When Ben Fuller proposed an article on bags and totes for carrying gear, I was slow to cotton to the idea. I’d been schlepping boating gear without anything to collect and carry all the miscellaneous bits and was getting along just fine. Or so I thought. I’ve been doing a lot of kayaking for exercise during the summer and from week to week increased the distance and intensity. At the end of a 10-mile, 2-hour outing I’d feel pleasantly exhausted when I returned to the launch site. Normally I’d leave all the gear in the kayak, carry it to the car, and lift it onto the roof racks, but with tired arms, I didn’t at all like lifting so much weight. I changed my routine and left the kayak at the dock while I took an armload of gear to the car. Then the 27-lb kayak was much easier to carry and lift. I began to see the utility of a tote to carry my water bottles, energy bars, seat pad, PFD, sprayskirt, notebook, and the dry bag with phone, wallet, and keys. A tote would put the weight on my shoulders, where I’d scarcely notice it, and lighten the load on my arms.
I went to work drawing a cross-body sling bag and gathering materials left over from other sewing projects. Ben’s scuba bags have drawstring closures, a feature that I liked for containing gear more securely and guarding against splashes, so I added a collar to the bag that would give my tote similar protection. I made the shoulder strap as wide as the bag is front-to-back; that makes for a very comfortable carry with the pressure widely distributed.
The fabric I had on hand was 430-denier coated packcloth. I had considered using leftover canvas but decided against it because it can be very difficult to sew where seams overlap, and the finished bag would be bulky and not easily stowed when not in use. It would also require waterproofing, a process I haven’t yet figured out.
The packcloth is slippery stuff and needs to be pinned before sewing to keep the layers from creeping past one another. I’ve used a stapler for “pinning” sailcloth, but the staples bunch up the packcloth.
Here’s how to make this sling tote:
Ben was right—a sling bag is a very handy tote. It is comfortable to have on, has a generous capacity, and shifts in an instant from out of the way behind me when I don’t need the gear in it to up front when I do. I expect I’ll get a lot of use from it, whether at the launch site, or going ashore for a walk with snacks, extra clothing, camera, and notebook all at the ready.
Christopher Cunningham is the editor of Small BoatsMagazine.
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