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DIY Wet Ribs – Three Sample Projects

Mystery Ranch Wet Rib

A wet rib is a high volume accessory pocket that hangs from your backpack’s shoulder straps, below the padded part, in front of your ribcage. It’s super handy for carrying extra hiking gear, like a map, compass, gps, extra gloves, or hats, especially in winter, because it doesn’t interfere with your hip belt the way a fanny pack does. Made by Mystery Ranch (formerly Dana Designs) wet ribs are hotly sought after, but nearly impossible to find because Mystery Ranch never has them in stock, and they’re snapped up instantly when used ones appear on eBay or GearTrade.

If you’ve searched for similar pouch or pocket, you’ve probably found that there is not much out there to choose from. Quite a few folks use some sort of waist pack and turn it around so the pack is on the front. This requires that you offset the buckle so it’s not in the middle of your back, but buckling your pack hip belt under it can be a nuisance.

Fortunately, it’s not hard to make something yourself to address these issues. In this article, I’ll show you 3 different projects to make your own wet ribs. Hopefully, one of them will fit your needs.

Quick Attach Sternum Strap Adjuster Triglide Slides
Quick Attach Sternum Strap Adjuster Triglide Slides

Materials

What you’ll need for all these projects is:

  • ¾” Strap webbing material
  • Pack buckles
  • 1″ Sternum Strap Adjuster Triglide Slides (available at Amazon)

I cannibalize old gear and collect these kinds of components so I usually have them handy. If you do not have such a collection to work with, you can easily purchase the hardware on the Internet from places like Strapworks.com or Ripstopbytheroll.com to name a few. Also handy for some of these applications is ¾” duct tape.

#1: Wanda’s Walmart Rib

This is made from a $7 Outdoor Products waist pack I picked up at Walmart. I like this pack because it’s reasonably big and large enough to hold gloves, a hat, your phone, a bandana, etc. There are also sewn-on loops on the sides of the pack. These offer attachment options beyond what I’ve done in this project.

Wanda’s Walmart Rib

This project takes about 10-20 minutes to complete and will come in well below $10. It’s the easiest of the projects listed here.

Here’s the finished product.

The Walmart Rib I'm wearing above
The Walmart Rib I’m wearing above

I was able to utilize the 1” straps that came with the pack for this project. On the left side of the picture below, I attached the triglide slide mentioned above.

I also added another slide to keep the strap from slipping out, but you could also sew the strap together, or staple it, and wrap some duct tape around the staple. Here’s I simply duct taped it to the triglide slide, shown below.

#2: Wanda’s Fanny Pack Rib

This wet rib is made from an old LL Bean waist pack that I found at the bottom of my gear closet. It’s a good size for me and can hold my gloves, head band, arm warmers, map, etc.

Wanda's Fanny Pack Rib

Making the Fanny Pack Rib is also easy, but a little bit more involved. It’s about a 2 on a scale of 1-5 in difficulty.

Here’s the finished product.

Fanny Pack Rib
Fanny Pack Rib

The buckles on this project were part of a sternum strap system that was on a pack I retired. I love these buckles and they were essentially free. The straps that came on this pack were too wide to work with the triglides, so I turned the pack inside out, and with a seam ripper, ripped out the stitching that held the straps to the pack.

Recycling sternum strap buckles
Recycling sternum strap buckles

I cut appropriate lengths of ¾”strapping and carefully melted the edges over a burner on my gas range so they wouldn’t fray. On the left side of the rib (above) you’ll see that I looped a strap through the triglide. Then I inserted this loop in the hole I had made in the pack when I removed the old straps. I stitched it up with my sewing machine while the pack was still inside out. You could sew this by hand if you don’t have access to a machine.

I used the same process on the other side using another piece of recycled strap and the rest of the buckle system from the old sternum strap. This project was entirely free and is probably my favorite of the 3 projects.

#3: Wanda’s Dyneema Rib

This project was made from a size large Zipper Pouch Kit with Dyneema composite fabric purchased from Rip Stop by the Roll for $12.50 plus shipping.

Wanda’s Dyneema Rib

Dyneema is an ultralight, abrasion and water-resistant fabric. The kit comes with ribbon to be used for loops on each side of the pouch, but I substituted more of my recycled strap material. There is a video online that helps in figuring out how to make the pouch along with instructions. I found that the video very helpful since there are no pictures with the instructions.

