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DIY Mess Kit Bags

Camping is fun, but it has the potential to produce a lot of trash.  Any time you’re in a new location, you almost have to start over, creating a living space for everyone in your party.  That can get messy.  Seeing as how camping is supposed to get you closer to nature and all, leaving nature with a big bag of trash doesn’t make much sense.

One way you can reduce the amount of trash created on a camping trip is to use washable dishes and silverware for your meals.  Taking a mess kit bag is a great way to take control of the dish situation while camping, and I have an easy tutorial for you to make one of your own for your next camping trip!

Items Needed

This is an easy, no-sew (well, no sewing machine sew anyway), no-pattern project that you likely have all the supplies for already in your house.  Here’s what you need:

  • One hand towel (or dish towel) for each bag
  • Thick, sturdy string or a shoelace (one per bag) for a drawstring
  • Needle/Thread/Scissors
  • Items for mess kit:  reusable plate, bowl, cup, spoon, fork (whatever floats your boat).  I purchased some of my plastic wares at Dollar Tree and paired them with items I already had.
Disclaimer:  I do not sew. I own a sewing machine but I cannot use it. I do not know crafty words, so consider this fair warning that if you are knowledgeable about such crafty things, you may be rolling your eyes or giggling a lot through this tutorial.

Start with the Drawstring

The first step is to lay out the hand towel flat, horizontally, so that the widest sides of the rectangle are the “top” and “bottom.”  The “top” edge is going to be where you make the pocket for the drawstring (shoelace) to draw and cinch through.  If there are tags, cut them off and the tag side should be facing up because it will be the inside of the bag.

Lay the shoelace along the top edge, about half an inch down.  Fold the top edge of the hand towel down over it and pin.


It doesn’t have to be perfect, but if it’s going to bother you if it’s uneven, feel free to measure.  Once pinned, make sure the shoelace can still move freely through the pocket you’ve made.  (The “right” way to do something like this might not be to sew it with the shoelace inside, but this made much more sense to me, I’d rather not have to feed a shoelace through a long towel tunnel.)

Sew along the line, either by hand or machine (it’s going to be rather thick, which is another reason I didn’t attempt to use my machine).


Yeah yeah, I used black thread and it’s an off-white towel.  It’s for the woods, people.  Same thing for the horrible job I did making the stitches even.  I don’t think the raccoons will care.

Fold and Stitch

Once you have sewn your pocket, fold the towel so that the drawstring is doubled over on itself and line up the corners to pin.  Again, make sure you’re looking at the “wrong” side of the towel.  Tie the ends of the shoelaces together so they don’t get lost up in the towel.


Sew along the outside edges of the towel.  I used an admittedly horrific whip stitch (that’s a thing, right??), going along the bottom and up the side. I didn’t worry about looks, especially since this will be the inside of the bag.  (Crafters, are you cringing right now?)

Finishing Touches

Turn the towel bag inside out (or I guess it’s outside in), making sure to push out the corners.

Fill the bag with your mess kit items and pull the drawstring closed!


You did it!  You’re ready for a camping trip with reusable dinnerware!


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About Krista

Krista is a full-time working mom of two boys, currently aged 6 and 7. She lives in Kentucky with her husband, Brandon.