Every hiker should know how to build a basic backpacking repair kit with certain items and carry it during his or her outdoor trips not because it’s trendy but because it’s necessary to have one. Hiking trips can be quite unpredictable. Often something needs repairing or at least tinkering with. Your backpacking repair kit will make sure that you are prepared if your gear fails while you’re exploring the wilderness. Carrying a small repair kit in a stuff sack is a necessity, not a luxury. Just think about all the times when you’ve had to tackle adversity on the trail related to a broken buckle or a trekking pole, a hole in your jacket or boot sole, a tear in your tent or another essential piece of gear.
When planning your hiking trip, think about your trip’s type, duration, conditions, and your gear list. You can customize the contents of your gear repair kit accordingly. Remember to keep your repair kit handy while on the trail. The chances are you will need it sooner or later. So, what should you have in your repair kit?
Backpacking Repair Kit Essentials
Duct tape is among the most important things to have in your repair kit and probably the most-used item in the kit. It’s a pressure-sensitive tape with a simple but effective design. There are at least eight different kinds of duct tape for many different end uses. Duct tape often comes in rolls or in the form of strips stapled to a card. In the backcountry, it can be used to:
- Patch a tear
It can be really frustrating when rips, holes, and seam failures happen on the trail. Sometimes duct tape is all you need to mend your tent, sleeping bag, pack or piece of clothing. Where necessary, place layers both inside and out for extra strength. Round the edges so that the duct tape patches don’t peel off. Keep in mind that even the most expensive pieces of gear sometimes need to be repaired. The biggest downside of duct tape is the sticky residue that doesn’t just come out when you peel it off. So it isn’t a coincidence that professional repairers hate such powerful adhesives. The sticky residue can be removed through rubbing the area with a cloth soaked in alcohol. A mixture of dish soap and warm water will do the same as well as a commercial residue remover.
- Mend your hiking boots
There are rarely any cobblers on the trail so when something happens to your boots, you can rely only on your repair kit for field repairs.
- Fix cracked water bottles and damaged hoses
Apply a few turns of duct tape to cover any punctures, cracks, and leaks in a hose or a water bottle. Usually this is enough to solve the problem.
- Hold together cracked pack frames, broken tent poles or hiking sticks
Trekking poles are lightweight and prone to snapping under pressure. Splint your hiking stick and it’ll be functional again. Needless to say, cracked pack frames and broken tent poles can be fixed the same way.
- Cover a hot spot or a blister
Hotspots and blisters are among the most common skin problems on the trail. You can protect painful blisters by covering them. This will reduce skin friction and may alleviate or even eliminate the problem.
- Waterproof ventilated boots
A layer or two of duct tape around your boots and you’ll make them water-resistant. If you really want to make them waterproof, use wax, oil or a waterproofing spray as we recommended in our article about basic foot and shoe care.
Multi-purpose tools are the standard backpacking tools. Theyre easy to access and use for simple and not so simple tasks and repairs. There’s a huge range of models with just about every blade or tool you could want. Multi-tools often come with features such as pliers, wire cutters, scissors, screwdrivers, corkscrews, blades, can and bottle openers, tweezers, and toothpicks. Heavy-duty multi-tools weight around 300g or more and come with security locking systems for safe use, while lighter multi-tools with just some basic features can weight as little as 20g. Light multi-tools are compact and convenient for backpacking (they can be worn on a belt or attached to a backpack strap) but are not as tough and durable as the heavier models. Multi-purpose tools eliminate the need to carry separate tools and are useful for most purposes such as cutting cord, opening food packets or making repairs. Though their blades lack the ergonomics and stability of fixed-blade knives and may look tiny, they can, basically, do everything knives are supposed to do.
Knives are pretty tough and useful in first aid, food preparation, and repairs. It isn’t a surprise that many people carry knives during their hiking or camping trips in the backcountry. Knives range from compact pocket knives with folding blades to heavier but also more stable and easier to clean fixed-blade knives. Most blades are made of stainless steel, while typical materials for handles include wood, plastic, rubber, and metal.
