It’s a Saturday evening in San Francisco. The sunset is incredible, I’ve just opened a beer, cranked up the stereo (Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, in case you were wondering), and I’m getting to the Saturday night business at hand: sewing up the pockets of my favorite hiking shorts. The left pocket developed an iPhone-dropping-sized hole last summer, and this summer the right pocket starting leaking coins. I thought about walking down the street to a tailor’s shop or sending the shorts back to the East Bay factory in which they were made, but I have a great sewing kit and, well, it’s fun to fix your own stuff.
Or at least, I think so. Back in the 1990s when wetsuits were still sorting out issues with seam tape and glues, and we couldn’t afford to buy new ones, my teenaged friends and I would sew up holes with dental floss, repair flopping seam tape with superglue. Ding repair was a weekly ritual, mixing up batches of hot resin to slop over patches of fiberglass on cracked surfboards. Maybe that’s where my love of gear fixing came from.
Back then, discount websites weren’t really a thing. Gear seemed more expensive. Plus, brands these days largely have excellent warranty programs. Today, if an REI tent rips a couple years after you’ve bought it, REI will probably take it back and give you credit toward something new. Patagonia will straight up repair your busted Patagonia apparel or clean old, functional apparel (within reason) to somebody else at a discount through their Worn Wear program.
But there’s something satisfying about fixing and re-using gear. I had an REI Half Dome tent for many years that, soon after I got it, suffered a bent tent pole and a rip in the rainfly. I have no doubt REI would have just replaced it or repaired it for free. But I learned how to repair a tent pole and how effective tent patches are, when applied properly, anyway. The tent seemed like a well-worn part of my outdoor gear family and I cherished it a little bit more. When a seam started to fail in a Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer I dearly love, rather than mailing it to the factory, I carefully stitched the seam back together with a contrasting bit of thread. Looks rad now, and isn’t shedding feathers.
What about you? Does your down parka boast duct tape patches? Or are you more likely to send it in for professional repair? Or just get something new? No judging.
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photo: Maxim Selyuk