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Gear Repair 101 with Yvan Tran

Dear Outdoor Asian family,

Are you stuck at home with nothing to do but dream of the outdoors? YES! ⛰️

Do you have some beloved gear lying around that could use some holiday love?

YES! 👘

Do you have cookies and tea?


Because we have the perfect activity for you this cozy wintertime. Please welcome Yvan Tran of the Outdoor Asian Washington Chapter, our guest contributor for today's guide to repairing your outdoor gear.

As a designer in the clothing industry, Yvan has some serious knowledge on the subject. Pour yourself some hot chocolate, get your torn, ripped, shredded, or dog-chewed gear out, and let's get to it!


Gear Repair 101 with Yvan Tran

Outdoor enthusiasts strive to preserve and protect our environment, to leave no trace, and respect wildlife. We can take this further with our gear. While there is already a market for sustainable gear, such as brands using recycled materials, the cheapest and most eco-friendly way is to repair and maintain the gear you already own. There countless reasons why we should repair our outdoor gear - some of them include:

  1. Cost effectiveness – why spend money on buying brand new gear when you can repair cheaply?

  2. Crucial skill - sewing, patchwork, general handiness with repairs will serve you well on adventures

  3. Eco-friendly - keeping otherwise useable clothing out of landfills and reducing your carbon footprint

This article will explain some fundamental tips to creating a kit for easy, simple repairs that everyone can do.

First thing’s first – give your gear a proper cleaning!

  • Most outdoor gear has special fabric coating to protect us from external factors. Some examples of finishes include abrasion resistance and durable water repellent or DWR. Over time, sweat from our bodies can dissolve these protective coatings on fabrics.

  • Read the care labels on how to correctly wash your gear. Not everything is tumble dry on high heat!

  • Also take note that not everything needs to be washed or cleaned after every use. As mentioned before, the coatings on fabrics will break down, including in the wash. It is suggested that down jackets and sleeping bags should be washed every 50 uses. As an extra step, you can spray on a waterproof coating after every wash (see below on more information about waterproof spray).

Pack a repair kit – in order to repair your gear, you must have the necessary tools.

Items for temporary repair:

  1. Duct tape – also a great item for fire starters

  2. Rubbing alcohol – to clean surfaces

Other items for more permanent repair:

  1. Sewing needle and thread – I recommend the travel kits since these will have not only sewing needles and thread, but also safety pins, straight pins, a tape measure, and more, all in a compact case.

  2. Seam sealer – these will usually come as a small kit like this, or it can come in the form of tape.

  3. Waterproofing spray – these sprays add waterproofing, and sometimes UV protection, to tents, backpacks, and more.

  4. Tenacious Tape – these adhesive patches are great for quickly fixing tears and rips. What’s great about this tape is that it doesn’t leave sticky residue like how duct tape does.

  5. Fabric – I recommend having swatches of ripstop, the fabric used a lot in outdoor gear for patching.

  6. Lighter – a great tool to clean off fabric frays.

  7. Zipper cleaner – for those zippers that always get stuck!

Repair How-To’s

Photo by Tomas Sobek on Unsplash

Zippers: This is one of the more complex and time-consuming fixes, but you can still repair and maintain them.

  • Missing a zipper pull? Use a safety pin or paperclip.

  • Zipper always getting stuck? Lubricate it with lubricant.

  • Zipper came off on one side? While it is possible to repair this yourself, I would want to save time and frustration by first checking the manufacturing warranty. Some companies offer lifetime warranties. Many defective items can be repaired or replaced, if fixable, for free. However, be sure to read the warranties to see what exactly is covered.

Patching: It is inevitable that our outdoor gear will get rips, holes, and tears. This is where Tenacious Tape comes in handy.

  1. Clean the surface around the hole. Let the area dry.

  2. Lay the gear on a flat surface.

  3. Cut the tenacious tape to size.

  4. Peel off the back layer and place the tape over the hole. Be sure to press out any air bubbles.

  5. Let it rest for 24 hours.

  6. Optional: You can repeat above steps on the other side, but if you do not want the tape to be visible, you can do just the back side (inside) of the fabric.

If you do not have Tenacious Tape, you can do it the old-school way and patch some ripstop from under and sew it on.

Photo by adrian on Unsplash

Waterproofing: Waterproofing your gear, such as tents and clothing, will keep you dry for future adventures. Make sure that you are waterproofing on a warm, dry day. For this, you will need the seam sealer and waterproofing spray.

For tents:

  1. Clean the tent.

  2. Pitch the tent.

  3. Seal the seams. Using a seam sealer, apply sealant to interior seams. If using a liquid sealant, wipe off excess if needed, and make sure it completely dries.

  4. Repeat step 3 with the exterior seams.

  5. Waterproof the outside of the tent with waterproof spray.

Photo by Thom Holmes on Unsplash

For clothing:

  1. Clean the clothing.

  2. Lay it flat on a hard surface.

  3. Spray waterproofing on both sides, making sure that one side dries before moving on to the next.

The Bottom Line

Everyone can learn to repair and maintain outdoor gear. We can each do our part to be environmentally sustainable by learning new skills and preventing our gear from going into the landfill. Plus, it will save you money! What’s more, repairing your gear can be a rewarding experience since your gear will have a story to tell with each mend.

Other Things to Note

Check out online resources to learn more on gear repair such as Patagonia’s Worn Wear and REI’s Expert Advice.

If all else fails, take it to your local repair shop.

Photo by Jay Horita

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