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Backpacker Magazine – December 2007

Make Your Gear Last Forever

Backpacker's Ultimate Fix-It Guide

by: Annette McGivney, Illustrations by Supercorn

PAGE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

fix icon

fix icon
Fix it

fix icon
Clean it

fix icon
Make it

We should all hope to have camping equipment that requires regular TLC. It means we're hiking a lot, because even the very best gear gets worn–even broken–with hard use. To make your stuff go the extra mile, tear out our illustrated guide to the 55 most common repairs and maintenance musts. You'll get expert advice for preventive care, proper storage, and lots of inexpensive fixes. We guarantee you'll save money and upgrade well-loved gear–and you'll never have to abort a trip due to a balky stove or leaky tent.


fix iconStuck zipper
stuck zipperAccumulated dirt and grime causes zippers to snag. In the field, brush them off before pulling the slider. At home, clean the teeth with water and a toothbrush, or a vacuum cleaner. Don't apply any lubricant to zippers–it will only attract more grit. Occasionally the looped wires form the zipper tracks will bend or separate under duress. Bob Upton, owner of Rainy Pass Repair, says you can simply straighten the damaged coils with a knife or needle.

fix icon No More Mold
"Have you ever pulled a tent out of the stuff sack and it smells like vomit?" asks MSR product manager Terry Breaux. "That's the smell of moisture breaking down the waterproof coating." Even a few drops of condensation can cause mildew to grow, so never store a wet tent. After a rainy or humid night, drape the fly over a tree and turn the tent on its side to let the sun dry the bottom. At home, hang the tent on a clothesline or shower rod. Once it's dry, store it loosely in a cotton pillowcase or mesh storage sack.

fix iconEliminate mildew (Online Bonus)
Kill black-spotted mildew with this cleaning regimen, which will remove the mold, though not the stain.

  • Mix one cup of Lysol household cleaner into one gallon of hot water (1:16 solution). Pitch the tent and clean it inside and out. Do not rinse–let it dry.
  • Cleanse the fabric by mixing one-cup table salt and one-cup lemon juice (concentrate is okay) into one gallon of hot water. Scrub the tent inside and out with this solution, then rinse the entire tent with a garden hose.

fix iconRemove pine sap
Scrub off sticky stuff with a sponge soaked in mineral oil, then rinse the spot thoroughly with hot water to remove the residue.

fix icon Restoring the floor (Online Bonus)
Just as seam tape will eventually crack and peel, so will the waterproof coating on your tent floor. You can restore the floor and get a few more seasons' use out of it by using a pot scrubber to rub off as many loose flakes as possible. Then sponge off the floor so it is completely clean and allow it to dry. Using a foam brush apply McNett Tent Sure or some other DWR product that is designed specifically for restoring tent floor waterproof coatings (available at most outdoor stores).

fix icon Maintain a waterproof barrier
Invest in a footprint designed for your tent, or build your own using Tyvek or painter's plastic. Even a thin barrier will extend the life of the tent floor and prevent ground soaking during heavy rain, says NOLS gear manager Kevin McGowan, who has been in charge of issuing and repairing NOLS trip equipment for more than two decades. In addition, keep DEET-based bug dope away from the tent fabric. Exposure to that solvent will eat away at the nylon's waterproof coating.

Fact or Myth?
Q: Rolling is better than stuffing.
A: Fact! "Stuffing is bad practice," insists Mountain Hardwear product manager Chris Hilliard "Repeatedly cramming a tent into a stuffsack creates a lot of small radius bends in the fabric. These small edges end up being subjected to far more abrasion and moisture than the coating would be if the tent were folded." The traditional argument against folding has been that permanent creases weakened the fabric, but Hilliard says this is preposterous. "It would be impossible to fold the tent in the exact same place every single time," he claims. MSR's Terry Breaux, a 20-year veteran of tent design and repair, agrees with Hilliard that rolling is the best option, because it eliminates micro-creases and segregates the dirty floor from the rest of the tent. Now make like the entire BACKPACKER staff and scurry to your gear closet to re-pack your tent.

PAGE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

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Aug 28, 2012

DO NOT listen to the recommendation from John regarding putting the footprint INSIDE the tent. His reasoning, that a regular footprint will create a bathtub, makes no sense, and if you put the FP inside, then puncture a hole in the actual tent, water will still seep inside causing the very problem he discusses (bathtub). If you are going to take one, listen to everyone else and use it as intended, outside and beneath the tent. I'm like most others, depending on the situation I may or may not take one.

For a long trip where weight is an issue I leave it, but for shorter hikes I prefer to have it. When there are two or more in our party we split up the gear (like fire starters, water purification and food stores) and one takes the footprint while the other packs the tent, that way if there's a separation the second person can make a quick shelter if need be. It's also great on protracted afternoon showers to create a quick retreat where we can fix lunch and enjoy the surroundings.

