How to repair used outdoor gear

How To Repair Used Outdoor Gear

Following on from last week’s post on buying used gear, today we’re going to go show you how to repair used outdoor gear.

Unfortunately, outdoor gear doesn’t last forever, so eventually you might find you need to do some repairs. Luckily, most repairs are easy to do at home as long as you have the right tools. And what better way to save some money than by mending something you might otherwise replace?

Here are a few things we like to keep in our at home repair kits:

  • Duct tape
  • ‘Tenacious’ tape
  • Scissors
  • Knife
  • Rope of varying sizes
  • Tech Wash
  • Down wash (if you have a down sleeping bag/jacket)
  • Leather proofing
  • Wash in/spray on Waterproofing
  • Spare tent poles
  • Sleeping pad patches
  • Gore-tex patches
  • Elastic cord (for the tent poles)
  • Needle and thread
  • Seam grip
  • Pliers

Why would you need duct tape and Tenacious tape? Well, duct tape is great for a lot of things, especially repairs on the trail, but over time it leaves a sticky residue that’s difficult to get out. For fabrics and nylon especially, Tenacious tape is better for a long term fix.

First… a good clean!

Whenever you do repairs at home, start by washing your item, whatever it may be. By washing the product not only do you give it that nice clean smell, but you also give any adhesive you put on a better chance to stick.

Before you wash, check the waterproofing on items that are supposed to be waterproof. Drip a small amount of water on the item. If the water beads up, your item is still waterproof. If it seeps into the fabric, it needs some extra waterproofing.

Here are some strategies for cleaning various types of gear:

Hand wash (do not use a washing machine!) with non-detergent soap. I suggest Nikwax tech wash. Fill up a large bucket with water and submerge your tent or hammock. Add the appropriate amount of soap as per the label and mix thoroughly. Pay particular attention to places with stains. Rinse three times and set out to air dry. Preferably not in the sun as prolonged sun exposure breaks down the nylon fabric.

If you’ve noticed that something is letting water in that shouldn’t, use a waterproofing spray when the tent is still wet. I suggest Nikwax tent and gear Solarproof as it also protects your tent from the sun.

Clothing/sleeping bags
Wash (a washing machine can be used) with Nikwax tech wash for normal fabrics and down wash or fabrics with down in them. Dry in a dryer. The dryer is especially important for waterproof fabrics and fabrics with insulation because the heat helps the product’s waterproofing and ‘fluffs up’ the insulation. If your item is waterproof, add a step before drying it to wash it with Nikwax TX Direct, this will revitalize the waterproofing that is already on your item.

Unless your footwear is a sandal, it’s probably not the best idea to submerge it in water. Remove the insole and air it out and wipe a damp cloth over the surface of the shoe. If your shoe is leather, use a leather conditioner after this treatment.

Backpacks/Bags/everything else
Spot clean with a rag with water and mild non-detergent soap. Both dish soap and tech wash work wonders here.

Properly cleaning your gear is a good habit to get in even if it doesn’t need repairs. Clean, well maintained gear can prevent future problems.


Now that your stuff is clean, on to the repairs!

Holes in Nylon (tents/backpacks/etc.)
If the hole is smaller than the ‘OK’ sign you can make with your fingers, then make sure the area is dry and place Tenacious Tape on both sides of the hole with at least a half inch covering the existing nylon. If the hole is very large you can use a nylon patch found at most outdoor stores and tape over the sides of the patch or use the glue provided with the patch.

While this technique works on mesh, you can also get mesh patches that work similarly and will retain the look and breathability of the area.

Holes in waterproof material (raincoats etc.)
Use a Gore-tex patch to maintain the waterproofing of your item. You should only place this on the outside of the item.

Broken Tent Poles
Bring your broken pole to your local gear repair shop or email the manufacturer of the tent to see if they have poles for sale. Once you get the right section and enough elastic cord for your full pole, sever the elastic rope that connects the full pole and remove the broken piece.

With a knot at one end of your new rope (to stop the rope at the end of the pole) string it through all the poles in order. When you’ve gone through the last pole, pull the string tight so the poles snap together. Tie a knot at the end of the rope and let it loose so it stays at the end of the final pole.

Sleeping Pad Holes
If you know where the hole is, you can immediately patch it using a sleeping pad patch kit. Spread the glue around the dry area and press the pad firmly on top of it, holding pressure for a few seconds. Let the pad dry overnight. If you don’t know where the hole is, fill a tub or small pool with water and place the inflated pad in it. Squeeze it gently. Wherever there are bubbles, there is a leak.

A patch kit can be replaced with tenacious tape and seam grip.

Zip Problems
Be it on tents, jackets, or sleeping bags, zips can be tricky. If your zipper is snagging a lot, try rubbing a candle (or any kind of wax) on the teeth. This will help give it a smoother track. If your zipper has bent teeth, use pliers to gently bring them back into place, being careful not to break them.

If your zipper slider comes away from the track on its own, try putting it back and giving the sides a gentle squeeze with a pair of pliers. Because of use, sliders can get a bit too big for their teeth and squeezing them returns them to the right size.

If the zipper teeth are missing, you need to replace the entire zipper. This is best done by a professional and it may be cheaper to just buy a new item.

That’s all folks!

We hope you enjoyed this guide on how you can repair used outdoor gear. Whatever the problem, knowing how to repair your gear is a lifesaver both on and off the trail. Don’t forget to check out the rest of our blog for more handy hints, guides and gear reviews!

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