Far from becoming obsolete, backpacking has enjoyed a newfound trendiness in recent years. Part of the appeal is that this hobby involves knowing how to tackle challenges and fix problems as they come up. For example, do you know how to fix a backpack strap without sewing?
In the smartphone era, it’s often all too easy for us to look up quick fixes for our problems. When items break, we might throw them out or simply take them to Goodwill, instead of trying to fix them. With the touch of a button, we can have the replacement delivered to our door.
However, part of the reason people today love backpacking is that it doesn’t let you get away with that. When your strap breaks, you might be out of cell phone range, and you’ll almost certainly be miles from the nearest REI. Knowing how to fix a backpack strap without sewing, and actually doing it, feels far more rewarding than stepping out to buy a new backpack.
The DIY Appeal of Backpacking
Backpacking technically got its start in our hunter-gatherer days. The oldest backpack ever discovered was found alongside the famously mummified Ötzi the Iceman, who lived about 5,000 years ago. Back then, people used animal skins or cloth tied to a wood frame to carry essential items with them. In the age of the Paleo diet trend, perhaps it’s no surprise that people also want to bring back backpacking.
But the modern concept of backpacking first took off with the nature-loving hippies of the ‘60s and ‘70s. The young people at the time went backpacking through parts of Europe and Asia to see the world and find themselves. The attraction of these activities certainly hasn’t been lost in the decades since.
However, the main reason people today love backpacking seems to have something to do with the appeal of doing things yourself. Maybe that's why so many young people now seek out longer, more meaningful trips, instead of beachside hotels.
We live in an age of unprecedented convenience. However, that makes taking time away from instant gratification all the more attractive. The appeal of having a slower, tech-free pace of life, even for a few days, makes the challenges of backpacking well worth it -- even if you have to learn how to fix a backpack strap without sewing.
How to Fix a Backpack Strap Without Sewing
When you’re backpacking, things will inevitably go wrong. But instead of seeing this as an inconvenience, try viewing it as a chance to challenge yourself with a DIY fix. Anyone can learn how to fix a backpack strap without sewing!
Let’s take a look at some basic strap repairs you can do without a needle and thread.
If your buckle breaks, you can replace it with a spare one.
Chances are, you don’t carry extra backpack buckles around with you. Instead, you can repurpose one from a different, less-important part of your pack. For example, you might find a buckle on the back or side of your bag that’s not attached to a weight-bearing strap. Just check that the size of the buckle is close to the size of the one that broke.
First, take off the broken buckle. If you have pliers on you, this will make it easier to pry or break the buckle off without damaging the strap.
Next, use your knife to cut the bar of plastic that attaches the replacement buckle to its current strap. If cutting through the plastic is too hard, try warming it up first, so the plastic gets softer.
Now, you can put the strap webbing through the plastic of the replacement buckle. Use duct tape to fix up the part that you cut through, so it won’t come off.
Heavy-duty backpacks won’t have drawstrings. But if you have a light day pack with drawstrings, you’ll want to know how to fix a backpack strap without sewing -- and luckily, this fix is easy.
If the drawstring strap breaks or has other problems, just remove it and replace it with a piece of sturdy string. Tie it in a secure knot so it won’t come undone for the rest of your trip.
Sometimes, the weight of a strap causes the fabric near it to rip.
Fix the tear as soon as you notice it, so it can’t get any bigger. Duct tape is one of the best ways to fix your pack fast. However, keep in mind that duct tape leaves a sticky residue behind when you take it off. If you’re not okay with that, you may want to invest in a different kind of tape that doesn’t leave a residue instead.
First, clean any dirt or debris from the damaged area. Otherwise, the tape you apply might not stick. Make sure the area is completely dry before you add tape.
Next. cut a piece of tape to the size you need. You’ll want the tape to be longer than the rip, so it will stay put easily. If you can, cut the tape into a circular shape. Long pieces often get caught on things and can get pulled off of the fabric. With a circle, it’s harder for the edges to get caught on a branch or another obstacle.
Add tape to both the inside and the outside of the pack, for a double layer of reinforcement (and so there’s no sticky side facing out). You’ll probably want to add the outer layer first, while the pack is still full. Then, take some things out so you can add the inner layer.
Unfortunately, if your strap tears right through, there’s no one-size-fits-all way to fix it.
You can do your best to jerry-rig a solution using rope, tape, safety pins, or “sewing” with dental floss or fishing line. Knowing how to fix a backpack strap without sewing involves keeping versatile repair tools with you (more on that later). However, the best way to handle a torn strap is to avoid one altogether.
