Backcountry Repair Kit – Pack Light or Go Big?
Have you ever had a gear failure in the field? Fortunately, modern backcountry ski gear is pretty robust stuff. I can count the number of significant gear failures I’ve experienced or witnessed on one hand – and most of those were back in my dedicated telemark ski days. Nonetheless, a basic backountry repair kit should make your packing list. Gear failure might not happen often, but it does happen – be it due to abuse, accident or simple wear and tear. A basic repair kit should be lightweight and easy to assemble. It’s also a good place place to store a few essential emergency items like fire starter and an emergency blanket.
An Ounce of Prevention
Before putting together an extensive backcountry repair kit with one of everything in it, consider that a little prevention goes a long way to keep your repair kit small. An annual gear inspection and some routine maintenance can stop many common gear issues before they ever happen. It’s about looking for wear, checking that screws are snug and just generally being familiar with the status of your gear to avoid surprises. Consider the following checklist as an annual or pre-big trip routine:
1. Inspect boots. Look for wear and tear that could lead to failure. Tighten all fasteners and consider adding Loctite to anything that shows repeated loosening.
2. Inspect bindings. Check that binding mount screws are snug and tighten external screws as applicable. At a minimum, inspect your bindings annually or make it routine and check ’em even whenever you wax your skis.
3. Inspect climbing skins. Look for deteriorating tail straps, blown rivets, glue issues and worn out tip loops (read climbing skin care tips).
4. Check your backpack. Look for cracked buckles, smooth zipper function, frayed webbing and high-wear zones.
What problems do you actually need to worry about being able to repair? The length of your ski day and type of objective are key to how robust a repair kit you need. Multi-day, remote settings require more serious back-up supplies than a simple day tour or roadside attraction lap. Lots of inconsequential gear problems could go wrong, and you’d still be able to keep skiing or at least ski back to the hut or trailhead. Things like jacket, pant and pack zippers or a pack buckle could explode – even a boot buckle – and you’d likely be just fine to continue skiing. Think about potential show stoppers – issues that could stop you from moving – problems with bindings, boot cuffs, boot walk mode mechanisms and climbing skins are what can really ruin a day.
The Basic (Everyday) Backcountry Repair Kit
Less is more. My basic everyday repair kit is lightweight and only requires a small 4×6-inch zip pouch. It just lives in my ski pack alongside my shovel and probe. If I’m headed on a hut or road trip, I’ll throw a few additional items in my duffel.
Choose your repair kit supplies wisely. Think double-duty and do-it-all materials like duct tape, voile straps, paracord, zip ties, etc. Combined with a few gear-specifc items, you can MacGyver your way out of a wide range of problems. Here’s a lits of the stuff I generally keep in my kit:
- Multi-tool – Think pliers, knife and the drivers to match your bindings. Read about our favorite multi-tools for skiers
- Duct Tape – Wrap 12-20 inches around a lighter. Use the good stuff. Try Gorilla Tape
- Binding screws – A few binding screws that match your set-up
- Steel wool – Fills blownout screw holes to make them usable again. It doesn’t take much.
- Safety pins – Don’t let a blown zipper spoil your day. 3-4 safety pins to the rescue.
- Paracord – 2mm paracord or spectra cord can do many things like replace a skin tip loop. My homemade Rutschblock cord serves double duty here.
- Zip ties – 4-5 small zip ties have a myriad of uses.
- Boot parts – I have a dynafit heel fitting (cannibalized from an old boot) and a homemade cuff rivet in my kit too
- Skin wax – a small block of Glop Stopper skin wax for those days when your skins (or your ski partner’s) clump up
- Lighter – Always good for emergencies and it makes a great tape holder
- Fire starter – A piece of bicycle inner tube makes for great fire starter – just cut off a six or eight inch section of an old tube
For Multi-Day Trips Consider Adding the following:
- Tenacious Tape – Field repair a jacket or pant blowout like a pro with Tenacious Tape
- Skin tip/tail clip – Pack an extra tip/tail clip. Black Diamond has lots climbing skin parts
- Hose clamps – Great for pole repair.
- Bailing wire – Wire together blown boot cuff rivets or make a skin tip loop.
- Pole basket – You’ll never know how much you need a basket until you don’t have one!
- Emergency blanket – I’m talking the lightest of the light Emergency blanket in case you have a long night.
Or read about Climbing Skin Glue Renewal and Climbing Skin Maintenance