Backpackers spend a lot of time and money accumulating outdoor gear. To avoid pricey replacements, making simple repairs can make your equipment last much longer. It’s vital to carry a repair kit on any longer excursion, so if your gear fails in the middle of the backcountry, you’ll be able to repair and carry on instead of having to turn back.
Next time a buckle snaps, a seam leaks, or your clothes get ripped, you should be able to whip out your backpack repair kit and carry out a quick fix. Being adequately prepared for any eventuality will help prevent gear malfunctions from ruining an otherwise well thought out adventure.
It can be confusing to figure out the items you need to carry in a repair kit. With so many hiking and camping gadgets all marketing themselves as must-haves, putting together the right kit without over-packing can be a challenge. That’s why we’ve put together a full guide of what you need in your backpack repair kit.
Why carry a backpack repair kit?
Our outdoor equipment takes quite a beating on the trails, and although it’s made to last, sometimes you’ll find yourself with a broken piece of vital equipment in the field. Whether its due to extended use, general wear and tear, or human error, even the most durable of backpacking gear can break down. Clothing and equipment will break, tear, or just wear out, and you need to know how to make quick repairs in the field.
When it comes time to set off, we think we have everything we need and are fully prepared. However, have you ever thought about what you’d do if your clothing tore midway through a 5-day hike? Or worse, your backpack? And how about broken trekking poles, leaky tents, and cracked water bottles? All of these problems can cut your trip short if you’re not equipped to solve them.
Some equipment breakages can be expected, for example, sustained mileage will eventually wear out the tips of trekking poles. However, sometimes the unexpected happens, perhaps your new shoes start falling apart after only a few miles. Your field repair kit should at the very least keep you going until you can find replacement equipment, but it’s even better if you can restore your equipment to full function.
What to include in your backpack repair kit
Now, we’re going to cover some basic items which should have a place in everyone’s emergency kit, as well as extras you’ll need to consider depending on the type of excursion you plan to undertake.
A good multi-tool can save you countless times on the trails. While they’re bulkier and heavier than your standard pocket knife, a multi-tool certainly makes up for its weight in functionality. Whether you’re cutting rope or food, the knife is always useful on the trails.
Screwdrivers can be used to adjust trekking poles, the pliers have multiple uses such as pinching together broken zippers. Scissors are an absolute must, for cutting bandages or patches for other repairs. Multi-tools are available with just a few simple tools or as a fully equipped toolbox, so you can decide how elaborate you want yours to be.
Multi-tools were popularised with the Victorinox Swiss Army Knife at the time of World War One, but since then they’ve become much more advanced. Read our buying guide for the best camping multi-tool to help you make the right choice.
2. Duct tape
Every camper or backpacker can tell you that at some point, they owed their life to duct tape. This wonderful invention can be used for so many things and is a vital part of your backpack repair kit. Duct tape can be used as an emergency patch on clothing or equipment, it can help your falling-apart boots make it a few more miles.
If you feel your shoes rubbing, a piece of duct tape on your heel will prevent blisters- duct tape is a real backcountry miracle worker. Rather than carrying a whole roll, you can keep a length of duct tape wrapped around your trekking poles or your water bottle.
Alternatively, miniature duct tape cylinders like these from SOL won’t take up much space in your bag. However you choose to carry it, duct tape is worth its weight without a doubt, so always make sure you have it on you.
There are endless uses for this strong and durable cord, it’s a really valuable thing to carry. Snapped boot laces can make it impossible to continue with your hike, but paracord can easily solve this problem. Emergency straps for bags and guy lines can be made easily, as well as countless other things.
With so many uses, it would be silly not to include this essential survival gear in your backpack repair kit. Carry a lighter to melt frayed ends, and you’re good to go. One way to carry some parachute cord in an unobtrusive way is in the form of a paracord bracelet.
This survival accessory is becoming more and more popular, as the paracord is efficiently stored on your wrist, ready for whenever you may need it. To see some of the best available, check out our buying guide for paracord survival bracelets.
