Self-Support: How to Repair Your Bikepacking Gear on Tour
The third instalment of a three-part Self-Support series: Equip yourself with the right tools and knowledge for repairing your camping gear, cooking gear, clothing, and Packs, on tour.
As bikepackers, we must often rely on ourselves when things need repairing on tour. We need to know how to fix our bikes, our equipment, and ourselves – or at least know where to look for help. That’s why we’ve compiled these handy Self-Support guides, with expert advice on how to equip yourself with the right tools and knowledge for when things need repairing.
In the third of our Self-Support Guides, we’re tackling ‘gear’, and showing you how to fix everything from an old bikepacking Pack to a punctured mattress, via a broken stove and a ripped down jacket. We’ll also share advice on how to prevent problems occurring in the first place.
Section 1: Essential Repair Kit
Essential items you should never leave at home on a bikepacking trip. Many of the repairs in this guide rely on them, and while there are often more appropriate alternatives, these are the most adaptable.
Between Duct tape, safety pins and a needle and thread, you should be able to repair anything if you use your imagination.
Section 2: Bikepacking Packs
You don’t need us to tell you how important your Packs are, and as long as you look after them with proper use and due care, the chances of them needing repair are slim. However, due to the nature of bikepacking, sometimes they do need to be repaired in the field. This mini guide should provide solutions to situations that inevitably come up on extended adventures.
Repairing a Hole in Your Pack
- Clean the affected area and allow to dry.
- Cut a patch of repair tape (such as Gear Aid Tape) to the appropriate size, allowing for 2.5cm of space in each direction around the hole.
- Round the edges of the patch to avoid the corners peeling.
- Remove the paper backing from the repair tape and firmly apply to the affected area.
- The repaired Pack may be used immediately but the adhesive will reach full strength in 24 hours.
Fixing a Broken Zipper
If the teeth in your zipper coil become misaligned or damaged, it can make the zipper hard to use – or put extra stress on it, which will cause further problems. Try using a pair of pliers to bend the teeth in the coil back into position. If this doesn’t work, use safety pins around the affected area to protect it from being damaged further by the slider, until a professional repair can be done.
If the thread that binds your zipper to the surrounding fabric fails, the coil begin to separate from the fabric. This can lead to coil damage or a jammed zipper slider. If this occurs, you can use a simple sewing kit to sew the zipper and the fabric back together.
If your zipper slider becomes damaged or bent, we recommend retiring it until you can have it professionally replaced. Pull the zipper all the way open, so the slider is at the bottom, and use safety pins to close the zipper until you can get a replacement.
Preventing Zipper Failures
Most zipper failures can be prevented by taking care of the zipper. Be careful not to put excessive stress on it by over-filling your Packs, running your zipper over hard objects contained inside (such as the edge of a phone), or trying to force it when jammed.
Look for early signs of damage with regular zipper inspections, and clean the coil with a dry toothbrush to keep it free from grit and dirt. Running a graphite pencil over the coil can help to keep it lubricated.
Avoid the temptation to use a liquid lubricant, as they attract grit and cause more damage.
Olivia Cowley, Apidura
Repairing a Delaminated Bond (Welded Fabrics)
- Using sandpaper, create a rough texture on both surfaces, then remove any excess dirt or residue.
- Carefully apply some adhesive (such as Aquaseal or Gorilla Glue) to the back of the fabric.
- Press both sides together firmly.
- Apply pressure with a heavy object to hold the bond in place while the glue sets. The repair should reach full strength after 14 hours.
If you don't think you can execute a repair yourself, try taking it to a local tailor, sewer, upholsterer or dressmaker. These professionals will all have the knowledge required to offer advice and labour in fixing broken textiles.
Section 3: Camping Gear
Your campsite is your portable home, so if any of it breaks, it can be a real issue. Here we break down some of the most common shelter-related failures, and offer advice on how to fix them.
Ripped Tent Fly Sheet
Use Duct tape or Tenacious Tape combined with a needle and thread to repair tears when out in the field. If the flysheet has a silicone coating, it can be difficult to get tape to stick, however, Tenacious Tape works very well.
If fabric swatches are provided with the tent, these can be fixed over the rip with a synthetic adhesive such as cycle puncture repair glue.
Another option is sew the swatch into place, or sew up the hole itself, but be sure to seal with a seam sealant (eg Seamsure) on the inside to prevent water from seeping through the stitching.