Keeping your knife blades sharp is important. Don’t wait for a knife to go blunt but sharpen the blade regularly at home (it’s more difficult and time-consuming to sharpen a blunt knife). It’s much more difficult and dangerous to use a knife when the blade is too blunt because then you have to use too much pressure, and without the ability to bite properly, the blade will slip. Remember that anything that can provide a bit of friction can sharpen a knife in the field. For example, wet rock makes a good improvised sharpener. Sharpen the blade using small circular movements.
There are various types of nylon cord that can be useful on the trail. Parachute cord (paracord) is one of the most popular because it is light, strong, and has many different uses. Here are some of them:
- Fashioning a swami belt for river crossings (use it with a carabiner and rope)
- Pitching a tarp to trees
- Replacing boot laces
- Hanging out wet boots, clothes, and gear
- Tying gear to a pack
- Wrapping a knife handle or a broken pack frame
- Making a belt for trousers
- Suspending a bag with food, garbage, toiletries, and other items from a branch in bear country
- Using it as a pulley to lift things up short steep cliffs or slopes
Certainly, paracord also has some downsides such as: absorbs a lot of water/moisture, the ends must be burned off or they’ll fray, doesn’t hold knots very well, it is susceptible to melting (don’t use it around fire), and it is elastic (this can be either good or bad depending on the situation).
Popular alternatives to paracord include tarred nylon twine, Dyneema and Spectra cord, jute cord, etc.
Your sewing kit will help you fix packs, clothes, sleeping bags, and almost everything else that might need repair. Soft items such as fleece tops, wool socks, and base layers require some needle-and-thread work as adhesives don’t work well on these fabrics.
You’ll need a kit that is tailored to your basic sewing needs. It might include:
- Sewing awl
- One or two heavy-duty sewing machine needles
- One or two ordinary machine needles
- Safety pin
- Some strong thread
Pack everything in a small zippered nylon bag. Having the right tools on hand is important but knowing how to use them is even more important. Remember that you don’t need to have perfect skills to do some simple repairs but you need to know some basic stitches.
- Whip stitch is easy and strong. It’s used to join two edges together or sew on a patch to a backpack, shirt, jacket or pants. Work the garment inside out if you don’t want to see the stitches show on the outside.
- Back stitch is one of the strongest and most adaptable hand stitches. It’s used to hold seams together and is ideal for patches (especially in areas that might see some stress – knees, elbows, etc.).
- Running stitch is easy but it isn’t very strong. It works well in areas that are not typically stressed or tensioned. Stitches should be small and even.
For more details of how to sew by hand using basic stitches see this video.
Seam Grip or another seam sealer
Seam Grip is heavy-duty and abrasion-resistant material. Just a small tube of this adhesive can help you repair or seam-seal rips, tears, and holes in tents, tarps, and clothes. The adhesive works on fabrics such as polyester, nylon, PVC, leather, and rubber. Moreover, it bonds permanently. It’s also quite durable and won’t peel or crack over time. Be careful when spreading Seam Grip because once applied, it can’t be removed. To apply neatly, use a toothpick, a bristle brush (a cheap one since it’ll be ruined after using it with Seam Grip), a plastic take-out knife or anything else that you can easily toss in the bin after using. Keep it thin and don’t put too much, otherwise, the final result can be really messy.
Shoelaces are very useful and can be surprisingly multifunctional. Their use can be similar to the use of nylon cord. For example, they can be used to:
- Stop bleeding from a wound (as a tourniquet)
- Start a fire (by using the bow-and-drill method)
- As a fishing line (together with a sharp object as a hook)
- Tie gear to a pack
- Help construct a shelter
- Replace a belt
- Make a basic snare trap
Build a backcountry repair kit with various tools, repair items, and replacement parts for equipment. You needn’t carry everything all the time. The contents of your backpacking repair kit will vary from trip to trip as it’s best to customize it according to your trip’s type, duration, conditions, and your gear list. Carry the repair kit during your hiking trips to make sure you’ll be able to fix any snaps, rips or leaks in your outdoor gear.