Leather Rucksack





Introduction: Leather Rucksack

About: Naturalist, scientist, builder, and maker.

In my effort to live a handmade life, I strive to MAKE things for myself. When I can, I also like to support other MAKERS by bartering or buying their wares rather than purchase mass-produced stuff from faceless corporations. This is not to say that there isn't good stuff to be had out there, just that I want to minimize my participation in big global business and keep craftsmanship alive.

This Instructable is not really a how-to, just a show-and-tell of a recently completed project that I hope will outlive me and be handed on someday. I started this in 2011 and have spent time working on it around many other projects that have cropped up along the way. In my world, nothing is ever really done. Just ever changing and on a trajectory through it's use-life.


Now, like a lot of experienced Makers, I don't always need a super detailed set of plans. Like the saying goes, "To help someone build a house, you shouldn't need to teach them to wield a hammer or saw a board." Foundation skills need to be learned along the journey. This little Instructable won't teach how to select or cut leather, nor teach how to sew. Hopefully though, it will start someone toward making their own custom leather project. If you want it, make it and enjoy yourself. Cherish the imperfections and their uniqueness of your creation.

Step 2: The Basic Rucksack Design

Here is the basic design for the body of my pack. I kept this small and minimal, in part to prevent myself from overloading. The above images are raw, oak-tanned leather prior to oiling. It is fairly heavy-weight which helps it keep it's shape while protecting the contents. These photos are also prior to the ladder-style tie downs being added to top and bottom.

This is all hand sewn with a traditional double needle technique and riveted to help strengthen some high stress areas.

Step 3: Portmanteau

The next step was to create a detachable 18th century style portmanteau that could connect to the top or bottom as well as find a use on it's own.

Step 4: Put It All Together

Here's the basic rucksack assembled and off for a hike. Definitely heavier than nylon but the durability is unbeatable. What's next? I plan to line the shoulder straps with sheepskin for comfort.

I regret not documenting the process but hopefully, just seeing this example will serve to inspire someone to make their own leather project.

See more work like this on my blog: paleotool.com

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52 Discussions

Hi my friend Paleotool. I am having this rucksack under construction. i decided to have two protmanteaux, the other one on top. Hope this would make look nice though. wanna hear your view on that.

Hi, Mr Crawford

It has been quiet a long time. i want to tell you that the leather rucksack is under construction so i want to buy Mink oil as well as Neatsfoot oil that you are using for that beautiful piece of leather. Now the problem is that the oils are unavailable locally and again i don't even know how they look like but I've attached some pictures below for you to check if those are the right oils.

Mink oil 99.99% pure.jpgpure 100% neatsfoot oil.jpg

Hi, i have these pictures of an old leather bag that i took from an old friend. but i dont know the name of the bag. may someone tell me what it's called, 'proper name. i know i have leather gurus here.



1 reply


please dont forget to send the meaurements as we agreed on emails. just reminding you here.

what leather should I use if I want to make my own?

Yes indeed! That's why I put it out there. Some updates and improvements may be found here from time to time:

I love your mission statement. Very inspiring.No real experience with leather but I have been fired up to try. Sure will get back when I have done something. Really great stuff and company too.

1 reply

Thanks for the nice comment. It is much appreciated. Good luck!

That rucksack is awesome, well done. M

Wow. What you have is pretty stylish and cool. (I'm not sure I can make one out of scratch.) I love backpacks because I like to travel and they come pretty handy eve for day trips. I actually came across this contest by Uber Pakk that is giving away folding backpacks. Check it out http://www.uberpakk.com/giveaway/

How wide, approximately, is the portmanteau and what werw the diameter of the circle pieces on the sides? I have made a similar rucksack and am hoping on making a matching portmanteau.

Hi, how did you stain/color the leather? Looks great! I have a big double shoulder I would like to do something with and like this color.


1 reply

I didn't stain or color the leather for this. I used Herman Oak veg. tanned leather. It ages into these nice colors with a little mink oil and dubbin.