4. Zip ties
Zip ties promise not to take up much space or add too much weight to your pack, and you’d be surprised how useful this common household item can be in the backcountry. They’re perfect for fixing backpack straps, and they can form a quick replacement for broken snowshoe clips.
Zip ties also make a perfect zipper pull and make lots of other fiddly repairs much easier. Include a few zip ties in your backpack repair kit, you won’t regret it.
5. Spare buckles
Almost every piece of backcountry equipment and apparel features buckles. These plastic fasteners take a lot of strain, and they’re also vital to a safe and comfortable trip. For example, a backpacker’s hipbelt buckle can mean the difference between a successful hike and a week of back pain.
Whether you step on your buckle, or it just gives up after years of hard use, having these spare parts on you will mean a quick stop to make a replacement, and then carrying onwards down the trail happily.
Without, you risk a painful and inconvenient hike, or just having to turn back towards home and give up your hike altogether. It’s very helpful to have a few spare buckles of different sizes in your backpack repair kit, just in case.
6. Tent pole sleeves
Most backpacking tents include a tent hole sleeve in their package. This short tube is often overlooked, but can really help you out in a pinch. If one of your tent poles breaks, bends, or splits in the field, it can leave you without a safe shelter for the night.
However, if you have a tent pole sleeve, all you have to do is slide it over the break and duct tape in place. This will keep you tent usable so that you can finish your trip, without having to worry about where you’ll sleep.
7. Needle and thread
Duct tape and glue will get you far, but sometimes a good old-fashioned needle and thread are necessary. Mostly useful for clothing repair, a needle and thread are a big help when you lose buttons or tear seams. If you bust your sleeping bag, you’ll need to sew up the hole fast to keep you from losing insulation. Keep a sewing kit in your backpack repair kit for next time you need to do some last-minute backcountry sewing.
8. Stove repair kit
If you’re using a camping or backpacking stove, and especially if you’re relying on it as your main source of food, a stove repair kit is a necessary part of your emergency supplies. Keeping a few tools and spare parts will make sure your stove is always up and running.
One potential problem is a deteriorated O-ring, which could leave your stove unusable and lead to some grumpy campers when there’s no coffee in the morning. However, if you have the spare part and necessary tool, you’ll be able to make a quick repair at no cost to your time or pride.
9. Adhesive patches
These serve pretty much the same purpose as duct tape, but in a more convenient manner. To quickly stop an air leak in your inflatable mattress or close a hole in your jacket, adhesive repair patches are an ideal solution.
10. Seam sealer
So much outdoor equipment depends on the sealant of seams; clothing, tents, tarps, and backpacks. If a seam on one of your belongings tears, leaks, or outright breaks, it could leave you in a world of trouble. A good seam sealer always has its place in any hikers backpack repair kit, to ensure no further leakage occurs.
Try to get a seam sealer that works with all the fabrics you might need it for, including nylon, rubber, PVC, vinyl, and leather- whatever you might need to repair.
How to repair a backpack
If you’re carrying a backpack repair kit, you should have the necessary materials to get you through almost any equipment emergency. However, you might not have the know-how. A broken backpack is one of the most serious and fatal problems a thru-hiker or backpacker can face, so you need to know how to fix it.
Holes in the fabric, non-functional zips, and broken buckles can render your backpack all but useless. Making small repairs as soon as the problem occurs could save you from facing bigger catastrophes later on, so check out our tips for repairing your backpack while in the field.
For rips, tears, and holes in the fabric of your backpack, duct tape can be a quick temporary solution. To make a repair using duct tape, follow these steps:
1. Clean the area which needs repairing, inside and out. This will help the tape to adhere better, reducing the chance of further problems.
2. Cut the tape to at least 1 inch larger than the size of the repair. This will ensure full coverage and a good grip.
3. If you have your scissors-featuring multitool, cutting duct tape into a circle is very helpful. This will reduce the likelihood of the tape catching on things by removing the vulnerable corners, making it less likely to peel off and require further repairs.
4. Stuff the inside of your pack, so your work area isn’t flapping around. This will also help you check that your repair is sufficient so that it doesn’t break again upon first use.
