By Grant Perdue
Regardless of the abundance of expensive, top-notch ultralight equipment in your Denali kit, something is going to break on the mountain. From peeled-back boot soles to craters in your puffy jacket, a mindfully fortified repair kit can curb headaches and potential expedition-ending gear failures with the unzip of a small tote and a little bit of MacGyvering.
Here’s a list of frequent flyers that land in our repair kit on every Denali expedition. Note that this entire kit fits in a small 1-liter stuff sack, but packs a lot of bang for its buck. Remember to be mindful when choosing the pieces that go into your kit. Too much of the “what if” game can easily turn this light, life-saving pouch into a 10-pound training weight at the bottom of your pack. That being said, here are the items that we never leave behind.
- Multi-Tool. Think knife, pliers, and a flathead screwdriver at minimum. We are fans of the Leatherman Skeletool and the Leatherman Wingman.
- Lighter. From lighting stoves after all the other lighters have mysteriously vanished, to burning off frayed ends of a crampon-holed boot, an extra lighter in the repair kit is a no-brainer.
- Tyvek Tape. This stuff is the best for repairing anything with technical fabric. It sticks like superglue, is waterproof, and generally stays on in the washer.
- Guide Tip: Wrap your extra lighter with a few yards of Tyvec so you don’t have to bring up the whole roll.
- Tenacious Tape. Purpose-built for repairing holes in tents and techwear, it’s easier to cut and shape than Tyvek Tape, and stretches a bit to mimic the flex of outerwear.
- Seam Grip Sealant. This liquid adhesive is great for repairing holes in tents, boots, clothing, etc. This can be better than adhesive tape for items with weird angles, or holes that need additional protection. Seam Grip can also be applied over top of repair tape for an additional layer fortification.
- Super Glue. A small container of super glue is great for minor repairs, such as binding busted side shields onto your glacier glasses or repairing splits in the tips of dry fingers. Keep this in a small plastic bag so your entire repair kit doesn’t stick together if it leaks.
- Spare Crampon Bails. Most mountaineering crampons come with one set of each of universal and automatic toe bails. After deciding your primary attachment system, bring the alternate just in case.
- Sleeping Pad Repair Kit. Most inflatable pads come with one. If you don’t have it, or have already used it, replace it! The adhesive will often dry out fairly quickly once it has been opened. A popped pad can be a trip-ender, or at least a comfort-ender, during the frigid nights on Denali.
- Small Sewing Kit. Great for holes in gloves, packs, etc.
- Bailing Wire. Around two feet should suffice, potentially more if traveling on skis. This can be used to repair climbing and ski boots. Bonus points for stainless steel wire!
- Hose Clamps. Two are plenty and are great for broken ski poles.
- Ski Straps. The longest length is the most versatile, and can be used to fix seemingly just about anything. I’ve used two ski straps to replace busted ski boot buckles, and they worked better than the original buckles. Bring a few of these, and for style points (plus quick access), have one or two live on your ski pole.
I have personally used every item in this list at least a few times out in the mountains, and they’ve sure remedied some headaches. Consider the scope of your climb in terms of timeline and mode of travel, then fortify your repair kit to meet those needs. All in all, think about keeping small problems small. This list is a great place to start to prevent those headaches from turning into migraines.