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Hiking Gear Casualties and Deaths, 2013-2014

Pre-emptive shoegoo toecaps on La Sportiva Ultra Raptor Trail Runners
Pre-emptive shoegoo toe caps on La Sportiva Ultra Raptor Trail Runners

Hiking in New England is really rough on gear and I go through many rolls of Tenacious Tape and tubes of Shoegoo every year to repair my favorite backpacking and mountaineering gear, outdoor clothing, and electronics when they are damaged or wear out. If you don’t try to extend the lifespan of your gear today, you’d be amazed how far those two products can restore hurt clothing, footwear, backpacks, tents and sleeping bags and extend its lifetime.

Here’s a roundup of the hiking and backpacking gear that I hurt and repaired during the past two years along with a few details about the repairs I made. This post is a companion piece to one I wrote two years ago: see Hiking Gear Casualties and Deaths, 2012.

If there’s a theme across these posts, it’s that zippers, lightweight fabrics, mesh pockets, and high tension seams tend to be common points of failure in hiking gear and clothing. That shouldn’t be surprise. What is surprising is how fast outdoor gear breaks or wears out if you use it a lot. For example, there are only one or two items on the list below that I’ve owned for more than 5 years.  I can’t say that hiking gear has become less durable during the past decade, but it’s a good question to ponder. Given how expensive this stuff is, you’d expect it to last longer than it does.

Gear Causalities

Here’s a list of gear that I’ve broken or hurt in 2013 and 2014, but repaired well enough to continue using.

Black Diamond FirstLight Tent – Broke one end of a pole segment at the lip. Patched it together with duct tape so it’s still functional, but I expect to purchase a replacement or upgrade to carbon fiber poles set to shave a few ounces off this outstanding freestanding winter tent.

Hillsound LT Gaiters – Broke strap buckle within 2 hours of my first hike. These high gaiters are very breathable and stay in place without the strap pretty well, just using the front lace hook, so I cut the strap off and have been using them that way. Sent feedback to Hillsound.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa (Older Dyneema Version – no longer manufactured) – Ripped a seam in the back panel facing the shoulder straps when I tried to over stuff the pack with 20 days of food. My bad. Patched it back together with Gorilla Tape and Shoegoo, which held together pretty well. The new Mariposa has been revamped with a more durable back panel and seam reinforcing to prevent this from happening.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa (New Robic Version) – Ripped out bottom of tent pocket on a bushwhack within 4 hours of use. This was a complete surprise, since I’d heard that the new model has stood up to bushwhacking use in the Adirondacks and Olympic National Park. Returned to Gossamer Gear for repair.

Granite Gear VC Crown 60 Backpack – Tore a side mesh pocket on a backpacking trip. Repaired with Tenacious Tape.

La Sportiva Ultra Raptor Trail Runners – Tore a hole in the top mesh above the toes on a tree root. Patched with shoegoo. I’ve also started adding shoegoo toe caps to these trail runners when I order new replacement pairs.

Montane Grand Tour 55 Backpack:  Tore both side mesh pocket on a bushwhack. Repaired with Tenacious Tape.

Mountain Laurel Designs Lightsnow Gaiters: Torn and abraded. Repaired with Tenacious tape.

Pacerpoles: Bent the bottom section of one of my alloy poles. Bought a replacement section and stockpiled a few more alloy and carbon fiber spares. Love these poles.

Outdoor Research Foray Jacket – Several holes torn into sleeves – Repaired with Tenacious tape. I like this technical hard shell so much I acquired a second coat for use when the current one wears out.

Tarptent Notch – Poked a hole in the fly with a trekking pole when pitching the tent in the dark. Repaired it with Tenacious tape and super glue. User error.

Zpacks.com cuben fiber stuff sacks – A few abrasion holes repaired using Tenacious tape.

Camp XLC Nanotech Ultralight Crampons
Camp XLC Nanotech Ultralight Crampons

Gear Deaths

Here’s the list of gear that I consider dead and destroyed, either from overuse or  because it never worked in the first place. I tend to replace gear that I like and plan to replace many of the items below.

CAMP XLC Nanotech Aluminum Crampons. Wore down the points to flattened stubs. Filed them a couple of times, but they’ve given up the ghost. I’ll probably buy another pair. They weigh slightly more than a pair of Katoolha Microspikes, which is pretty remarkable for a high angle capable, step-in crampon.

Forty Below Insulated Water Bottle Boot – The seams pulled apart from overuse. I will replace this item.

Garmont Momentum Snow GTX Boots – Blew out a seam from overuse. Bought another pair.