Here’s the finished product.

Dyneema Rib
Dyneema Rib

This project requires a sewing machine and a little skill with using one. I’d rate it as a 4 in terms of difficulty on a scale of 1 to 5.

One of the hardest aspects was determining the proper tension for the machine so the stitches wouldn’t be loose on the top face of the fabric. Dyneema is a little weird to work with that way. The other challenge was in putting together the zipper, although that probably gets easier with practice.

Parts for a duct tape clip
Parts for a duct tape clip

The buckle in this project is created the same way as the Walmart project, but uses a recycled buckle from my collection which is then duct taped to the triglide.

Pic 7

I find that this bag might be a little small for my needs, but it might work great for someone else. You could make a bigger version of this, but that would rate a difficulty of 5+ since you would need to buy all the materials piecemeal and make it from scratch.

Wrap Up

I hope these projects illustrate that anyone can make a perfectly fine wet rib out of a fanny pack. Simply find one you like that is the right size and has any other features you like. It’s a bonus if you can use a fanny pack or pocket you already own. Then, attach the needed straps and buckles and you are set to go.

About the Author

Wanda Rice has been backpacking since the late 1980’s. She has climbed the New Hampshire 48, the New Hampshire 48 in winter, the New England 67 and is working on the New England Hundred Highest and the Four-Season 48. Wanda also teaches for the Appalachian Mountain Club’s (AMC) Mountain Leadership School, the AMC New Hampshire Chapter Spring and Winter Schools as well as the AMC NH Winter Hiking Series. She leads day and overnight trips for AMC NH year round and loves mentoring new leaders. She is a gear junkie, a self-proclaimed Queen of Gear Hacks and loves sharing her tips and tricks with others. Wanda lives in southern NH and is looking forward to moving closer to the mountains in the next few years.

 

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21 comments

  1. This Osprey Uktralight Grab Bag the best thing I have found for this use. It connects to the shoulder strap webbing or can be used as a stand alone belt pack. Enough room for a snack, map, my phone, spare gloves and other small essentials I want to access easily while hiking, https://www.osprey.com/us/en/product/ultralight-grab-bag-GRABBAG.html

  2. Neat. I’ve used a Hill People Gear Recon Kit Bag for years. It straps across your chest is the perfect fit for all that gear that you’d like to have close at hand. I have binoculars in one pouch attached to the PALS and my Garmin in the other.
    The big pocket usual holds a map and small items.

    https://hillpeoplegear.com/Products/CategoryID/1

    • Right on about Hill People Gear kit bags. I’ve been using the Original Kit Bag V2 for about a year and love it. They are expensive, but well designed and built solid. I like the 3 compartments of the Original model. I store maps and trail guides in the “gun compartment”!

  3. Interesting post as usual. Everybody I talk to with a front little pack loves them and I wanted to incorporate such a little pack
    for a few years.

    I’m currently expecting to purchase a new Vargo Exoti Backpack – with the new Bog style bag. I’m wondering, can the wet bag straps be
    attached to the titanium frame (as well as an umbrella)? And would this provide better stability? Thanks for being a great backpacker resource.

    • It would require a different attachment method and longer straps, but it should be doable. You could probably end up with something that would work great and would not be hanging off your shoulder straps every time you take off your pack. On one side, instead of putting strapping through a triglide, you could just put it around the frame instead. Then on the other, attach one side of the clip to the frame with an appropriate length of strapping.

  4. Wonder when they started making these again. I think I looked for them back in November and could not find them. I have an older one that I’ve used for years, just wish it was bigger.

  5. Dana Designs made both a wet rib and dry rib. They each came in two sizes and a left and right side version, thus you could use two ribs at the same time (the buckles on the ribs were “universal”). In the Dana literature of the time it was suggested that the use of two large ribs required a certain robust girth! I have one of the smaller right side wet ribs and always regretted not getting a left side dry rib. Oh well. They were built very well but definitely don’t fit into the current ulta-light ethos.

  6. I am in the process of experimenting with PALS/Molle pouches, which are cheap. Downside is that these products tend to be made of heavier nylon, 500 Cordura, for example.

