Sometimes I'd rather carry a backpack than an over-the-shoulder bag when I want to take my computer somewhere, but am often worried about it getting smashed up. I have plenty of backpacks and don't need to buy a new one. In this Instructable I'll show you how I made a laptop pouch for my backpack. This guide is especially useful for US military members but the theory is handy for anyone. Also, I made the alterations in an area with very limited resources. With better materials/tools available, this would be much easier and time efficient. A couple notes concerning plan changes and what I would do differently if I did this again are also including in the text.
* Army issue multi-cam backpack
* Replacement buckles included with bag (2 pairs on the small buckles)
* Strap from bag for collapsable cloth camping chair
**Alternately, use unwanted buckles & straps from outside of bag but be careful doing this in case you have to turn the bag in in the future
* Discarded PT jacket (optional, someone got rid of this so I used it)
* Discarded multi-cam top
* Unused foam knee and elbow pads (1 set each)
* Mailing tape
* Duct tape
* Sewing needle
* Sewing scissors
* Small piece of thin cardboard to use like a thimble
Tools I did not have access to but would have been beneficial:
* Sewing machine
* Seam ripper
* Full size sewing scissors
Step 1: Step 1: Determine Size of Foam Padding
Determine what size you want to make your padding. I have a shell for my laptop so I just set the foam pads on it and cut them to fit. Save the scraps because they will be needed later on.
Tape the pads together with mailing or duct tape. If you plan to sew through taped places, it is better to use mailing tape. If not, it is better to use duct tape because it will hold the pads in place together better.
After taping, clean up the edges of the foam with scissors if needed.
Step 2: Step 2: Cut Some Fabric
Cut off one of the sleeves of the PT jacket. I like this material because it's soft yet strong and doesn't cause static.
How to cut:
First, cut off both elastic wrist cuffs. Next, cut just the mesh around the inside of the armpit zipper. The rest of the mesh is easily torn out by hand. The mesh is not needed for this project. Next, cut off one of the arms just above the reflective strip (the jacket I used was a Large Short). You will need the fabric to be longer than the computer by 4-8 inches. Some portions can be torn apart by hand easily at the seams instead of cutting---just be careful. A seam ripper would work well but I didn't have one handy.
Step 3: Step 3: Begin Sewing
Take the scrap foam pads saved from the previous step and size/arrange them so as to create a platform for the computer to sit on in case you accidentally slam your bag on the ground in the future. Fold the fabric over and under and begin sewing.
I kept a small space between the platform and the main foam backing, as well as enough space on the top so that the fabric could still overlap on the main foam backing. This is one part of the project I would change if I redid this. Instead, I would make two small strips of foam on the bottom so that the bottom could flexibly bend around the laptop and leave no space larger than needed to sew separate compartments in between.
You may also need to safety pin things together before sewing to make sure everything stays in place. I found that mailing tape works great for this as well. A thimble would be handy to help push the needle through the foam - not having a thimble, I just used a folded piece of thin cardboard taken from a box of Whales (imitation Goldfish crackers).
After sewing, feel free to cut down the sides around where the main foam pad is. I recommend marking the fabric with a pen, marker, or chalk first so as to not accidentally cut in the wrong spot. I trimmed this section down to be smaller than the pads instead of larger. I did this because the multi-cam fabric is thick enough and I wanted to limit the number of layers I'd be sewing through.
After cutting, align the main foam to where u plan to sew. Apply tape or safety pins to hold everything in place. At this point, I decided to stich the two together quickly in a few places so I'd no longer have to rely on tape. I chose to leave the edges open so that the multi-cam fabric could slide underneath. Initially I wanted the computer to rest against the PT jacket fabric when completed but later on decided that didn't matter.
Step 4: Step 4: Initial Cut & Sew of Multi-Cam Portion
Cut out the back of the multi-cam top (this one is a size Medium Long). Then place the foam on top, remembering to leave enough overlap to tuck under (or overlap on top of) the PT jacket material on the other side and mark with a pen, marker, or chalk before cutting. Afterwards, cut the multi-cam material to size.
After cutting, make sure the fabric is lined up how you want it and sew only the bottom leaving the corners open for now (see the second image). You may need to use tape or safety pins again.
Step 5: Step 5: Create Inner Bag Size Strap
Now it's time to create a belt inside the bag. You may or may not have noticed that inside the multi-cam backpack there are two eyelets to make it easy to attach a strap. I attached my belt using an extra set of the small buckles that came with the bag and the strap from my folding camping chair bag. Use a lighter to burn the cut ends of the strap so they don't fray. Remember you must sew the strap together AFTER you attach them to the eyelet (this should go without saying but I figured a reminder is helpful). When sewing the straps, double or triple stitch.
Step 6: Step 6: Adding to the Multi-Cam Side
Now that you have the strap installed inside the bag, place the unfinished foam piece inside the way you would like it to fit when you are finished. Make a couple small marks near where the strap is positioned: this will be to create loops for the strap. Initially I planned to create two loops but preferred the way a single loop looked in the end. In order to make quick removal of the pad possible, this is the only way the foam will be physically attached to the bag. This way when you do not wish to carry your laptop in your backpack, you can remove the pad to allow for maximum space for other gear.
I decided to install a pocket on the foam insert to store my laptop's power cable. If you decide to do this as well, just be careful not to allow excessive weight to be added to the pad.
Step 7: Step 7: Sewing Up the Pad & Attaching the Pocket
Okay I admit I cheated here. I scrounged up a couple bucks and took the pad and pocket to the local sew shop. I was running low on thread, the stitching was taking a long time, and let's face it, my hand-stitching looks pretty bad. Don't worry though, I didn't leave all the remaining sewing to the shop. I left the finishing touch for myself...
Step 8: Step 8: Attaching the Loop for the Belt
I decided to only make one loop on the pad for aesthetic reasons. I took the strap from the wrist of the multi-cam top and sewed it onto the foam pad. Notice in one of the photos that I placed a buckle inside the loop while stitching in order to assure that the buckle inside the bag would fit.
Now I can safely carry my laptop in my backpack! Oh... and it looks good :)