Due to extended use, hard use, and sometimes human error, backpacking clothing and equipment will break, tear, and wear out. Personally, in the field I’ve experienced:
- Torn trekking pants, rain gear, puffy jackets, sleeping bags, and backpacks;
- Leaking seams on shelters;
- Bent, splintered, and fractured trekking pole shafts;
- Cracked sunglasses;
- Punctured and cracked water bottles;
- Dead headlamp batteries;
- Slow leaks in air sleeping pads;
- Frayed mesh in shoe uppers;
- Delamination of rubber outsoles and toe bumpers from foam midsoles;
- Broken and fraying shoe laces, both conventional and Quick Lace;
- Blown gaskets in stove fuel pumps; and,
- Clogged stove fuel lines that reduced performance.
In addition, I’ve witnessed or have heard from others who have lost spoons and bottle caps, took out a new tarp with no guylines attached, abraded a hole in their Dyneema Composite tarp with the edges of their bridge hammock, broken tent poles, and blew out seams and shoulder straps on ultralight backpacks. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few, too.
Most wear seems to be expected and consistent. For example, extensive bushwhacking often results in torn clothing, and mileage gradually wears out the carbide tips on trekking poles. But I’ve had some surprise problems, too, like trail running shoes that began to fall apart after just 50 miles.
My objective in carrying a field repair kit is to fix these issues, ideally to as-good-as-new condition, or at least so I can exit and find a replacement.
Gear list: Backpacking field repair kit
To download this list as a PDF or editable spreadsheet, go here.
- Critical: A must-have, no exceptions
- Suggested: A valuable addition, few reasons not to bring
- Optional: Not critical, but worth consideration
- Contingent: Depends on trip objectives, conditions, and/or other selections
- Unnecessary: Unlikely to need and/or can be improvised
How does my repair kit compare to yours? Am I unprepared for a common repair job?
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Tags: First Aid | Foot Care | Repair Kits
Nice post, Andrew. I appreciated learning about the butterfly stitch from you and use it frequently for repairs.
There is a more portable/ vastly lighter version of the speedy stitcher that’s in the Chouinard/Patagonia Expedition Repair Kit. I made one myself from a jeweler’s pin vise and a cotter pin (check the hardware store) that cost under $10 and weighs about half an ounce with thread. It’s strong enough to go through webbing.
Greg – I believe this is yours.
I’ve considered buying the neo-kit, but it’s a litle pricey for what you get.
I have a bored, retired friend that loves machining handy little things, so I may see if he has any awl ideas.
Andrew, thanks again. I’ve been pairing down my repair kit & tools, and I was wondering what you carry.
Great nugget of information there, thanks. I’ve never carried the Speedy Stitcher on a trip, but a good case could be made for your lighter version on tough trips with long distances between resupply.
There are aluminum pin vise tip drills made for cleaning welding torch tips. The bodies are hollow and allow the drills to be stored inside. I don’t know that the collets would open up enough to take a sewing machine needle shank, but they would easily hold a #16 needle without the shank.
The small drills would be useful for drilling holes in leather or rubber. If I’m sewing leather, I usually pre-drill the holes. Pushing the needle through the leather is difficult and distorts the leather.
I am surprised not to see anything to repair a pack (extra buckle) or tent pole. Do you figure the items you carry can be used for those?
I’ve only broken a few hipbelt buckles, and each time it was still functional because only one of the two prongs had broken.
I use trekking poles to pitch my shelter, not tent poles, so I don’t need a fix for that. But you can McGyver a fix anyway, using duct tape, tent stakes or sticks, and guyline.
Great list. One item I have needed over and over is a small length of wire. It can become a hook to pull small things out of small places, it can bind things together, and it is generally a great bit to have for improvising. A key ring will often work if you pry it into a straight line, but that can be difficult without pliers. Just a thought.
For duct tape, I always have found it handy to wrap it around another object as a makeshift role center. I usually use a bic lighter for the core as they are the perfect size for it, but around shortened spoon and toothbrush handles are other places to turn duct tape into even more of a multi-functional item than it is already.
Hi Andrew, great list! I’m just asking myself why you mention a utility cord as “unneccesary” in your solo-kit? Because I can’t imagine a tarp without cord. It’s also usefull to hang food, replacing shoelaces etc.
The easy answer is that I’ve never needed cordage on a personal trip. My tarp already has guylines attached. My food hang would have dedicated line, not just what’s in my accessory kit. Knock on wood, I’ve never broken a shoelace. And if I really need cord for something (e.g. making a splint), I can always pull the guylines off my shelter.
This post saved one of my trips! I was 75 miles into a 150 mile trip last summer, and the treading came off of one of my shoes. I wouldn’t have been carrying AquaSeal if I hadn’t read this post, and that was the only thing in my kit that would keep my shoes together. Thanks!
If you’re already carrying Leuko Tape, how important is duct tape? I once patched a jagged tear in a DCF tarp in a rain storm with Leuko Tape because that was all I had. I believe that patch would still be in place if I hadn’t sent the tarp back to the manufacturer for them to make an “official” repair. That thing was not going anywhere, and I always wondered how they removed it.
In some cases they are redundant, but I feel like duct tape will stick better to a lot of surfaces, especially gear.
Is Aquasure the same thing as Aquaseal? Can’t seem to find Aquaseal in my country but Aquasure is readily available, sounds similar, and is also by McNett. One website even said that people sometimes call Aquasure Aquaseal…but I wanted to check that they really are the same thing? Am wondering whether they re-branded it?
By the way your link to this product is to a page where it is no longer sold.
I also found something called “Aquaseal+SR“ marketed for shoe repair, by the brand Gear Aid who also make tenacious tape…
Hm what attributes is it that I’m looking for here? Maybe that would help in finding an equivalent…
Also, speaking of tenacious tape, does it matter whether you go for the clear or a coloured version in terms of its performance?
good to check one’s own bearings in this regard from time to time with a pro.
I also use hiking poles for pitching my tarptent. BUT – how to fix a broken pole in the field to make it last through bad weather for a number of days, till the next town? I have not come up with something ligthweight yet. That repair needs to be sturdy. Tent stakes are already in use…
What is your solution?
Poles usually break because of user error. So avoid user error.
But if you do break a pole, use the segment of the pole that you can combined with a rock or log. Or, find a stiff stick instead of the pole.
How necessary are scissors if you are already carrying a knife? Every time I’ve needed to cut tape or cord, my knife has done the job.
It’s difficult to cut blister bandages (e.g. Luekotape on mail label paper), fingernails and toenails, and calluses with a knife.
But with scissors it’s difficult to chop sausage and cheese, or to strip bark off wet wood.
Personally, I like to have both. For personal trips, I can get by with just a Victorinox Classic. When weight is less paramount, I bring an Opinel No 6. When I’m guiding, I pack some Fiskars blunt tip scissors.
Opinel and small scissors is spot on for me