The carrying contraption

I used to carry my stuff – about eight pounds (3.6 kg) of it – like this:

A picture of me carrying a laptop case with a single shoulder strap over my right shoulder, with the case at my left side.

Or rather, it looked like that, except that the case was puffed up more from all the stuff in it. I did that for about four years. Then on March 1, 2013, I started having some pain in my chest. The pain got worse the more I carried that case. So I started carrying it like this:

A picture of me carrying the same case, but now the strap is wrapped around my waist, so that the center of it hangs in front of my left leg.

That worked to relieve the pain. But it was also inconvenient to put on or take off. The strap didn't have clips on the ends1, so I had to put the whole thing over my head every time I wanted to put it on or take it off. And it interfered with my walking (and worse, running), because it hung right in front of my leg. So, March 23-29, with some help from a family member, I designed and built this:

A picture of me putting on some sort of contraption that has pouches at the left and right sidesMe wearing the same contraption, shown from a different angle

This thing works great!

You could ask, as many others have asked, “What is that?”

Let's open up the flaps and look:

A picture of me holding up the same contraption in one hand, with different parts labeled A through F.
  1. A single alumnium flat, 1/8 in x 3/4 in x 4 ft, that holds up the pouches and goes around the back.
  2. Foam padding that rests on my hips, carrying the weight.
  3. Four straps (two on each side) with pairs of D-rings on them, so that the strap can be tightened to grip and hold arbitrary objects.
  4. A single strap across the front to hold it on. At one end is a pair of D-rings to adjust the tightness of the strap. At the other end is a hook that goes over the aluminum frame. This strap is not the main support, and it doesn't even press against the front of my body very much (it's held out front by the frame).
  5. Two metal clips (one on each side) for holding light objects that can be clipped on, like hair ties and gloves. (My winter gloves have their own clips/loops on them.)
  6. Vinyl2 with a felt-like backing. There are two big pouches to carry stuff in, two little pouches that hold the foam in place, and flaps that go over the top to keep off the rain.

For those interested, I've drawn a pattern for the vinyl pieces. (I may not be remembering the numbers exactly, but the pattern should make it clear how the thing is put together.)

The entire thing weighs 2 pounds (0.9 kg) when it's empty, whereas the case I was using weighs 2.5 pounds empty. The materials cost us around $20 in total.

For most purposes, this has been exactly what I wanted: It carries my stuff, it doesn't strain my body, and it doesn't interfere with my movement. The two sides carry about the same amount of weight, so it's balanced and stays out of the way.

Not all of it worked, though. The D-ring straps, which were sewn directly to the vinyl, eventually lost their grip when the vinyl started to tear. The pouches slide back and forth annoyingly – I added a few binder clips to hold them in place, but those clips don't hold on very well. And when I run, I have to keep adjusting it so that it doesn't slide forward/backward off my hips.

All of those can be fixed in the next version I build. This was great as a prototype, and it served me well for two months. I had to make some other things to organize the stuff inside the pouches, but that's a matter for another post.

A bunch of people have told me “You should patent this and make millions”, but I'm not a capitalist, so I encourage you all to make your own versions of this if you want to. When I make my own next version, I might write some detailed instructions for making your own, with a “Please leave a donation if you can afford it” attached.

– Eli

  1. Actually, the strap originally had clips on both ends, and both of the clips broke during normal use. And the strap I'd had before that also had clips which broke. I no longer trust metal or plastic clips in positions that are both load-bearing and involve rubbing against other hard parts during normal use. back
  2. Not the best material in hindsight. The vinyl tears easily under stress. We just bought the thing that was both waterproof and on sale. back
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