Repairing what we already own is increasingly seen as a revolutionary ‘pre-recycling’ activity and a rejection of the linear consumer model of ‘buy-use-dispose’. Across the West, there is a rising phenomenon of Repair Cafes, where the creative, cultural and economic benefits of repairing and recycling are enjoyed in a socially cohesive environment. It’s now super cool to fix things, even though it’s what your grandparents always did.
Gear Aid Inc is a company based in the far north-west of the USA, just a whisker south of the Canadian border. Formerly known as McNett Corp they have been making products to fix outdoor gear since 1981.
Their mission is to “teach people how to keep their well loved and expensive gear in like new condition, increasing performance, saving money, and consuming less in the process.” Gear Aid is the nemesis of outdoor equipment retailers who want you to throw away your old gear and to simply buy new things.
Gear Aid currently have more than 100 products available, and below is a review of four of their most useful products for outdoor enthusiasts.
1. Tenacious tape
This is a clear, waterproof, self-adhesive PVC tape. It is intended for light fabric repairs, such as tears in tents or clothing. It has a matt finish which facilitates unobtrusive patching.
This tape can be used for either temporary or permanent repairs, depending on the damage and how finicky you are. As a long-term DIY stitch repairer, I have found the tape suitable for permanent and stable repairs in the field. A bonus of tape repairs is there is no need for any subsequent waterproofing.
Early attention prevents further damage: in the bush small tears can quickly become big tears. And big tears can easily end your adventure. So, don’t wait till you get home to fix your stuff.
I have used this tape at various times, to repair a hole poked in a pair of Pertex fabric rain pants, burst seams in silnylon stuff sacks, and a large rip in a polyester tarp. These repairs have lasted for up to 4 years, and I am expecting them to last for the life of the substrate fabric.
Tenacious Tape is simple to use: the repair area just needs to be clean & dry. The tape now has a split in the backing material allowing easier removal, you’ll just need a small pair of scissors to round off the corners of your patch piece.
Tenacious tape is well named. The initial grab is strong, but you can still reposition it over your tear before it fully bonds. The adhesive needs 24 hours to achieve full cure.
Gear Aid have got the adhesive factor just right for this tape. Compare this to others such as duct tape where the adhesive separates out with time and temperature to exude a sticky, gooey residue, or gaffer tape where the adhesive eventually dries out and crumbles.
The pack contains a 50cm roll of 76mm wide tape, and a full roll weighs just 12 grams. Tenacious Tape is also available as pre-cut patches.
What I like: Tenacious Tape is indeed tenacious, it’s also waterproof, durable and versatile. It’s simple to apply and effective in use.
What I don’t like: Nothing to dislike about the tape, but it used to come with a small plastic cylinder to keep it in. This was lightweight and kept the tape from getting squashed and creased and the edges from picking up dirt. While it now comes with a plastic clip to keep it from unrolling, a container would be nice.
Summary: Put some Tenacious Tape in your bushwalking repair kit. It’s the real deal.
2. Seam Grip+ WP
Seam Grip is a waterproof (WP) polyurethane adhesive sealing compound. It is a clear thermosetting polymer which cures to a firm but flexible consistency. Seam Grip is strong and has good adhesion. This product is particularly suited to sealing the seams on tent flys and floors.
During manufacture, stitching waterproof fabric pokes small holes in the fabric which can allow water to enter. Some manufacturers tape seal the seams inside, if they haven’t, use Seam Grip along the line of stitches to close them up. Seam Grip is durable: typically, the tent wears out before this stuff does. It is also great for sealing small holes, such as pinholes in inflatable sleeping mats.
Another novel use of Seam Grip is to increase enhance grip on the slippery fabrics used in tent floors and sleeping mats. It’s not always possible to find a bowling green flat site to pitch your tent on, and on sloping sites, you can find yourself sliding down into a heap at the foot of the tent. Apply some Seam Grip dots to the bottom of your mat to help grip on the tent floor.
Application tips: Pierce a small hole in the tube top to limit the outflow, about 1mm diameter is fine. The compound is somewhat self-levelling, so ridges and irregularities will flatten out. Try and ensure the surface you are applying it to is level, the product is viscous but does tend to slump and run. Work the product well into the fabric to ensure good adhesion. Don’t get Seam Grip on your clothes while applying it- it won’t come off. Store unused Seam Grip in the freezer, although it’s likely you won’t have much left because the tube holds only 28 grams.
Drying time is at least 24 hrs, so not really a field repair item. If the surface is still tacky after this time, a light dusting of talc will help prevent unwanted sticking to other surfaces, such as when you pack your tent up.
The tube now comes with an applicator brush cap and a small flat brush. The brush cap is handy for applying a strip of adhesive to seams. Brushes need to be cleaned in Shellite or similar after use (turps won’t cut it).
Seam Grip can be used in conjunction with Tenacious Tape for more complex repairs. For example, you can back one side of a gaping tear with Tenacious Tape as a dam, and then apply Seam Grip to the other side.
What I like: It’s waterproof, flexible and durable. Adhesion is excellent – it has stuck to every fabric I have used it on.
