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Easy On-The-Go Gear Fixes

Well, it finally happened. My favorite high-loft, Burton AK down jacket ripped. It was inevitable. If it wasn’t that exposed nail in the van, it could’ve just as easily been a spark from a bonfire, a trailside branch, a poke from my pole as I jammed everything back into my pack at the top of the skin track. Shit happens, but the good news is that shit is also repairable. Along with routine care, repair is an integral part of getting the most useful life from your gear. And in almost every case, the sooner you make the repair, the better.

There’s no reason to toss a perfectly good jacket, or tent, or sleeping bag because of a jammed zipper or a burn or tear. These battle wounds can be repaired out in the field … if you’re prepared.

Consider the examples below and pack along some basics to keep your gear performing throughout your outing. Once you’re back in civilization, you can send your gear off to a professional to pretty up your fix job, or maybe, as my grandpa would say with a wink,”‘it’s good enough for who it’s for.”

Ripped Gore-Tex Outerwear: 

Gore-Tex fabric patches allow you to instantly patch small holes and tears, so they don’t get worse. The peel-and-stick GORE-TEX Fabric Patches by Gear Aid are a quick and easy fix with no trimming or ironing needed. Just apply the patches to keep your waterproof-breathable jackets, ski pants and gloves functioning. Gore-Tex recommends you send your garment in for permanent repair and to only use the patch as a temporary repair.

Broken Tent Pole:

Ah yes, who hasn’t broken a tentpole, usually in an extreme weather situation (yes, you wind) or just as likely as a result of using too much force on a pole in a hasty tent setup (muscling a tent pole is never the answer). You can make your own tent splint with a length of PVC pipe and some duct tape or buy a ready-to-go kit.

Popped Air Mattress:

Who among us hasn’t popped their camping air mattress? Before you swear off inflatable camping pads, know that a simple puncture-proof patch exists. These Flex Patches are a good choice for a quick peel-and-stick repair. The trickiest part is usually finding the leak, which can be done using an old trick of pouring water over the mattress and looking for bubbles. Clean the area around the hole with an alcohol pad and then just peel, stick and inflate.

Fabric Holes:

Rips, tears, holes—whether in your down jacket, your tent, hammock or tarp—reach for Tenacious Tape Repair Tape. This quick-fix tape bonds to nylon, vinyl, rubber and plastic. Just clean the area with an alcohol pad (like those found in a first aid kit), then apply the tape. For repairs to down jackets, time is of the essence—the longer you wait, the more down filling you shed. If you want an easy fix with a bit more style Noso Gear Patches has options from animals to food to limited edition designs and artist collaborations.

Broken Zipper: 

Yes, you can fix that stubborn, stuck or broken zipper, whether it’s on a tent, a jacket, or even a piece of luggage. Most outdoor gear uses YKK zippers with the size written on the back of the “nose” of the zipper (the nose is the part that merges the two coils … not the zipper pull). Zipper sizes are most often in the range of #3, #5, and #10. You can purchase zippers online or buy a handy Zipper Repair kit. To replace your zipper on a jacket, simply remove the top stop with a pair of needle nose pliers, slide off the old zipper and slide on the new one. Replace the top stop and you’re good to go. It’s a little more complicated for the closed-loop zippers found on luggage, fortunately you can follow along in this video.

If you’re prepared you can fix most any piece of equipment out in the wilderness. When packing, assess your equipment and plan for the worst, then plan and pack accordingly. That roll of repair tape or 6-inch section of PVC pipe might just be the difference between an epic trip and a disaster.

Annie Fast writes about winter sports and outdoor adventures from her home in Bend, Oregon.You can read more about her and her work at



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This article is the first in our ‘Wear it Out’ series dedicated to making your gear last longer. Tips, tricks and education on how to make your gear go the distance. Good gear is built to last, that’s why we encourage everyone to Wear it Out™.