The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Friday, 17 July 2009

Making (Part 1 – The Stuff Sack)

P7040254 (If you ignore the maps (I got a bit distracted) then what we have here is a length of lightweight tent material and two rucksack liners)

The background: until we set out to walk LEJOG I had always managed to keep the contents of my rucksack perfectly dry with a £1.99 orange backpack liner. Somehow, that felt a little too low-tech for such a big undertaking, particularly with its absence of a secure closure to keep rain out of the top, so I looked around for a suitable alternative.

Coming across Sea-to-Summit sil-nylon roll-top stuff sacks, it appeared that they would do the job nicely. In total six were bought.

What we discovered over the course of last year is that despite the word ‘waterproof’ on the packaging, the lightweight Sea-to-Summit waterproof stuff sacks are not actually waterproof. Given prolonged rain they lea and not through the seams, but through the fabric. And I’m not just talking about one defective item; every single one of the six that we bought has failed to keep its contents dry.

In October last year, on our Wet Highland Washout, not only did my sleeping bag get wet around the edges, but at the moment of needing them I discovered that I could wring out my spare hats and gloves that had been secured in the smallest size sack in the front sip pocket of my Osprey Aura.

Disappointing indeed.

Mick went back to his heavier (but waterproof, which is the more important feature) Exped drysack and the obvious thing for me to do would have been to buy one the same. What I actually did (for reasons that are not entirely clear to me now) was to buy some lightweight tent fabric to make my own.

The question was how I was going to form a good, watertight closure, and the very simple answer I came up with was to cut the top off one of the not-actually-waterproof Sea-to-Summit bags and sew it on to my creation.

The end result was something that matches Wendy’s colour-scheme nicely:

P7050255 You can’t see from the photo particularly well, but it is ‘square bottomed’, and not just an envelope design

I’m not going to recommend sew-your-own as the way forward. For the amount of effort and minimal weight saving I may just as well have bought an Exped bag. The only real benefit of the exercise was keeping me entertained for an hour or so whilst making it (with a marginal price benefit; the cost of materials was just under £6).

Looking at it now, it’s bigger than I need it to be. As it happens I’ve got just under half of the material left, so I may just make another, smaller version.


  1. Oh cripes, you've got me worried now!. I switched to a Sea-to-Sea Ultrasil pack liner a while ago, much lighter than the CascadeDesigns one I was using, but since I started using it, it hasn't really been tested to speak of.

    I daren't trust it now, I think it's back to the tough one.

  2. The very best test for 'drybags' is to fill them with water, close it up and wait to see if they leak. Those Sea to Summit bags are absolutely crap at this test!