How To Make A DIY Stuff Sack

Introduction To DIY Stuff Sack:

stuffsacksStuff sacks are lightweight storage bags, typically made of nylon material, and typically feature a closable top to keep the contents of the sack secure.  They are commonly referred to as stuff sacks and sometimes as compression sacks.  Fortunately, it’s fairly easy to make your own DIY stuff sack!

When using duffel bags or backpacks to organize your gear, several DIY stuff sacks help a lot to have compartmentalized sub-storage systems.  Stuff sacks are a fantastic option for storing your gear as it allows you to quickly and easily identify what you need to access.  It helps contain a large amount of items in a single bag and makes using larger storage systems much more pleasant.

When you see the cost of commercial stuff sacks, you will likely find they can be absurdly expensive.  If you were going to use a dozen or more in your gear storage efforts, you could easily spend a couple hundred dollars on commercial stuff sacks alone.  This wasn’t what we wanted to do, so making our own DIY stuff sack storage system was the way to go.

Making your own DIY stuff sack really is not all that difficult, even for even a novice sewer.  It does require some basic tools like a sewing machine and of course, the appropriate materials.  Theoretically, one could hand stitch a stuff sack together, but it would take a fair amount of time.  The cost of making your own, as you might expect, is significantly cheaper than their commercial counterparts and they work just as well.  For around the cost of one or two commercial stuff sacks, you can literally pick up the materials for dozens of them!

The major benefit of the DIY stuff sack is that it’s quite easy to color code your gear with different colors of material, making your gear easily identifiable without digging through the contents.  You can also custom tailor the sizes of your DIY stuff sack to fit around a specific item which often isn’t precise when you buy commercial options.  Storing your gear in stuff sacks can also help lengthen the life of your camping gear and helps to keep your camping outfit well organized.

We’ve made stuff sacks for all of our rain tarps, our sleeping pads, bungee cords, small camping items and a bunch of our camp kitchen gear.  You know all that gear you have where the stuff sack is just a bit too small?  No problem!  The limits are endless!  For us, when we take a long distance road trip, we don’t have to spend time finding gear or trying to get everything to fit perfectly.

There are many different methods to making your own stuff sacks, some may prefer round bottom sacks, others a simpler square style.  We like to color coordinate our DIY stuff sack storage system so that we know what’s where.  This can involve using different colors of nylon materials or if you sew on finger tags, you could also identify the contents with these.  This makes it very easy when ruffling through a duffel bag to find exactly what you need.

DIY Stuff Sack Materials:

Note that you can use alternate materials than nylon, but a good nylon fabric tends to be very durable and not unlike commercial stuff sack counterparts.  Commercial nylon also features a degree of water resistance, which is generally appreciated in the outdoors.  You can also opt for coated nylon which increases the water resistance even further.  Some people have made material from inexpensive tyvek or postal service envelopes, which can really drive the cost down.  For ultra lightweight applications like backpacking, some people use cuben fiber which is both expensive and very lightweight.  The nylon’s weight is commonly measured in ounces, with smaller numbers being lightweight, whereas larger weights tend to be more durable.

For campers and people looking to simply organize their gear, the type or weight of nylon is not particularly important.  Heavier nylon fabrics tends to provide more durability and strength, so they will hold up longer over time.  Lighter weight nylon is better for scenarios, like backpacking, where weight is a paramount concern.  Coated varieties of nylon are treated with a substance that increases its water repellent capabilities, so these can be especially great for gear that is more likely to get wet.

As for the thread, it’s important when making outdoor gear to use a quality thread.  Most fabric store thread is relatively lightweight, even the “heavy duty” kind.  For best results, a thread like Gutterman Tera40 or Tera80 will hold up to use and abuse much better than what you can commonly find in local craft stores.  Do note that much of the time these quality threads come on a cone, rather than a spool, and you may need a cone adapter for your sewing machine.  (Tip:  A small piece of wood, a dowel and an eyehook can easily be turned into a super cheap cone adapter!)

It is likely you may not be able to find all the materials listed above at your average fabric store in town.  These items are commonly stocked by companies that focus on outdoor related raw materials.  We use a company called RockyWoods.com, have been happy with their service and would recommend them.  SeattleFabrics.com also features a fine selection of nylons and fasteners that are suitable for the DIY stuff sack project.  (Materials used were linked in the above list of materials.)  The materials can be sourced from a variety of other places as well, these are just some suggestions.

DIY Stuff Sack Process:

This is our favorite process as it’s quick and easy.  This video does move fairly quickly, you may need to watch it a few times to get a handle on what she’s doing.  We’ve made a few modifications to our overall process to make it slightly more efficient, but this gives you the basic idea.  If you make a few of them, you’ll likely come to these same optimizations.

Here’s a an alternate method that you might want to consider, which results in a round bottom stuff sack.  This style of DIY stuff sack is good for items that are round, such as mess kits, coffee percolators and so forth.  They take a little bit more time, and possibly a bit more skill with your sewing machine, but are still well worth it for the cost savings!

Round bottom stuff sack:

There are a whole lot more videos where these came from.  Check out this Youtube search for some more ideas.

 

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