  7. These are neater than what I did, but essentially the same idea. I took an old fanny pack and just sewed a couple of small grosgrain loops on the top corners. I use ‘biners to clip it to my shoulder straps. The main difference in mine is that it hangs higher, right in front of my sternum strap, because I dislike trying to walk with a fanny pack flopping and banging into my groin area.

    At camp I can remove the fanny pack and hang it on my hammock ridgeline as a ridgeline organizer, or I can wear it as a fanny pack for short hikes from a base camp. It does add about 7 ounces to my pack weight, but provides a multi-use piece of extra storage space. Your projects, though, are much better executed with better craftsmanship.

  8. Articles like this remind me that i really need to learn how to sew one of these years. And to think, my mom used to work as a seamstress.

    Some good ideas here! Photography is usually a priority for me, so i’ve been hiking with a “holster”-style camera bag (Think Tank Digital Holster 10 v2) attached to my main pack to carry a small mirrorless camera and an extra lens. Sitting on my upper chest, this protects the camera, and keeps it handy. Takes just a few seconds to remove from or put back into the case. For wet weather, it has a built-in rain cover that pulls out of its own little pouch.

    The case has three points of attachments to the backpack, two on one side (to the edge of the pack toward the bottom, and to one shoulder strap), and one point on the other (to the other shoulder strap). When removing my main pack, i only have to unclip from the shoulder strap on one side, and the case remains with the main pack.

    In addition to this, i also wear a small waist pack which i put on before putting on the main pack. It holds some some snacks, headlamp, compass, map, cell phone, ear plugs, hiking wallet. The waist pack usually stays on at camp at the end of the hiking day.

    I like the system, but there’s a lot of extra strappage to deal with, and i’ve got the extra weight of two additional bags (about a pound for the Think Tank, and half a pound for the waist pack). The article has me wondering if there’s a way to simplify my system to one bag.

    There is also the Ribz pack (ribzwear.com).

  9. If you want something like this, the Aarn Bodypacks from New Zealand already have two huge front pockets – they call them Balance Pockets – built in to their entire line of packs. (Of course, buying a solution is not nearly as much fun as DIY projects.)

    • The Danish military web gear used to have hooks on the from in order to hang the squad radio. Their packs were small and it balanced the weight between the front to back. the main downside was if you had to rapidly go prone, you were essentially throwing yourself on an unyielding metal box.

  10. Those not confident in sewing could use velcro rather than zips (if they aren’t already in situ from salvaged old stuff), as velcro only needs stitching as a strip, rather then correct fitting like zips. Also there’s not many fabrics that can’t be hand-stitched, which is easier to control than using a machine. Even webbing can be sewn by hand using a strong thick needle and a thimble. The results may not look super-professional, but will be strong.
    Could we have more on makes/adaptions?
    Brilliant article!

  11. Meant to ask before…

    I may be missing something obvious (sits on your ribs and gets wet in the rain?) but does anyone know the origin of this term “wet rib”? Actually never heard it before seeing this post.

    • My understanding is that a dry rib is a zippered pouch that lies along your ribs/ front, and a wet rib is the same thing plus water-carrying capacity (i.e. a water bottle pocket).

    • Greg is correct. Dana Gleason (Dana Designs) started the terminology, and his were the first of this concept that I saw. I used to have a Dana Wet Rib, but somewhere in one of my moves it wandered off. Very handy for carrying a liter water bottle, small camera, binoculars, compass, map, etc. A bit cumbersome for taking off and putting on the pack, but surprisingly comfortable in use.

  12. I agree with another poster who mentioned the Hill People Gear chest pack. It is really well made and very versatile. A bit expensive, but after trying all sorts of other things, this was the way to go. I’m also wondering why they call this a “wet rib” pack.

    • Its a rib pack because that is where on your body it rides. This one is the wet rib due to holding a water bottle – they originally had a dry rib as well which was the pocket sans the water bottle holder.
      -Brian

  13. Just had the Brown Truck Santa delivery my Mystery Ranch Wet Rib to me today. Waited a couple of months for them to come back in stock and was even able to get 40% off via ExpertVoice if you qualify (veterans, first responders, guides, etc). Now to give it a test run soon!

  14. I have used a zPacks Multi-Pack as a chest pack for several years. While the attachment system it comes with is a bit fiddly, it has worked well for me. It’s most similar to the last project Wanda lists.

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