19 January 2014

Modding the Frost River Big Manitou

The Frost River Big Manitou shoulder bag is made from 18oz waxed canvas with leather accents and for all intents and purposes is a great bag as it comes, however it's lacking a couple things that I think it should have.

First is a handle. I am not sure why they elected to not have this, and in their product description they say; "The largest of the shoulder bags and least handle clad of the briefcases, the Big Manitou is distinctive. It is strictly a shoulder bag, and has no traditional handle". Again I am not sure why but for me it needs one. A shoulder strap is fine but anyone who travels a lot with a shoulder laptop bag knows you'll be shifting that bag fore and aft regularly as you navigate airports and aircraft for example. To do this without a handle you'd basically either grab the bag from the side and push or pull it, or pinch it in the middle top to move it. Neither option is ideal in my opinion. Additionally I like to grab and go, pulling it from the passenger seat in my truck or out of an overhead compartment you don't really want to grab it by the shoulder strap and without a handle, well it just doesn't make sense.

So the first mod is a handle for mine.

I used an old leather belt cut to the length I wanted it. I didn't want it flat or flopping on the bag so I folded it in half and stitched. This gave the leather quite a bit of rigidity.

 I left the flat ends long enough so I could insert them into the slots I cut on the bag, folding the leather under so that it would be reinforcing itself rather than relying on the canvas alone.

Now I needed to cut the slots in the canvas which is double layered. I used my Otzi knife for this.

I drilled the soon to be handle for two Chicago screws on each end plus stitching holes.

From here it was just a matter of putting the ends through the slots and punching the hole through the canvas for the screws.

Just a matter of installing the screws and stitching it up now. didn't take long and I had what I was after. I also installed a strap and buckle on the front.

Next weekend it will get a set of leather straps on one end in the interior for holding a steel water bottle securely.

Thanks for looking.


  1. That looks sharp, and that's a good color match between the leather accents and the belt. Nice modification.

  2. Great job! A sewing machine in which the shuttle?

  3. I inquired why no handle on the Carrier Brief Messenger bag and this was the response.

    "We can do a handle on that bag similar to what you would find on the Heritage bag or Pilot Brief that we offer. The one drawback is that in order to use a handle on a bag of that design you must make sure the flap straps are buckled tight as they would carry the entire weight of the bag at that point… Something to consider…"

    Makes sense. I can't tell you how many times I've grabbed the top handle my other messenger bags only to have them come open because I forgot to secure the straps.

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