Wear It Out: How to repair tents, backpacks, and more
It’s a tough truth: no matter how high-quality your gear is, if you beat it up by actually using it, eventually you’ll break or tear something. A tent’s mesh panel will rip, a zipper will jam up, a pack strap seam will come undone, a pole will snap … it’s just a result of that rock’n’roll life.
The great news is that pretty much everything is repairable, and parts are replaceable. This guide will be a handy little starter to get your gear good as new so you can get lots of life and fun out of your investment.
When you can DIY
Some repairs don’t exactly require an advanced degree or industrial-quality sewing equipment. With a quick Google search, you can find patching kits for tent fabric, tent mesh, puffy jackets, and even waterproof outerwear patches.
One brand we dig is called Gear Aid—they make everything from Seam Sealer to Tenacious Tape. Their Seam Sealer will reseal the waterproof seam between the floor of your tent and the walls, or the rainfly seams, or even a torn backpack or jacket seam. And their Tenacious Tape will stick to anything from tent fabric to hardshell jackets, covering and weatherproofing any tears.
And remember, if your outerwear’s waterproofing has faded, that’s no reason to toss it—you can re-waterproof the fabric or refresh the durable water repellent coating on its surface. (Check out our quick guide here.)
But many repairs are trickier than that—busted zippers, torn-off straps, and broken tent poles can happen. These scenarios don’t spell doom, though. Just read on.
More brands are stepping up to help
An increasing number of sustainability-minded brands are realizing that it’s important to consumers like us to repair gear, keep it out of landfills, and avoid the carbon footprint of purchasing brand-new item to replace broken stuff.
One of the big players leading the charge is Patagonia, who will accept any piece of their gear or clothing in need of repair, fix it, and send it back to you. They’ve gone to great lengths to figure out how to fix nearly anything, from a torn fleece to a busted backpack buckle. If you have any Patagonia item that needs some refurbishing before it can be used again, just head to their online repair center and get the process started.
They also have an excellent repository of “iFixit” how-to’s on their site, where they explain everything from how to fix a loose stitching loop on one of their puffy jackets to how to replace the front button of your Patagonia corduroys.
Arc’teryx also offers a mail-in repair program for all their clothing, outerwear, packs, shoes, climbing equipment, and more. If the item is under warranty, they’ll fix it for free and send it back to you. If it’s not, they’ll do it for a nominal charge to cover costs.
Find an outdoor shop with an in-house repair department
Online, you can find gear repair resources like Rainy Pass Repair (REI’s recommended go-to), find a local cobbler for footwear breakdowns, and you can even specialty shops like tentpoletechnologies.com, which can fix any tent pole related problem you may have in life.
Here at Geartrade, we highly recommend our friends (and frequent Geartrade sellers) Lone Pine Gear Exchange, a sustainably-minded outdoor shop based in Salt Lake City. Not only do they sell used gear but they have an in-house repair shop that fixes and refurbishes (or repurposes) almost anything imaginable. They have an industrial seamstress on staff who specializes in giving gear a new lease on life.
The good news is that you don’t need to live in Salt Lake to take advantage of Lone Pine’s repair program. You can email them at email@example.com to discuss your problem, get an estimate, and get the address to send it to them so they can set to work.
Of course, if you have a broken piece of equipment like skis, snowboards, bindings, ski/board boots, or bike components, head to your most trusted local ski or bike shop. Even if they don’t have the parts in stock, they have connections with their gear manufacturers and can order in the boot buckle, binding toe-piece, or brake lever you need.
Once you’ve repaired your beloved gear, send us a photo of yourself using it out and about! We love hearing about it when people keep outdoor where it’s meant to be: on the trails, not in some dusty closet or, worse, a landfill.
Beth Lopez is a seasoned writer and creative director who loves to tell tales of adventure and discovery—and finds writing a powerful way to give a voice to people, causes, and places. Beth runs amok in the Wasatch mountains when untethered from her computer. She believes there’s no such thing as a bad ski day and considers animals her favorite people. Don’t tell her mother about her Instagram mountaineering photos.
This article is the third 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. You can find our first article Easy On The Go Gear Fixes here and our second article Basic Bike Maintenance and Care 101 here. Good gear is built to last, that’s why we encourage everyone to Wear it Out™.
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