by Diane Spicer
Hiking gear malfunction can be:
Sooner or later, some piece of gear will break or malfunction on a hiking trip.
What will you do with a gear failure?
Why not think it through right now!
Option A: Soldier onward as best you can, and toss that *!?# broken piece of outdoor gear aside once you get home.
Option B: Use field or home repairs to fix broken outdoor gear or ripped hiking clothing.
And while you're pondering dilemmas, consider this one.
Should you buy inexpensive gear?
The answer might be yes if you are:
All other hikers should take gear maintenance seriously, once a chunk of money is invested into it.
Quality gear costs not only your hard earned cash, but also a yearly commitment to inspect and maintain it.
I've seen way too many folks on the trail who don't know how to set up their tent quickly when the weather turns.
Or turn on their stove for the first time.
One of the best ways to avoid trouble on the trail is to be intimately familiar with your hiking gear at home.
Here are a few examples of what I mean:
Try lighting your stove at home in the back yard on a windy and dark night.
Dark night?? Yes, a moonless cloudy night.
Attempt to set up your tent using whatever sticks or branches happen to be available, BEFORE you use those lovely lightweight poles that came with your backpacking tent.
Of course, there's always duct tape if you're not the seamstress type.
You do carry duct tape, don't you?
Another idea: read gear reviews not only before you purchase an item, but afterwards.
You might get a "heads up" on a particular product which fails in a particular way for more than one hiker.
Are you nodding your head in agreement with my examples?
I hope so!
By really knowing your gear, you'll be able to spot trouble right away and have a back up plan in your mind to deal with it.
Don't waste one second on despair!
Although, to be realistic, a hiking gear malfunction might be due to a failure or broken component that is just not repairable.
You'll know one when you see one:
When you're in the middle of a hike or a backpacking trip, you're left to your own resources.
Which includes dealing with hiking gear malfunctions.
So it makes sense to know your gear, inside and out, as outlined above.
It also makes sense to track how old your gear is, and how worn, frayed, or close to the breaking point it has become through seasons of hard use.
That's why Hiking For Her recommends a routine gear inspection at the beginning of every hiking season.
It's a prevention strategy for hiking gear malfunction that costs you nothing but a bit of time.
Any hiker who relies on gear to get them through rugged terrain, unpredictable or difficult weather, and other realities of the trail needs to do regular gear inspections.
Tip: In my experience, zippers are highly vulnerable to breakage and wearing out, so take a really close look at all of yours: packs, jackets, tents, etc.
It's also important to know when your seams are sealed, and when it's time to reinforce them to keep water and grit out.
I have cursed myself for overlooking tent seam sealing duties, and you will as well if you're trapped in a leaky tent.
No way around it!
So spread your gear out on the garage floor or another suitable surface, and inspect the seams, buckles, zippers, clips, and other points of failure.
You're looking for pulled stitches, thinning fabric or heavily worn boot materials, frayed seams, chipped or cracked clips and buckles, missing teeth on zippers, twisted or bent poles, or anything that looks weakened or odd.
To get started on gear repair, try this resource.
The specific type of hiking gear malfunction will dictate whether you can find a replacement part, cannibalize it from gear you already have, glue or sew it back together, or give up.
Here's a short list of the supplies I have on hand to deal with hiking gear repairs:
None of these items are expensive or heavy, but they can save you hours of frustration and possible endangerment when you're dealing with a gear failure.
When your gear breaks in the middle of a hike, you'll learn a lot about yourself.
If a piece of gear fails "catastrophically", that's one thing. Be sure to get in touch with the gear manufacturer and see about a replacement product if it's brand new.
But with older gear, expect failures and breaks to occur.
Your routine inspection, ability to make field repairs and patches, and your repair kit will help you decide whether to fix it, or ditch it.
You have my sympathies as you deal with hiking gear malfunctions.
It takes away your enjoyment of the trail.
But if you look at it as a learning opportunity, it just might make your trail time a deeper experience.
Hiking Gear Malfunction
About the author
Diane is the founder of Hiking For Her.
She's been on a hiking trail somewhere in the world for 5+ decades & loves to share her best hiking tips right here.
All rights reserved.
Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer except where noted.
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