MYOG: Bubble Wrap and Duct Tape Camera Case

A durable camera case made from cheap and free materials.

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by Sam Haraldson | 2009-05-12 00:00:00-06

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Gather your materials.
Gather your materials.

Mark the bubble wrap.
Mark the bubble wrap.

Cut the bubble wrap to size.
Cut the bubble wrap to size.

Make cuts to form bottom flaps.
Make cuts to form bottom flaps.

Fold over bottom flaps.
Fold over bottom flaps.

Cut off extra material from bottom flap.
Cut off extra material from bottom flap.

Cover the case in packing tape.
Cover the case in packing tape.

Cover all or part of the case in duct tape.
Cover all or part of the case in duct tape.

Cut and fold the duct tape to form it around the corners of the case.
Cut and fold the duct tape to form it around the corners of the case.

The
The final product Bubble Wrap and Duct Tape samh case.

Background

Before I set off on a thru-hike of the Pacific Northwest Trail in 2007, I partook in a drastic re-thinking of every piece of gear in my backpacking kit. I sewed a spinnaker tarp, some silnylon and Tyvek stuff sacks, modified my ULA Conduit pack, and weighed everything countless times. One might say I cut the handle off the proverbial toothbrush that has become the metaphor for ultralight backpacking to the masses. I copied ideas from Backpacking Light articles and forum members and scoured the Internet and my peers for suggestions and techniques, until I'd created a gear list that I believed would serve me well for two straight months of twenty-mile days. There was one item that continued to mystify me, as I could not find a commercial product or homemade solution that was just what I wanted - a case to hold my point-and-shoot camera.

Sometime during the winter of 2006, I grabbed a piece of bubble wrap and some duct tape and threw together a crude sleeve to hold my Canon Powershot SD400, then started carrying it around with me in the left-hand pocket of my pants... all the time. What I thought was a throw-away project, manufactured from scraps of garbage and a few lengths of tape, not only worked wonderfully, but was so durable and easy to use that I ended up carrying it with me for the entire 1200 miles of the PNT the following summer.

The author on his 2007 Pacific Northwest Trail Thru-Hike
The author on his 2007 Pacific Northwest Trail Thru-Hike.


My coworkers during 2006 and 2007 nicknamed my creation the samh case, and a couple of them even created their own for their cameras. Although I didn't expect Version One to last very long, I managed to carry it in either my pocket or the hipbelt of my backpack every single day for nearly three years.

Version Two

Recently, Version One of the samh case was finally put to rest, as it had become quite tattered, and a few holes had appeared. Having been so pleased with the product I had literally thrown together in a few minutes, I decided to create Version Two using a similar design, but with the addition of a few steps and a bit more precision.

The original samh case after nearly three years of continuous use.
The original samh case after nearly three years of continuous use.


Make Your Own

Below and along the right side of this page, you will find photos and instructions to create your own lightweight and durable camera case. I mention that it's lightweight and durable, but with use of the proper reused materials you could even jump on the current "go green" bandwagon and score some points with treehuggers by carrying a recycled product. And yes, I can get away with calling people "treehuggers" because I am one too!

Time Required:

  • About one hour

Materials:

  • Small sheet of bubble wrap (or similar, soft packing material)
  • Duct tape and packing tape (or similar)
  • Scissors
  • Marker (optional)

The Process

Step One:

  • Place bubble wrap bubble-side down on a flat surface and lay camera atop it. Roughly eye how much material will be needed to cover the camera in its entirety. Aside from on the "bottom" of the case, none of the material will overlap.

Step Two:

  • Take the roughed-in piece of material and wrap it carefully around the camera body. With the marker and scissors, figure the exact size the material needs to be to provide a snug fit when complete. The material and tape will stretch slightly over the course of time, so getting the right fit is important. Size the depth of the pocket of the case so that the camera will sit a few millimeters below the "mouth" of the case.

Step Three:

  • With the material sized properly around the camera body, place a small piece of tape on the side seam to hold it in place. Using the scissors, the next step is to make four cuts. Starting at the bottom, make a cut along each corner of the case right up to the camera body. This will create four flaps of material that will be folded over each other to form the bottom of the case.

Step Four:

  • Fold the flaps of material over each other to form the bottom of the case. Start with the narrow sides first, one then the other, placing a small piece of tape to hold them together. Next, fold the side piece (that doesn't have a seam running through it) over the two narrow flaps. Cut off the fourth, seamed flap and place a piece of tape cut to the proper size across the entire bottom.