La Sportiva Ultra Raptor Trail Runners – Wore out a pair after about 400 miles. Replaced with the same.

Outdoor Research Helium Rain Pants – Very lightweight Pertex rain pants. I patched lots of holes during the year using Tenacious Tape, but ripped out the seat on and had to toss the pants. I will replace these. They’re great rain pants.

Outdoor Research Stamina Gaiters (2 pairs) – Pulled out eyelets that hold keeper strap in place after just one hike. Will return to manufacturer for replacement under lifetime guarantee.

Rab Momentum Jacket – Failed to hold a DWR coating after extensive use. No longer usable in wet conditions.

Salomon Minim 2.5L Hard Shell Shell Jacket – Total DWR failure on second hike in freezing rain last winter. Sent back to manufacturer. Never got a good explanation of why the DWR coating on this super lightweight jacket failed.

Scarpa Omega Mountaineering Boot Liners – Worn to pieces. Replaced with new liners, but a slightly different model. Scarpa has since stopped manufacturing the Omega plastic boot which is still considered a mountaineering classic.

Smartwool Liner Socks: Blew through another half-dozen pairs. I’ve since upgraded to Darn Tough and Fits Socks for 3 season hiking. I can’t decide yet which I like better.

Therm-a-Rest Altair 0 Degree Sleeping Bag – Zipper completely fell off after approximately 10 nights of use. Not sure what I’m going to do with it.

Under Armour Heat Gear Boxers: Wore through area behind the thighs on a pairs. I’ve had these for a few years and gotten my money’s worth out of them. Replaced with more of the same.

 What gear have you destroyed or repaired this year?

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20 comments

  1. That shocking death toll raises the question of the optimal balance between light weight, durability, and cost. Let the opinions begin, but only those I agree with!

  2. Very useful tips, thanks for your report Philip

  3. Philip Outdoor Research will replace all of your worn out gear free of charge they have the best warranty in the business. They call it infinite guarantee just email them and they’ll send you new gear. They are awesome.

  4. I used to be an eVent fanboy but no longer. Their DWR coating never deserved its D and the problem seemed to get worse with each new jacket I bought. My eVent jackets also delaminated fairly quickly in the hood area.

    I’ve had a lot of problems with inflatable mats – hundreds of tiny leaks along the welds – and only bought another because the salesman at Cotswold Camping pointed out the lifetime guarantee. It leaked. I returned it and eventually received a new one from Thermarest. If only I’d made a habit of keeping receipts!

    Small companies often go out of their way to help. Rose at BackpackingLight.co.uk offered to help with a broken Leki Makalu pole even though I had not bought it from her. Scottish Mountain Gear did a superb repair to my torn Akto for just £25 and in the past they renovated a MacPac Kestrel rucksack for me. I’ll bet there are companies like these in your area.

    The big companies aren’t so bad either. Going full circle back to RAB, they did a great job on my ancient and heavily used Photon 200, which is fortunate as they stopped making this excellent sleeping bag.

  5. What a terrif. article. One really hears of die dunkle Seite (dark side) of gear wear.

  6. On the damaged side, poked a hole in my Railrider Eco-mesh pants. Haven’t repaired yet, but will patch. Great product and that was my own bad being clumsy with my pole. On the dead side are my Merrill boots, which are coming apart in several places much to my displeasure as I didn’t really use them that much, probably less than 100 miles of walking. I didn’t like them enough to try and have them replaced. Bought a new pair of OBOZ Wind River II boots which fit like a dream. Hope they hold out better.

  7. Philip, I’d be happy to try to put a new zipper on your Altair bag for you so you can keep using it.

  8. Funny almost all my casualties are clothing or shoes; blown out EMS and REI hiking pants, abraded columbia fishing shirts, socks, the Brooks Cascadia 8 trail runners that lasted 300 miles, etc. I am very careful with everything else. My umbrella keeps the rain gear use to a minimum, except for my beater rain jacket.

  9. Wow you are rough on your gear! I guess all that bushwhacking will do that! Haven’t had any major failures this year since my mileage was so low sadly. It’s been a busy year with an almost 1 year old boy, he’ll have to start coming with me on hikes pretty soon I think!

  10. I bent one of my Black Diamond poles in a fall on Katahdin last year. Was going to use this as an excuse to get PacerPoles but went the more affordable route of just getting a replacement piece.

    I also got a few small holes in my Marmot PreCip pants last winter. I think I will try to find some tenacious tape and see if that fixes the problem enough for another winter of use. Otherwise, I will simply replace the pants – the full leg zippers are terrific.

