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Tips and equipment insights from Kristin Hostetter grace almost every page of our annual Gear Guide—just as they have for 18 years. Heck, she practically invented this issue. Since 1994, our gear editor has tested thousands of products and fixed more stuff than most hikers will ever own. That’s why we asked her to write our latest book, The Complete Guide to Outdoor Gear Maintenance and Repair ($20; falconguides.com). The troubleshooting manual covers more than 300 maintenance tips, repairs, and gear upgrades for hikers, campers, paddlers, and climbers. Here, she shares the core ingredients of her perfect repair kit; add or subtract items to customize it for your trip’s conditions and gear list.
» “A multitool with scissors—which are hard to improvise in the field—simplifies repairs like trimming fabric patches,” says Hostetter. “I like Leatherman’s Juice S2 ($65; 4.4 oz.; leatherman.com). It also has good pliers and a three-inch blade for slicing salami.”
» There are 1,001 uses for McNett’s Seam Grip ($7; 1 oz.; mcnett.com), from sealing boot soles to patching tents and reinforcing ultralight fabrics.
» “Include a few Type A Tear-Aid Repair Patches ($10; 1.2 oz.; tear-aid.com),” advises Hostetter. “Elastic and transparent, they stick to almost any fabric, even silnylon.” Toss in a couple of alcohol wipes, too; cleaning surfaces before patching makes repairs last longer.
» A tent pole repair sleeve is light, cheap, very rarely used—and almost impossible to DIY on the trail. Most tents come with one, but you can also buy them at any outdoor shop for a couple bucks. Tip: Bring a pole to the store so you’re sure to buy a sleeve of the proper diameter.
» A busted hipbelt buckle or blown section of webbing can ruin a trip. Carry a replacement hipbelt buckle (sized to match your pack), a Slik Clip, and a ladder lock with a slit, which are designed to join pieces of webbing without sewing (various prices; mcnett.com/gearaid).
» Using a liquid-fuel stove? Fix dinner-killing leaks by packing a few O-rings (found in the repair kit that came with your stove or at an outdoor shop for pennies).
» Store everything in a freezer-weight zip-top bag. It’s lightweight, waterproof, cheap, and see-through, so you can get to your supplies quickly.
» Desiccant packs draw sensor-busting moisture out of wet electronics. Seal the affected gizmo in a zip-top bag with a few packets (pilfer them from your dehydrated meals!).
» Wrap three feet or so of duct tape around a bottle, pencil, or trekking pole for fixing and making things. “I’ve fashioned zipper pulls, removed cactus spines, even twisted a length to create a guyline,” says Hostetter.
» Clean camera, sunglass, or goggle lenses with a microfiber cloth. Avoid using wood-based tissues or paper towels, which can cloud expensive optics with microscratches.