Nowadays, almost every foldable jacket or pair of waterproof trousers comes in its own compact little bag – a so-called stuff sack. That didn’t used to be the case, and I still own a lot of walking and cycling gear from the previous, pre stuff sack era. The final stage of my project to make a pair of bicycle transportation bags has involved sewing stuff sacks for them so they can be strapped neatly behind the saddle while we’re touring. In doing so, I realised that I could make stuff sacks for our ancient waterproofs too. No more dripping, unwieldy garments to stow away somewhere where they won’t dampen anything else once the rain has stopped. Now they each go in their own bag which contains the moisture until everything can be dried out properly at the end of the ride.
I used coated ripstop nylon for these stuff sacks. The coating makes the fabric waterproof and, to maintain the integrity of the finished bag I could have taped the seams on the inside. I haven’t bothered doing that, instead I’ve kept the seams to a minimum and, in the case of the longitudinal seam in the bike bag cases, I’ll make sure it’s on the underside in use.
I started by rolling up each bike bag or waterproof garment as small as possible, holding it in place with a couple of rubber bands so I could measure it. Then I made a stuff sack to exactly that size – it needs to be a tight fit to keep the package compact, but not so tight that it’s a struggle to get the item into it.
For the bike bag stuff sacks which will be carried in a horizontal orientation, I wanted to avoid any seams that would then be facing upwards into the rain, which precluded a circular base. Instead, I just sewed across the end and then “bagged out” the corners to make it square-ish. (See my metallic shopping bag tutorial for an explanation of bagging out.) All that was needed then was a casing and a drawcord at the other end. I put a loop – a belt carrier, basically – in the longitudinal seam to hold the strap securely that will attach the stuff sack behind the saddle. Inserting it in the seam avoided unnecessary stitch holes.
For the strap, I used some of the polypropylene webbing and Velcro left over from the bike bags themselves. I adjusted the length of the drawcord so that it can be held in place by slipping the strap through it, rather than dangling.
The stuff sacks I made for our waterproof jackets needed to be larger, and I have given them circular bases. Mostly they’ll be kept dry in our panniers, and when it’s raining the jackets are likely to be in use anyway, so I wasn’t so bothered about water getting in the seams.
These bags took very little time to make, but I’m sure we’ll get a lot of use from them. When we’re not touring by bike we can keep our waterproofs in the car without it looking messy and, if we end up wearing them in the rain, they can go back in their stuff sacks and won’t drip all over the seats on the drive home. I didn’t need to buy anything extra for them except for one cord grip – unfortunately, I didn’t have enough of the small blue ones that I saved from the little mesh bags that used to come in boxes of laundry detergent tablets. Maybe these tablets (and mesh bags) are still available, I don’t know – I changed to liquid detergent years ago, but I couldn’t bear to throw away all the mesh bags. Some I use to hang moth balls in the attic and the wardrobe where I keep out-of-season clothes, after a friend suffered a severe clothes moth infestation. The others have now been stripped of their very basic, but effective, cord grips which rely on what one of my university lecturers used to refer to as “the elegant polypropylene hinge”.