Terra Nova Equipment
Broken Tent Pole
A broken tent pole can be a major issue, but you can use zip-ties or tape to splint it until you can find a more long-term replacement.
For the splint, you can use two sticks, tent stakes, tire levers, or anything else that will hold.
Take the splint and position it across the section of pole that has snapped.
Use zip-ties or tape to lash the splint to the pole, ensuring that there is pressure applied all the way along the splint.
Craig Fowler, oneofsevenproject.com
If you have a splintered carbon tent pole, wrap electrical tape around the pole multiple times to restrict the fibres, then splint it as normal. Alternatively, find some plastic tubing to use as a sleeve over the top of the pole.
Poles can corrode and become weak very quickly when exposed to salt water. When camping near the sea it is important to wash the poles in clean, fresh water to help prolong their life.
Broken Tent Zipper
Apply the same methodology used for broken Pack zippers at the start of this guide.
To fix or replace a broken tent zipper you will likely need professional help, but the safety pins from your repair kit can hold a fly or tent flap closed until you can get home.
Dusty conditions or contamination with mud will cause the zips to lose performance and stick. Wash zippers with clean water to remove any debris and use lubricant to help keep it running smoothly.
Terra Nova Equipment
There are two main kinds of inflatable mattress repair kits, one using self-adhesive patches, and one using adhesive glue with non-adhesive patches. Almost every inflatable mattress will come with a repair kit, but you can also buy them from outdoor stores. The principles of use are very similar to that of a punctured inner tube.
- Locate puncture by pouring water over the mattress, or submerging it in a tub.
- Dry thoroughly.
- Wipe with a sterilising wipe to ensure maximum surface cleanliness.
- Allow to dry again.
- Apply patch to hole, holding down your thumb to ensure best contact.
- Cover the adhesive patch in direct contact with the hole with a larger patch for extra protection and seal strength.
- Locate hole, then dry and prepare the patch contact point using the same method above.
- Apply glue (if not supplied by manufacturer, use regular puncture repair kit glue) in a thin layer, one square inch around the hole.
- Allow glue to dry and become sticky (10-20 mins).
- If the glue has been absorbed by the mattress material, apply a second layer and allow to dry again.
- Remove backing film from fabric patch and press directly onto the glue.
- At first, apply pressure to the patch, then allow to set for at least 3 hours.
Click here for an instructional video showing both methods.
"A more lasting repair can be achieved by applying up to three layers of seam sealer over the puncture/small tear. Allow the seam sealer to dry fully between applications. Long tears may need to be stitched closed to hold the sides together before applying sealer and a patch as described."
Section 4: Cooking Gear
Bikepackers aiming for round-the-clock self-sufficiency will often carry everything needed to cook their own meals. Here, we show you how to keep your cooking gear in good working order, and what to do if it breaks.
Preventing Stove Breakages
The best thing you can do to insure yourself against stove breakages is to look after your equipment. This means keeping it clean, attending to any basic maintenance jobs, and making sure it is packed away correctly and securely between campsites.
How much time and effort cleaning a stove requires will depend on your cooking system. For basic systems such as a Trangia, it could just be a case of giving it a rinse and a brush with some wire wool. For more complex stove systems (e.g an MSR multi-fuel burner), it can mean a complete deconstruction, clean, and rebuild. In both cases, however, ensuring you carry out a regular cleaning job is essential.
Never rely on the inbuilt spark plug that come with many stoves, as these can be prone to breaking. Carry an alternate means of ignition, such as a lighter or match.
In the Event of a Stove Failure
If your stove does stop working, and you haven’t been cleaning it regularly, then doing so could give it the kickstart it needs. If there is a clear fault, the next course of action will depend on the nature of the problem, and your stove of choice. Some components, such as rubber seals, nuts, and washers, can be sourced and replaced on the road, but proprietary components relating to specific stoves will often mean that you’ll have to wait for a replacement part to be sent out. If that happens, you have two options.
“Get food that can be eaten without being cooked. Bread, cheese, nuts, chocolate, tinned foods. I use Tentmeals too, which, soaked for 30 mins, can even be readied without warm water. Failing that, try eating at a roadside restaurant late in the day, then quickly find a spot to camp down the road, just before the sun goes down.“
Markus Stitz, Bikepacking Scotland
Make Your Own Stove
There are a number of ways to create your own stove, but the most popular method is to use an old aluminium drinks can. The process involves cutting up an empty can with a razor blade, then reconstructing it to make a simple stove, which runs on methylated spirits (find out how to make one here). They are extremely lightweight, making them a first choice for many bikepackers regardless, and can be made almost anywhere in the world.
