Book Review: Backpacker Complete Guide to Outdoor Gear Maintenance and Repair

Backpacker Complete Guide to Outdoor Gear Maintenance and Repair By: Kristin Hostetter. $21.95. 200 pages. Made by Falcon Guides in 2012.

I didn't even know that this book had been published until it won Best Instructional Book in the U.S. National Outdoor Book Awards. I ran out shortly after to purchase it, and I'm glad I did. Thankfully nothing of mine has torn or conked out, but when it comes to man vs. Nature, it will only be a matter of time until something I need will require field maintenance. 

The author, Kristin Hostetter (Backpacker Magazine's gear editor since 1994) has a two pronged attack when repairing gear. She has a self-made kit with hand chosen items, to take into the field, and she made a repair stand for back at home (which also doubles as a place to store camping gear and this handy book!) to tackle the larger tasks (or even regular jobs such as ski waxing).

You might think that every chapter basically instructs you to "fix it with Duct tape" (also a popular book), but far from it... Only chapter 15 is dedicated to the wonder material. 

This book covers everything from the old knapsack or tent that has been passed down to you, to the brand new lightweight jacket with waterproof zippers. Blow a buckle or tent pole? Puncture or have an ember from your camp fire burn a hole in your gear? This book will instruct you on how to fix it all. Diagrams and great camping photos will keep it interesting enough to read from cover to cover, or to keep handy with your camping gear. 

Even things such as stinky tents or boots are addressed with both commercial and home-made solutions. 

Through-out the book are real life examples of people running in to issues with the gear such as a pinhole in an air mattress or a bent Piezo Igniter, and what they did to fix it (or at least make it past the conundrum)  while being out in the woods. 

The only thing I didn't like was I felt there was a bit of filler. Some sections just seemed like a buyer's guide for various lines of sleeping pads, cooking stoves, hiking boots, etc, and didn't offer enough maintenance tips. At the same time though, some of the buyers guides were helpful, such as the Trekking Poles section as once you learned the differences in the poles, you could differentiate as to why they could fail.

Some of the DIY solutions weren't that difficult, and usually only involved needing a multi-tool, seam grip and an alcohol wipe. Learning the content in this book could mean the difference of either throwing out a perfectly good piece of equipment, or getting another few years out of it. There is even a neat section for how to make your own survival bracelet from paracord. 

After reading Backpacker Complete Guide to Outdoor Gear Maintenance and Repair, I ended up with a short shopping list of things to buy for my next trip to my local outdoors store. Various sealers, cleaning products and tools so that I will be ready for the next time the unexpected happens. This is a fairly solid book and worth the investment if you love your gear and hope to keep it for years to come.