any trip. In response, suitcases are wising up, and there are now options for smart luggage with scales, tracking, and more. Here are our favorite pieces.
Home Theater

Get loud with the best outdoor speakers to rock your party in any weather

From rugged, solar-powered backwoods listening companions to floating pool party jam boxes, the best outdoor speakers partner with your lifestyle to let you listen to your favorite tunes wherever you go.
Emerging Tech

Autonomous package-delivery robots are ready to steal your mailman’s job

Starship Technologies is launching a robot package-delivery service in the U.S. and U.K. For a monthly subscription, customers can get packages delivered at a time of their convenience.

This low-maintenance ebike makes it easy to get into urban commuting

Priority Bicycle's new Embark model is an ebike that has been built to be a low-maintenance model built with urban commuters in mind by offering reliable and durable components built to last.

Bright idea: this motorcycle jacket has built-in lights that sync with your bike

Motorbike leathers are there to protect riders from injury, but they can make bikers difficult to see in the dark. A stylish new LED-equipped leather jacket hopes to change all that.

Snowfeet combine skiing and skating into one awesome new sport

Snowfeet are sandal-like footwear that slip on over winter shoes or snowboard boots, turning them into a set of skates that allow the wearer to slide across snow or glide downhill.

Built to take a beating and still perform, these are the best hiking watches

A proper hiking watch should track exercise metrics and act as a navigational co-pilot during any kind of hike. Ideally, it'll even have a built-in GPS system and sensors. Here are five of the best hiking watches.

GM is getting into ebikes, and it wants you to help name them

General Motors has just unveiled its first-ever electric bikes and has launched a $10,000 public contest to help name them. Tip: It's probably not worth suggesting "Bikey McBikeface."

BioLite's FirePit gives you a smokeless campfire, and it's available now

The new BioLite FirePit uses an innovative design and a built-in fan to create a smoke-free environment for cooking and enjoying a backyard bonfire. The device makes sitting around a fire a much more enjoyable experience.

Lime splashes $3 million on a campaign to encourage safer electric scooter rides

Keen to boost its image and keep local communities onside, scootersharing outfit Lime is spending $3 million on a campaign to teach its users how to ride more safely and responsibly.

These bike lights use the magic of magnetism to generate power

Magnetic Microlights are a new option for cyclists that use nothing more than magnets to generate power to illuminate a bike light that is bright, eco-friendly, and increases the safety of riders.