5. Apply your piece of duct tape to the tear or hole on the outside of your pack. Ensure it’s securely stuck down, and that there are no gaps where it could re-open.
6. Remove the contents of your pack carefully, in case they have stuck to the duct tape in any small part.
7. Use a second piece of tape to repeat the repair from inside the bag. This will reinforce this weakened point and help the fix to last longer.
If you develop a hole in a mesh part of your bag, duct tape isn’t the ideal fix. For these issues, you’ll have to break out your needle and thread, or alternatively, fishing wire and dental floss can also serve as cord.
1. Close the mesh in a few stitches, pulling it together to the correct place.
2. Then, sew in multiple directions to try and re-create the grid of mesh which was already in place.
Broken zips can be a huge pain, which is why lots of backpacks avoid them altogether due to their vulnerability. However, many pieces of outdoor gear feature zip, so it’s useful to know how to repair them- you’ll never know when you’ll need it! For a distorted zip, one which moves but won’t actually close your pack, the pliers on your multi-tool will come in very handy.
1. Open the zip as far as possible.
2. Take your pliers and gently squeeze the top and bottom of the slider part together. This should bring the slider into better contact with the zip, and easily solve your problem.
Another common problem with zips is bent teeth, something which can happen all too easily in the backcountry. This might be slightly harder to do with a multi-tool as ideally, you would use more precise pliers, although if your multi-tool includes sturdy enough tweezers you could try with those.
1. Take your pliers and very carefully bend the teeth back into shape.
2. Do not use too much force, be as gentle as possible, as zipper teeth can easily snap off, which to repair in the field is impossible.
For jammed zippers, a little lubrication will work wonders. If you have nothing else, try rubbing on a bit of your lip balm.
As we’ve mentioned, your backpack repair kit absolutely must include spare buckles. Repairing a broken buckle out in the field isn’t easy, but if you don’t have the replacement parts then you’ll fail before you even begin.
If a buckle breaks in an important place, such as the hip or chest, then as a last resort you can replace it with another buckle on your gear. Look for buckles in less critical places, such as the side or back of your bag, and maybe you can fashion one of these into a replacement for your hipbelt.
1. Remove the buckle that needs replacing. It’s already broken, so you can get it off any way you wish, pliers may make it easier.
2. Take your replacement buckle and locate the middle bar, the one that holds the buckle to the webbing on your bag. Use a lighter to soften the plastic slightly, and slice through the middle bar with your knife.
3. Use this cut to push the buckle onto the webbing where it’s needed.
4. Use some duct tape to reinforce the bar where you cut it, and you’re finished.
A broken shoulder or hip strap is perhaps the worst injury your backpack could sustain. If you have your repair kit through, a little sewing can fix it right up and get you on your way.
1. Empty your bag of all belongings.
2. Cut away the protective tape around the seam, to expose the opening of the strap.
3. Feed the trap through this opening, it should lay flat between the pack’s side seams.
4. Sew three parallel lines of backstitching, as strongly as possible, between the side seams.
If there was one product we would recommend for your backpack repair kit, it’s Gear Aid Tenacious Tape Patches. This is ultra-strong repair tape with a highly effective adhesive and can be used to fix any holes, rips, tears, and gashes in your outdoor gear. These patches will stick to almost any surface, so they’re so valuable to carry.
One reason we’d recommend Gear Aid Tenacious Tape is its abrasion resistance. Backpacking gear goes through a lot, so this extra protection on repaired areas can make a difference when putting up with high wear.
Starting from less than $3, these tape patches are available in all different forms. They’re weather-resistant, and as a huge bonus are washable, meaning repairs using this tape can last for trips to come.
Carrying a backpack repair kit is important for any outdoor traveler, as you’ll never know when emergency repairs will need to be made. A fully equipped kit will save your skin many times out in the backcountry, and over time you’ll cultivate your own methods and must-have repair items. For now, we recommend you carry duct tape, a good multi-tool, some paracord and a sewing kit at a minimum. Buckles and zip ties also make very valuable additions. Now you’re prepared for any eventuality, so we wish you good luck on your next excursion!
Bonus tip: Check out the video below on how to fix a jammed zipper!