A shotgun-like blast rang through the boreal forest. But it wasn’t a shotgun. It was the sound of the tire on our canoe-cart exploding—pushed to the max by the 150 kilograms of canoe and gear on a cart limited to a capacity of about half of that.
(See video at bottom.)
We’d already put down about 55 kilometres of portage time on that cart earlier in our journey, but now, just two kilometres into a 21-kilometre uphill slog on a dirt track, the whole side of the tire had blown out. Stuck in a remote area with no one likely to show up, we had to sort it out ourselves.
Backcountry repairs are something many of us will have to face at one time or another. There won’t be a store or repair shop around—so the fix-it duties will inevitably fall on your shoulders.
It’s all part of being self-sufficient in the outdoors.
Repairs in remote areas are a combination of ingenuity and having a few basic things in your kit to create a fix that’ll get you to the end of your journey. There are several key items (beyond the ubiquitous duct tape) you should have in your kit.
In the case of our canoe cart wheel, we stuffed it with some of our extra clothes, then held it together with a knotted matrix of utility cord. Which brings us to the item #1 you should have when things fall apart:
1. Utility Cord: You never know when you’re going to need it or how you'll use it—it could be used to hold together a wheel, replace worn or broken lines on a tent or tarp, or replace a shoelace. I usually carry about five metres of light parachute cord and 15 metres of 4mm static cord. You can find any type of cord you need in bulk—cut to the size you need—at MEC or other retailers.
2. Aquaseal: This is an all-purpose repair glue that's ideal for replacing gaskets on dry suits—but it's also great for any type of burly fabric. It takes eight hours to set (leaving it overnight to cure is perfect) and will give you a flexible and strong repair for neoprene, shoe uppers, air mattresses—you name it. I had a 30-centimetre fraying tear in my pants a few years ago, caused when a branch tore it on a portage. I created a permanent fix by sewing the rip and sealing the sewing job with Aquaseal—and I still use those pants to this day.
3. Sewing Kit: I just mentioned using my sewing kit to fix a pair of pants in combination with Aquaseal. A pre-built, compact backcountry sewing kit I’ve used for years is the Gear Aid Outdoor Sewing Kit—it has everything you need to repair outdoor fabrics. It comes in a super-compact carrying tube stocked with heavy-duty nylon thread, handy cutter, thimble and an assortment of robust needles.
4. Leatherman (Multi-Tool): This legendary multi-tool is versatile for all sorts of repairs with an assortment of saws, knives, tool bits, scissors and, of course, pliers. I've used it to fix zippers on spray-decks and tents—and it's also my go-to as the best pot-holder around.
5. Gear Aid Tenacious Tape: For quick repairs of lighter fabric, Gear Aid Tenacious Tape is amazing. On this past summer's Maze of the North expedition through Nunavik, I used this product to repair a hole in our tent fly as well as well as a rip in my rain jacket. I even used it to secure a pick-up mic inside the guitar of musician Peirson Ross while we toured his album by canoe a couple years ago. The tape is still holding that mic firmly in place to this day.
6. Bailing Wire: This flexible wire is ideal for holding together broken ski bindings, pack straps and other items that may be under a lot of stress as you use them. Simply wrap the wire around the break in question and lock it in place with some duct-tape. Voila! You can now carry on and finish your trip
Watch the Video Here:
Look for a feature article on Frank’s recent “Maze of the North” expedition in the Spring 2018 issue of Explore magazine. For recent updates, follow Frank on Instagram @frankwolf70.