Imagine you are hiking along on a crisp winter day. The trail is nice and packed out — maybe even a little icy — but your microspikes keep you stable as you hike along. Then, suddenly you slip! One leg goes right out from under you and you land in the snow. Upon inspection you find that the rubber of your spike has torn, and now you have a loose bundle of chains instead of your trusty traction setup. Worry not, intrepid adventurer, for you have packed your repair kit! A quick zzzzzip and your zip-tie has saved the day — and you hike along your merry way.
Often overlooked by minimalists and weekenders, the repair kit is essential to an extended trip into the wild.
By carrying a few simple tools and materials one can make necessary field repairs and increase their chances of finishing their adventure, rather than having to turn back early due to an equipment malfunction. While many of the items that I list can be found in the junk drawer at home, some items may be worth purchasing for better quality, sizing, and functionality.
Here are 10 must-haves:
While heavier and bulkier than your standard pocket knife, a good multi-tool can serve several functions. Use the knife to cut anything from cheese or cordage. The screw driver will quickly tightening the locks on your trekking poles. The pliers can be great for pinching zippers back together or for gripping pot lids. Scissors are an invaluable addition to your tool — I mostly use mine to cut bandages and moleskin. You can get as simple or elaborate as you’d like with your multi-tool, but I prefer one that has those four simple tools, like Leatherman’s Wave+.
2. Duct Tape
What else is there to say about this life saving invention. It can serve as a patch on your favorite puffy, keep a boot sole from falling off, tape a tent pole splint into place. The uses are literally endless. You can use it as a preventative bandage for blisters — just slap some on your heel and you’re good to go. I like to keep a length of 3M Super Tough wrapped around my trekking poles, but I have seen others wrap it around their water bottles. However you choose to carry it, you won’t regret those extra ounces the first time you need it!
3. Zip Ties
Another common household item that can be used to save the day in the backcountry … zip ties! While I have found more uses for these in winter, they can certainly be helpful in the summer months too. You can use them to fix a backpack strap or as a temporary replacement for those pesky broken snowshoe clips. They also work great for zipper pulls! Just remember to bring a few, and be sure to pack out any that you need to cut off at the end of the day!
Parachute, or “P – Cord”, has been around for a long time and over the years people have found many uses for this incredibly strong cordage. I have used it as boot lacing for when my laces finally gave up the ghost, as well as an emergency sternum strap for a friend who’s clip broke while out on a 5-day trip. Carry a lighter to melt the ends and start a fire when you need to!
5. Side Release Buckles
It may seem excessive to carry spare parts on the trail, but you never know when they will come in handy. You may accidentally step on your hip belt clip or have one fail after many years of hard use. It is very helpful to have a few spare side release buckles in various sizes that you can simply swap out. Be sure to get the kind that doesn’t require that you sew your straps together.
6. Adhesive Patches
For when you want the effectiveness of duct tape, but without the mess, adhesive patches are the way to go. These patches allow you to effortlessly stop a pad leak in you air mattress or close a hole in your favorite puffy. Two well-known brands are Tear-Aid and Gear-Aid. They both make excellent patches; however, Gear Aid makes fun Bigfoot shaped patches that won my heart over.
7. Webbing Straps
Having a few extra webbing straps can make securing extra gear a breeze. I bring two straps with accompanying tri-glides so that I can easily tighten them. I have used my extra straps as a replacement sternum strap, a keeper strap for a rain cover on a pack, and to lash down extra gear onto a backpack. Sterling Rope makes great webbing.
8. Needle and Thread
A surprising addition to the repair kit, I find that this is one worth having. While tapes and adhesive patches can fix many issues you may face in the backcountry, nothing beats a needle and thread for versatility. I find that I mostly use mine on clothing repair. I have a tendency for losing buttons and blowing out seams on my hiking clothing and my needle and thread have always been there to put my gear back together again.
9. Tent Pole Sleeves
Often misidentified, the tent pole sleeve in an invaluable part of any backpacking kit. Included with most backpacking tents, the short tube is just large enough to go over the poles of your tent. If you suffer a pole break in the field, you can simply slide the pole splint over the break and tape it into place. This should keep your poles usable and allow you to finish your trip.
10. Stove repair kit
While some stoves are easier to repair than others, it is good to carry the items you need to keep your camp stove up and running. A deteriorated O-ring could result in you attempting to cold cook your rice on the trail, and lead to some unhappy campmates in the morning when the coffee is inaccessible. I like to keep a few O-rings, oil, and the tool I used to break my stove down.
No matter what combination of items you decided to include in your repair kit you will be glad to have it when your gear takes a turn for the worst. Let us know what you include in your kit by emailing us at Journey@nemoequipment.com, we would love to hear from you!
Travis Gagliano is one of NEMO’s Customer Service Pros who loves helping customers and repairing their gear so it can last for a lifetime. Former Flatlander turned New England Transplant, Travis is an adventure enthusiast, budding fly fisherman, and lover of trails and gear.