First, make sure you always inspect your pack before you go out on a trip. If the straps start to look frayed or worn, it’s time to get replacement straps (or a new pack). Backpacks take a beating on the trail, but that doesn’t mean you should keep using a worn-out pack indefinitely.
You can also protect your backpack by treating it with care. Even though they’re meant to be durable, don’t add any more strain to the main straps than you need to.
For example, when picking your pack up and putting it down, use the built-in loop at the top as a handle, instead of the main straps.
Make sure to keep your pack clean -- this helps it last longer, too. When you get back from a trip, remove any caked-on mud or dirt. Brush debris from your pack as often as you can during the trip, too. Grit and debris degrade the quality of the fabric. Give your pack a more thorough cleaning with water at least once a season (but avoid soap unless you absolutely need it).
Also, make sure you have the right pack for the job. Today’s popular “ultralight” packs are great for short trips, but they aren’t durable enough to stand up to rough use.
The Strap Repair Tools You Should Always Carry
For quick backpack repairs, make sure you carry a few essential items with you. Knowing how to fix a backpack strap without sewing does little good if you don’t have the tools you need. Most of these things have multiple uses, so they’ll come in handy in all kinds of unexpected situations.
Duct tape, or a non-residue-leaving version of it, can be a backpacker’s best friend. You can use it to fix all kinds of tears and holes in your pack, as well as fixing other items, such as clothing and even shoes.
You can find specialty outdoor tape in pre-cut round stickers. However, you’ll save money if you buy a whole roll, and cut it into the snag-resistant circular shape yourself, as needed.
Knife or scissors
As you can see, cutting things is an important part of many backpack strap repairs. Many backpackers will find a knife more versatile, but scissors work well for some tasks, too -- you may want to carry both if you can.
When you get rid of an old backpack or another piece of equipment, it never hurts to keep as many spare parts as you can. The parts that are still in working order may come in handy later.
Keeping extra straps and buckles will help you fix up an old backpack at home. If you can, put a couple of spares in your pack before you leave for your trip, and your DIY repairs will be that much easier.
Many times, backpack makers use the same buckles on different pack styles. If you buy from the same brand, you might find that a lot of the parts are interchangeable.
Locking diaper pins
Locking diaper pins are great for hooking things together on the go. In fact, if your backpack strap tears, these pins might just be enough to hold it together until you get to your destination.
Tips for Choosing a Pack That Won’t Break
To avoid breaking your straps, it’s a good idea to choose a high-quality backpack that fits well and is suited to your needs. No backpack will last forever, but if you select one carefully, you’re less likely to have surprise mishaps on the trail. Although you may know how to fix a backpack strap without sewing, it’s better if you don’t have to! Let’s look at a few of the ways to choose the right pack for you.
First, make sure to select the correct backpack size.
Get an idea of how long your trip will be, and how much stuff you plan to take before you invest in your first backpack. If you’re not sure what size to get, go slightly larger. Stuffing too much into a small pack will make the straps break faster.
As you start doing more types of trips, you’ll probably need a few different pack sizes. You’ll need a much larger and sturdier pack for a week-long trip than for a day hike, for example.
That leads us to the next important factor in choosing a backpack -- type.
Different packs hold up better to different conditions. Small, lightweight daypacks will probably break if you bring them on an intense adventure. Make sure to get a backpack specifically designed for backpacking if you’ll be taking longer trips, or exposing your pack to lots of wear and tear along the way.
Finally, you can reduce the chances of a broken strap or another issue by getting a pack that fits you well.
It’s also important to get the proper fit, so the weight sits where it’s supposed to on your body. That keeps you more comfortable and helps prevent injury.
The size of your backpack depends on the length of your torso, rather than your height. This sizing method positions the pack, so your hips bear more of the weight, taking the load off your shoulders and back.
You can look up online guides to backpack fitting and take the measurements yourself. However, for your first pack, it’s best to go into a store and have a professional help get you fitted.
Are You Prepared for Your next Hike?
Knowing how to fix a backpack strap without sewing keeps you more prepared for any issues you might encounter on the trail.
Part of the thrill of backpacking is never knowing what could happen. There’s the joy of seeing a beautiful sunset or a deer in a clearing. But there’s also a different kind of joy. The joy of figuring out how to fix problems as they come up. Few things can replicate the satisfaction of fixing your own stuff, even if it's as small as a broken backpack strap.
However, you should know much more than just how to fix a backpack strap without sewing before you head out. You’ll also need to have all the right equipment with you, and you’ll need to know how to use it. Not sure where to start? Check out our ultimate backpacking checklist!