There is nothing worse than a broken backpack strap or a separated sole while you’re out on the trails...besides maybe that hole in your tent that has a master plan to ruin your night of stress-free camping. Have no fear -- we’ve got the lowdown on all the backcountry gear repairs.
What You’ll Need: Fix It Kit
- 1" side-squeeze buckle .4 oz.
- Slick clip .3 oz.
- Multi tool 2.4 oz.
- 1" tension lock .1 oz.
- 100' duct tape 1.4 oz.
- 72" of 3/16" p-cord .6 oz.
- Tear-Aid Type A
- ShoeGoo 3.7 oz.
- McNett Field Repair Kit (.25 oz. Seam Grip adhesive; 2 adhesive nylon patches; instructions) .8 oz.
- Sewing kit (1 spool nylon thread; 1 heavy-duty sewing needle; 1 light-duty sewing needle; 4 safety pins) .2 oz.
- Zipper repair kit 3.7 oz. (you should only need to bring a couple zippers with you, cutting this weight down)
- 1/2" PVC pipe coupler .5 oz.
- Quart-size freezer bag (for carrying everything else) .1 oz.
First thing’s first, zippers are on all kinds of camping gear, so we’re going to start here. Busted zipper on your jacket? Pants? Tent? Backpack? Sleeping bag? We’ve got you covered.
If your zipper is stuck and feels like it’s getting caught on the fabric the easiest thing to do is put some lip balm on the teeth. Start with the zipper all the way up and slowly apply and unzip as you go.
One of the most annoying problems with a zipper is when the teeth won’t close. First, make sure a piece of fabric or thread isn’t stuck in the zipper that’s preventing it from grabbing onto the teeth. Next, look at the individual teeth. If any are sticking out grab your multi-tool and use the pliers to move them back into place so they’re straight.
If the teeth are all aligned and clean, take a look at the slider. Over time sliders often come apart and stop clinching the zipper teeth together. To fix this, again, grab the multi-tool and use the pliers to try closing the slider together until it catches the teeth.
Replacing a zipper or slider is a simple, yet cheap expense at most repair shops. However, if you’re in the backcountry, you’ll need to fix it yourself. To replace a slider, use the pliers to get it off and reattach the new zipper slider by sliding it back onto the teeth.
Hole or Gash
Anything can happen in the backcountry, especially if you’re trekking for miles in the rugged terrain--set your backpack down on a rock and bam, it tore the worn fabric. What do you do? You don’t want your gear spilling out everywhere. The first solution, if you’re handy, would be to stitch the hole shut with a needle and thread (also used to repair clothing, tents, and sleeping bags).
Pro tip: Burning the edges where the fabric is torn before you stitch the sides together will prevent unwanted fraying.
The second solution, the ever so popular hack -- slap some duct tape on it. This might not be a long-term solution but it should hold up until you’re back in civilization and can get it fixed properly.
Strap torn in half? A needle and thread will get you by.
To repair a broken buckle you’ll need a 1” side-squeeze buckle, a slick clip, and a multi-tool. Start by using the multi-tool and break the buckle from the webbing. Next, you’ll want to cut the seams of the stitching on the other strap where the 3 prong clip part of the buckle is and slide it off without damaging the webbing.
The next part is easy, simply slide a new side squeeze buckle into the loop and the same with the 3 prong clip on the other strap, using the slick clip to keep it in place. If you have a needle and thread and some spare time you can also restitch the loop on this strap. Watch this video to see how it’s done.
*If a tension lock is broken on your pack you can also use these steps to repair.
Hiking Boot Repairs
Miles of trekking often take their toll on hiking boots, especially if they’re a little worn or even sitting near a hot fire. What do you do when the sole of your boot gets separated? If you packed a tube of ShoeGoo and have a day to spare, this sticky adhesive can mend your boot back together like new. Make sure the surface is dry and clean out all dirt before applying the goo to both the top of the sole and the bottom of the upper. Wait about 5 minutes before mending the two together, and let the goo work its magic for the next 24 hours.
Now, if you didn’t pack the goo, there’s another simple fix. Jury-rig your boots with an extra pair of shoelaces or paracord and some duct tape to keep the sole from coming off. It might not look pretty but it will get you through.
Tent and Sleeping Bag Repairs
Well, we’ve already covered your broken zipper repair, now what do you do if there’s a hole in your tent or sleeping bag? Don’t spend the money on a new one.
The best solution to repair a hole or tear in your tent or sleeping bag would be to clean around the area and apply a Tear-Aid Type A adhesive patch. The Tear-Aid patch is clear, airtight, watertight, elastic, and it conforms, making this a permanent fix. It’s also a peel and stick, so it’s very easy to apply.
If you’re nervous about how long this patch will last (it will), you can also apply some seam grip adhesive to the outside to really make sure it stays put.
Broken Tent Pole
A tent won’t do you much good if one of your tent poles are broken. To fix this, grab your ½” PVC pipe coupler and use it to mend the parts together. You can even use some seam grip adhesive to seal it, depending on where it’s broken. For an even simpler fix, you guessed it, duct tape that crap.
Sleeping Pad Repairs
Much like the repair for holes and tears in tents and sleeping bags, you’re going to need the same items to repair your punctured sleeping pad.
First, you’ll need some seam grip adhesive (mixed with a little bit of water for a faster repair). Apply the adhesive to the hole, then apply the patch. Next, place something heavy over the area to allow it to dry as long as you can.
Trekking Pole Repairs
A collapsing trekking pole won’t be much help, and we’ve got a fix for that.
For twist-and-lock trekking poles, pull the poles apart and clean the screw threads with some fabric and lubricate the threads with chapstick. If this doesn’t solve your problem, scrape the outside of the plus with sand or rocks; a little roughness can prevent unwanted slipping. And if all else fails, jury-rig your pole and splint it with a sturdy stick and duct tape. It might not hold up for long, but it should get you through on low impact.
If some of your backcountry gear fixes don’t last, get on the phone and call the manufacturer about warranty service or in-house repairs. Many companies will fix failed or damaged gear for free if you cover the cost of shipping.
For further tips and guidance, check out How to Pack a Backpack: 6 Tips for Your Next Camping or Hiking Trip and the Best Practices for Hiking: 10 Tips.