A punk guide to keeping your tramping kit alive
I forlornly looked at my beloved tramping shorts that had made it through Te Araroa plus hundreds more kilometres on tramps around New Zealand. The restitched crotch, the waistband sagging like frown, the frayed seams and sunbleached fabric. But it was the holes in the ass that spelt the end, surely.
My unwillingness to become a raunchy exhibitionist my shorty shorts demise. Or was it?
Maybe I could stitch it? Maybe an obscenely placed patch could do the trick? (scroll down to see the final result)
I pondered for a moment if I was lost in some sort of reverent nostalgia. Why was I so keen on keeping a ratty ass pair of shorts anyhow? But the answer was simply this:
I was sick of paying for gear. Done.
Over the years I’ve shelled out a fair amount of my hard earned cash for my outdoor gear, always buying as consciously as possible but I’ve become increasingly disappointed in the sub par quality of outdoor gear by New Zealand brands that have traditionally built their reputation on lifetime guarantees and supreme quality.
The recent move by Icebreaker to now send all return socks away for “lab assessment” rather than do an immediate replacement speaks volumes about companies unwilling to back their brand and go the distance for their customers.
In the world of light weight tramping we are resigned to paying more for literally less. Weirdly we are grateful that our lightweight whatever lasts one season or one thru walk.
You could argue we are paying for light weight technology—sure.
And as companies move towards more sustainable practices that costs money too—sure.
But when did we loose all expectations of our gear to last?
In a disposable world where its become common place upgrade our phones every year, there seems to be a precedence that we keep paying out even when our gear fails.
In 2011 I saw an amazing documentary called The power of salad and milkshakes which followed my then favourite band Lightning Bolt on tour. There is a scene where Brian Chippendale is stitching the crotch of his corduroy pants while wearing them. Its a tender moment. Theres something inspiring about seeing a punk drummer stitching his crotch up in a parking lot and I’ve been into DIY ever since. I think we should be fixing as much of gear as we can. Because why pay for the same thing twice?
Here’s my tips for being a total tramping punk.
My ethos is – Always have a go at repairs. Stiching, sealing and being curious about repairs is a literal middle finger raised to Capitalism. Have a go at the following:
Sealant is your BFF
After my MSR tent was riddled with damp and packed away wet just one too many times the sealant on the seams started peeling away compromising the waterproofness. After cleaning the seams with rubbing alcohol (meths) and removing as much of the flaking seal as possible. I applied Gear Aid sealant and left to cure for 12 hours and its come up like new. On our last trip to Mount Somers our tent was watertight. I’ve also used a stick on tensile patch for the vestibule and while its ugly no sandflies are getting a free meal!
$300 shoes seem to be the going rate for any trail runner. If you want your shoes to last in the bush go with boots. I’m not sure why any trail shoe company still manufactures with mesh anywhere near the toe box without an overlay but the old dental floss and needle will help with a temporary fix or small tear however the weight and the strain of the floss on other parts of the mesh can also increase the tear. I’ve recently been playing around with strong synthetic threads including nylon thread with mixed results. I find its often better to leave small tears and tend to the mesh only when you get those big MoFo holes that cannot be ignored.
Duct tape is your friend
Tenacious tape works until it weathers and cracks – this has been my experience with tenacious tape on most synthetic fibres then I usually end up slapping on some duct tape. I’ve also found electrical tape very useful for fixing my waterproof bag cover and torn to shreds MSR tent bag that unceremoniously became rock fodder on a recent adventure.
Learn to stitch or just be a proud
You know those weird little sewing kits you sometimes come across in Hotel rooms – Steal them! Honestly learn a basic seam stitch and your tramping clothes will thank you for it and you too can rock a heart shaped velvet patch on your ass. Alternatively wear your holey gears with pride—after all your hard work went into making them holes. Punk as!
Note: I’ve found that merino clothing can be repaired but as the fabric is so light the weight and tension of the repaired tear may cause further tears. There is a great in depth article on merino repairs here:
Everytime I go into an op shop there is always a plethora of Kathmandu clothes—the ugly kind in the women’s section with pink and purple florals. Sigh, there was a time for this I guess but if your not fussy and are just starting out this is the perfect attempt to get tramping gear at low cost. One of my first ever long sleeve merino shirts was bought from The Salvation Army. It was a sponsored Coast to Coast shirt—when Speights beer was still the events sponsor. I got a $3 patch from a dollar store and ironed it over the sponsorship logo because Speights beer is shit and lets never forget the misogynistic advertising that they would continuously peddle out for their consumers.
For technical gear—Tents, PLBs, Backpacks etc its wise to keep an eye on Community Facebook Tramping pages where many people upgrade or simply have to ditch gear when they travel overseas.
For when you can’t upcycle be patient and wait for sales. Its tempting just to get what you need when you need it and pithy advertising and those hot Mons Royale models can exacerbate your desire to throw cash around. The only time I shop for outdoor clothing is at the end of each season and public holidays. Between 20-50% off is applied during these times and especially at the end of season when each brand gets ready for new trending colours direct from the Northern Hemisphere. Don’t be a fool and pay full price. Just be patient.
Also, while it may contribute to a hefty carbon emission if you know any peeps overseas who can purchase stuff like Thermorest air mattress and trekking poles get them to send them to you its likely that you’ll save. Jack and I had our thermorest air mattresses sent over from Germany at a cost of NZD $200 (including shipping). These RRP for $300 plus in New Zealand.
Beg, borrow but punks don’t steal
When I first got into tramping I borrowed packs from friends. This was a great way to give me insight into the kind of brands I wanted to invest in because I knew that a pack was my first step into the world of tramping. *If you are comfortable or keen for it Tramping Clubs are also a brilliant way of trialling gear and some of your more popular and well resourced Tramping Clubs are equipped with gear to borrow.
*I use the word ‘comfortable’ as I have had variable experiences with Tramping Clubs that are steeped in Pakeha tradition. As a queer, Maori woman these experiences have not always sat comfortably but that’s another post for another time.
This goes for all your gear. I know it takes time to do diligent research on gear and dive deep into company policies. Don’t get fooled by greenwashing and fancy websites. Most brands that are straight up will tell you their core values and the word SUSTAINABILITY should apply practically to the gear they are selling. A great example of this is OSPREY who have clear life time guarantee which I’ve put into practice. After my Osprey Exos Backpack got a hiding on Te Araroa I took it back to Bivouac where I purchased it and it was sent away for repair. Two weeks later I got my backpack returned with some much needed repairs to the bag lining-torn seams and repaired rips in the outer shell. The bro even restitched the small tears in the mesh pockets.
*P.S I don’t do endorsements for any of this gear or brands but if Osprey is reading this I’d love to try out the new Lumina #Osprey #gimmeplease
So have a go at repairs and you too can rock a blue velvet patch on your ‘ass-hole’