Be a Happy Camper: Make a Backpack From an Old Tent

upcycled tent backpack

I’ve seen hikers carry simple day packs, so rather than go out and purchase one, I set down a path to make my own. I chose tent fabric because it’s created for outdoor use and is such a fun material to upcycle. There are zips and clips and lots of nice details. Plus I have some leftover from this curtain project .

You can retain some of the zippers in the tent to create extra pocket space without having to set in or purchase a new zipper. It’s always great when upcycling can give your projects shortcuts and character at the same time. I’ve not only been hiking with my new pack, but I’ve also been to the gym and often use it as an everyday bag. You could say that this project has made me one happy camper!

tent backpack in action

This tent backpack can play a game of doubles and be used as a tennis racket holder.


Step 1

 Open Gallerycut 2 pieces to 12x18

cut 2 pieces

Measure and cut 2 pieces of tent fabric from the bottom of the tent to 12” x 18”. This fabric will keep your pack water resistant.

Step 2

 Open Gallerycut 2 pieces

cut 2 pieces

Measure and cut 2 pieces of tent fabric to 12” x 18” from other parts of the tent. I used an area that had a zipper and zipper pull for one of the pieces. This will create an extra pocket of the front of my pack.

Step 3

 Open Gallerycut 2 loops

cut 2 loops

Cut off two tent loops.

Step 4

 Open Gallerystack 2 sets


Create two sets of pieces by stacking a piece from step 2 on top of a piece from step 1.

Step 5

 Open Galleryfold

fold top edge

Fold the top 2” of each side edge set under by a ¼”. Pin and sew along this edge.

Step 6

 Open Galleryfold and hem

fold and hem

Double fold each set down by 1” and pin along the fold. This will create the casing for your drawstring. Sew along the folded edge, about ¾” of the top edge.

Step 7

 Open Galleryfold

stitch around edge

With the right sides facing together, stitch around the two sides and bottom, starting your stitching after the top folded edge.

Step 8

 Open Galleryadd webbing

add webbing

Use webbing or grosgrain ribbon to bind your sewn edges. Alternatively, you can use a serger. This will keep the fabric from fraying.

Step 9

 Open Galleryfold

flip backpack

Flip your backpack to the right side. Attach the two tent loops to the two bottom corners of your pack.

Step 10

 Open Galleryadd cording

add cording

Take 32” of cording and attach a safety pin to one end. Thread the cording through the casing on one side and back through the casing on the other side, starting and ending at the same point.

Step 11

 Open Galleryfold

tie cording

Bring the cording through the loop and tie in a double knot.

Step 12

 Open Gallerytie cording

tie cording

Repeat steps 10 and 11 to add the cording to the other side of the bag. This newly made backpack will make you want to tell all of your other packs to take a hike!


  • Tent fabric
  • Strong thread
  • Webbing or grosgrain ribbon
  • Cording


  • Scissors
  • Measuring tape
  • Sewing pins
  • Sewing needle


About Tiffany Threadgould 


I am a design junkie who gives scrap materials a second life and the head of design at TerraCycle, a company that collects and creates products from waste. My ...

More About Tiffany Threadgould

One Response

  1. Michelle Reynolds says:

    Good job! I'm going to make me one!

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