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Backcountry Repair Kit

Photo -- this is why we ski, but sometimes things take a turn for the worse.


We were sitting on top of Diamond Head enjoying a lunch with long vistas out over Blewett Pass, absorbing the warmth of a sun that has made few appearances this winter, feeling good about the exercise that had made us stinky, and anticipating the north-facing powder run to come. That’s when I realized I could snuff the feel-good vibes sparking through the air by making this a teachable moment. Never one to shirk a kill-joy moment I pounced.


“So what am I carrying in my pack?”


A flicker of annoyance skipped over my daughter’s face. But Allison had wanted to learn more about ski touring and, good sport and graceful diplomat that she is, she played along.


“Shovel, probe, transceiver, skins, food, water, extra warm clothing, rain coat and pants,  map, compass, altimeter, first aid kit, blister supplies, suncream, sunglasses, TP, flashlight...”


She had the lion’s share of it. “And for emergencies and/or injuries?”


“A lighter, firestarter, and a tarp?” Apparently my lesson of “if you’re going to carry only one thing into the backcountry, take a lighter,” had sunk in. So had my comments about the merits of a 6’ x  8’ SilNylon tarp for unforeseen nights out or to shelter an injured skier.


“Anything else?”


“Not that I can think of.”



Photo: Are you prepared for times when a Goode ski turns bad? The tail of this ski completely delaminated.


Like many people who head out ski touring, she forgot the little things needed to fix equipment failures. I pulled out the repair kit and, one-by-one went through the items in it. Here they are for your edification… just in case you’re forgetting them as well.

  • Duct tape. Carry several yards of high-thread-count duct tape rolled over on itself to fix tears in clothing, broken ski poles, skins that are peeling off skis, and much more.
  • Sewing kit. Carry a few needles of different gauges and a few yards of strong, synthetic thread to fix holes in clothing, slashed parkas, blown pack seams, torn tarps. A few straight pins and safety pins improve a sewing kit.
  • Cord. A few yards of extra parachute cord has a hundred uses for splinting and improvising. Many people also like to carry a foot or two of strong bailing wire (stainless steel wire is preferred, though hard to find).
  • Extra binding screws. If a binding rips off a ski, you’ll need these to put humpty dumpty back together again. Some sort of filler material to fill the enlarged screw holes is also recommended.
  • Nail or ream. If you need to punch holes in the top sheet of a ski to re-attach a binding, you’re going to need something sharp and sturdy that can be hammered with a rock.
  • Ski pole basket. Lost baskets are surprisingly common and poles without baskets are uncommonly worthless. Duct tape wrapped around the pole below the basket will ensure that you don’t lose baskets easily.
  • Ski pole repair kit. Make a pair of ski pole repair splints from a 5-inch segment of an old ski pole. Use a hack saw to cut your 5-inch segment longitudinally into two halves. To repair a broken pole, use duct tape (or two metal  hose clamps) to anchor your two splints like a cast around the fracture. More.
  • Ski wax. A partial stick of ski wax will help your skis go fast through slow snow. More importantly, when moving from wet to dry snow, wax rubbed into your skins will keep them from balling up with snow.
  • Hacksaw blade. Sometimes skis break even though the edges don’t. A 6-inch-segment of a hack saw blade will cleanly severe such edges. In a worst case scenario you could still overlap your two ski segments, tape them in place, and walk out of the backcountry.
  • Multi-tool. A tool with a knife, standard screwdriver, Phillips screwdriver, pliers, scissors, and a file is extremely handy for many hardware and software fixes.  

Two other repair items are recommended for multi-day trips:

  • Ptex stick (half). If you ream a ski base on a rock, you can light the sticks and drip ptex into the gouge, thereby keeping water out of the interior of the ski. More.
  • SeamGrip. A quarter-ounce tube repairs, strengthens, and waterproofs, all manners of torn fabrics, delaminated soles, and holes. Holes in Thermarest pads, for example, are a cold, nighttime disappointment that SeamGrip can repair. Unfortunately this viscous material needs four or five hours to cure, so it’s hard to use on the go. The manufacturer now has a quick-set product that cures in minutes and we will be testing and reporting on that soon.

The skiing repair kit (from left to right): duct tape, sewing kit, cord, bailing wire, binding screws, hole punch, basket, ski pole splints, hack saw blade, ski wax, multi tool.


Editor's Note: Join the discussion --  use the comment box below to tell us what you carry for field repairs.