Ultralight Foldable Backpack




About: Hi, I'm Bine and I like to create stuff. I'm always interested in learning new skills and my hobby room is full of things which I tried already and others which are still on my bucket list. I like to misuse...

It is always good to have a foldable bag or backpack with you. No matter if you are at the city and your grocery shopping turns out to be more than expected or if you are traveling light weight to another place and have only limited space and weight in your (hand-)luggage.

This backpack will fit everywhere and it can hold a lot of stuff. I calculated a volume of 14 l (854 cubic inch)

It was standing on my sewing list for an age, but there was always something else going on.

I had a similar store bought ultralight backpack, but its fabric gave up after 10years of constant use (RIP, but it's ok, you are allowed to go, little green old backpack)

It turned out how I expected it to be. I am very happy, and it also went very fast - I think writing the instructable took my longer than sewing the backpack.

I used the fabrics and components that I still had in my outdoor-fabric-storage-box. Otherwise I might had ordered thinner black straps and smaller buckles to save even more weight. Instead of the buckles you can also use triglides, but I like the possibility of twisting the straps around something.

Just follow the steps and you will end up with your own ultralight foldable backpack.

short profile:

  • weight: 85g (3oz)
  • backpack volume: 14 l (854 cubic inch)
  • packing size: 12x7x7 cm (4.7x2.7x2.7 inch)
  • water resistant due to ripstop nylon
  • adjustable for different back length

Step 1: Material and Tools +Pattern Sketch



  • the pattern transferred to real sizes
  • sewing machine
  • 60er needle (that's a very fine needle)
  • sewing clips / wonder clips (e.g. something like this or this)
  • rotary cutter (e.g. something like this)
  • cutting mat
  • scissors
  • lighter

Step 2: Prototype Backpack Out of Paper

Before I started I had to find a pattern, but I didn't had any pattern ready, so I "blind" cut a prototype out of paper and stick it together with some tape.

Since I wanted to have a simple design to avoid to much weight, I finished the prototype with only one big compartment.

After taping everything together, and realizing that it was as I wanted it to be, I un-taped the pieces and used them as my pattern pieces to cut the fabric.

All pattern pieces are without seam allowance, so if you like to sew it yourself keep in mind to add your preferred seam allowance.

Step 3: Set Up Your Sewing Machine and Generell Sewing Informations

Before you start sewing your precious fabrics make sure that you set up your machine to fit your needs.

I started with two pieces of fabric scrap and sewed with the previous machine settings, but I didn't work out as you can see in the first two pictures.

After adjusting the foot pressure from 43 to 20, it went smooth and without any further issues.

Those are only the settings to my machine, yours will probably differ.

I set the stitch length to 4mm. You can lower it to 3,5mm, but I would not recommend to sew nearer stitches while sewing Ripstop Nylon, otherwise you might create a predetermined breaking point and your fabric might rip.

Since I don't know how familiar you are with sewing let me quickly explain some sewing terms:

  • Seam allowance - the area between the edge and the stitching line, usually 0,7-1cm (1/4"-5/8")
  • Right side of the fabric - the side which will be seen on the finished piece, the "nice" side
  • Left side of the fabric - the ugly or unwanted side
  • Right on right - the nice sides of the fabric are on top of each other
  • Left on left - you guessed it already, it's the other way around
  • Turn around - turn the inside out (or the outside in)
  • Seam allowance - the distance you need to keep to the border of the fabric
  • Sew up - sewing some stitches for and back to avoid opening the seam by itself

Step 4: Cutting the Pieces

The cutting pattern is very simple, just keep in mind to add your preferred seam allowance. The main backpack only consists of 6 (7) fabric pieces

  • Before you start cutting the fabric, you need to transfer the pattern pieces to there original size. The description of the pattern can be found in step 1.
  1. Cut the backside piece out of blue fabric.
  2. Cut the front side piece. I split mine diagonally to make it a bit more interesting, the upper part is grey, the lower part is out of blue fabric
  3. Cut the bottom piece out of blue fabric.
  4. Cut the zipper fabric pieces out of grey fabric
  5. Cut the shoulder straps out of grey fabric. I folded the fabric and cut the straps using the folded edge of the fabric.

Step 5: The Zipper Piece

  1. First thread the two zipper feet to the zipper. One zipper foot from the one side and the other one from the other side, they should face each other. Place the zipper feet in the middle of the zipper
  2. Use wonderclips to stick the first fabric strip to the zipper. The right side is facing the zipper.
  3. Sew (with a zipper foot - it makes it easier) to 2cm to zipper foot.
  4. Stitch the needle into the fabric and lift the sewing machine foot.
  5. Use your hands to guide the two zipper feet behind the sewing machine foot.
  6. Lower the sewing machine foot and continue sewing.
  7. Don't forget to stitch up at the end.
  8. Fold the sewn-on strip over and stitch a nice seam next to the zipper line.
  9. Continue with the second fabric strip as with the first one.

Step 6: Sewing the Shoulder Straps

For the shoulder straps you need:

  • 2 shoulder fabric pieces in grey
  • 2 x8cm straps of Polyamid webbing
  • 2 buckles
  1. Sew the length of your shoulder strap pieces right to right.
  2. Turn the pieces inside out.
  3. Fold the black strips and thread into the female part of the buckle (the one with only on gap).
  4. Place the folded strip into the narrow side of the shoulder strap and secure everything with wonderclips.
  5. Sew the sides of the fabric and secure the strips with the buckles.
  6. I strengthened the strip area with some cross stitching.

