Outdoor gear is meant to be put through the wringer. When it seems like it’s on its last legs, there’s always a way to squeeze a little more life out of your favorite puffy jacket, tent, or backpack. My dad taught me that you can repair anything with one of three things: duct tape, zip ties, and WD-40. While quick fixes with those products can prove invaluable in a pinch, the repair options on this list, however, offer longer-lasting solutions to fixing your equipment that require no sewing or special skills. Lengthening the life of your gear helps save money and keep still useable products out of the landfill. Here are the tools I use when my stuff needs a little TLC.
Noso Gear Repair Patches ($8 and Up)
Best For: Small rips, tears, and holes on apparel
A favorite of Outside Gear Guy Joe Jackson, Noso’s stick-on patches allow you to repair a rip or tear easily: just peel, stick, and set with heat—it’s that simple. Afterward you can wash your gear as directed by the manufacturer (according to Noso, its patches can handle more than five times as many spin cycles as duct tape). Because they’re made of flexible nylon or polyester, they move and stretch better with your gear or garment. Plus, they don’t fray, and they’re weather resistant. Perhaps the biggest appeal, though, are the designs. With a variety of cool images to choose from—food, outdoor objects, animals, shapes, and art (my favorites are the moon, donut and bandage patches)—you can slap one on to a garment to add some personality, even if your jacket doesn’t have a rip.
Gear Aid Tenacious Tape Repair Tape ($5 and Up)
Best For: Bigger rips in equipment
For longer rips or torn seams that a Noso patch won’t cover—like a six-inch tear in your rain fly or hammock—Tenacious Tape is one of the best gear-repair tools out there. It’s a durable peel-and-stick fabric tape with a waterproof coating that adheres to nylon, vinyl, polyester, fleece, rubber, non-oiled leather, and Gore-Tex. Machine-washable after 24 hours, this barely noticeable fix will add years of life to your gear, making it an outdoor repair kit essential. The most versatile option is to go with the clear roll, but it’s also available in a variety of colored strips.
Sea to Summit Field Repair Buckle ($6 and Up)
Best For: Mid-adventure buckle fixes
Replace a worn-out or busted buckle on the fly with Sea to Summit’s two-pin side-release replacement. No sewing, cutting, or disassembling is required—simply slide the stainless-steel bar through the sewn loop on your hipbelt, drybag, backpack, or any other gear with a broken buckle, and screw it into place with a Phillips screwdriver. Available in three sizes (three-quarters of an inch, one inch, and two inches), this is a fix that won’t require any more of your attention once it’s been swapped out. There’s also a one-pin side-release version.
Gear Aid Seam Grip Waterproof Sealant Adhesive ($10)
Best For: Leaky spots
Seam Grip is glue for your outdoor gear. It creates a flexible, yet durable rubber seal in hard-to-patch places. Safe for use on natural and synthetic fabrics, it bonds to nylon, polyester, canvas, leather, and vinyl, so it’s great for worn-out rainwear, sealing tent seams, and fixing leaky holes in your air mattress. It cures by reacting to the humidity in the air, and the process takes around 12 hours, although you may want to leave it alone for up to 24 hours just to be safe. Depending on how skilled you are with the brush-tip application, it might not be the prettiest repair, but it will surely extend the life of your tent.
Zipper Rescue Zipper Repair Outdoor Kit ($13)
Best For: Replacing a faulty zipper pull
Zipper Rescue has been saving broken zipper pulls since the mid-1990s. Compatible with coil and plastic-tooth zippers, this kit comes with a variety of standard pull sizes that let you swap out damaged sliders and bring your gear’s zippers back to life. The kit works with both separating and closed-in zippers, supplying universal top and bottom stops as well as a handy drawn-to-scale guide that helps you select the right parts for your item. Repairs can be done using standard pliers (needlenose work best). While it’s great for those specific issues, if your zipper has broken teeth or the retainer box (the “box and pin” mechanism at the bottom of your jacket zipper) is busted, you’ll need more than just this kit.
Gear Aid Tenacious Tape Mesh Patches ($6)
Best For: Fixing mesh tears on tent screens and bug netting
Each pack comes with two weather-resistant, three-inch-round peel-and-stick patches that allow you to repair small rips or holes. Make sure the area you’re mending is clean and dry, then affix the patch with a bit of pressure around the edge. If you’ve got a nasty tear, add the second patch to the back side for reinforcement. The patch doesn’t go unnoticed, though—the white outer ring remains visible. (But hey, no fraying!)
Nikwax TX Direct Spray-On Water-Repellent Treatment ($15 and Up)
Best For: Giving your water-repellent gear a refresh
When you notice that water is soaking through (rather than beading off) your rain gear, it’s time to bring it back to life. I’ve recommended Nikwax before, because it’s a quick and simple way to re-up the waterproofing on your expensive Gore-Tex rain jacket or rain fly. This water-based and biodegradable DWR treatment doesn’t compromise your garment’s breathability and will work to ward off dirt, grease, oil, and water. The spray applicator allows you to apply the water-repellent formula exactly where you need it, and although it may not last as long as a wash-in treatment, it won’t jeopardize the liner or pores of Gore-Tex or eVent membranes, which is why I think it’s the better option.
Bonus: Backpacker’s ‘Complete Guide to Outdoor Gear Maintenance and Repair’ ($16)
From big fixes to regular maintenance, learn how to repair your outdoor gear the right way from Kristin Hostetter, Backpacker magazine’s former gear editor for over two decades (and the current editorial director of Outside Business Journal). In this 200-page book, Hostetter teaches you how to make lasting repairs to everything from fabrics to boots, tents, sleeping pads, kitchenware, stoves, and more. With step-by-step instructions and color photos that make following along easy, this book is a valuable resource for any hiker, camper, or outdoorsperson who wants to learn a few new skills and make their repairs look good and last longer.