Gear Care & Repair
For most of us, time outside is a welcome getaway to help us relax and recharge, until something goes wrong with your gear. You snag a tree branch and rip your jacket. You break a tent pole. A seam in your rainfly begins to leak.
But these annoyances don’t have to ruin a good time. In fact, if you’re prepared, most of the time they can be solved in mere minutes. Knowing how to make some quick repairs, and having the necessary tools on hand, will make your time in the outdoors a lot more comfortable. And, quite frankly, you can save a lot of money: A small tear or stuck zipper shouldn’t mean that you need to shell out the cash for a replacement.
Before you head to the outdoors, far from the nearest gear shop, plan ahead for these minor issues. Always carry a small repair kit with some basics that can help get you out of trouble in many situations. While you can buy prepackaged repair kits, they’re easy to put together yourself and you can control the size and weight.
Sit down and put together a list of all the gear you plan on bringing on your adventure. Think about what could go wrong. No need to go zombie apocalypse here—just envision the most likely things to fail with regular use. Most of the time its fabrics, seams, buckles, and zippers. Lines and ropes can break. Batteries will run out of juice. A good repair kit will have what you need to solve these issues.
Some common items in a repair kit include:
Tenacious Tape and/or duct tape
Safety pins, zip ties, and nylon patches
Superglue and seam sealer
A repair kit for zippers and tent poles
By being prepared, you can fix your gear in a flash and continue to enjoy your time outside. Here are eight common issues likely to come up during an outdoor adventure, and how you can fix them on the go.
1. Catch Rips Before They Get Worse
A fabric tear is probably the most common camping repair you’ll make. With so much lightweight nylon material around, it’s easy to rip a jacket, tent, tarp, rainfly, or backpack. The go-to, fix-all has always been to have duct tape on hand, which will make a big improvement. But savvy campers know that they should also carry Tenacious Tape as an even better, long-lasting fix.
Made by GEAR AID, the tape is durable, machine-washable, and waterproof, and doesn’t leave a sticky residue behind. You can buy the tape in rolls, precut strips, and rectangular patches in a variety of shapes and sizes and different colors, so you can match your fabric. If you use the clear version with a non-gloss finish, the tape is almost invisible. Having either Tenacious Tape or duct tape (preferably both) is a good idea anytime you’re outdoors.
2. Fix a Broken Tent Pole
Tent poles do a whole lot of work with very little weight and sometimes they break—usually when you accidentally step on them while setting up the tent. Often just wrapping the pole with Tenacious Tape will be good enough to get you through the trip, but carrying a tent pole splint is a more permanent solution that will provide enough rigidity to allow the pole to function as normal. The aluminum splints are lightweight and designed to attach to either half-inch or 5/8-inch diameter poles (make sure you have the right size before you head out.)
Make sure you have a repair kit on hand in case your tent snags or a zipper gets stuck. Courtney Corlew
3. Get a Zipper to Work
Is there anything more annoying than a zipper that won’t work? Choosing high-quality gear (and thus high-quality zippers) makes a big difference in outdoor equipment. But after years of use, even the best zippers sometimes give up. A zipper repair kit can solve the problem by allowing you to replace the slider that just won’t work. This is easier to do at home than on the trail, but you can make it work if you’re in a pinch.
As a quick fix, you want to try gently pushing the top and the bottom of the slider closer together with the pliers on your multitool, as a loose slider is often the culprit. Using a zipper cleaner and lubricant can make a big difference in getting those stubborn zippers to work more smoothly.
4. Repair the Mesh on Your Tent
You certainly don’t want to invite mosquitoes into your tent, but it’s so easy to rip that mesh on the doors and windows. Carry along Tenacious Tape Mini Patches for an easy fix. All you need to do is peel off the back and they’ll stick to the mesh for an instant fix.
5. Clean a Camp Stove
Always test your gear before you head out to make sure it works properly.
While many of these issues can be frustrating, they are ultimately minor inconveniences. A camp stove that isn’t working can be a big problem. First, always test it out before you leave for a trip. Just because it worked the last time out doesn’t mean it will this time. With so many different models available, it’s hard to come up with hard-and-fast rules for repair on the trails, but often it’s just a matter of cleaning the jet or the fuel line. Always bring along the instructions to your stove on the trip (or know them really well) and be prepared to troubleshoot. Bringing along extra O-rings or other parts that are prone to fail is a good idea.
6. Replace a Broken Buckle on Your Pack
Buckles on your backpack are an easy way to keep everything inside snug—until they break. Bring a couple of replacement buckles along and you’ll be ready if that happens. The snap-on replacements are easy to swap out without any sewing, so they’re perfect for the trail.
7. Repair a Seam on a Tent or Rainfly
Staying dry is the name of the game when the weather turns, and a busted seam in your tent or rainfly can cause big problems. Seam Grip WP is a repair adhesive and seam sealer that will get you back to waterproof in no time. Backpacker Magazine recently gave it an Editor’s Choice 25-Year Hall of Fame award because it is so reliable and awesome.
Just apply the product to the inside seams and allow it to dry to produce a transparent and flexible seal. Of course, you may not notice the leak until that drop of water hits you on the head in the middle of the night. In which case, break out the Tenacious Tape for a quick fix.
For the total package, grab one of GEAR AID’s Seam Grip WP Repair Kits which has both the adhesive and two Tenacious Tape patches. It’s the ultimate in camping repairs.
8. Fix a Boot
Even your favorite pair of hiking boots will eventually fail—just hopefully not in the backcountry. You can make the fix with Aquaseal SR, a shoe-repair adhesive that dries clear and lasts for years. We’ll grant you, that the chance of a boot fail is rare enough that you probably don’t need to carry this with you unless you’re on a major long-distance hike. So what happens when the odds go against you? Once again, it’s Tenacious Tape (or duct tape) to the rescue, as it can keep your boot together in a pinch until you can get additional help.