I was recently on a multi-day hiking trip in New Zealand’s Southern Alps. Six hours into the first day I snapped my sternum strap while attempting to fasten it. My backpack was heavy, and it felt much heavier now that the sternum strap was not dispersing the weight evenly. Eventually my shoulders began to hurt. With no backpacking repair kit, I needed to get creative, and ended up repairing the strap with a spare pair of boot laces I had with me.
The moral of the story is: Be prepared. If I had these 15 essential items in my backpacking repair kit, I would have been far better off. The first 10 make up the essential items, while the remaining 5 cover any spare parts or accessories you should have with you.
Our top 15 recommended backpacking repair kit items:
Also known as a pocket knife or Swiss Army Knife, the multi-tool could be the single most useful item in your backpack. You will want to purchase a decent multi-tool that is not going to break the first time you use it. It should ideally include a pair of scissors, pliers, screw driver and of course a sharp knife.
If you need to cut rope or trim adhesive patches to size then the multi-tool becomes an essential item in your inventory. If you are prepared to carry the extra weight, multi-tools can also come with cool features like a hammer. This can be handy when you are knocking in those tent pegs on a hard surface.
2. Puncture Repair Kit
It sucks waking up in the middle of the night on the floor of your tent with a busted air mattress. If you have chosen an air pad as part of your sleeping system, then the ability to repair a puncture is absolutely essential.
Most good brands come with puncture repair kits, so make sure it ends up in your overall repair kit. Some types of sleeping pad also feature their own valve repair kits. This often involves a couple of spare valves that can be easily replaced in case of leaks. Do your research and purchase a durable, easy-to-repair air pad. Or just go with a foam pad. Up to you.
3. Duct Tape
Also known as “100 mile an hour tape” (because it sticks, even if traveling at that speed), this may be the most versatile item in your kit. There are specialty items that we feature below for certain issues, such as tent pole sleeves for snapped tent poles. However, if you find yourself without such items, then tag in the good old reliable duct tape.
It can be used to hold together things that have snapped. The adhesive sticks to fabric and so can temporarily repair holes in tents and seams. This is particularly useful if you find yourself in an area with an abundance of biting insects.
4. Zip Ties
Depending on where you were born you may call them cable ties. But whatever their name, they just might get you out of a world of difficulty. They can be used to repair backpack straps and hold your boots on your feet if your laces snap. They can be joined together to increase their length and usefulness, and will fasten your snowshoes or crampons to your boots if you have clip issues.
Use the scissors or knife in your multi-tool to snip the excess zip tie. Please just remember to pack all that plastic back out with you.
5. Safety Pins
An American invention that has been around for about 170 years, the safety pin is no less useful today that in was in the 19th century. I bet there isn’t a boy alive who hasn’t had his fly (zipper) temporarily repaired with them. They have the potential to save you both embarrassment and public exposure if your trousers decide it is their time to die.
Safety pins can hold together other types of fabric too, as long as there is not too much tension. This can be particularly useful if your tent zipper starts to unravel during the course of your backpacking trip.
6. Utility Cord
The usefulness of a utility cord cannot be underestimated. It is essentially an ultralight rope than can be used for more things than you could possibly imagine. But for the purposes of repairs, it can replace snapped tent guy lines.
If your backpack strap breaks, it is possible to rig up some utility cord as a replacement. It may not be as comfortable as the original strap, but it will certainly get you out of the woods. It would also have made a handy replacement for my busted sternum strap.
I would aim to take at least 50 feet of this nylon-based product. You will also need to have a lighter with you (which you should have anyway!) to melt the ends together after cutting to the required length.
We can recommend this product from REI that weighs in at a barely-noticeable 4 ounces.
7. Sewing Kit
Now, those safety pins we were talking about are only going to get you so far. Eventually you will have to repair whatever is broken to see you through your adventure. Having a needle and thread at hand will ensure just that.
Sewing up that gaping hole that has appeared in your crotch will prevent it from getting any worse. Sewing up the tear that has formed on your tent’s fly will prevent the wind from tearing it further. As well as your clothing, you will also be able to make minor repairs to your backpack should you need to.
8. Seam Repair Kit
Some tents come with their own seam grip repair kits, although you will most likely need to buy one. It is a strong waterproof adhesive that will re-join an un-threaded seam. They normally come with sticky repair patches that can cover holes as well.
There is not a great deal worse than waking up drenched in your tent. In extreme environments it can also be particularly dangerous to your well-being, as staying both dry and warm is essential to survival. So, your ability to repair your tent is of paramount importance.
9. Tent Pole Sleeves
I once hiked in Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia. It is a place that is infamous for the powerful winds that batter the region. I got a taste of this firsthand when gusts exceeding 80 mph bent my tent until the main tent pole snapped into two pieces. Without a tent sleeve I would have had to cancel my trip.
They are cylindrical and are made from the same material as your tent poles. They slide over the break and can then be taped in place.
10. Gorilla Glue
As the name suggests, this stuff is capable of hanging on pretty tight. It is essentially super glue, but on steroids. I carry a little tube of this stuff in case my boots decide to fall apart. It is more than capable of sticking your soles back on if they start to peel off.
You will inevitably find other uses for glue. It can even be used as a substitute for the already-mentioned seam repairer, but only if you have no choice. Pro Tip: Do not glue your own fingers together. It happens surprisingly often.
Related article: Gorilla Glue for Shoe Soles? (Hiking Shoe Quick Fix)
11. Spare Buckles
I could have saved myself a lot of trouble in NZ if I had a bag of variously-sized side-clip buckles with me. Take your backpack down to the local hiking shop and ask for spares for all the different sizes. Or skip this one and just use your…
12. Shoe Laces
Taking care of your feet while backpacking is one of the most important things you can do. Therefore, you also need to take good care of your boots. If one of your laces snaps and you have nothing to repair (or replace) it, you are going to find yourself in a world of trouble.
Shoe laces are wonderfully versatile. As we have seen, they can be used to repair backpacks. Do not, however, think that shoe laces make an adequate replacement for utility cord or guy lines. You just never know when you will need both on the one hike.
13. Guy Wire and Cordlocks
Having spare guy wire and cordlocks are an excellent idea, particularly if you are taking your tent into extreme environments. This will save you from having to unravel that 50-foot utility cord. It will also completely repair your tent, saving you the effort once you return to civilization.
If you are still on non-rechargeable devices, then you ought to have spare batteries with you while out backpacking. It is not going to be a lot of fun if you’re forced to sit in the dark every evening before bed. Nor will it be possible to hike at night. Take some spare batteries, or better yet, convert to rechargeable and take a good power bank with you.
By now your headlamps or torches should be LED. But, if you have been living under a rock, then you may want to source some spare bulbs for your gear. Or better yet, just go and buy some LED’s.
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