Sewing & Upcycling Saturday–DIY Gear

Today I was determined to make some gear I’d been thinking about making for a while now. I have a trip coming up next weekend. The highs will be in the upper 20’s and nights will be in the low 10’s. There is a possibility of snow and then freezing rain.

I decided that I had two needs for this cold trip: (1) insulation for my Nalgene bottles so that water doesn’t freeze and (2) additional insulation and weatherproofing for my hands.

Nalgene bottle insulation

My first task was to make Reflectix cozies for my two Nalgene bottles. Now some of you might be saying to yourself, “Nalgene bottles? Aren’t those heavy for ultralight backpacking?” and you’d be right, but they are indispensable in the Winter. Plastic water bottles and containers like Platypus collapsible bottles are very light, but don’t fair well in Winter. The lighter plastics may crack when exposed to very low temps and frozen water. So keep those Nalgenes around for Winter!

Reflectix is a home insulation that can be found at any home improvement store. One roll will go a long way. I’ve used only about a third of my roll so far and have made a cozy for all my pots and mugs and a cozy for Freezer bag cooking.


To make the cozy for my Nalgene bottle, I cut a circular base for the cozy and then taped a cylindrical wall to the base. The result is the cute cozy as seen to the left.

I wanted a bit more insulation for it. I had this really beat up and soiled neoprene lunch bag that had been sitting around the house waiting to be thrown out. I decided I would upcycle the neoprene lunch bag and make it into an insulative Nalgene sleeve. DSCN0005

Sewing neoprene proved to be more difficult than I expected and I can’t admit to doing a great job with it, but the end product is pretty close to what I wanted even if the stitching isn’t the highest quality.


The result is the neoprene + Reflectix Nalgene bottle cozy shown to the left. The stitching is poor but the overall concept is good and it cost me a total of $0.00 as I had all the materials already and got to upcycle a used neoprene lunch bag that had seen better days.

Freezing temperatures look out, I’m ready for you!

Rain Mitten Shells and Fleece Liners

The next project of the day was to make Tyvek rain mitten shells and fleece liner mittens. I had purchased the Tyvek a while back to make an inexpensive ground cloth for my TarpTent Notch.

I had two more projects in mind for the rest of my Tyvek–rain mitten shells and a rain kilt. Given that I was to expect both snow and perhaps freezing rain next weekend on my hike, I thought it wise to get the rain mitten shells completed this weekend.

To make the fleece liners for the mittens, I upcycled an old REI fleece jacket. It was at least ten years old and was barely being worn anymore because it collected dog hair like no other garment I owned. Once the zipper broke a few weeks ago, I decided that it had outlived its usefulness as a jacket–it could be upcycled as a pair of fleece mittens.

I found a pattern for fleece mittens on-line. I used the women’s size pattern for the fleece mitten liners and the men’s size pattern for the Tyvek rain mitt shells.

DSCN0008I cut out the pattern in the fleece using mostly the back panel of the jacket and the sleeves for the fleece fabric. Originally, I was going to make these with a liner, but in the end didn’t make the inner fleece liner as I felt that the mittens would be too thick and bulky.

I sewed the pieces together, inserting a piece of elastic at the wrist of each glove. You can see the nearly finished fleece mittens in the photo below.

DSCN0009The mittens turned out well and since I upcycled an old fleece jacket, only cost me $0.21 in elastic purchased at the fabric store.

Next, I needed to make the Tyvek rain mitt shells. I used the same pattern at first and then realized that the shells would be too small for the fleece liner mitts to fit into. The shells would need to be larger to allow for the fleece liners to fit inside. So, I printed out the male sized fleece patterns from the same website knowing that the larger size of the male mitts would give me a little more room to play.

Sewing Tyvek is pretty difficult. I had to decrease the tension of the stitching on my sewing machine and run it at a slower pace. My on-line research lead to the conclusion that the sewn seams will not be waterproof. To waterproof them, I’ll need to purchase sheathing tape (known often as Tyvek tape). Today, we got 5 inches of snow, so my trip to the hardware store to get the sheathing tape will be delayed a few days.

DSCN0011Shown to the left are the almost finished fleece mitt liners and the Tyvek rain mitt shells. I’m pretty proud of them. I’ll be even prouder once I fully seal the Tyvek with the tape.

All and all this project cost me a total of $0.21 for the elastic in the cuffs of the fleece liners. I upcycled a Polartec fleece jacket and already had the Tyvek from a previous purchase.


Here’s the final product. Ready to be tested out next weekend.

A few improvements I’d like to make sometime:

(1) seam seal with Tyvek tape.

(2) insert an elastic cord at the base of the mittens so it can be securely closed around the forearm.