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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 Loose zipper (Online Bonus)
A worn slider can loose traction, resulting in a tent door or pack lid that won't stay shut. You can fix the problem in the field with multitool pliers. zipperOpen the zipper all the way to the bottom and gradually apply pressure to both sides of the slider. Repeat until the slider grips the track securely. Warning: Over-tightening the slider could permanently warp the coils. At home, replace the slider using the Mountain Hardwear Zipper Repair Clamp (see "Products"), or send it to a professional repair shop (see "Resources").

fix iconTorn mesh side pocket
To fix ripped mesh or webbing, sew it back together with a large needle and #46 or #69 bonded nylon thread (dental floss and medical suture also work). Use the first few stitches to close the tear–if it's large and the edges are frayed, run the stitches from the outer edges of the pocket, where thread will hold securely. Sew horizontally over the gap, then repeat with vertical stitching to create a grid-like patch.mesh

fix iconKeep it clean (Online Bonus)
Any properly used pack should spend most of its field time in the dirt, but excessive mud and grit–especially when it's left on post-trip–will take a toll on pack performance. Caked-on dirt will eventually degrade the pack fabric's DWR coating and grit in zippers will wear out the sliders. Brush your pack off periodically in the field and give it a bath at home at least once a season (see "Cleaning" below). Also, double bag any liquids–especially hard-to-clean items like olive oil and DEET-based repellents–to prevent any leaking onto pack fabric.

fix iconpack Pamper your pack
Tossing your pack around like a gym bag will shorten its lifespan. "Always lift it by the haul loop just below the top lid," says Mountain Hardwear pack designer Eric Hamerschlag. "That's what the loop is there for." If your pack is too heavy, get help from a hiking partner or prop it on a truck tailgate or log. Or lift it using a simple method that protects both your pack and your spine: Bend one leg into a shallow lunge; pick up the pack by the haul loop and place it on your front, bent thigh, making sure the shoulder straps are facing you. With one hand still on the haul loop, twist your torso and slide one arm through the far shoulder strap; then bend forward to shift the weight onto your back and slide the other arm through the strap.

fix icon Stop abrasion (Online Bonus)
The quest for ultralight packs means thinner fabrics that are more prone to abrasion. Backpacker editors have found that, generally, pack exteriors made from 70 denier Cordura or less will be too flimsy for rough trips like slot canyoneering, tight scrambling, bushwhacking. Bring your thrasher pack on those trips, and save your ultra-light hauler for the open country.

Fact or Myth (Online Bonus)
Q: The safest place for an empty pack is zipped up inside your tent.
A: Myth! Empty packs can retain food odors, crumbs, and sweat-soaked pack straps prized by sharp-nosed rodents. Hang your pack from a tree branch or keep it off the ground at night, and when you're absent from camp during the day.

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.

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