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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Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
MYOG: Bubble Wrap and Duct Tape Camera Case on 05/15/2009 09:15:11 MDT Print View

I go into that a bit in the article. It's simply an aesthetic I was aiming for.

Jim, the reflectix material works well for that I see.

Edited by sharalds on 05/15/2009 09:15:58 MDT.

Gustav Bostrom
(gusbo) - MLife

Locale: Scandinavia
The Colin Ibbotson case - waterproof 20g on 05/15/2009 13:25:11 MDT Print View

Interesting article. Sometimes the lightest solution is just packaging material and you don't always need super durability either. This one seems really easy to make too.

Another example of a lightweight camera-case is this:
http://www.andyhowell.info/trek-blog/Colin-Ibbotson/Protection%20for%20gadgets.pdf

It's supposed to protect against water too. A lot more effort to construct though.

Colin Ibbotson has quite a lot of other interesting gear as well.

James Belk
(jgbelk) - F
Solar charger on 05/18/2009 07:24:35 MDT Print View

Hi Johannes - you were asking about my solar charger. It's a commercial product, the Global Solar Sunlinq 6.5W (MEĀ² Solar in Europe). It's a folding design, with 4 solar panels mounted on a rubber-like pad. It doesn't have a weight saving over your Solio - mine is 255g (9.0 Oz), but it has the advantage of having a 12V car charger (cigarette lighter-type) connection so it's suitable for many devices, as well as having a fairly hefty 6.5 W output (I think the Solio is less than a Watt). It doesn't have a built-in battery, but I believe Global Solar do have equivalent models with one - my phone's battery was of too high a capacity to make use of the battery though, so I got the basic (lighter) model without a storage battery, and connect it straight to my phone. It works very well, taking my phone's 1350mAh battery right up to 100% charge.
http://www.globalsolar.com/products/flex-6.5watt.php

I combine this with the Hama Piccolino USB charger, which is another 11g (0.4 Oz):
http://www.hama.de/portal/articleId*166923/action*2563;jsessionid=B683F00C4CF575354CB689E2C9614233.tomcat_de_lin33

USB cables are then another 30g or so, in long lengths, or less if you can find shorter ones. Another lightweight & inexpensive option are these USB chargers from Hong Kong on eBay at around 12g. There are a few different sellers, including this one:
http://stores.shop.ebay.co.uk/EUNION-SHOP__W0QQ_sidZ369118829?_nkw=usb+charger&submit=Search

This combination caters for both my phone and my digital camera.

Edited by jgbelk on 05/21/2009 06:05:20 MDT.

Walter Isenberg
(wisenber)
perhaps simpler on 05/18/2009 15:36:19 MDT Print View

I prefer a more waterproof solution. I place my camera in a folded bandanna then simply put that in a zip-loc bag. The loosely folded bandanna tends to give enough shock protection and affords me an extra bandanna if I need it.

James Belk
(jgbelk) - F
Insulating properties on 05/29/2009 08:57:44 MDT Print View

I've just realised another quality of these lightweight cases - both the bubble wrap & closed cell foam are very insulating. Most electronic devices will have an acceptable operating temperature range, and my phone even stops charging if it gets too warm - but inside its case it stays relatively cool.

Wes
(gaasmanwes) - F
Re: Re: MYOG: Bubble Wrap and Duct Tape Camera Case on 07/25/2009 15:07:50 MDT Print View

I've used "reflectix"tm Al-coated bubble wrap for a lot of camera cases - but with a silnylon liner (as well as a silnylon shell for moisture protection), as the aluminum layer will SCRATCH LCD display screens on cameras etc.

The stuff also makes a great "thermos" box for keeping food hot while re-hydrating and insulating your hands from the hot food bag. - just use packing tap to assemble and bits of hook and loop for a latch.

Also makes a great light insulator for water bottles too.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
alkosak w/ bubble wrap on 09/05/2009 18:04:36 MDT Print View

I've been using this case- neoprene, protect well against shock, but not waterproof

I took a 5x4" alkosak and lined it w/ some bubble wrap (bubble out w/ packing tape applied to help hold it's shape- a little strip of packing tape on each side to adhere the bubble wrap to the alkosak)

know it's shock proof AND waterproof- also shaved an even ounce off of the weight 1.3 oz vs 0.3 oz :)

old

Photobucket

new

Photobucket

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: alkosak w/ bubble wrap on 09/05/2009 22:35:42 MDT Print View

They're out of stock, but this is pretty much what the bubblepackits on this site are, it seems.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
out of stock and hard to find on 09/07/2009 16:38:10 MDT Print View

^ exactly- I looked and looked and couldn't find any (well I take that back- if I wanted to buy 50+ I found some :))

this one might be a little more waterproof (at least that's alkosak's claim over "regular" ziplock products) than the one offered by BPL

Dan Durston
(dandydan)

Locale: Cascadia
Nice on 10/18/2009 10:37:28 MDT Print View

Nice idea. I just finished a 6g bubble-wrap case for my camera.