For my trip to Finnmark last February I bought the cheapest Trekmates draw cord stuff sacks I could get my hands on. The Go Outdoors bargain bucket had served me well, so I thought at the time. Fast forward a month and a week of skiing across frozen tundra in Norway, and at least half of the sacks had failed through the draw cord area simply falling apart. They were quite simply utter rubbish. To my surprise the nice people at Go Outdoors gave me a refund, and I went on my merry way.

This time  around I was determined to get it right. In the interim I had bought and heavily used some cheap roll top Karrimor drybags. They looked like a good option, but I couldn’t see the range of sizes I would require available. Thus started, after serendipitously stumbling on make your own gear (MYOG) videos, my sewing journey. First up I managed to blag a small kids Hobbycraft sewing machine to learn the basics from a mate. I then quickly oriented myself with the range of fabrics available, and after weighing up the pros and cons purchased a whole bunch of ripstop waterproof and windproof Silnylon. But alas, the new machine was troublesome, and whilst I learnt how to start and end a stitch, and sew relatively straight, it wasn’t up to the job for prolonged sewing sessions. I tried instead to use 3m sail making tape (after all you can tape cuben fiber, why not Silnylon I thought?) to fashion a stuff sack. It was an unmitigated disaster. It turns out Silnylon is nigh on impossible to glue. Well, for the amateur without knowledge of the chemistry of adhesives at least.

There was nothing else to it – I had to get myself a mean pimped up proper big boys sewing machine. After dragging my girlfriend around Hobbycraft for two hours one afternoon, I came back home with my new toy – a Singer Promise. I reasoned that the cost of this plus the fabric for stuff sacks and a vapour barrier liner for my sleeping system would be less than purchasing the lot ready made (just!). And after all, I was about to learn a new skill and have some fun along the way…well minus the swearing sessions.


I followed a number of videos to make my first stuff sack, and after a few testers settled on the method shown below. I believe it’s by far the best out there as without having to punch eyelets you get a good deal of protection around the draw cord exit holes which come under considerable wear and tear. In addition by leaving the boxed ends inside the sack (as opposed to cutting them off) there is less exposed seam to fail.

After a good few months of sewing I’m now churning out stuff sacks pretty easily. I’m not always bang on with neatness, but they are I think much more robust than shop bought sacks, as I do a rolled seam and double rolled draw cord channel  which has been sewn twice. I’ve even created a few monster bags (although it only weighs 43g) such as the one below. This one is fitted with paracord and a pig eye (two holes) toggle to prevent excessive wear and tear.

It takes patience, persistence and a lot of swearing. But I would highly recommend putting the effort in to make your own basic outdoor items. Beyond the obvious of being able to make the items to your own specs, it’s given me renewed confidence in my practical abilities, and a new appreciation for the love and care that goes into making quality outdoor products e.g. Patagonia.

So, what’s stopping you?!…

About the Author Ash Routen

I’m a postdoctoral exercise scientist by day, and cold expedition adventurer (for want of a better term) and outdoors and health writer by night. I’m based in Leicester in the UK, but I also spend considerable time in Cambridge where my partner lives. To find out more about me, visit my about page or take a look at my published writing.

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