The original pattern of the bag alongside my dye of choice.

On many sporting good websites (for me, SportsmanGuide comes to mind), we see a ton of military surplus mag shingles, backpacks, pouches, etc that can be had for cheap, giving you and your team to ability to outfit yourselves while being frugal. However, there is one problem: the majority of the equipment is in that oh-so-lovely ACU pattern. The reality is, most of us do not operate in an environment conducive to that pattern (does anyone, really?) Does that mean that we need to forego that cheap gear? Of course not!

I ran into this problem recently when I purchased a Blackhawk Patrol Pack in ACU pattern. It was the exactly the backpack I wanted but not the exact color. So, I did a little Google-fu magic and discovered some great threads – particularly on ARFCOM – about dyeing nylon gear using Rit Dye. I decided to give it a try and see if I couldn’t get the bag to the color I desired.

I started off first by washing the bag in the laundry using some Oxiclean. I then soaked it for 24 hours in Oxiclean in a tub in my bathroom as it had a funky smell to it. Then, I did a final wash in cold water (no detergent) in the machine and let it dry. Next, I did a quick calculation of how much liquid dye I needed. I chose Rit Dye (Dark Green) as others had used it before with success. The back of the bottle suggested 4oz for every pound of fabric. The bag weighed 4 pounds, but not all of the weight was fabric, so I assumed 2 pounds of fabric. Thus, according to the instructions, I needed just one bottle. However, I ended up using two because I got nervous that one would not be enough.

Many of the instructions I found online had you boiling water while submerging the pouch in the pot and adding the dye. For the backpack, this was not feasible given the size of it and the fact that I did not have a pot big enough. So, I came up with plan B. I went to Home Depot and bought a 21 gallon galvanized metal tub from the garden section that will ultimately end up as a planter for me. I set it on the back deck and placed the backpack in the tub. I then used the two biggest pots I had to boil up water. The plan was:

  • Boil water
  • Pour water onto backpack in tub
  • Add dye
  • ??
  • Profit?

    Water boiling on the stovetop.

While boiling the water, I added a cup of salt to it as many websites suggested I do so. I let the water get up to about 180 degrees (yes, I know that is not boiling – I got impatient) and then carefully carried the hot water over to the tub and dumped it in. I then quickly added the Rit Dye and used a brick slab (normally used for rucking – basically four bricks duct taped together) to weigh it down. For the parts that were not submerged, I used an old spatula to repeatedly dunk the exposed fabric in the water. I let the backpack sit in the dye for about 10 minutes because I wanted to preserve some semblance of the ACU pattern.

The bag submerged in the dye water – and the hands of my better half who helped me throughout the process

I then removed the backpack and let it hang outside in cloudy/drizzly weather because it would help wash the remaining dye out of the bag. Finally, I threw it in the washing machine with an old towel and ran it with cold water and no detergent.

The final results?

Final product – the color has changed but the old pattern is still discernible.

I am very pleased with the results. If you wanted a darker green and did not care about preserving the pattern, you could leave it in for longer and it would get darker. With Rit Dye, what you see is what you get, so pull it out when it is the shade that you want.

So, if you are looking to outfit a large group quickly and only have ACU pattern on hand, grab some Rit Dye and get to it!

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