I hadn’t reached for my water filter since last fall, when I’d backpacked into the Flat Tops Wilderness north of Vail and stashed it in the garage after the trip. But a few weeks ago, I shoved it into my pack for a hut trip.
After skinning to the hut, I yanked out the filter for the first time since the Flat Tops, and started pumping. Nothing happened. The pump wasn’t generating any pressure and refused to draw water through the filter, so for three days I drank snowmelt spiced with pine needles and assorted particulates, including insects.
What I should’ve done was examine my pump before the trip to make sure it was in working order. And I should’ve had this new book to steer me: Backpacker Magazine’s Complete Guide to Outdoor Gear Maintenance and Repair ($20), written by my pal and colleague, Kristin Hostetter. As the magazine’s Gear Editor since 1994, Kristin has tested a mountain of gear. She’s also become an expert at reviving gear when it expires.
Kristin’s the person you hope to have with you when your backpacking stove refuses to fire, or your sleeping pad deflates into a measly nylon sheet revealing every sharp rock and stick you’re lying on. And her book imparts her savvy strategies to readers so they can keep their gear humming (and their trips enjoyable).
Her book explains how to troubleshoot common gear malfunctions and provides step-by-step repair instructions—with photos, so you can match your work to the pro’s. It also offers advice on how to maintain your gear and extend its life.
Fixing the zipper on your tent is way cheaper than buying a new tent. Even if you have the budget to replace every piece of faltering gear with a new version, you may prefer to keep your trusted model in service. Broken-in boots that let you hike for days without blisters are a blessed sure bet--whereas a new pair off the shelf runs a gamble that could result in feet felted with moleskin.
Would the book’s advice have helped me up at the hut, when my pump failed me? Turns out, yes. Its O-ring was dry and shrunken, but a little bit of lube tightened up the seal and restored the system to working order, awaiting summer adventures.
Chances are, you’ve got some warm-weather trips coming up, or maybe you’re already hitting the trails and the whitewater. Get this book, spruce up your stuff, and make those trips as fun and comfortable as they can be.