Make your own DIY trekpak for under $20
Apr 13, 2022
Make your own DIY trekpak for under $20
The Trekpak Case Divider System is a beautiful piece of design. It’s simple, it’s clean, and most importantly, you can switch up your configuration to your needs. It’s meant to replace the current pick-n-pluck foam system that Pelican and other hard shell manufacturers use. The problem with the pick-n-pluck system is once you pull out the foam, you’re stuck with that set-up. If you decide to change the setup, your only option is to replace it with a new foam insert. This will set you back at least $30, depending on your Pelican case and size.
My sole complaint with the Trekpak system is its cost. If you look closely at the materials used, there’s nothing you can’t pick up at your local art store. Essentially it’s 2 layers of EVA foam glued to a corrugated plastic board.
I have a couple of Pelican cases and over the years as my camera system has changed and evolved, I’ve had to reconfigure what gear goes in these cases. And every time I reconfigure I end up buying a new pick-n-pluck insert, which as I’ve said before, gets expensive.
I decided to DIY my own Trekpak system for both my Pelican 1400 and Pelican 1150 cases. Took me a few hour of my time to put this together and the results were magnificent, not to mention every-bit professional looking!
Materials for your DIY Trekpak
The materials needed are straight-forward. You could pick up almost all these items at most craft stores such as Michaels Art Store.
- Black EVA Foam (adhesive-backed)
- Black Coroplast (also called Corrugated Plastic sheet)
- Super 77 Spray Adhesive (use with N-95 mask)
- Cutting mat
- Utility knife
- Long ruler or straight edge
- Bobby pins or jumbo paper clips
- Latex glove
The most important items in this project are the EVA Foam and Coroplast.
Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate (EVA) is a closed cell foam. It’s used for exercise mats, sports equipment and props for cosplay. Closed cell means it does not absorb water, so don’t go out and get any old foam, it’s gotta be EVA foam. And if you’re thinking of cutting up your old yoga mat, don’t! The ridges in the mat won’t glue flat onto the Coroplast board and you’ll just end up with a mess.The other property of EVA foam is it’s ability to maintain density. Even after years of abuse, the foam should be just as dense and have the same level of protective as when you first bought it. Buy EVA foam from a reputable business such as TNT Cosplay Supply.
EVA foam comes in different lengths, so you’ll have to figure out how much you need for you own project. The most important detail to pay attention to is it’s thickness. My recommendation is 2mm. I made the mistake of buying the 5mm, and it turned out to be too thick – usable – but a bit thick. More on this in my 2020 Update below.
If you feel the 2mm foam will be too thin, them go for the 4mm then. Don’t forget by the time you’re done, you’ll have 2mm of foam on each side, plus the Coroplast, which itself is 4mm thick. Your total thickness of each divider end up at 8mm, just over 1/4″ thick.
By itself, the dividers are not that rigid, but once you start assembling your configuration, the system hold itself together firmly.
Where to buy EVA Foam
Adhesive Backed EVA Foam
If you want to avoid the spray glue step, I recommend buying the Adhesive Backed Sheets instead. Less messy and your lungs will thank you. The cost is slightly more for these, but well worth it and so much less hassle.
TNT Cosplay Supply – Adhesive Backed Foam
Size: 24” x 24”
Thickness: 2mm or 4mm thick
Regular EVA Foam
This is the regular version of the foam. You’ll have to use spray glue if you go this route.
TNT Cosplay Supply
Size: 24” x 60”
Thickness: 2mm or 4mm
In Canada (Montreal)
Canada’s Cosplay Supply Store – True North Cosplay
Size: 40” x 40”
Thickness: 2mm or 5mm
Where to get Coroplast
Coroplast (Corrugated Plastic Sheet) is widely available at any art store or even at the Dollar Store. The standard thickness is 4mm, it doesn’t need to be any thicker than that.
Size: 18” x 24”
This is nasty stuff (just read the warning label). You definitely want to use this product outdoors. I usually line the area I’m spraying with newspapers so the ground doesn’t get all sticky from the spray glue. I highly advise the use of an N-95 mask so you’re not coating your lungs with spray glue. It’s not a bad idea to use latex gloves as well.
Putting your DIY Trekpak together
It’s best to start this project on a sheet of paper. Draw out your configuration so you’ll know how much EVA foam to buy and a game plan of how to put this together. Because you’ll end up making more dividers than needed, it’s not critical to be absolutely precise – just have a basic idea. Start by measuring the interior space of your Pelican case. If you measure the dimensions of the old pick-n-pluck insert, that gets you the same measurements.
In my case, the interior is 12” in length x 9” in width x 3.5” tall. I needed to assemble the interior perimeter first before worrying about the dividers. I wasn’t too worried about getting the fit perfectly so I made each panel longer than needed and then trimmed it down to fit.
If I add up the length (12″) and width (9″) of my case, I get 21″ in total. I made 2 of these perimeter inserts at a length slightly longer than the 21″ for some wiggle room. I rounded the corners as I went along and trimmed off the extra length and used pins to join the 2 sections together.
