Wetsuit Neoprene Projects From the Bottom Up: Part 5: Adventure Backpack

Back from Costa Rica, stormy and windy there, but the flight wasn’t bad. Of course, the weather’s wasn’t good for surfing, but I did catch one of the biggest, nicest rights I’ve ever had on the first day before the weather came in. 😉 Just a beautiful country with the friendliest people! Definitely some ¡Pura Vida! happening there. Total “blue zone”.
This is the last project in the series for the $5 wetsuit neoprene project experiment fun. In total, out of this ONE suit, I’ve gotten:
Project #1: 1 beach wallet
Project #2: 2 Sea Specs Cases
Project #3: 1 Passport Cover
Project #4: 2 pairs of surf fin heel protector covers
and now…
Project #5: A backpack to use for the beach, paddling, or other adventures.

Here’s the remainder of the suit I had left to work with:

Remainder of wetsuit

From this amount left, I thought a backpack for taking a hike on the beach or while stand up paddling back in a lagoon or lake would be a useful project.
First, I trimmed up the bottom and squared it up using a straight edge and a rotary cutter.

Squaring up the bottom

Next, I wanted the top of the backpack to have a simple flap opening, so I cut one side of the top end off to be shorter, cutting it about at the level of the former armholes. The longer side would then become the over flap.

One part pulled back while the other side was cut down

To make arm straps for the backpack, I used 1″ nylon flat webbing strips. I also used 2 sets of plastic D-rings to adjust each strap to tighten the pack up. I thought plastic D-rings were a better choice, since even stainless can become funky after while, and this would allow the pack to be washed without wrecking the washer drum.
I cut 2 strips at about 12″ long and used a lighter to singe the ends of the nylon- this is very important or the strip will fray. Use care with lighters, and singe the ends outdoors- burning nylon is not healthy indoors.

The straps to be attached to be attached to the top of the bag and a lighter to singe the ends

First, I threaded the D-rings though one end of each strip, folded the end back about 1″, and sewed this securely so the D-rings are caught in this loop. Next, I sewed the other ends to the top side of the pack on the outside- remember, the flap needs to be away from your back, so the ends of the webbing will be stitched on the side facing your back, and placed down far enough to allow the flap to be closed and secured down. This placement is about in line with the base of the armhole. Be careful to only sew through the one layer, or you’ll sew the top shut.
I did use the machine to sew the webbing to the neoprene, using a 90 needle, and a wide zig zag stitch back and forth to secure it. I also sewed another line down from the original to doubly secure the strap. I did the same for the other strap. Of course, these can be sewn using a heavier embroidery needle and Fireline (fishing line) at 4-6 lbs test. As you can see in the picture, I used staples as pins, like I have in my other neoprene projects.

Sewing down the top strap

Next, I took the remainder of the webbing, cut it in half, singed the ends as before, and sewed it to the outside layer of the bottom on the same side as I sewed the top straps. I only sewed these to the one layer, not both, so the bottom is still open. I pinned these in place (with staples) about two inches in from either side, and made sure that at least two inches of webbing was above the bottom edge:

Bottom straps stapled ready to be sewn to the inner layer

Like the top of the straps, I sewed a double line of zig zag stitching back and forth to secure. After this, I needed to sew up the bottom. I did use the machine for this, once again using a zig zag stitch- luckily my machine came though this ok, but the seam edge was a little wavy since I did have to pull and push the neoprene through the machine a bit to get it to move. I went back over this line again to ensure security of the bottom closure.

Sewing the bottom shut

To clean up the bottom a bit, I sewed at an angle on each corner of the bottom, then cut off the excess corner so that the bottom wasn’t so square that I would be hitting it with my arms all the time.
Here’s the bag, but it still needs some Velcro on the flap to make a solid closure. I’m using 1″ black Velcro all the way across the flap edge to hold it down to the bag. Remember to attach the soft loopy side to the inside of the top flap so when you put stuff in the bag, it doesn’t scratch your stuff up.

Finished (almost) backpack with surf stuff in it

This pack can also be used as a car seat protector when your rear’s soggy after a surf if it’s empty, or can be useful for holding your wet baggies and rashguard in your trunk after a liquid lunch. Just remember to take it out of the trunk and rinse it all after work or you’re going to be soaking your sweet ride in Febreze.

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