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Knowing how to do basic maintenance and repairs in the front country can go a long way, but what about repairs that pop up in the backcountry?
Innovation and creativity can go a long way in these situations. But just as you pack a first aid kit for medical needs, packing a repair kit can help keep your gear functional for the remainder of a trip.
The type of repair kit you bring generally reflects your activity. For instance, a backcountry ski repair kit may have some crossover items but, for the most part, will differ from a backpacking gear repair kit. It is hard to know exactly what you need to bring until gear breaks on the trail. To help you assemble what you need, we put together a list of gear repair kit items we deem essential for any backpacking excursion.
Backpacking Gear Repair Kit Checklist
Even the most durable and well-cared-for gear can break or rip in the field. This wear and tear is expected at some point, so beyond investing in a repair kit, get to know how to clean, fix, and maintain your gear by following our Gear Rx column each week.
Pre-Made Repair Kits
Some of your gear may come with a repair kit included. If it did, we recommend that you utilize those times, especially for things like patches and buckles. For gear that didn’t come with a kit, you can buy premade repair kits. Unfortunately, there isn’t necessarily an all-inclusive backpacking repair kit available, but you can purchase specific gear repair kits and combine them.
For instance, you can search for a tent repair kit and combine that with a backpack repair kit. Combining a few premade kits is one of the fastest and easiest ways to assemble a backpacking repair kit.
Build Your Own Repair Kit
Since there isn’t necessarily an all-inclusive repair kit available for backpacking, you will be assembling many of your items. Even if you buy a few repair kits and combine them, you are essentially building your own.
To make sure you are prepared for most gear fixes while you’re out backpacking, we recommend you include the following items in your repair kit:
- Multi-Tool or Knife
- Sewing Kit
- Nylon Cord
- Seam Sealer
- Super Glue
- Patch Kit
- Tent Pole Split or Sleeve
- Extra Tent Shock Cord
- Duct Tape
- Tenacious Tape
- Stove Repair Kit
- Extra Buckles and Cord Locks
- Extra Batteries
- Optional: zip ties, extra shoelaces, glasses repair kit, safety pins, zip ties, small strap or webbing
Multi-Tool or Knife
I recommend a multi-tool for most activities because it is a more versatile tool. They often include other tools like pliers or scissors, which will come in handy for various repairs and other camp tasks.
While this is true, there are still many pocket knives or swiss army knife options that can work just as well, and they won’t be quite as heavy or bulky to keep in your pack. Whichever option you choose, make sure you pack one. At the very least, having a knife will assist you in doing a wide range of things.
Even simply having a needle and thread will go a long way in the field. Having a complete sewing kit is an excellent idea, and there are many compact options available. A sewing kit will come in handy with any of your textiles, especially if you don’t have a large enough patch or it is a fabric that cannot be patched. If you wear clothing that has buttons, a needle and thread are a must-have.
A nylon cord or a P-cord is versatile for any repair or survival kit. It won’t only be used for repairs, but it can come in handy when you need some cordage. Many survivalists use these cords as an option for bow drill fire-making. They can be great for making shelters, replacing shoelaces, hanging bear bags, or even as a makeshift belt. They can also be used for many backpack repairs or to hold items together.
Many backpacking items have a seam of some kind. Whether it is your tent, rain pants, a hardshell jacket, or anything else, having some seam sealer on hand can ensure that you say warm and dry for the duration of your trip.
Seam sealer usually comes in a small tube with a brush or other application items. Be sure to understand how to use seam sealer and read the instructions before applying. These adhesives are much more aggressive than super glue, which helps them hold longer, making them trickier to apply and cannot be removed.
Patch Kit and Tenacious Tape
A general patch kit will come in handy for repairs on synthetic clothing, tents, and sleeping pads. Duct tape can be a quick fix in some of these situations, but a patch has a stronger hold and will be more effective in the long run, especially for repairs like sleeping pads. You’ll have to opt for the peel and stick patch options for in-field repairs, but heat-activated patches work pretty well when doing repairs at home.
Some patches do require adhesive, which is another reason we recommend the peel and stick option. If you don’t want to bring patches, you can opt to pack some Tenacious Tape. This tape is an excellent patching option and allows you to cut the size you need.
Tent Pole Split or Sleeve
Packing a tent pole sleeve is an excellent way to be ready for a tent pole repair. If you choose not to bring a tent pole sleeve, you can also use a tent stake or a solid stick to splint the pole in case of a break. These are short-term fixes, and the pole will need to be replaced.
Tent Shock Cord
Packing an extra tent shock cord is a good idea if the elastic wears out or if the shock cord breaks for some reason. In some cases, you can get away without replacing the shock cord and very carefully setting up the tent, but the tent will not be as sturdy, and it will be harder to pack. Ensure you have the tools needed to repair a tent pole in the field and have a shock cord designed for the poles you have.
Packing a small roll of duct tape around trekking poles, a pen, or a water bottle is an effective way to do quick patchwork and other fixes. Duct tape can be an excellent short-term repair item for fabrics, but you can also use it for water bottle leaks, shoe repairs, and more. We also recommend duct tape in a first aid kit for blister care.
Stove Repair Kit
The camping stove you bring can malfunction, and it can help to pack a small repair kit. Many stove repairs can be fixed with a multi-tool as long as a part does not need to be entirely replaced. To avoid replacing stove parts while you’re on the trail, do a once-over before you leave. Then, you can see if anything like the O-ring is wearing out or if other parts could be replaced.
Extra Buckles and Cord Locks
Many backpacking packs will come with a few extra buckles and cord locks. Since these are most often made out of plastic, they can easily be smashed by accident. This happens in a car door most of the time, but it can happen out on the trail if the pack gets wedged between rocks or if you accidentally drop it the wrong way. These are not necessary to carry with you, but they can make the backpacking trip much more manageable when your pack is functioning properly.
Q: Why are hiking repair kits important?
Outdoor activities like hiking and backpacking can be unpredictable at times. While you can’t necessarily predict what issues will arise during each trip, you can prepare for common ones like a punctured sleeping pad or broken backpack buckle.
Q: How do you fix a backpack?
How you fix a backpack depends on the issue. For instance, how you repair a backpack strap differs significantly from repairing or reinforcing the bottom of the backpack. Depending on the brand, a repair kit may be included with your purchase. Many backpacking packs also have a repair policy where you can send the bag back to the manufacturer, and they will repair or replace the item.
Q: How do you fix tent poles?
The most common fixes people experience with tent poles are a break or bend in the poles and replacing a broken shock cord. The good news is that these can be fixed in the field quite easily. For detailed information on fixing a tent pole, read our Gear Rx article on How to Repair Tent Poles.
Q: How do you repair a leaky sleeping pad?
Repairing a leaky sleeping pad in the field can be an easy fix, but the hardest part is often finding the source of the leak. Do this by inflating the pad and submerging it in water or putting soaping water on it to identify the leak. Then, you can use patches to repair the hole. For more detailed information on repairing a sleeping pad leak, read our Gear Rx article on How to Repair Sleeping Pads.