Sunday, August 22, 2010

Swiss Army Ammo Bags Revisited

I've been using these bags for a couple of weeks now, and am LOVING them. They are a little heavy, being made from thick leather and waxed cotton, but they are wonderful. They are very waterproof (everything inside stayed dry even when they got dunked in the flood waters last week) sturdy, roomy and just plain good looking. So, since I've decided that I love them, they needed a better way to attach to the rack besides the belt I stole from Husband.

Here's what we came up with:

It's held on with 2 leather straps (actually, another leather belt that was sacrificed for the project) that are bolted onto the bag.

Here's how we did it:


Swiss Army Ammo Bag(s), 1 leather belt about 1.5 - 2 inches wide, 16 (8 per bag) washers (we used stainless steel), 4@ 1/4-20 x 1/2 hex cap screws, 4@ 1/4-20 x 3/4 (or even 1" depending on how thick your leather belt is) hex cap screws (which we forgot about and had to cut down some other screws we had) and nuts. An awl for poking holes, ruler, sharpie or other marker, heavy duty scissors,rolling cutter, exacto or something to cut the belt with.

Step 1:

Cut the belt into 4 equal pieces of about 9" or so.

Step 2:

Take 2 washers. Line the first one up to the end of the leather, and butt the 2nd washer up to the first. Make sure they are centered on the leather. Using your marker or awl, mark the center of each hole. Then at the opposite end of the leather, take just 1 washer and do the same.

Then, using the awl (or a drill), make holes in the leather.

Step 3:

Now, holding your bag up to your rack, find and measure the space available for your leather to loop over. Not all racks are the same. For my bags to fit both the rack on my Hercules and my Pletscher rack, the leather strap had to come in 1 5/8 from the stitching to where I put the mark for the hole.

So, take your 2 washers, and place them on the bag bringing the center of the washer to whatever your measurement is.

Step 4:

Once you've marked for holes on both sides of the bag, use your awl (or you can cheat like we did and use the drill press. I suppose you could make an electric hand drill work as well) and make holes.

Step 5:

Lay the leather on the bag, back side up (if your leather has a front and back), lining the 2 holes on the leather up with the 2 holes in the bag. The end of the leather with 1 hole should be towards the top of the bag. Place a washer over the bottom hole, and put one of the 1/4 screws through it and the bag.

On the inside, place another washer on the screw and then the nut. Tighten that nut down. Fold the leather over (the front of the leather should be showing now), and repeat the order of washer, screw, washer nut as for bottom hole. No need to tighten this one down all the way, just enough to hold it all together. Repeat this for the other side.

Step 6:

Attach to your rack. Unscrew the nut and remove it, washer and screw from the top set of hardware. Loop the leather over your rack, and replace the hardware assembly as before. Repeat for the other side of the bag.

I know that this is not the easiest mounting system, especially if you are inclined to want to remove the bags with any frequency, but it is definitely a sturdy way to attach them. Also, it's silent. Now metal hook to bounce and clatter around. I pretty much let them live on the bicycle since this time of year I'm mostly using Hedwig, so the Pain in the Assness of the mounting system isn't a big deal. If I were to be in a situation where I wanted to take them in stores with me, or move them between bicycles often, I probably would have bought heavy duty snaps and put them where the single top screw is. I can still do that if I decide that I want to move them between bicycles more often.


  1. I love them...and covet them. Where do you find these?

  2. Anonymous - I found this set on Ebay some time back. They pop up every once in awhile.

  3. adorable--are they on the small size or what are you able to put in them when fully packed?

  4. Anonymous - They measure about 11x9x4. I can fit a surprising amount of stuff in them! In one I keep a full length rain coat, ball cap, safety glasses and gloves. The other becomes my everyday bag, for keys, phone, wallet, camera, snacks, extra water, whatever. I've yet to fill that one to capacity.

  5. Thank you for answering my questions...and just in case anyone else is coveting these, I found that you can order them from either of two websites: or for $25-30 each depending on the site (search "swiss army ammo bag"). On ebay the set is almost twice as much but the seller has made them pannier-ready.

  6. Anonymous - Thanks for the links! I hadn't looked around for more, but my husband has been coveting my set. I'll check those out. I must have lucked out when I bought mine. I got them for $19 each on ebay. I just saw the set you were talking about. I had considered doing something similar but thought that the metal brackets would rattle around too much for my tastes. They look nice though! It's probably a pretty good deal too if someone wants them ready made.

  7. Um, these are amazing. I am obsessed w your DIY. Great taste!

  8. Thank you so much for the DIY and instructions. I just completed these for my young man this weekend and he is OVER the moon! He bought and I cut, drilled and bolted. End result: LOVELY!

  9. timeforabiggirlbike - You are so welcome! Glad the instructions came in handy. If you post pictures anywhere, I'd love to see them! :)

  10. You could reverse the bolts, so the heads are on the inside, and use wingnuts for easier installation and removal.

  11. Anon 2:47 - I hadn't even considered wing nuts. Good idea! I may try that out at some point. I've discovered with use now that I just leave the left side bag on the bike. I can't have both bags on it and still fit it in my "parking place" at work, so I've been making do with just one. I think that once my Pashley shows up, I may try out another system with the remaining bag on that bike.

  12. So after a few months of use, how has your fastening system help up? Has there been any damage to the fabric at the lower mounting position?

  13. The system and the fabric has held up beautifully! I'm only using one bag right now, and it just lives on the bike, and that may have something to do with the fabric holding up, but at the same time, it's awfully tough fabric.

  14. One more question: why did you attach the straps to the bag at two points? It seems to me that the upper attachment point, (the one that pierces the leather strip on the inside of the bag,) would be sufficient.


  15. Anon - I used two attachment points so that when I do decide to remove the bag, I can just take out the top bolt so as to be able to unhook the leather from the rack, without completely detaching the leather from the bag. Also, I was a little concerned about there being a pivot point with just one bolt.

  16. yah, and a mixte frame with centrepull brakes and a nice brooks saddle, ugh, class... H xx