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 gear 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 especially if hiking alone. The chances are you will need it sooner or later. So, what should you have in your repair kit?
Backpacker’s repair kit checklist
Carrying some easy-to-care repair supplies can have a huge impact on the outdoor experience. Here are two lists – one with the most critical and one with some suggested but not-so-critical (in most cases) items to have in your repair kit:
Multi-tool or knife
Tent pole repair sleeve
Stove 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 (among them is duct tape for extreme weather conditions). 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. They’re 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.
Compact pocket knives are a much better option for a gear repair kit than longer knives
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).
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.
Your sewing kit will help you fix almost everything that might need a repair on the trail
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.
With many different possible applications, the tent pole repair sleeve is a must-have for every serious backpacker’s repair kit. It will help you repair not only broken tent poles but can also temporarily fix a broken backpack frame. You can also use tent pole splints to hang a bear bag using the PCT method (if you are not familiar with this method, you may also wish to check out this version of how to hang a food bag PCT style).
Field repair kit – extra stuff
In addition to the critical stuff, you may wish to carry with you some extra items. What else to carry in your backpacking repair kit depends on a variety of contributing factors such as the season, location, duration of the trip, and personal preferences. Keep in mind that some of the following extra field repair kit items might turn into essential ones:
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
Another non-essential to have in your backpack, the stove repair kit is a recommended item for those who may need it. Should you have a stove repair kit in your pack? If your stove is a life-saver – absolutely. If using a stove during your trip is optional and not that important, having a stove repair kit handy is more a matter of personal preference than of necessity. Anyway, even the best cookstove that’s easy to set up and operate (MSR PocketRocket is a good, reliable, and affordable option – one of our favorites – for camping and backpacking) can break down. And if this happens on the trail, you’d be better off having a repair kit with all the spares and parts in your pack. Except for emergency situations, a repair kit can also be used for maintenance in the field or at home.
A very reliable product, tenacious tape can be used to close holes and to prevent bigger tears in your gear. This aggressive adhesive is a peel-and-stick repair tape that’s easy to apply and works well in the field for repairing tents, tarps, air pads, backpacks, etc. Moreover, tenacious tape can be used for a long-term fix of various gear types from fabric tears (jackets, coats, sweaters, pants, and even rain gear) to bike repairs and hydration bladder leaks. It’s strong and durable; the repair tape is also easy to use (you can cut out the patches into various shapes easily or you can get a patch kit instead), sticks fast, and holds up really well.
The tape is not very cheap (the price varies between depending on the tape) but for tape/patches worth $5-$10, you can save much more expensive clothing and gear.
Running out of battery power is not among the nicest things to experience on the trail. Certainly, a pair or two of extra batteries for a headlamp or a flashlight, are often a necessity for longer backpacking trips especially when hiking at night is planned or expected. Extra rechargeable camera batteries are an essential item for outdoor photographers but can also be critical for other outdoor enthusiasts. GPS devices are also among the candidates for extra batteries. Having spare batteries for your GPS means that you’d have a much better chance to stay connected wherever you roam.
Super glues dry fast and hard, which makes them highly desirable for quick but long-lasting repairs on a wide range of surfaces as they are capable of bonding plastic, textiles, rubber, leather, etc.
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.