Zimmerbuilt: My Custom Pack, Hand Sewn In The USA

Want a pack made to perfectly fit your body with exactly the features you desire? Chris Zimmer will sew a pack just for you.

zimmerbuilt custom pack

Zimmerbuilt backpacks are hand-sewn by Chris Zimmer in his home in Ohio. He designs them with the light to ultralight hiker in mind, and builds to your exact specifications.

If you can imagine it, he can sew it.


Going custom isn’t for the novice hiker. So assuming this isn’t your first rodeo, you already have an idea of features you want and features you don’t.

I purchased a Zimmerbuilt Pack last summer. This is my experience with the custom pack.


First, choose from one of three available fabrics, then begin your design with a completely blank canvas. You can choose from Xpac, Dyneema X, or Hybrid Cuben Fiber material. Xpac and Dyneema X are the two more durable materials, and both weigh about the same.

Xpac is waterproof, while Dyneema X is not. And the hybrid Cuben is the lightest and most expensive material.

“Personally I love Xpac, it makes for a very durable weather-resistant pack. I use it for all my own personal packs,” Zimmer told me.

Custom Pack Design Options

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The website does not list all of the available options, but you can check out the myriad possibilities on the site, or other packs you’ve had in the past that had desirable (and not-so desirable) options. Let your imagination go.

Some things you’ll definitely want to consider are pack volume (both internal and external, including options like large front mesh pocket, side water bottle pockets, and hip belt pockets), frame vs. frameless (recommended for loads under 20 lbs.); and comfort extras (removable internal stay, foam pad, and pad sleeve).

You will also have to think about whether you would like three-way mesh on the shoulder straps, hip-belt, and back panel to aid in moisture management.

Zimmerbuilt backpacks
The author with her custom Zimmerbuilt backpack

Once you have a detailed list of desirable features in hand, send an email to Chris. He will respond with comments, suggestions, and recommendations. His email responses are prompt, thoughtful, and extremely helpful. In fact, communication with Chris turned out to be my favorite part of the pack-building process.

Zimmerbuilt Custom Pack: Testing

Zimmerbuilt backpacks start at a very reasonable $200 and go up depending on the specifications and features you choose. Turnaround time is quite reasonable. Once I finalized my backpack specs, I had a beautifully built 21-oz. 40L Xpac backpack on my doorstep in eight weeks.

Zimmerbuilt custom backpack review

Since receiving the backpack in July, I’ve put roughly 500 Appalachian Trail and Vermont’s Long Trail miles on it, and it still looks as good as the day I received it. I’m thoroughly impressed with the Xpac’s durability, not only in the wet New England weather, but against all of the scrambling, abrasion, and bushwhacking it has seen.

Because these packs are truly custom-built to your specifications with attention to quality materials, construction, and detail, it’s hard to find anything to critique. Features and options will be your choice after all!

In my case, even though I love my pack, knowing I can continue to tweak the design in the future keeps me constantly thinking about what my next pack will have.

Zimmerbuilt backpacks

In short, Chris Zimmer builds beautiful packs from high quality materials achieving ruggedness while keeping it lightweight.

If you are a seasoned hiker, or even if you’re not, creating a custom pack by Zimmerbuilt will certainly enhance your overall hiking experience and appreciation for this meticulously designed, one-of-a-kind, hand-sewn gear.