Repair Stories

Wilderness Wear and Boot Repair

I get “Heidi-syndrome” when I don’t get out on the trail often enough. For me, nothing cures the heart like mountains.

I am a hiker. I live on the coast of California—an ecological sweet spot: three hours from the Sierras, four to Yosemite, and five to Joshua Tree. My backpack is always packed and ready to go, just in case I get a chance to hit the trail.

And recently, I did. But somewhere on a hike in the Grand Canyon, I felt something give in my soul… er, sole. My boots have been through a lot—weekend hikes, snowshoeing in high country, and dozens of backpacking trips. And it looked like they’d hiked their last.

I’m a sentimentalist when it comes to my gear. My boots aren’t the fanciest to hit the trail, but they set me back more than enough green when I first purchased them. My attachment goes beyond money, though: these boots have left footprints—little imprints of me—all over the Western US. Six states.

I feel like I owe it to them to have another chance.

So instead of just hosing them off and tossing them by the door, I decided to have a second look. The damage wasn’t really that bad. A bit of peeling in the left toe and some torn webbing that holds the laces on the right. No big deal.

I’m the clothing repair expert around iFixit, but hiking boots aren’t exactly in my repertoire. So I did some asking around. Of all the ideas I got, a quick sugru patch seemed the most reasonable. Lo and behold, after just 20 minutes, my boots were patched. It took 24 hours more for the patch to cure, but my shoes are now sitting next to my gear—ready to go on our next adventure.

Boot repair using sugru
Sugru has guides, like this one, on how to repair your trusty trail gear with their moldable rubber. Photo by Sugru.

All this business with repairing my boots got me to thinking. We have some really great iFixit guides on clothing repair, but less on repairing gear and tactical garments. I thought we ought to change that. Because out in the wild, it’s our gear that we depend on most.

I’ve learned the hard way that everything breaks—usually when you least expect it. So when I’m out backpacking and camping, I always pack an emergency sewing kit (I am, of course, partial to Patagonia’s Expedition Kit—but any basic, compact kit will do).

Still, a sewing kit isn’t any good if you don’t know how to use it. So we are continuing our partnership with Patagonia to bring you a few guides that you might need for a wilderness emergency. We’ve got guides on repairing your tent, using an awl to make repairs to tough fabrics (like backpack straps), sewing velcro strips on your gear back into place, and more.

We still need tons more guides for a complete set of wilderness repair hacks. That’s where you come in. If you’re a gear guru—or simply have a great fix from one of your last excursions—we’d love to hear about it. Make a guide or share a story in the comments. Sharing just might help someone else keep their gear going strong for many adventures to come.