Section 5: Clothing
Keep your bikepacking wardrobe up to the task of keeping you protected and comfortable, despite all that life on the road can throw at it.
Patching a Torn Down Jacket
For a quick, temporary repair, first of all try to stop as much of the down material escaping as possible.
If you do catch some of the down material coming out of the hole, gently stuff it back inside and keep the down away from the opening.
Patch the hole as quickly as possible using a textile repair tape (e.g Gear Aid Tenacious Tape), which is small and light enough to carry in your repairs kit.
Cut the tape to a size which will cover the hole or tear, making sure to round the corners. This prevents the corners peeling.
Almost equally as effective, and usually easier to source worldwide, is to use a piece of Duct tape to cover the hole. Beware that this will leave a nasty glue residue on the fabric! Failing that, I’ve been known to use a blister patch from my first aid kit, which has much stronger adhesion than a regular plaster.
These methods can also be used to repair rips in tents, bivvys, mosquito nets and as a temporary fix on waterproof clothing.
Long term, quite a number of manufacturers offer repair services for their products to fix issues like rips, tears or stove burns by replacing the ripped panel or stitching a patch over the hole.
Lottie Watkinson, Montane Product Director
Treating Wet Down
Try not to get any items containing down wet, as it loses almost all of its insulating properties. It’s best to use a lightweight bivvy bag to protect a down sleeping bag, and a waterproof outer shell to protect a down jacket.
If your sleeping bag or down jacket does become wet, place it in a tumble drier on a low heat with two tennis balls and check the item at twenty minute intervals, gently shaking it to help redistribute the down through all the baffles. It’s best to keep doing this for a further 20-40 minutes after it feels dry on the outside, to ensure all the internal material is completely free of moisture.
Lottie Watkinson, Montane Product Director
If you can't get access to a tumble drier, hang your down jacket or sleeping bag in a tree to air it out. Pull it down and shake it around regularly during the drying process to help redistribute the plumes.
If stuff gets wet but your schedule means you need to ride, strap it to the outside of a Pack until it dries, then give it a good shake and pack away.
Repairing Tears in Cotton, Wool and Polyester
Materials like cotton, wool and polyester are much simpler to fix. To ensure a quick trailside repair, I would suggest making sure you are competent with using a needle and thread.
Jon Pettifor, Gore Wear
Basic Stitching Procedure
- Turn the garment inside out, so that you stitch from the inside. Doing so protects the stitches and makes the repair less of an eyesore.
- Make sure the material is laying flat, in position as it would be when joined.
- Knot one end of the thread, and thread the other through the eye of the needle.
- Starting at one end, and leaving a couple of millimetres between the tear and insertion point, press the needle through the fabric.
- Poke it back through on the other side of the tear, again leaving a couple of millimetres between the needle hole and the tear to avoid further fraying.
- Pull needle back through the fabric towards you, until all the thread has been pulled through.
- Move 1-2mm along, and press needle back through the fabric on the same side that you started. This will create a loop over the join, and form the start of the bind. This is known as overstitching.
- Carry on repeating until the length of the tear has been bound together.
- On the last two loops, thread the needle back underneath the loop before you pull it tight. This will keep the repair secure.
- Cut off any excess.
Repairing Waterproof Materials
To repair a tear in a waterproof layer, such as a coat, on the trail, I would reach for some Duct tape, which works surprisingly well for a temporary repair. I tend to wrap some around my pump rather than carrying a whole roll of tape to save weight. Be sure to tape the tear from the inside. This protects the tape a bit more, and also doesn’t look as intrusive.
As a permanent fix, you can repair a tear yourself using a GORE-TEX® patch, which you simply iron over the tear. Alternatively, look at one of a number of companies who offer repairs for waterproof fabrics. Simply search ‘GORE-TEX® repair’ online and you will find them.
Jon Pettifor, Gore Wear
A tried-and-tested field repair for waterproof materials is to stitch the hole closed using the same technique as above, then applying a generous layer of some sort of sealant over the top of the stitch. McNett’s Seamsure is a good option, as is any silicone sealant.
Josh Cunningham, Apidura