Your outdoor gear is bound to accumulate a few tears, dings and dents over the years. While some flaws mean the end of an item; others can be fixed with minimal effort and a little knowhow. Unless you want to spend a fortune every year replacing salvageable hiking and camping gear, consider these tips for when to retire or repair worn-out items.
Waterproof clothing: If you have a small rip or tear in your waterproof clothing, there's no need to throw it out. Simply use a dedicated repair patch to fix the defect. In a pinch, you can even use duct tape to seal a moderately sized tear. If the clothing is "wetted out," you can clean and treat it to restore the durable water repellent. If the clothing has delaminated, however, you will probably need to replace it. If it's a quality product made by a major brand, consider contacting the manufacturer about a potential replacement credit if the item has delaminated within five years of your purchase.
Hardware: You can generally repair hammocks, backpacks, tents and anything else made of fabric. On the other hand, it's not always so easy to replace broken frames, poles and critical components made of plastic or metal. Some companies will provide after-sale service that allows you to get replacement parts. Broken stitches are generally covered by warranties. That said, torn fabrics should be patched rather than stitched to ensure that they can hold up to stress. If there is any concern that a flaw will lead to product failure while you're hiking, climbing or camping, seek a replacement before you head outdoors.
Tents: Most quality tents will last quite a while if you take good care of them. If your tent smells like mold or mildew, you can easily solve the problem by spraying it down with vinegar. Most manufacturers make it easy to order broken components online. Unfortunately, sunlight is the most likely thing to force your tent into retirement. Tents are usually treated to resist UV rays. In time, however, this coating will wear off. If your tent fabric appears discolored, it's a sign that the UV protection has worn out. When this occurs, it's time to get a new tent.
Sleeping mats: Inflatable air mats are notorious for springing leaks in the middle of trips or the middle of the night. With a little practice, you can fix the leaks yourself by saturating the pad with soapy water and then looking for tiny bubbles. Once you find the hole, clean the area with alcohol and then cover it with a waterproof sealant and adhesive. If you simply can't locate the source of the leak, you can contact local vendors to see if they offer a patching service. If you have no luck, it's time to purchase a new mat. After all, an air mat is pretty useless if it won't hold air.
Cooking gear: Dings and dents can add character to your pots and utensils. As long as they aren't contaminating food, there's no reason to throw them out. That said, you should be careful with your portable camping stove, especially if you've had it a few years. Before heading out for your outdoor adventure, carefully inspect the stove, looking closely for fuel leaks. If you find one, retire the entire item right away and purchase a reliable replacement from a reputable manufacturer.
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