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7 items for your repair kit and how to use them

Image of the March 2022 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
March 2022 Issue

Have you tried repairing your own gear to find everything ends up covered in duct tape? There are some simple tools that can help you make effective repairs at home and in the field.

Needle and dental floss

Leaving tears in clothing means they can be snagged or the fabric can run, creating even bigger holes. It’s best to fix tears immediately, even if you’re in the field. Depending on the type of fabric and the strain on the gear, there are a couple of options.

For soft fabric items like hiking pants, shirts, gloves, tent mesh, and backpacks, sewing the rip with thread or dental floss (which is much stronger) is the way to go. A whip stitch is a simple sewing method that helps prevent fraying by bringing the two sides together covering the raw edges of the ripped fabric. An eyelet stitch is another useful stitch for fixing blown hiking boot laces.

Tip: Check out the Speedy Stitcher. It isn’t a lightweight addition but it’s a tough-as-nails repair tool. The waxed thread holds strong, and the stitching pattern is easy to learn. It’s strong enough to repair soles of boots, pack straps, and even boats and bike tires.

Tenacious Tape and alcohol swabs

For fabrics with a waterproof coating (raincoats, tents, tarps) or that used on insulated products (jackets, sleeping bags) patching with Tenacious Tape is recommended. This will keep down or synthetic fillings inside as well as creating a waterproof seal. Duct or Gorilla tapes also work but are heavier and leave a sticky residue as they peel away over time.

Cut the piece of tape to cover at least 1-2cm around the rip and then round the corners to prevent snagging and the patch being pulled off. Before applying the patch, clean the area with alcohol swabs or soap and water (alcohol swabs can damage waterproof fabrics) and let it dry.

Tip: Alcohol swabs also get tree sap off gear like magic!

Paracord

A length of paracord always comes in handy. Broken shoelace, pack strap fail? Easy replacement. Or for a ripped grommet on your tarp? Take a pinecone or small stone, scrunch it in the corner, tie the paracord around it, and you have a new anchor point to tie from (once home,  hammer in a new grommet).

Tent splint

There’s nothing more likely to kill a good sleep than the sound of a cracking tent pole. Thankfully, it’s a quick fix so you can get back into your cozy sleeping bag.

While most items in a repair kit should be multi-purpose, a tent splint does just one job well. Slide it onto the broken section, tape it down on both sides, and you’re done. If you don’t carry a tent splint (often provided with the tent), jerry-rigged options can be made by splinting the pole with sticks, tent pegs, or a lot of duct tape – but these never hold up as well.

Tip: A common problem with tent poles is the elastic stretching out. The tip at the end of the pole unscrews to allow access to the cord. In the field, re-tie the cord tighter to compensate for the slack. Once you’re back home, you can replace the cord yourself with shock cord that’s similar in diameter.

Zip ties

The classic do-it-all tool, zip ties can be used to replace gaiter straps, hold boots together, a stand-in for zipper pulls, reattach pack straps, substitute tent loops, and much more. For cold weather use, be sure to buy industrial-strength ties. Thin ones will get brittle and snap.

Tip: Keep an eye out for reusable zip ties to cut down on plastic waste and long-term cost.

Aquaseal

This is traditionally used for sealing waterproof products, and it’s gold. It will seal up tough holes or rips, even boot soles. It’s best used in the evening to give time for the glue to properly cure overnight.

It’s not uncommon for the sole of a boot to split away at the toe or the heel, creating an annoying flap that catches on everything. Clean out the area as best you can and let it dry. Spread several dabs of Aquaseal between the shoe and the sole, and then press together. Hold pressure on it for a few minutes, then spread a thin layer around the outside to seal it up. If the sole starts to split before it’s dried, put weights in the shoe to keep it down.

Multi-tool

Multi-tools can be flashy and heavy so consider the tools you’ll use most often and pick the right one for you. A decent knife and pliers are go-to pieces when doing repairs. Knives come in handy for cutting rope, thread, patches and all sorts of repair materials, while pliers can help remove sticks or thorns stuck in gear.