What I don’t like: It’s messy to apply and needs care in application. Seam Grip does turn yellow over time with UV exposure.
Summary: Strong, flexible, waterproof sealant. Great product which works as it should.
3. Revivex Pro Cleaner
Outdoor equipment gets dirty. It collects mud, dust, soot, body oils, food spills, plant residues, blood, sweat and sometimes tears. All this affects firstly the appearance, and secondly, more importantly, the performance of your gear. Fortunately, there is a simple remedy: washing.
Revivex Pro Cleaner is a clear liquid detergent designed for technical outdoor garments. Gear Aid recommend it for Gore-Tex, eVent garments and soft shell jackets.
The cleaner is a pared down product, notable for the absence of colouring, fragrances and chemical brightening agents. These additives, which are usually found in regular washing detergents, leave residues on the fabric, which can impair the breathability and waterproofing of the garment.
The 300ml concentrated product is enough for 20 garments if using a front loader, or 10 with a top loader. It is packed is a flexible plastic flask which has a stylish triangular measuring cap. While the packaging seems to be more about more style than substance, the contents are no-nonsense.
Revivex Pro Cleaner is suitable for hand washing, top loading machines and the new HE (High Efficiency) washing machines. I washed two garments in my top loader and reserved the rinse water to find a pleasing amount of dirt and grime had been dislodged from my rain pants and rain jacket.
Note: Gear Aid also have Revivex Down Cleaner for use with down jackets and sleeping bags.
What I like: Simple, unadulterated product. Revivex Pro Cleaner is effective and does what it says it will do.
What I don’t like: Not sure about the snazzy packaging, Gear Aid seem to be sexing up a solid but mundane workhorse product.
Summary: Clean your gear with Revivex Pro Cleaner, it will look and work better. This cleaning is an important precursor step if you need to apply the final product reviewed next…
4. Revivex Durable Water Repellent
One wet rainy day you pull out your rain shell, and to your shock and dismay, you find that instead of rain beading up and rolling off like morning dew on a leaf, the rain wets out and saturates the fabric. Your rain jacket’s exterior becomes waterlogged and heavy, and the damp fabric sags and clings to your skin. The condensation on the inside can produce enough water inside the garment to convince you that the membrane or coating is leaking.
This is first you know that your Durable Water Repellent (DWR) has gone.
DWR is a factory coating on your waterproof-breathable clothing. Over time it wears off and the fabric gets dirty and absorbs water. DWR can sometimes be revived with the application of heat (ironing or tumble drying) or washing. Check the garment label to see what the manufacturer recommends (hopefully, you haven’t cut the labels off in pursuit of weight savings).
Test the exterior waterproofing with a spray bottle of water to check if the DWR has recovered. If water beads up and rolls away your DWR is good and flick the fabric to see if most of the water flies off. If the water sits on the fabric and that area begins to darken, then water is wetting out and saturating the fabric. It’s time to reapply your DWR with a product like Revivex Durable Water Repellent.
DWR works by altering the microscopic surface texture of the garment to force water to assume spherical shapes and become hydrophobic- ‘water fearing’. Early versions of DWR such 3Ms popular Scotchguard contained perfluorinated acids (PFOS, PFOA) which are now the source of emerging health concerns. Revivex Durable Water Repellent is PFOA, PFOS and silicone free.
Coverage is not specified by Gear Aid, I estimate one 300g can would coat about 4 garments depending on how thickly you apply the product. It is better to spray several light coats rather than one heavy load. While Gear Aid recommend spraying the garment while hanging them vertically, I find if there is some residual DWR, the spray tends to bead up and run down the fabric- as it should. I prefer to lay garments flat to spray them, which means more product stays on the garment.
The aerosol, as opposed to other “wash-in’ formats, allows you to put extra DWR onto high wear areas such as shoulders and forearms. I also like to spray some DWR onto the foot of my sleeping bag which is the bit which gets wet from condensation due to contact with the tent walls.
What I like: Versatile product: use as much or as little as you require. Can be applied onto a wet surface to get a better bond.
What I don’t like: Needs a light touch on the spray button to avoid runs and wastage. It does have an odour so air your garments well after use.
Summary: It’s a good idea to check your DWR at home once or twice a year. If washing and heat treatment doesn’t revive it, Revivex Durable Water Repellent will reapply it.
Good quality outdoor equipment is expensive and lasts a long time, but even the best gear inevitably sustains wear and tear through use and accidental damage. Gear Aid has a well-earned reputation for producing excellent items which do what they say they will. These four Gear Aid products complement each other to keep outdoor gear functioning at peak performance.
Most of the products that I review from time to time have embellished marketing claims which can be empirically tested, and these claims have often been found wanting. As an indication of how much Gear Aid is on top of their game, and how trusted they are by the outdoor community, the only marketing claim made for their Tenacious Tape on the package is simply: “Better than duct tape”. Tenacious Tape is, without question, exceptionally superior to duct tape. Who said Americans don’t get irony?
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Have you tried any Gear Aid products? Got any questions or comments? Let us know by commenting below.