This is part of a series about sewing climbing/mountaineering/backpacking gear.
Rope bags keep dust and dirt from getting in the fibers of your rope, extending its useful life. You can buy them from about $20-40 USD, before tax, from brands like Metolius, Black Diamond, and many others. But you can also sew one yourself for a DIY climbing rope bag - here’s a rough tutorial based on studying the basic design of several rope bags and coming up with a simple composite. It’s a U-shaped bag with an attached tarp, you gather your flaked or coiled rope inside the tarp, put that into the bag, and secure with a draw string closure and two buckle straps. A shoulder strap lets you carry it like a duffel bag.
Supplies and Pattern Pieces
- Two 2.4cm (1”) plastic buckles $1.10 each at Seattle Fabrics
- Two 2.4cm (1”) single ladder locks $0.75 each at Seattle Fabrics
- One Grommet, 8mm inner diameter (optional - could sew a buttonhole)
- One Toggle that can fit two 3mm cords through <$1 at Seattle Fabrics
- 3.62 m of 2.4 cm (1”) Webbing, cut into strap lengths listed below $2.25 for 5 yds from Wawak
- Strap foam - 38 cm x 6 cm x 5 mm
- Cord for drawstring - 160 cm length, 3mm diameter
- Thick extra strong thread
- Synthetic fabric, in lengths to fit the pattern piece inventory below
Pattern piece inventory
- 2x Side body - 20 cm x 24 cm
- Main body - 42 cm x 68 cm
- Rope ground cloth- 164 cm x 116 cm
- Strap fabric - 46 cm x 12 cm
This snugly fits a 60m-70m 10.5 mm rope,but you might want to enlarge the bag body at all dimensions on the bag pieces by 1cm if you commonly climb with large ropes or like a looser fit.
Finish raw edges with a flame or other method.
- 2x 82 cm cinch straps with buckle clasps
- 2x 55 cm shoulder strap
- 2x 18 cm rope tie-off loops
- 2x 26 cm side panel straps to hold ladder locks
You might want a black fabric and webbing, to avoid stains. An old tent you’re retiring could be good fabric, or a semi-thick synthetic fabric from a specialty shop like Seattle Fabrics or the utility sections of somewhere like Jo-Ann’s. I’d recommend avoiding cotton or anything that will hold water/dirt. The cost of the notions, if bought one-off at a shop like Seattle Fabrics, is about $6-10. You might be able to salvage buckles and ladder locks off of a bag/backpack you find secondhand or old gear you are retiring.
Stitch length 4mm. Backstitch at the beginning and end of each seam. SA 1cm unless noted otherwise.
(1.) Prepare ground cloth Cut out a 164 x 116 cm rectangle. Fold towards the wrong side 8 mm, press, fold and press again. Topstitch around the double folded edge, sewing from top at about 6mm from folded edge. The final dimensions (once sewn) will be 148 cm x 100 cm.
(2.) Fold each tie loop piece of webbing in half. Sew the tie on loops to the top of the ground cloth using several back and forth stitches. Each loop is affixed so it’s center is 32 cm from the corner, along the long edge of the ground cloth. Put one loop on, then put the other one on the diagonally opposite corner.
(3.) Prepare bag main body piece Cut out a rectangle for main body that is 42 cm x 68 cm.
(4.) Sew two pieces of webbing on, running in parallel along the longer edge of the main body’s rectangle. The webbing attaches with the outer edge of the webbing aligned 8.5 cm from the raw edge of the body piece. Each piece of webbing is attached to a plastic buckle. Front body has the outer part of the plastic buckle attached on a short loop (fold over 35 mm, sew several lines back and forth to attach). This buckle attaches 10.5 cm down from the raw edge. The back of the body piece also has a line of stitching back and forth 10.5 cm down from the raw edge - from there, an additional 34 cm of webbing extend and are looped into the inner part of the plastic buckle.
(5.) Cut out two side body panels. They will end up being rounded rectangles that are 20 cm high by 24 cm across, with the rounding starting at 13 cm from the top hem and coming to a flat spot about 3-4 cm wide at the bottom of the U shape.
(6.) Install grommet on side panel (or sew a buttonhole), vertically centered at the top of the U shape, with the center of the circle 5.5 cm down from the top raw edge. You only do this on one side.
(7.) Install side straps onto side body panels. The webbing will be aligned along center of the the U vertically, starting at the raw bottom edge and going up to the loop that holds the plastic slide. Put on the plastic slide and fold the loose edge back down towards the bottom of the strap, so that it is hidden inside. The raw edge of the webbing should be folded back down 5.5 cm. Sew a 2.5 x 1.6 cm rectangle around the intersection of the pieces to hold it in place. Edge stitch along both webbing sides, and sew back and forth three times at the bottom raw edge.
(8.) Make bag body Pin the two side body pieces along the long edges of the main body piece, right sides together. Sew at 16 mm SA. Bind raw edges with bias tape or serge.
(9.) Fold in raw edge 1 cm to inside (wrong side) and press, then topstitch around hem to keep the raw edges in check.
(10.) Fold in the newly sewn edge 3.5 cm to the inside and press.
(11.) Install the drawstring cord around the bag, laying it in the fold of the unsewn tube. Pull the cords out through the grommet (or buttonhole) and put them through a toggle, then knot the raw ends.
(12.) Topstitch around this edge to create the drawstring tube, using your fingers to ensure that you don’t sew over the drawstring itself. (If you’re worried about this, you can leave the drawstring out and thread it through after you’ve sewn the tube.)
(13.) Now your main body is done - time to sew the ground cloth to the main body. Place the bag body flat, so the inside of the back main body is flat and facing up, and you can see some of the side panels in the back. On top of this, you’re going to place the ground tarp. (So the wrong side of the ground cloth is pressed to the inside hem of the rope bag. On each side panel, measure 6cm from the edge where the side panel meets the main body, and 2.8 cm down from the fold of the drawstring tube. Pin in place. Topstitch the ground cloth to the bag body, along this line, stitching through side panel, main body piece, and other side panel piece. On the ground cloth, you should should be stitching through the three layers of material in the folded hem, for strength.
(14.) Prepare shoulder strap padding. Cut out the 46 cm x 12 cm piece of fabric.
(15.) Fold along the long edge towards the wrong side 1 cm, press, and edge stitch. Fold the short edges in 1 cm and press.
(16.) Center the foam in the strap and fold in the fabric to overlap along the long edges, so the folded and sewn edge hides the raw edge. Sew a seam close to the edge of the folded edge across the whole length, through the foam. It should run along the center of the strap padding.
(17.) From the edge of the foam, pinch the edges of the tube in to the center in a little accordion, so that the strap at the ends is the same length as a piece of webbing. This should create a trapezoid.
(18.) Fold over the edge of a shoulder strap by 1.5 cm and sew it onto the trapezoid using a box with an X of stitching in the middle. Repeat for the other end of the shoulder padding.
(19.) Attach shoulder strap by treading the loose ends of the webbing straps through the plastic buckles on the side panels of the bag.
Done! Happy climbing.
If you make a bag with this, let me know! I'd love to hear feedback/what you think. Contact info.