Apr 03, 2012

the idea of using a tent footprint under your tent is asking to make your tent into bath tub. water driving by a little wind or where part of the footprint is exposed causes water to fill the space between the the footprint and the bottom of the tent. no tent bottom is of totally water proof for long.(micro holes caused by sand) A better and cheaper idea is to cut a piece of plastic to fit the inside of the tent. This layer can be replaced as needed. so you will a thicker replaceable water proof layer between you and the ground

Apr 03, 2012

You do not need the grommets in your plastic sheet footprint to help protect the bottom fabric from wearing out sooner, just cut it so it matches the bottom. If you want to use the above idea keep in mind that most footprints use nylon straps so the only the strap goes to the pole. This helps keep it from collecting water. If you want to use the above idea with plastic sheet you should consider trimming only a thin width of plastic out to the pole and reinforcing this area with either clear packing tape or duct tape before installing the grommet.

Brian Preston
Apr 03, 2012

I am disappointed at the print option for these wonderful tips. There's way too much white space and pointless icons (I get that you have to sell ads to stay in business) so the print-outs are about twice as long as needed--wasting the trees I want to see when I hike. Your online print options need to be reconsidered and streamlined.

Eliza Winters
Jan 09, 2012

Thanks for all the great tips on how to care for outdoor adventure products. Getting all of the gear can be a huge investment and it is a shame that people do not care for it well enough and end up buying new equipment every year. I would rather invest in lasting equipment than spend more, in the end, repurchasing cheaper products.

Aug 01, 2011

As an added step to the hydration bladder hanging tip, instead of wrapping the rough edges with duct tape, use a open flame to melt the rough edges to create a smooth tip.

Apr 15, 2011

I've found that washing my sack, sleeping bags, mats etc by hand with no or light detergent like organic soaps with out caustic chemicals then I hang dry my items until bone dry then put away. Sometimes with dryer sheets or ceder blocks sandwiched in. But this is not required for neutral smelling gear.

Mar 01, 2011

@ Joe Jul 20, 2010 MiraZym helps really well against mold/mildew on sleeping bags/tents/pads

Jul 20, 2010

Anyone know how to get rid of mold/mildew on sleeping bags/tents/pads?? I had some mold start growing in my basement, and of course it was where my equipment was. Any ideas on cleaning my equipment without destroying my equipment? Thanks!

ryan b.
Apr 29, 2009

When cleaning a hydration system, pull out the hose from the balader, with a pair of pailers, so you can clean the whole hose,

Apr 27, 2009

Contemporary fabric softeners tend to be based on quaternary ammonium salts with one or two long alkyl chains, a typical compound being dipalmitoylethyl hydroxyethylmonium methosulfate.[2] Other cationic compounds can be derived from imidazolium, substituted amine salts, or quaternary alkoxy ammonium salts. One of the most common compounds of the early formulations was dihydrogenated tallow dimethyl ammonium chloride (DHTDMAC). I looked it up. see Wikipedia cut n paste. no animal fat here.

Mar 03, 2009

Under "Pole problems (Online Bonus" it should read "splint the broken pole," not "split the broken pole."

Feb 04, 2009

no, eric's right - the first posting says mentions washing in a top-loading washer. the second posting specifically says to never do this. (the second is the right one; never wash a sleeping bag in a top-loading washer)

Sean Columbus OH
Jan 19, 2009

A point about dryer sheets, the main ingredient in them is rendered animal fat (look it up people) so you may smell pretty good to a bear. In areas with uber predators, keep smell to a minimum, in camp and on your person.

Dec 14, 2008

Uhm, not really Eric. It just says to wash them.. sparingly. And then it tells you how. :B

And no, Anon, I don't think dryer sheets would attract bears. They smell more chemically than delicious or even edible.

Anyway, this article is great! Wow, so many tips. I suppose it's okay to store bags and pads rolled/stuffed if they're clean and dry and in a dry indoor closet, right? Plus my Thermorest doesn't have foam.

Nov 03, 2008

"Wash Synthetics Sparingly" and "Wash and Dry a Sleeping Bag" on Page 6 have contradictory statements. Any thoughts there?

Sep 03, 2008

As a Scout leader I store a lot of gear in a special shed we built for that purpose. For storing the good sleeping bags I've hung a net hammock from the walls and lay the bags out on it. Same for the self-inflating mattresses. It allows air to circulate around them and helps them keep their loft.

rusty j
Aug 28, 2008

toe caps can be made a spray can of undercoating for cars , prep with alcohol and mask

Jul 07, 2008

Generally Salami works best fighting back against bears.

May 29, 2008

If you store your Camelbak bladders in the freezer, make sure to leave the bite valves on or defrost the bladders before you want to use them. Trying to cram a bite valve back into a frozen/smaller tube can turn into a wrestling contest when you'd rather be outside.

Tom McDaniel
May 11, 2008

A toe cap can be made as described above using Performix Plasti Dip,( Home Depot) which is a liquid plastic type paint that one dips one's tool handles into to create a durable and insulating rubber like coating. It comes in six colors including black.
Just mask the boot toe and paint it on, several layers work best.

Apr 23, 2008

Wouldn't this add a scent that might attract bears?

Ron Pope
Apr 06, 2008

I store my tents and sleeping bags with a few plys of dryer fabric sheets, I prefer Bounce, for a fresh smell after storage.


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