Camo Cache Bags

This is the first installment in a new series about things we make. I don’t expect to post something every week, which means “Maker Monday” will be somewhat irregular. I do expect the “things” will be quite varied: custom geocache containers, art, sewing projects, electronics projects (we’re just getting started with Arduino and Beagle Bone) and more. Please leave a comment to let me know whether you’d like to see more or less of this kind of post. Your suggestions for Maker projects are also welcome.

If you don’t know anything about geocaching, please read our Geocaching page for a quick introduction.

Geocachers in the Calgary and Canmore area are probably well aware that Mr. GeoK constructs fairly intricate geocache containers in his woodworking shop. My involvement is pretty much limited to being the test subject who tries to figure out how to get past the various tricks to access the logsheet.

But not every hiding spot is suited to a constructed geocache container. In fact, in urban settings a see-through container is generally preferred, so that anyone who accidentally comes across a geocache container can tell at a glance that they don’t need to call the bomb squad! Sometimes, a see-through container is too easy to spot, which is where a camo cache bag can be helpful. We’ve also used this type of camouflage where we want a geocache to be hung in a tree where it will be accessible even when there’s a fair bit of snow on the ground.

Failed camo bagWhen I checked my supply of camo cache bags a couple of weeks ago, I discovered that both of the bags I had in inventory had failed. The stitching was too close to the cut edge of the fabric, which frayed and came loose from the seam. So it was time to go back to the drawing board and come up with a plan to make some new ones.

This my the third design/construction iteration. The first time around I used a printed cotton fabric, which rotted away after a couple of months of the freeze/thaw cycle and heavy snow. The second time around I used straight stitching for the seams and the poor results are shown above. I’m hopeful the changes I implemented this time around produced a durable camo cache bag that will last at least a year when exposed to the elements.

NOTE: A sewing machine that can sew straight seams and compound zigzag seams is required for this project. Materials include fabric, nylon or polyester thread, straight pins and a durable length of cord (such as an old bootlace).

FABRIC: I used some of the 1.9 oz uncoated ripstop nylon fabric in a woodland camo pattern that we purchased online from Seattle Fabrics. Because it’s uncoated, the fabric is breathable and will quickly dry after rain or snow.

SIZE: To figure out how large to cut your fabric, take the geocache container you want to hide in the bag – in my case a lock ‘n’ lock container. Measure the container’s length + height and add about 4 inches. This is how long you need to cut your fabric. Then measure the container’s width + height and add about 2 inches. This is how wide you need to cut your fabric. Cut two pieces of fabric the same size.

ASSEMBLY:

Step 1Step 1 – Begin by pinning together the wrong sides of the fabric along one LONG edge.
Step 2Step 2 – Sew a straight stitch seam along the pinned edge leaving a 5/8″ seam allowance. Finger press open the seam allowances and pin flat. Sew each side of the seam allowance into place using a compound zigzag stitch. Then, sew over the straight-stitched seam using the compound zigzag stitch STOPPING about 1 1/2″ short of one end (see photograph). This end where you do not reinforce the seam is the TOP END of your bag.
Step 3Step 3 – Pin together the wrong sides of the fabric along the other LONG edge. Sew a compound zigzag seam along the pinned edge leaving a 5/8″ seam allowance.
Step 4Step 4 – Fold the seam allowances back over the seam you just made and pin in place. Note that one of the folded edges will be slightly longer than the other due to the nature of the zigzag stitch.
Step 5Step 5 – Sew all the way along the folded back seam allowances (i.e. through four layers of fabric), again using the compound zigzag stitch. This reinforces the second long edge of the bag.
Step 6Step 6 – Pin the wrong sides of the bottom edges together. Be sure to DOUBLE CHECK that you’re sewing the bottom edge by referring to Step 2 and pinning the opposite end from the non-reinforced 1 1/2″ section of the first long seam. Sew along the bottom edge using the compound zigzag stitch leaving a 5/8″ seam allowance. Then, fold both sides of the seam allowance back over to the same side and sew flat using the compound zigzag stitch (see photo to see what the finished bottom seam looks like).
Step 7Step 7 – Now for the tricky part. Leaving the bag inside out, turn down about 1″ at the top of the bag. Pin at both seams and once or twice more around the diameter of the bag. Make sure your pins DON’T pin both sides of the bag together. You will need to sew all the way around the bag so that there’s an opening at the top. My sewing machine has a section at the base which can be removed for hemming pants, sleeves, etc. I find it’s helpful to remove this section when sewing this final seam so that the bag can go around quite easily.

To sew, start about 1″ before the first long seam you sewed in Steps 1 and 2. Your sewing line is about 5/8″ down from the folded edge so that there’s a generous 1/4″ – 3/8″ of fabric between your stitching and the cut edge of the fabric. Sew all the way around the top of the bag twice, using the compound zigzag stitch and keep going until you are about 1″ past the first long seam you sewed in Steps 1 and 2. In other words, by the time you stop, you will have sewn across your very first seam THREE TIMES, as shown in the photo for Step 8.

Step 8Step 8 – Turn the bag right side out. Using pointed scissors or a seam ripper, open about a 1/2″ opening in the straight seam you sewed in Step 2. Thread a length of cord through the now opened slot. I generally use an old bootlace. With four hikers in the family, we generally replace at least a couple sets of boots each year and I always salvage the laces. Other nylon/synthetic laces or cording would also work well. If the aglet is still on the lace, that’s tactile enough to thread the cord through. If there’s no aglet, thread the cord onto a safety pin and use that to thread the cord all the way around the bag and back out through the little opening you made. Knot the ends of the cord together to keep it from slipping out.

That’s it – your bag is finished! Slip your geocache container inside and get out there to find a hiding spot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’ll report back with a comment once we put one of these bags in the field and will try to remember to provide updates as we observe how well it survives the weather.

Please leave a comment with your suggestions for improvements to this design or a link to your own design/construction ideas. And stay tuned – I also sew gift bags and birthday party loot bags and will share those instructions in another “Maker Monday” post in a week or two.

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