  11. Hey I appreciate the list..Job well done..I like it!…. Reminds me of Ole Mr. Rodale when he first started Publishing Backpacker Magazine. I was reading Organic Gardening Magazine at the time when a Post Card fell out annnoucing a brandy new Magazine for Backpacker..So I subscribed to the first Issue and then when he passed on, in my opinion, it became a Marketing Maggot driven enterprise, meaning they wouldn’t, as I understood it, Companies would not Advertise with them unless they got good reviews, or so it was said by dozens of Hikers I met on the trails. Can’t prove a thing like that, but if enough people think so, then…..It becomes real… At one time they bragged they had more subscribers than some of the big time magazines of the time. Now I hear they are down to less than 200,000 now. Any way, Mr. Rodale thoroughly tested each item and Weighed each item on a Postal Scale which was about the most accurate scale you could buy back then. Then two weeks of testing and he would publish his results. He saved me a whole lot of money, the biggest lies in the Business was the advertised Weight versus what you actually had in your hand. Some times off by as much as three pounds or more for some Packs, Tents and Bags. And Goose Down Parkas were either over or under the advertised weight and the Goosedown may have been mixed with Duck down.. Lots of mis-information back then. but word spread on the Trail and a lot of companies folded..The ONLY Stove that continually passed inspection was the line of SEVA Stoves and especially the 123R Stove which cost me a whole $16.95 in 1970.The exact same stove now is $90.00. I still own and use this stove 44 years later. And a Colemen Military Issue Stove. That military issue stove is HEAVY! Forget about it already!
    .
    For your damaged ThermaRest Bag, if you can find either a Tailor or a Seamstress (dressmaker), the Seamstress is a better choice, in your area they should be able to replace that zipper with ease. I had a Zipper fail on a North Face Bag 5 years ago and that is who I found to replace it. Cost me $30.00. But the best thing was I had her Double the Size of the Zipper and the Zipper grip Made the bag so much easier to get in and out of and no catching on the insulating liner…. My suggestion for Gaiters, if you can afford them are the Snake Proof Gaiters, not the Plastic ones, they rub against you leg and you can get sore because they do not flex well… They also sell Snake Proof Chaps which I do own a pair of and they have lasted almost 20 years from Cabela’s. The Gaiters are made out of the same Material as the Chaps but longer. My cross country trips through Southern California foothills and the Mojave Deserts required something more than a pair of short Gaiters. I would destroy a pair of Levi’s in weekend so as the price of Levi’s went up in price the Price for Snake Proof Chaps became very reasonable indeed.. Those DWR finishes always seem to fail.. One thing I absolutely hate beyond words is, Cold went shoulders..So if I have a Jacket with a DWR coating I add to it “Camp Spray” which is a silcon based spray. Comes in a Brown Aerosol Can for $3.90 something at Wal-Mart in the Sporting Goods section… I have to say I have never had a pair of Boots “Blow out” on me or fail, just worn out beyond repair per my Shoemaker.But I only wear one brand of boot now or for the past 30 years..Danners. I did have a problem with a pair of their Hunting Boots with the sole coming off which our 78 year old local Shoemaker glued back on for me. He reminds me of Pinochicco’s father in the story books.

    So maybe this is a good forum for your loyal fans.. Each Month make a Post or start a thread on “What failed you this month” and we or those who have had equipment failures could make a post on how and why.. The Danger here, as I found over on another site and why I no longer visit that site,,is that they allowed the Marketing Maggots uncontrolled access to the site who I feel asked for comments to be deleted and they were! In fact six comments I made disappeared over night about a shoddy set of Pots and Pans whose handles fell off, burned my fingers, dented when you breathed on them and weight six ounces more than advertised…..

  12. Even when it is clear your gear needs to be retired, I always find it a difficult task. I guess I just grow attached to the items, even if I know there is better out there.

  13. My Lowa boots. Sole fully cracked across the boot. Still like them, and replaced with the same.

  14. Hey Philip, thanks for this — makes me feel a little better about my own gear casualty levels. Also though, I do need to critique that preemptive shoo goo application on your Ultra Rapttors — butt ugly! You wouldn’t be admitted in to Monroe’s Family Restaurant if they noticed those on you! ;-) Next time around, I think you could do something much nicer with periodic applications of Gorilla Tape.

    I don’t know what it is about those shoes, though — I often find myself catching the top of the toe rand of my trailing foot on protruding roots and rocks. Nothing’s penetrated the fabric there yet on mine, but I can certainly understand this happening to you.

  15. I’ll leave the call to you and Monroe’s as to which is the lesser evil.

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