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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.
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.
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.
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!
- About one hour
- Small sheet of bubble wrap (or similar, soft packing material)
- Duct tape and packing tape (or similar)
- Marker (optional)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.