Kristin Hostetter knows a thing or two about gear. As Backpacker Magazine’s Gear Editor for over 15 years, Kristin has put thousands of products through their paces. To share her wealth of experience and knowledge, Kristin wrote a book called the Complete Guide to Outdoor Gear Maintenance and Repair, filled with gear tips, fix-it techniques, and advice from the trail.
It’s all well and easy to read about the proper gear repair technique but the reality is not always as kind. For the book, Kristin wanted to use real world situations, so had readers send in their broken and battered gear for her to fix. Real world, real people, real gear problems. The book hits on all the basic backpacking related gear, from fabric and zipper repair to camping stoves and footwear.
Kristin not only provides fix-it tips for the most common gear problems, but will recommend how to choose new gear if yours is beyond hope or you are the gear obsessed type who wants to test out the latest and greatest. Pulled from her years of experience, Kristin also offers up helpful trail tips such as putting dots of Seam Grip along your sleeping pad to keep from sliding off at night (who knew!).
To properly test out the Complete Guide, I decided to take some of my own broken gear and see if I could follow the advice to fix it myself. Would it really be as easy as Kristin makes it look in the book?
From day one of purchase, I have encountered problems with my Jetboil igniter. If I would have read this book before taking my Jetboil on its inaugural backpacking trip over a year ago, I would not have been stuck sucking on dry coffee grounds to get my caffeine hit. To fix the igniter problem, all I had to do was grab the pliers on my multi-tool and gently coerce the electrode back towards the burner. This has now become part of my regular routine before cooking on my backpacking trips.
Ever since my backpacking trip to Yosemite with Columbia, my hiking pants have been covered in sap. Kristin suggests sticking your pants in the freezer for a few hours for the sap to harden where you can crumble off the larger chunks. After a little scrubbing with some nail polish remover on the remaining gunk, I can now say the sap is gone and I am hoping the sap stain will eventually wash out.
Although most of us quickly turn to Duct Tape to fix any type of gear problem, it can actually do more long term harm than good. As you will see in the book, Seam Grip and Tenacious Tape or Tear Aid are a much better solution and should be in everyone’s repair kit. Kristin does actually give you some good uses for Duct Tape in case you just can’t go without.
I am guilty of not always carrying a repair kit with me but after reading this book, I put together my own lightweight one (Seam Grip, Tenacious Tape, alcohol pads, multi-tool with pliers, tent pole repair sleeve- all in a Ziploc baggie). You never know when it will come in handy and you will quickly come to learn that Seam Grip and Tenacious Tape can fix almost anything.
So, instead of throwing out your gear as soon as it needs repair or taking it back to REI, first check out the Complete Guide To Outdoor Gear Maintenance and Repair to see if you can fix it yourself. If nothing else, you will be rewarded with a big feeling of MacGyver style accomplishment.
Bottom Line: Much like Zinn has become the home bike maintenance bible, the Complete Guide To Outdoor Gear Maintenance and Repair should become a gear room shelf staple for any outdoor enthusiast.
The Complete Guide to Outdoor Gear Maintenance and Repair retails for $19.95 and is available now.