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Inside The Outdoors

How to Repair a Backpack

21.05.2015 | Hiking How to Guides

Your backpack or rucksack is an important piece of kit but it’s no good if it’s not doing its job properly! Holes in the fabric, zips that don’t quite do up and broken buckles can make your backpack a rather useless piece of kit.

It is always worth fixing any problems as they occur, even if temporarily, to reduce the risk of the issue becoming bigger. Follow our hints and tips on how to repair your pack whether you are out and about or at home.

Rips, Tears and Holes in Fabric/Mesh Pockets

Out and About

Duct tape is a cheap and popular way to temporarily fix rips and tears in a vast range of fabrics. Be aware that duct tape can leave a sticky residue when removed (although you can use methylated spirits to remove the residue). Other specialist tapes which do not leave a residue are available.

Whichever type of tape you choose, the simple steps below will apply:

1. Clean the area of the pack that needs repairing, using a damp piece of cloth (inside and out) and leave to dry before applying the adhesive. This will reduce the possibility of the tape not adhering to the fabric.
2. Cut the tape at least 25mm (1 inch) larger than the tear to ensure good coverage.
3. If possible ensure that the tape is cut into circles (you may have scissors in your first aid kit or on your multi-tool). This will reduce the likelihood of the tape getting caught on anything and peeling off.
4. Stuff the inside of the pack.
5. Use a piece of tape to cover the tear on the outside of the pack making sure it will not open up again.
6. Remove the stuffed items from the bag (take care encase the stuffed items have stuck to the tape).
7. Use a second piece of tape on the inside of the bag to reinforce the fixed tear.

The fix for mesh pockets is not as easy as a tear in the fabric. It does involve sewing, even if you are on the road! Fishing wire or dental floss will work as would nylon cord.

1. You will need to use the first few stitches to close the tear in the mesh. Sew sideways to pull the mesh together.
2. Then sew up and down to create a grid that looks like the mesh that was already in place.

At Home

If you are savvy with a needle and thread you should have no problems. Again fishing wire or dental floss can be used to make the stitch stronger. You can also go over the stitching with seam grip to strength the stitch and add some water resistance to the fix.

If sewing isn’t your strong point you fix a nylon patch with some seam grip or something similar. Seam grip will give you a water resistant finish and seal the tear.

1. Clean the area of the pack that needs repairing, with a damp cloth (inside and out) and leave to dry before applying the seam grip and the nylon patch. This will reduce the possibility of the fabric not adhering to the pack.
2. Cut the nylon patch into a circle at least 25mm (1 inch) larger than the tear.
3. Brush the seam grip onto the back of the nylon patch and stick to the outside of the bag over the tear.
4. Repeat the process for the inside of the bag.
5. If possible clamp the nylon patches together. You can do this by either using small clamps or heavy objects depending on the size of the tear. Ensure the weight is distributed evenly across the patches to create the best possible fix.

An alternative to fixing the mesh pockets with nylon cord or fishing wire is to sew a new nylon pocket on. This can be done over or under the mesh pocket. You could also replace the mesh pocket completely. Using elastic cord at the top of the nylon pocket will help secure anything that goes into the pocket, such as a water bottle, in place.

1. Cut the elastic cord to the length you need. To make this easy you can use your regular water bottle, or whatever other item may go into the pocket, against the bag for an accurate measurement ensuring a firm fit.
2. Sew the cord to the nylon you will be using to replace the mesh with.
3. Sew the nylon down each side and along the bottom.
4. If you wish to you can again use Seam Grip to finish the stitch for extra strength.

In replacing the mesh pockets with nylon it will give you a stronger pocket and also an easier fix if it were to be teared again.

Zips and Sliders

Out and About

Distorted zips (when the zip goes round but won’t actually close the pack) can be easily fixed whilst out and about provided you have a pair pliers or a multi-tool that has pliers.

1. Open the zip as far as you can.
2. Take the pliers and lightly squeeze the top and bottom of the slider together. This will bring the slider closer to the zip and the problem should be solved.

Bent teeth can also be solved out and about, although slightly harder with pliers from a multi-tool as needle nose pliers are more precise so make the job easier. Again take you pliers and bend the bent teeth back into shape. Do take care and do not apply too much force, the last thing you want to do is snap the tooth of the zip off!

Jammed zips can be a pain but lip balm works wonders when nothing else is available as it works like a lubrication.

At Home

Obviously, the above is valid for when you are at home too, although dry lube would be better for the jammed zip. Sometimes the slider may just need replacing, new zip sliders are generally quite cheap and replacing it should only take a few minutes.

1. Remove the older slider, you will need to do this without damaging the zip, so cut it off using a set of pliers.
2. Slid the new zip slider back onto the zip and it’s done!

Broken Buckles

Out and About

Fixing a broken buckle is not easy on the road, mainly because no one ever thinks to carry a spare a buckle! But there is fix depending on which buckle needs replacing and what equipment you have to hand. If it is the buckle on your hip or chest strap then you could look to replace it with a buckle in a less critical place, such as on the side or back of the bag. Make sure the buckle is the same or similar size.

1. Remove the buckle that needs replacing from the webbing belt. Using pliers may make this easier.
2. Once you have chosen the replacement buckle, take a knife and slice through the middle of the bar that holds the buckle to the webbing. If possible warm the plastic slightly which will help soften it and make it easier to cut. Do not break it off like the first buckle.
3. Slide the new buckle through the webbing of the buckle that needs replacing.
4. Use some duct tape to fix the bar that you sliced to secure the replacement buckle.

At Home

Again, like zip sliders, buckles are relatively cheap and not difficult to replace.
1. Remove the buckle that needs replacing from the webbing belt. Using pliers may make this easier.
2. To fix the new buckle to the strap thread the webbing through the largest gap before passing it through the smaller gap.
3. If you cannot do step 2, you can cut a small piece off the end of the strap to make it easier to thread the buckle through. If your pack is always on the very end of your buckle this may not be possible. Thread the webbing through the buckle.
4. Superglue or singe the end of the webbing with a lighter to ensure no loose threads will unravel.
5. Double over a small piece of the end of the webbing and sew together to create a ‘stopper’ so the buckle does not slip off the webbing when out hiking.

Shoulder Strap

Out and About or At Home

There is nothing worse than a shoulder or hip strap snapping whilst out on a hike. If you have your sewing kit with you, you might just be in luck.

1. Empty your pack.
2. Cut away any protective tape across the seam to get to the opening of the strap.
3. Feed the strap back through the opening you have just found. The strap should lay flat between the packs side seams.
4. Sew three parallel lines of backstitching between the side seams.
5. If you have any seam grip, use it to create a stronger fix and it should get you back to where you need to be.

You can avoid a lot of the above breakages by looking after your pack and checking it regularly. It is always advisable to pack your bag sensibly, check out our how to pack a backpack guide for some useful hints and tips.