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How to Fix a Zipper, Restore Worn Heels, Patch Holes and Tears

How to fix a zipper, restore worn heels, patch holes and tears, and keep a head lamp or flashlight shining. Check out these four quick tips from "Backpacker’s Complete Guide to Outdoor Gear Maintenance and Repair" by Kristin Hostetter.

Let’s face it: shiny new gear is awesome, and who doesn’t love browsing outdoor shops brimming with shelf after rack of enticing new products touting the latest technologies? But whether it’s budgetary constraints, environmental concerns, or your inner MacGyver coming out, there are loads of reasons to keep your old gear in good working order.

Enter Backpacker’s Complete Guide to Outdoor Gear Maintenance and Repair by Kristin Hostetter. It’s bursting with dozens of DIY fixes and life-prolonging tips on everything from rain gear to shelters to packs, bags, boots and stoves. Here are a few quick tips to get you started.

Zipper fix

Fixing a zipper. Photos by Meg Erznoznik and Kristin Hostetter, courtesy of Falcon Guides.

After years of use, a zipper slider can become misshapen. A simple (but strong) squeeze with needle-nose pliers can get it back in the race, albeit temporarily.

Back the zipper all the way into the open position, then squeeze one side at a time, gently at first. Keep trying the zipper to see if it closes, and then apply increasing pressure as needed. Be sure to apply equal pressure on both sides of the slider.

Eventually that slider will need to be replaced, but this trick can eke some more life out of it.

Restoring worn heels

Restoring a worn boot heel. Photos courtesy of Falcon Guides.

Many people experience undue wear in the heels of their hiking shoes and boots. There is an easy, three-step way to restore worn heels to help maintain traction.

  1. Apply a piece of clear tape to the perimeter of the heel to make a dam. Squirt a generous amount of Gear Aid Freesole into the cavity.
  2. Use a plastic knife to gently feather the adhesive, then set the boots perfectly level so the goo can spread evenly. Let it cure for 48 hours.
  3. Remove the tape and you have a brand-new heel.

Patching holes and tears

Patching a tear or hole. Photos courtesy of Falcon Guides.

Most sleeping pad problems happen in the middle of a backcountry trip, so the fix needs to happen fast. After a grueling night of sleeping on your flat pad, start this simple, four-step fix.

  1. Use a round adhesive patch (e.g. Gear Aid Tenacious Tape, or Tear-Aid). Remove the backer and mix a dollop of Seam Grip and a few drops of water.
  2. Apply the mixture to the hole.
  3. Apply the patch with firm pressure.
  4. Weight it down with the heaviest rock you can find and go hiking for the day. When you come back, it should be good to go.

Keep head lamps shining

How to dry out a wet headlamp or flashlight.  Photo courtesy of Falcon Guides.

If your head lamp or flashlight gets wet (all too often in the Northwest) and water finds its way into the battery pack, the contacts can develop corrosion.

You can prevent this by immediately drying out your lamp; just open the battery pack, remove the batteries and towel-dry the inner chamber, as well as the batteries.

Let it rest for a few hours so any residual moisture can evaporate.

If corrosion develops—often vivid blue gunk where the batteries meet the metal contacts—use a dry, stiff metal brush or sandpaper to gently scrub it off. Be sure that you don’t bend the contacts in the process.

Excerpts from Backpacker’s Complete Guide to Outdoor Gear Maintenance and Repair. Photos by Meg Erznoznik and Kristin Hostetter, courtesy of Falcon Guides. $19.95

This article originally appeared in the Oct+Sept issue of Washington Trails Magazine. Support trails as a member of WTA to get your one-year subscription to the magazine.