How To Make Rucksack Travel Covers

Why do we want covers?

In this post we’re going to show you how to make rucksack travel covers.

There are a couple of reasons to do this. I used to design baggage systems for airports, I also spent some time working down in the bowels of Heathrow watching what happened to our bags. One of the most common causes for bags missing flights was because they got caught in the machinery. On suitcases this is pretty rare as they typically don’t have anything dangling on them. When travelling with a large rucksack they have straps everywhere:

Large Rucksacks

Although it’s possible to have them shrink wrapped in the airport I strongly recommend against it. The baggage systems need the bags to slide at various points and shrink wrapping doesn’t let this happen. I’ve no idea why airports still allow this, I guess the left hand never talks to the right hand!

Also rucksack covers make the bags very easy to find on the baggage carousel!

Materials & equipment needed

Here’s a list of the materials we used:

  • Colourful quilt cover (cheap and already has two seams done if you use the bottom corners!)
  • Basting tape (a useful double-sided tape, pins would work too)
  • Paracord for the draw strings

Equipment we used:

  • Dress makers chalk
  • Tape measure
  • Scissors
  • Sewing Machine

How to choose the size

To work out how big the bags needed to be (they are different sizes as my bag is taller and narrower than Jenny’s) we first packed them.

Then we laid the rucksack out on the quilt cover and pinched them roughly in the right place. In the end these don’t need to be a perfect fit, but they definitely don’t want to be too small.

Quilt cover waiting to be cut

With the rough size worked out we marked it on the quilt with the chalk. There’s no need to go really fancy on the profile, a rectangle will do fine. We added 10 cm to the length to allow us to add a fold for a drawstring at the top, to keep it closed.

Well that was the plan, in reality though the covers were much taller than the bags (as much as 30 cm), but you can roll the top down and cinch it shut with the draws strings, a bit like a dry bag.

Anyway, once the size is marked on then we cut them to size with the scissors. Then we used basting tape (although you could use pins) to hold the edges together for sewing:

material cut and held in shape

Sewing the cover into shape

As with most sewing projects, we sew these inside out so that the seams aren’t visible on the finished item.

We use the bottom corner of the quilt cover, so it’s just a case of sewing the seam on the long edge, remembering to leaving the top 10 cm clear, as this will be folded back on itself to make a pocket for the 2 drawstrings to run through.

Jenny sewing

We’re lucky enough to have a large industrial sewing machine, but a normal domestic sewing machine will have no problem with this job.

Jenny sewing - close up

Adding the drawstring

Next we needed to add a pocket to house the 2 paracord drawstrings

Jenny showing where cord will run

Jenny let me have a play with the sewing machine, so I got to do the next bits, again to make life easier we used basting tape to stick the folds down, rather than pinning it. We sewed the pockets with the paracord already inside, as it’s easier than trying to thread it through afterwards.

Ian sewing

The finished rucksack travel covers

Here’s the finished cover:

Ian with the finished cover

And here’s Jenny’s rucksack going into the cover:

Rucksack being put inside cover

And finally the cover cinched up and tied shut:

Rucksack inside rucksack travel cover

These will be very easy to spot in the airport!

Time needed

I think it took us about an hour and a half to make the two covers. Most of that time was spent trying to work out what size to make the rectangles, which we did individually. In hindsight making them both the same size would be fine. Jenny’s cover is 120 cm tall by 70 cm wide, my cover is 120 cm tall by 65 cm wide.

Rucksack Travel Covers


  1. Sanaaya Kurup

    This is brilliant!just wanted to know- Do the airlines allow this though? I would think they’d need handles for all those tags they put..

    • Ian

      The airline don’t care what your bag is like as long as there is a way to attach the label. I used to design airport baggage handling systems. Straps and dangling bits cause way more issues as they drop in between the conveyor belts and then your luggage gets stuck!

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