Review: Complete Guide to Outdoor Gear Maintenance & Repair

Needle and thread. Shoe Goo. Duct tape. These are things many people have come to really appreciate since the recession took hold. In an effort to save money, and squeeze a little more life out of gear, folks have increasingly performed their own surgery on things like shoes, tents and sleeping bags, rather than shelling out money for new things.

If you’re looking for great repair ideas — or you’re a newbie to fixing gear — I think you should pick up a copy of Backpacker magazine’s Complete Guide to Outdoor Gear Maintenance and Repair (Falcon Guides, $19.95), written by Kristin Hostetter.

Having served as Backpacker’s gear editor since 1994, Hostetter has a wealth of knowledge about all sorts of products. I’ve tested gear with her in the field, and I can tell you that she has a critical eye and practical nature, so she’s a pro at discerning which repairs are important and will actually work. One thing that makes this book particularly strong and engaging is that Hostetter also includes repair stories from Backpacker editors and readers, as well as freelance outdoor writers. Their first-person accounts are fun to read and allow you to tap into the expertise of a wide community of experienced travelers. That’s just one aspect that makes this book stand out from other repair guides.

Here are several more things I liked about the book…

Tried-and-true advice

TAP contributor James Dziezynski shares a repair story in Hostetter's new book

Members of The Adventure Post crew have performed many of the repairs included in the book, and the advice here is solid. The maintenance and repair methods in the book are well-researched, and have been field-tested by many seasoned hikers and outdoor industry pros. Also, the book goes beyond  well-known repairs to include insider tips you might not have encountered. For example, did you know you could repair a leaky hydration bladder with Seam Grip?

Step-by-step directions are easy to understand

I’ve written a guidebook, and I know first-hand it’s not easy to compose instructions. (Any person who has assembled furniture or programmed an electronic device has seen bad technical writing.) I appreciate that Hostetter delivers clear and concise step-by-step instructions, and you won’t find yourself reading a sentence three times to figure out what it means. The book also includes plenty of clear color photos to illustrate the steps for repairs.

Good info on ways to prevent problems

If you maintain your gear properly, you’ll face fewer repair jobs in the field. This book includes wise info on things such as cleaning gear, removing odors, preventing mildew, restoring water-repellent coatings and storing things properly. (Did you know it’s best to store an insulated Therm-a-Rest pad while it’s inflated?) The maintenance tips in this book will probably prove as valuable as the repair instructions.

Helpful shopping tips

At some point, a piece of gear will reach the ragged stage that it just has to be replaced. So Hostetter draws on years of experience to offer shopping tips for all sorts of gear, from sleeping bags to trekking poles. The information is conveyed in a chart, so you can quickly scan the most important features as well as the elements that separate high-end models from those that are less expensive. The book also contains a lot of Gear 101 info, such as boot-fitting tips and the advantages and disadvantages of liquid fuel stoves.

Advice on when to seek a professional

With some complex repairs, it’s best if you send the product to a manufacturer or other professional repair service.  This book includes “Pro Fix” sidebars that tell you when it’s best to seek a pro, where to send a product to be repaired, and how much it could cost. For example, Hostetter identifies cobbler Dave Page in Seattle as the man to seek for serious boot repairs. I’ve interviewed Page for many shoe repair articles, and he is probably the best in the business.

Author Kristin Hostetter has been Backpacker magazine's gear editor since 1994

Lots of cool extras

Peppered throughout the book are interesting snippets of info, like tips on treating stinky sandals. You’ll also find detailed instructions on building a gear-repair table for your garage, plus a breakdown of Hostetter’s own backcountry repair kit.

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