Do you love camping? Then here is a fun project for you – an easy DIY camp seat from a 5 gallon bucket. I love that this has 2 functions. It acts as a seat when you are sitting around the campfire, but it also takes the place of a suitcase or backpack. You can easily pack your clothes and toiletries for an entire weekend in the bucket.
We first came across these 5 gallon bucket seats a few years ago when my middle daughter made one in Girl Scouts. The leaders helped each girl make one at a troop meeting. Afterwards, the girls decorated the buckets with foam stickers so they could tell them apart. The girls all used the buckets to pack their clothes and gear anytime the troop went camping. Then they were also able to use them around the campfire instead of sit-upons. The bucket seats worked out really well and the girls used them for several years until the troop disbanded. In fact my daughter still has her bucket seat and it’s in great shape.
I always thought it would be great to make these 5 gallon bucket camp seats for our family camping trips. So this past weekend, my husband made a camping bucket seat for every member of our family and we are going to use them in a couple of weeks when we head up to Maumee Bay.
We used the basic directions on this Youtube video, but made a few modifications. The video calls for using batting as the seat cushion, but we discovered that a 14 inch round pillow form works much better for holding its shape. We also used regular cotton fabric instead of a bandana. That way all the kids could pick out the fabric they wanted.
Materials needed to make a camp seat from a 5 gallon bucket
- 5 gallon bucket
- Gamma Seal Lid
- 11″ diameter wood circle (at least 1/2 inch thick) or 1/2 inch plywood and a jigsaw to cut your own
- 1 yard of fabric in pattern of choice
- 14″ round pillow insert
- needle and thread
- (4) 3/4 inch screws
- electric screwdriver
The 5 gallon bucket seat lids are going to be made using a gamma seal lid. (Gamma lids for 5 gallon buckets are used for long-term bulk food storage.) The one my daughter originally made with her scout troop just used the basic lid that came with the bucket. However I don’t recommend that. The normal lids are a pain in the rear to get off – especially after you have added the seat cushion. They snap down so tightly that it is nearly impossible for kids to open by themselves.
The gamma seal lids solve that problem because they easily screw on and off. The best place to find gamma lids for 5 gallon buckets is on Amazon. That is where we got ours after we couldn’t find any locally. As an added bonus, Amazon has these lids available in many different colors so you can match the fabric you bought for the seat cushion.
Assembling the camping bucket seat
Start by unscrewing the 2 pieces of the gamma lid. Snap the base of the lid onto your bucket. The lids take a bit of muscle to snap into place – you might want to use a rubber mallet to make that part easier. The top part of the gamma seal lid is where you are going to attach your seat cushion.
If you didn’t buy an 11″ inch wooden circle to use as your cushion base, you will need to cut one out from scrap 1/2 inch plywood. To make sure we got a uniform circle, my husband took a spare paint stirrer and hammered a nail into the center. Then he measure 5.5 inches from that nail and drilled a hole that was wide enough for a pencil. He lightly hammered the ruler into place on the plywood, inserted the pencil in the hole and spun the ruler around, drawing the circle. He then removed the ruler and used his jigsaw to cut the circle out of the plywood.
We used a similar method to draw a 26″ circle on the fabric. The only difference was we used a yardstick instead of the paint stirrer and a Sharpie to mark on the fabric instead of the pencil. You will want to measure 13″ from the nail on the yardstick to get a 26″ diameter circle.
Cut out your fabric circle then use the needle and thread to put a long basting stitch all the way all the way around about 1/2 inch from the edge. I doubled the thread to ensure it didn’t break as I was gathering the material. After you have stitched all the way around, lay your pillow insert in the middle of the fabric and place the wood circle on top.
Pull on the ends of the thread to gather the fabric securely around the pillow form. Pull it as tight as you can and tie a knot to secure the gathered fabric and hold it snug around the pillow.
The last thing you will need to do to make a seat from a 5 gallon bucket is to screw the lid to the seat cushion. Place your seat cushion gathered side down on the top of the gamma lid. Turn it over and use your electric screwdriver to screw through the lid into the wood that is the base of your cushion. Repeat with the remaining three screws, spacing them evenly around the lid. The seat cushion will be held securely in place by the screws. Now you can just twist the lid into place on your bucket and you are done!
Waterproofing the cushion on your 5 gallon bucket seat
If you go camping regularly, I highly recommend waterproofing the seat cushions with Scotchgard Outdoor Water Shield. You never know when it might start to rain when you are away from the campsite. It also will help protect the fabric in case your kids spill something on the seats. Or maybe my kids are the only ones who are messy 🙂
Decorating your 5 gallon bucket camp seat
My daughter’s Girl Scout troop decorated their buckets with foam stickers. A couple have fallen off over the years, but the stickers have held up surprisingly well. You could also use a stencil and acrylic paint to decorate your buckets. If you go that route, you will want to use a sealer to ensure the paint doesn’t wear off.
I am planning on decorating my bucket camp seat with vinyl stickers from places we have traveled. You can usually find vinyl stickers (like bumper stickers but smaller) at campground stores or shops catering to tourists. Since they are meant to go on cars, they have a special coating that will keep them looking great even when they are exposed to the weather. I only have one sticker so far, but plan on adding new ones each time we go camping.
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In addition to camping, a 5 gallon bucket seat would also be great for fishing, hunting, parades, or your kids’ sporting events. If you make a camping bucket seat, you will have to let me know how it turns out. If you have any questions about this tutorial, be sure to leave me a comment below. So tell me… Are you planning on doing any camping this summer?
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