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 a 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.
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. 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.
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.
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 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, headband, arm warmers, map, etc.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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.
My first “Wet Rib” was a Dana Designs wet rib. Like all of his stuff in the ’90s it was made of heavy duty material. It went with the Terraplane pack whenI sold it.
My present wet rib was one of the last made by Seek Outside. Its light weight fabric still looks new after 8 years of use.
I love wet ribs and wouldn’t want to backpack without one.
I still have and use my old Dana Designs wet rib. I love its convenience to both water bottle and small gear and snacks. Only drawback is the eight oz of weight.
I always wondered why someone does not make and market these with dyneema and make them ultralight. I think many would buy them.