Step Five:

  • Aside from holding the case together, use of tape provides durability and aesthetics. I have chosen to use two varieties, both packing tape and duct tape. The packing tape creates a water-resistant shell, and the duct tape gives a nice texture when gripping the case in hand.
  • With the camera held within the walls of the bubble wrap creation that should now look somewhat like the final product, carefully wrap the entire structure in packing tape. This can be as precise or hasty a job as you wish. Being precise will create clean lines of aesthetics. Being hasty may lack pleasing aesthetics, but will still be durable.
  • Be sure to wrap packing tape over every bit of the bubble wrap. The packing tape is the material that gives the case its sturdiness. At the top of the case, place the tape so a few millimeters hang over the edge. Next, snip this short flap of tape with the scissors at each corner and fold the flaps inward, protecting the bubble wrap at the mouth of the case where the camera slides in and out.

Step Six:

  • Once the outside of the case is completely covered in packing tape, place some duct tape around it to create a soft, textured feel and to create a more appealing appearance. At this stage, things to consider are the use of various colors of duct tape, whether or not you wrap the entire case in duct tape, or whether you want to cut a logo or design into the duct tape. For this version, I simply wrapped duct tape around the bottom of the case and a thin strip around the case near the mouth.

My current iteration aka V.2 samh Case


Citation

"MYOG: Bubble Wrap and Duct Tape Camera Case," by Sam Haraldson. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/bubble_wrap_duct_tape_camera_case.html, 2009-05-12 00:00:00-06.

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Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » MYOG: Bubble Wrap and Duct Tape Camera Case


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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
MYOG: Bubble Wrap and Duct Tape Camera Case on 05/12/2009 21:21:49 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

MYOG: Bubble Wrap and Duct Tape Camera Case

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: MYOG: Bubble Wrap and Duct Tape Camera Case on 05/12/2009 21:28:37 MDT Print View

Nice work Sam. Will definitely give it a go before my next trip.

One thing though... did I miss it or did you forget to mention the finished weight? Shock horror!

Anyone got something similar (but more robust) for their SLR?

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
MYOG: Bubble Wrap and Duct Tape Camera Case on 05/12/2009 22:09:35 MDT Print View

Why not just use this:

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/bubble_pakit_4x6.html

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: MYOG: Bubble Wrap and Duct Tape Camera Case on 05/12/2009 22:40:42 MDT Print View

Because I have bubble wrap and duct tape (and I live in Australia!). ;-)

And this way you can get a perfect fit for your camera.

Edited by ashleyb on 05/12/2009 22:42:08 MDT.

Dave U
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Rockies
MYOG: Bubble Wrap and Duct Tape Camera Case on 05/12/2009 22:59:11 MDT Print View

Ashley - I see your point!

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: MYOG: Bubble Wrap and Duct Tape Camera Case on 05/13/2009 00:45:56 MDT Print View

Hi Sam

Looks good.

I did something similar, albeit a little heavier, with 1/8" closed cell foam and packaging tape and a made-to-fit stuff sack of heavy Goretex fabric. The foam was in reaction to dropping my camera in a commercial camera pouch once and finding that the camera housing had cracked open. The stuff sack hangs off my pack shoulder strap, and the top rolls down to make a seal.

Actually, I have made several over the years: like yours mine get a little tired after a while. But yours is lighter.

Cheers

Ronald Strickland
(pathfinder)

Locale: USA
Bubble Wrap Camera Case on 05/13/2009 04:57:08 MDT Print View

Hello Sam,

I love the photo of you on the Pacific Northwest Trail. The photo is fuzzy on the details but it is wonderfully atmospheric, Ron Strickland

Matt Lutz
(citystuckhiker) - F

Locale: Midwest
Re: Bubble Wrap Camera Case on 05/13/2009 07:30:01 MDT Print View

Love it - fantastically simple.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: MYOG: Bubble Wrap and Duct Tape Camera Case on 05/13/2009 07:31:54 MDT Print View

Think I might try to make one out of windshield sun blocker (thin reflectix), black duct tape to form a loop for attaching to sternum strap or belt, and have a lid that closes with a patch of hook and loop.

Edited by jshann on 05/13/2009 10:29:25 MDT.

James Belk
(jgbelk) - F
Camera/phone cases on 05/13/2009 07:46:36 MDT Print View

Yep, I also just made one from an old closed cell sleeping pad - sewn together on 3 sides with dental floss. In fact, I made two, one for my cell/mobile (= phone, GPS, FM radio, mp3 audio & mp4 movie player, & pdf library) and the other for my camera. Weight was 8g (0.3 oz) each. Plus they fit nicely into the belt pockets on my ULA Catalyst. You can leave either a long or short side un-sewn, if you need to do stuff like connect a solar charger or some earphones at a particular side of the device (but don't step on a rattler listening to your tunes!). They're not field tested yet, but I can always duck(UK)/duct(US) tape them if they start coming apart.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
MYOG: Bubble Wrap and Duct Tape Camera Case on 05/13/2009 11:24:52 MDT Print View

* Gasp * I did forget to include the weight! The finished product weighs in at a scant 5.47 grams.

