Introduction: Backpacker’s Camp Meal “Cozy” and Drink Cooler
Does a cold drink and a hot meal describe what you like to experience in the backcountry? A lightweight, inexpensive, and easy-to-sew gadget called a “cozy” helps achieve that dream.
With just 5 steps to build, this project takes under one hour and costs around $3. Cozies are a favorite of some hikers who like packing their own instant meals. For recipes to freezer bag cooking, or “FBC,” check out https://trailcooking.com/trail-cooking-101/freezer-bag-cooking-101/
Cooking in a freezer bag (such as a quart-size Ziploc) means easy meal prep and no dishwashing afterward. Plus, you get the satisfaction of creating your own delicious meal—be it breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, or just a snack. After adding nearly boiling water and waiting 5-15 minutes, you want your food thoroughly cooked and still warm, and that is where this DIY comes in!
- 10” x 20” cotton fabric for outer bag
- 10” x 20” ripstop nylon for liner
- 10” x 20” insulating fabric
- 8” sew-in Velcro
- ½” x 4” grosgrain ribbon
- Thread and other basic sewing supplies
Step 1: Step 1: Prepare Materials
Cotton fabric: While several fabric options exist for this build, I chose cotton for the outer bag because the sky is the limit for fun fandom fabrics.
Liner fabric: Ripstop nylon is light and water resistant and therefore makes a good liner. Purchasing a 10” strip of each of these two fabrics will yield two to three cozies, depending on the size of the fabric bolt.
Insulating fabric: I used Insul-Fleece made by Pellon, which is available at Joann, but there may be others out there.
Velcro: Get the sew-on variety.
Grosgrain ribbon: A color to compliment the fabrics is a fun way to go.
Other supplies: Your basic sewing lineup—thread, scissors, rotary cutter and mat, pins, sewing machine.
Step 2: Stitch Sides of Outer Bag and Liner
Outer bag: The insulating fabric likely has a soft side and a shiny side. Place the soft side against the wrong side of outer bag fabric (this will put the shiny side closest to your food). Fold fabrics in half, right sides of the outer bag fabric together, forming a pocket 10” x 10”. Pin the sides and leave the top open. Sew both sides with a ½” seam allowance.
Liner: Fold fabric in half, right sides together, forming a pocket 10” x 10”. Sew sides with a ½” seam allowance. Sew one complete side; along the other, sew until about 3” from the bottom (the fold in the fabric). Backstitch and leave last 3” open.
Step 3: Sew Outer Bag to Liner
Pep talk: this step takes the most time of all the steps to set up, but once you finish it, you will see your project come to life and have very little work remaining!
Start by reversing the outer bag so that the right side is out and the insulating fabric is on the inside. Leave the liner with right sides together as it was sewn (it should still be inside-out).
Slide the outer bag inside the liner so that side seams and top edges line up. Pin the two bags together all around the top. I like to start on the sides so that the seams line up and seam allowances are pinned flat, away from seams.
Next, pin the grosgrain ribbons in the center of the front and back sides. Ribbon goes on each side between the outer bag and the liner. The loop end goes into the space between the bags and the flat ends of the ribbon align with the top edges of the bags.
To do this, first cut the 4” ribbon in half so that you have two, 2” pieces. Fold each in half. Find the center of each side of the bag. You can do this by measuring 4½” from either seam. Alternatively, you can bring the two side seams together and extend the middle of the top of the bag to a point. This technique is quick and is shown in a picture with the mid-point of the bag marked with a pin. Insert and pin a ribbon in the middle of each side, loop side down (between the outer bag and liner), and the cut ends of the ribbon flush with the top of the bags.
Sew around the entire top with a ½” seam allowance.
Step 4: Invert Bags and Attach Velcro
Fun warning: This next part is quite satisfying and magical! Invert the bag by pulling the outer bag through the 3” hole in the bottom of the liner.
Top stitch the 3" section of the liner you left open in Step 2.
Put the outer bag into the liner (so that the cozy is inside-out). The liner is now on the outside.
Pin the two Velcro strips along the top of each side of the bag (on the liner side), about 1/8” from the top of the bag.
Sew along the top and bottom edge of the Velcro. There will be about ½ inch on each side of the bag seam with no Velcro. This is to cut down on the bulk at the seams. When I sewed the Velcro, I made one continuous stitch all the way around on the top and all around the bottom of the Velcro.
Once this is done, reverse the bag so that the liner is on the inside and the outer bag is on the outside. Push your fingers into each corner to straighten your finished product.
Step 5: Enjoy and Embellish!
Your cozy is now ready to take care of you in the back country!
To customize this basic design, consider embellishments, such as:
- Using a waterproof fabric for the liner, and perhaps the outer bag too (silnylon, vinyl, etc.)
- Using ripstop nylon for the outer bag, rather than cotton.
- Installing a spork pouch.
- Adding a second insulating liner for additional warmth (quilted ironing board fabric, for example).
- Attaching two snaps or two small pieces of Velcro to the bottom corners of the bag, with the corresponding snap or Velcro farther under the bottom. This would attach corners to the bottom, creating a stable, flat surface.
- And many more!
First Prize in the
Sew Tough Challenge
3 years ago
I like your method (I'm the one behind FBC & TrailCooking), it's different than how I sewed the original FBC cozies. We used Insul Bright fabric for our cozies. (It's advantage is you could do one layer outer fabric and one layer IB inside. Anyhow, love your post!
Reply 3 years ago
Sarah, it is awesome to get your post--thank you so much!
3 years ago
These are great! I love all the fun fabric designs too :)
Reply 3 years ago
Thank you, Penolopy!
3 years ago
Fantastic project. Very nicely done!!
Reply 3 years ago
Thank you; that means a lot!