Step 7: Front Side and Back Side Preparations

The frontside:

I decided to add my label to the fronside, so I set it to the left lower edge of the spit front

  1. Tack the two parts together with wonderclips
  2. Sew them together and add an outside seam for a nice look
  3. Use the pattern to crop it to the right side

The backside:

  1. Tack the shoulder straps to the upper part of the back side, I set them with a distance of 15cm
  2. Tack the black polyamid webbing to the lower left and right corner
  3. Sew everything to there place.
  4. Thread the male part of the buckle to the black webbing and secure the lower end of the strap with a loop.

Step 8: Sewing the Sides to the Backside

  1. Crop the zipper fabric part to the size of the blue side piece.
  2. Sew the zipper fabric part to the side piece. You can directly sew both sides, or you can keep one side open to close it when you've sewn around the backside, thats up to you, but I think it is easier to sew a loop
  3. Mark the middle of the zipper fabric part and the upper side of the backside.
  4. Tack the side piece right to right side with a lot of wonderclips to the back side.
  5. Sew both parts together
  6. Finish with a visible seam from the outside.

Step 9: Adding the Front Side

  1. Open the zippers for 10cm, this makes the turning afterwards easier
  2. Tack the front side right to right to the sides and sew them together.
  3. Turn inside out through the zipper.
  4. Set a nice outside seam.

Step 10: Adding the Storage Bag

For the inner storage bag you need:

  • 25cm of paracord
  • 1 cord lock
  • 22x17cm fabric
  • 1x15 cm fabric

The sewing is not complicated:

  1. Secure the paracord with a lighter.
  2. Fold the upper side of your fabric piece and set a seam at a distance of ca 20mm. This will be the tunnel for the paracord to close the bag
  3. Fold the main piece right to right and place the fabric strip between the open side
  4. Sew it together starting beyond the open tunnel. Secure the fabric strip in the seam.
  5. Trim the edges and all lose threads and turn inside out
  6. Thread the paracord to the tunnel, set the cord lock and lock the paracord with a knot.
  7. Stitch the fabric strip to the upper inside of your backpacks compartment.
  8. Now you can squeeze the backpack into the storage bag.

Tadaa - you are finished :-)

Step 11: Final Backpack

I am really happy how the backpack appeared.

It is ultralight (at least for my feelings) with only 85g (3oz) and it can carry a lot of stuff.

And it also fits perfectly to my back :-)

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25 Discussions


Reply 6 months ago

Thank you.
It is also very handy, I'm using it a lot.


Reply 11 months ago

Thank you :-)

I'm also really happy with its appearance :-)


Question 11 months ago on Step 11

Nicely done! I love the attention to detail in your stitching and the "sun" label. I found several sites with "woven labels" but they were much larger. Where did you source your labels? Thx!

3 answers

Answer 11 months ago

Thank you.

I'm really sorry that I can't name you a source for ordering, since I made them by myself using a cutter plotter, heat transfer vinyl and polyester grossgrain ribbon (at least that's the english name extremtextil.de is using where I ordered it).


Reply 11 months ago

Do not feel bad! It makes me smile that your labels are DIY too! :)


11 months ago

Very handy! I definitely need something like this for my next trips.

1 reply

Reply 11 months ago

Thank you. It is really handy. The backpack exists since last week and I already used it three times as a backup to my day carrier :-)


11 months ago

I thought this was made at first glance with silpoly ripstop... though is a nylon ripstop. Have you ever worked with silpoly since more waterproof I've read if you find the quality material? Any advice if so? Thanks in advance and nice project.

4 replies

Reply 11 months ago

Hej hej, thank you. I didn't work with silicone coated ripstop polyester yet, but if I had to guess I would say to work with it would be similar to the ripstop nylon, probably a little bit more slippery while sewing. I just know a supplier in Germany where I would get the ripstop polyester material, on their page they say they ship worldwide, but I don't know about the shipping costs.


Reply 11 months ago

Is cool, not sure if random or not, that the latest instructables email notes this silicone method to waterproof that I have the silicone literally on my bench for some boots, sandals and gloves repair. The mouse over link method isn't co-operating for some reason: https://www.instructables.com/id/Easy-Waterproof-Clothing/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email

Wondering how would work to waterproof nylon or polyester fabric materials also. Interesting methods using wax in the comments also.


Reply 11 months ago

Thanks for the link. I didn't had it in my "more for your" instructable email, since they are somehow "customized" depending on which channels you're following and what instructables you like.

I will definitively try this on some natural fiber as cotton, but I'm not sure if mineral oil and nylon are the best materials to be used together. In my head I think the nylon might get dissolved in mineral oil?

To get the seams waterproof I would use some silicone and apply a thin layer from the inside.


Reply 11 months ago

Hi ya, your very welcome. Thanks for sharing the design and intricate detail, that is great inspiration. I had to look at what the material name was before I commented, since I was thinking polysil. That name looks like something different.

Thanks for the link. I'm not finding the supplier online I ordered from when I ordered the closest to coolmax material, poly lycra, I found when I was making a warm weather sleeping bag cocoon and for the silpoly possibly a bivvy sack and more recently a canopy for tailgating/camping with the back of the hatch or cap open. Wound up using the polylycra for curtains in the Prius also since had the UPF50+ rating. Here is a link to what I found on Google for the latest silpoly material and they have ripstop nylon also and ship international. I do recall, there was debate over quality and somewhere a review of a few different brands where only one was really waterproof. I've recently thought about using for canoe spray skirts also instead of a heavier marine canopy material.

Great instructable.

Thanks again for the insight.


11 months ago

Beautifully done. Not only the finished product, but also your clear-as-a-bell instructions and photos. (You're a natural engineer, in case you didn't know it!)

1 reply

Reply 11 months ago

Thank you so much for your nice words. Your compliment really makes me smile as wide as even possible :-D


11 months ago

You got my vote. I always love making Ultra-light gear that packs down to super small sizes.

1 reply

Question 11 months ago on Step 2

You mention us using your pattern. where can we get that pattern?