Since I used 5mm EVA foam instead of the 2mm, shaping the corners took some effort. By the time you glue the EVA foam to both sides of the Coroplast, you’re looking at a thickness of 14mm (over 1/2” of material). That’s why I recommend using the 2mm foam instead.
Once the interior perimeter was inserted it was time for the dividers. The EVA foam sheet that I bought was 24” wide, so I made as many 3.5” x 24” strips as I could. I first cut the Coroplast down to 3.5” x 24” strips and then glued the EVA foam to one side. The glue dries fairly quickly once it’s on the foam. I used a roller to apply pressure for better adhesion. I then trimmed off the excess foam with a utility knife. I repeated the same process on the other side. Once that was done I could start cutting them down to size to fit my configuration.
The depth measurement are different in my 2 Pelican cases so I repeated the same process above for the the other case. It all worked out.
To finish this project off, you need pins to join the interior dividers. These I’m sure are custom made for Trekpak so I not expecting to find these on a store shelf. Getting a bit creative, I bought bobby pins, which in the end work great. Get the biggest ones you can find and you’ll have an easier time manipulating them. I also experimented with jumbo sized-paper clips. If you snip the ends off, they work just as well as the bobby pins.
For the pull tabs I found some Peel-and-Stick felt lying around the house. I cut them into strips and wrapped them around the bobby pins. The Peel & Stick felt is dirt cheap.
Peel & Stick Felt
Peel & Stick Felt
If you’re wondering what the cost comparison between buying the real Trekpak system vs the DIY Trekpak version. Here is the breakdown:
For the Pelican 1400
TrekPak Divider Kit for Pelican 1400 Small Protector Case
For the Pelican 1150
TrekPak Divider Kit for Pelican 1150 Small Protector Case
That’s over $100 total for two cases!!!
I’ve also read reviews from people who have bought the Trekpak system and their main complaint is they do not provide enough dividers with the system. So you’ll end up buying additional dividers, which of course adds to your cost.
My project costs:
I already had some Super 77 spray glue from another project. I also had some Peel & Stick felt lying around. I made the DIY Trekpak inserts for both my 1400 and 1150 Pelican cases and had plenty of extra dividers for future configurations.
EVA foam: $9.00
Bobby Pins: $3.50
Total cost of this project in Canadian dollars $19.50 – about $15.00 in U.S. currency.
The end result looks just as clean and professional as the real thing. I will at some point redo my dividers and use the 2mm foam instead of the 5mm. There’s no need for it to be so thick, plenty of protection with the thinner foam.
I’ve got the flexibility to adjust my foam insert system for future configurations and I saved a wack of money doing it myself. I consider this DIY Trekpak project a success. Alright, Alright, Alright!
How things have held up over the past year?
Well, I’ve been using my DIY Trekpak system for over a year now and it’s still amazing – no complaints so far. I’ve been out on many extended trips, in hot and cold weather environments and everything still works as it should. I was a bit worried the spray glue might start to separate in hot weather, but that hasn’t happened either. Perhaps if you leave your Pelican case in 100˚F weather for days on end in full sun, the glue might eventually start to break down, but I would be more concerned about what’s happening to the actual gear inside the case.
I do have a few suggestions based on my year-long experience.
- Skip the spray glue adhesive and just get the self-adhesive EVA foam. Even after a year, whenever I open my Pelican case I still get a whiff of the adhesive spray glue – not sure why – perhaps this stuff never fully cures. The extra cost for self-adhesive EVA is so insignificant that there’s no reason not to get it. Again, you lungs will thank you.
- EVA foam thickness. I’ve been experimenting using different thickness of the EVA foam and here are my conclusions. For the outside perimeter I would use a 4mm / 2mm combination. This gives it structure and protection from bumps and drops. For the rest of the interior dividers, 2mm works just fine. At first it will seem too thin, but once you put it all together, it all locks in place and it actually has a lot of structural integrity – like a honeycomb, the whole is greater than its parts.
- Make extra dividers. I am always tinkering with what gear to bring in my Pelican case. So spend a bit of extra time and cut a few extra dividers. That way you’ll never run out of configuration options. Or better yet, leave the extra dividers uncut, and you can then configure the interior however you want in the future.
Everything else has worked like a charm.
Updated 2020 edition of my DIY Trekpak dividers for my DJI Mavic drone. I picked up this Pelican case off of Craigslist for $10. It’s more compact and my drone fits perfectly.
I reused the 5mm for the outside perimeter and switched to the 2mm foam for the interior dividers. I didn’t even bother with the felt pull tabs because this Peli case has become my drone case, so I won’t be switching configurations anytime soon.
About the Author
Ariel Estulin is a Canada-based designer, photographer, and photo educator. Primarily interested in landscapes, he travels the world seeking out beauty in those wild and remote places on earth that still remain untouched by civilization and where nature commands ultimate attention.
As a photo educator, his goal is for students to come away with not just better photographs, but a better understanding of photography, better compositions, and most importantly, a skill set they now have and can use on future adventures.
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