If someone already has a BubblePackit bag it could easily be beefed up with some duct tape for use as a camera bag. The beauty in this MYOG project however is the precision fit it will have to your camera.

Ron, I don't particularly remember where that photo was taken otherwise I'd be more specific. If I had to venture a guess I'd say it was taken a day or two's walk West of Baker Lake.

In terms of the use of foam instead of bubble wrap, that would be an obvious step up in terms of strength, safety and durability. The bubble wrap was chosen for mostly two reasons - its light weight and to reuse an otherwise throw-away resource.

Post photos of your own creations here. And if anyone makes one for an SLR, contact BPL to possibly do a Part II of this article covering the project.

James Belk
(jgbelk) - F
My cases on 05/13/2009 12:17:42 MDT Print View

Closed cell foam pad cases

Here are my two. The phone is on the left, in a silk pouch as well to protect the screen, and shown connected to a fold-out solar charger.

You can put a fair amount of force on the floss stiching, and it seems pretty stable. But as I say, they're still untested on any trip of any length. Fingers crossed!

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: My cases on 05/13/2009 13:43:14 MDT Print View

I too use the MYOG closed cell foam, but then I put THAT into a ziploc bag, and then into a hipbelt pocket. I never know when I might fall in a river or get caught in an unanticipated downpour, so water proofing is at least as important to me as shock absorption.

Einstein X
(EinsteinX) - F

Locale: The Netherlands
Picture quality on 05/14/2009 05:39:57 MDT Print View

To me it seems this would drastically reduce image quality. And I like my pictures to amaze people: "wow how did you make that picture???" "Uhm, with my cell phone" "really???" that kinda stuff.

Could you post some with and without pictures (preferably of the similar view/object) to see the difference?

Eins

johannes Eichstaedt
(nonBeing) - MLife

Locale: Fjäll, Himalayas
Solar charger? on 05/14/2009 08:42:06 MDT Print View

slightly off-topic, but hey...hello everybody.

@James...could you say more about that solar charger? Did you make it yourself, or is it a commercial product? Do you buffer the energy in lith. battery or you just connect to the phone directly? have you come up with solutions to power different devices with the same charger - like a camera, an ipod nano, a phone?

I'm very interested in your solution... I have the solio, the freeloader and a DIY solution - which suffers a bit from the lack of a buffering battery as devices tend to expect constant mA currents. The solio has functioned very reliably on a 500mi arctic trek, but it's heavy...

Edited by nonBeing on 05/14/2009 08:43:12 MDT.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
MYOG: Bubble Wrap and Duct Tape Camera Case on 05/14/2009 08:54:31 MDT Print View

Einstein,

I'm not sure if your comment was directed at me or someone else. The case that I designed is only for storing the camera. When it comes time to take a photo I slide the camera out of the case.

- Sam

Michael Reagan
(MichaelReagan) - F

Locale: Southern California
MYOG: Bubble Wrap and Duct Tape Camera Case on 05/14/2009 11:15:06 MDT Print View

Thanks for a great idea! I had a camera that needed a pocket case, and some spare bubble wrap and duct tape lying around, so this article couldn't have been better timed for me. I really like the case and have already tested it on a couple of short walks.

Here's a pic of the result:

Camera and case

Michael

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
MYOG: Bubble Wrap and Duct Tape Camera Case on 05/14/2009 12:16:27 MDT Print View

Nice job, Michael. Good clean lines and quality craftsmanship.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: MYOG: Bubble Wrap and Duct Tape Camera Case on 05/14/2009 18:43:27 MDT Print View

Here's a two year old version of the same idea plus a made to fit stuff sack cover ... had reflectix left over from insulating ductwork at home.
myog camera case
Haven't had it on trail though ... the camera was a present for my wife and she likes it too much to let it out of sight:-)

Einstein X
(EinsteinX) - F

Locale: The Netherlands
Re: MYOG: Bubble Wrap and Duct Tape Camera Case on 05/14/2009 19:06:59 MDT Print View

Yes Sam, my comment was directed at you. Since the picture of you sham shows the lens not having ducktape in front of it I assumed you were making pictures trough the ducktape. And as I said that would I think seriously effect image quality, but indeed if you slide it out there's no prob.

Can you tell me tho, why the lens is not covered with ducktape? Coincidence?

Eins