Broken gear is a massive bummer at any time, but when you’re on the mountain, it can be much more than an inconvenience. A broken zipper, a ripped puffy, or any other apparel malfunctions can be the difference between you staying warm during an alpine start and having to stay back at camp while your buddies go for the summit. The fixes in this guide are short-term only, and any gear problems should be professionally addressed once you’re off the mountain.
Repair Kit: What to Carry
As we said, these repairs are short-term solutions, but can be pretty helpful when in the backcountry or on the mountain. But in order to pull them off, there are a few things you’ll want to have with you.
- Multitool: a solid multi-tool with scissors, pliers, a knife, screwdriver, and tweezers is a great addition to any repair kit.
- Repair Tape: made specifically for patching rips and tears in apparel, repair tape is great for fabric of any kind.
- Duct Tape: for non-fabric rips, or to hold key pieces together, you can’t beat duct tape.
- Ski Straps: great for synching broken pieces together, tightening a broken boot, or just strapping items to your pack.
- Extra Pieces: boot laces, zippers, lenses, and other spare parts
Zipper Fix: Loose Slider
If you’ve had your jacket for a while, there is a good chance that eventually the zipper slider will loosen, and maybe even come off its track. Anytime a zipper pulls apart, it’s likely the zipper slider that’s at fault, not the actual teeth of the zipper. If that happens on the mountain, you’ll need a small set of pliers or a multi-tool to fix it. Just slide the slider onto the bottom of the zipper, so that both sides are in the channels, and use the pliers to squeeze the zipper back to a reasonable tightness. Be sure not to overdo it, as a clamped zipper will be a lot harder to loosen once it’s too tight.
While a rip in a base layer or sock isn’t the end of the world, tears in puffys and hard shells can be more serious. Getting soaked through a quarter-sized gap in your jacket or losing insulation through a rip in your down is definitely not ideal. If this happens on the mountain, it’s a good idea to have a bit of patching tape like Tenacious Tape for a quick fix. Clear the ripped area of any dirt or debris, and put your apparel on as flat a surface as you can find. Cut your tape to the right size, about ¼ inch bigger than the tear, and slowly apply it, pressing firmly. If your rip goes through to the other side of the fabric, turn the garment inside out and do the same thing again.
If the laces (or the boa system) on your boot breaks, the best-case scenario is that you have an extra lace and can simply re-thread them. But if that’s not the case, or if your boa system isn’t easy to fix on the fly, a ski strap can do wonders as a short-term fix. Use as much of the broken lace as possible, and tie it wherever it ends on the boot. Then use the ski strap to tighten the upper part of your boot, tightening it more than you would if you were using laces, but not so much that it’s uncomfortable. It’s not a long-term fix by any means, but it should be enough to get you off the mountain.
Hopefully these short-term fixes help you next time your gear breaks down in the field, and as always, happy climbing!