Travel Repair kit

A compact and lightweight travel repair kit should always be at the bottom of your backpack. Stuff has a nasty tendency to break at the most inopportune moment. 

With a few key items, basic sewing skills and some creativity it’s possible to fix almost anything at least temporarily. Maximizing the lifespan of your gear is also a key aspect of reducing your footprint, let alone leading a frugal lifestyle. The repair kit list below shouldn’t cost you more than 20$, excluding the pocket knife.

Pocket Knifes And Multi Tools

budget pocket knifes multi tools
A useful tool: scissors

The foundation of any decent travel repair kit is a small selection of essential tools. We’ve covered pocket knifes and multi tools in a separate article. Long story short, a simple quality blade and a pair of mini scissors will cover you in most situations. For an extended range of options that includes cutting plastic, wood and metal, add a wood saw and a metal file. A hole puncher can also be of great help occasionally. Basically, something like the Victorinox Ranger.

Repair Kit Essentials:

Small Needles. A small needle or two is sufficient to mend your favorite clothes on the road. Throw in a few sewing pins for more complex tasks. To protect your repair kit and fingers, fit them inside a square of cardboard.

At the core of any good repair kit: a varied selection of needles & thread
Heady Duty Needles are essential for thicker fabrics such as backpacks. But even then it might be difficult to pierce through certain materials. This is where the curved needle comes in handy. Its shape gives you a lot of leverage and more options for less than ideal angles. A fumble is optional, but doesn’t weigh much and facilitates longer sewing tasks. Small multi tool pliers can be of great help too to pull through a stuck needle.

Repair Kit Essentials:

Lightweight Thread. Polyester has an excellent strength-to-size ratio and is elastic. It makes an excellent general purpose repair thread. It’s inexpensive too. Nylon works as well, but polyester is more resistant to UV and mildew, thus making it more suitable for outdoor activities.

broken backpack
What to do? Some repairs need heavy duty thread
Heavy Thread for fixing backpacks, tents, shoes, etc. A thicker polyester thread is usually sufficient. Sometimes waxed thread can be purchased locally too. Waxing improves strength and water resistance, and works well for hand stitching jobs. For particularly heavy duty repairs we like to carry some kevlar thread. It’s twice as strong as polyester and stretches little. They can be cannibalized from old paragliding wings if you can get your hands on one.

Repair Glue

Super Glue, usually acrylate based, is cheap and commonly available almost everywhere. This makes it a good default repair glue. We always carry a tube or two. Use it to repair old shoes, delaminating flip flops, broken sunglasses, cracked buckles, etc. As a bonus, it can be used in emergency situations to close bigger open wounds, thereby nicely complementing your first aid kit.

travel repair kit glue
Super glue and polyurethane glue

Polyurethane Glue is better suited for durable repairs requiring to stay flexible and waterproof. This will be the case for tent and tarp repairs, raincoats as well as duffel bags and even holes in inflatable camping mattresses. Small tubes of polyurethane glue are difficult to find outside specialized outdoor shops. Cobblers often have some, but usually in larger formats. It’s best to stock up while you can. Most commercially available polyurethane glues take several hours to cure fully.

Other Specialty Adhesives. Some of your gear might warrant a tube of special glue. For example, some epoxy for heavy duty repairs on skis and snowboards. And if your tent uses a silicon-coated fabric remember that¬† polyurethane won’t work. You’ll have to use a tube of silicone instead.

Repair Tape

No need to spend a lot of money on the fancy branded repair tape found in outdoor shops. All the options below shouldn’t cost you more than a few bucks.

Duct Tape. Cloth- or scrim-backed tape is widely available around the world, but the adhesive is not always up to the task. Restock if you can get your hands on a roll of quality tape. Pro tip: if you are repairing holes on clothes, down jackets and sleeping bags, rounding the edges makes it harder to peel the patch off from the edges. Activate the glue by warming it, especially in cold weather. Rubbing energetically the patch or briefly passing the flame of a lighter usually does the trick.

Repair tape for all situations.

Surgical Tape. More flexible than duct tape, usually with a strong adhesive. And easily found in pharmacies around the world. A good alternative to duct tape that can be shared with your first aid kit to reduce weight and bulk. Great quick fix for a hole in down jackets and sleeping bags.

Ripstop Tape. Self-adhesive ripstop nylon tape is great for fixing larger tears in tents, tarps, and even raincoats. It can be cheaply sourced from paragliding, kite-/windsurfing and sailing shops. Look for kite or repair spinaker tape. You can sometimes buy it by the meter, thereby avoiding the big roll. Add a thin layer of polyurethane glue for a lasting waterproof finish.

Miscellaneous Items

Patches come in handy for reinforcing worn-out fabrics. Small squares of jeans fabric are very abrasion resistant. As a bonus, they can be used to sharpen the mini scissors on pocket knifes and multi tools, and even disposable razors, giving them a second life.

Cable Ties are light and strong. They can be a quick fix for many situations without taking up much space in your repair kit. They have proven their use on tents, backpack frames, and even on a leaking motorbike fuel line.

repair kit misc
Useful extras

Cord. Whether you suddenly need to replace a guy line on your tent in the middle of a storm or simply rig a drying line, having some spare cord is always useful. 3mm nylon cord found in climbing and outdoor shops is affordable and strong. Sheathed lines from retired paragliders and parachutes are also excellent sources of quality cord.

Spares. If you regularly break hard to find small plastic bits, it’s always good to carry a spare or two. If you have to retire a piece of equipment, harvest useful parts before putting it to the trash! Backpack buckles are particularly useful, especially a replacement belt buckle.

Lighter. Melt nylon, burn off fluff, soften plastic… If you don’t already carry a lighter, your repair kit needs one.