How I repaired my old backpack

// Published February 6, 2017 by Thor Carlson


I love traveling to different places to find good things to paint. There’s always something interesting going on somewhere and that is worthy to immortalize on canvas. Thus, my trusty old backpack has been through some tough times and through a dozen or so airports and conveyor belts. But I have grown so fond of it that when the backpack got damaged, I decided to repair it on my own. I felt that I and my backpack have grown so attached to each other, both literally and figuratively, that it deserves nothing else but my own hands to fix it and bring it back to life.

When the backpack’s fabric pockets sustained holes, tears and rips due to a variety of reasons, the first thing I went for was duct tape, which is a widely used and cheap means to fix rips and tears temporarily in different fabrics. When removed, duct tape tends to leave a sticky residue that can be handled easily using methylated spirits. Specialist tapes are available though, so feel free to get some if you prefer.



I cleaned the area to be repaired inside and out first using a damp piece of cloth. Before the adhesive was applied, I made sure the area was completely dry so the duct tape would stick. To ensure good coverage, I cut the duct tape one inch larger beyond the edges of the rip, tear or hole all the way around the broken area.

Before covering the tear on the outside, I first stuffed the inside of the backpack. After sticking the tape onto the outside aspect of the tear, I removed the things I put into the backpack and then placed a second piece of tape on the inside aspect to strengthen the tear I had fixed.
To handle a tear in the mesh pocket, I had to take a needle and nylon cord to fix it. Some dental floss or fishing wire will do just as well as nylon cord. Sewing sideways, I used the first few stitches to close the tear and then pulled the mesh together. I then sewed up and down, creating a grid resembling the mesh that I had pulled together.

Seam grip was useful for going over the stitching I had made, as it reinforced the stitch and also augmented the fix with some water resistance.


When the zip got distorted, or when it went around with the pack still open, I simply opened the zip as far as it could go, then took a pair of pliers to lightly squeeze the bottom and top of the slider together. This brought the slider closer to the zip, solving the problem instantly. For bent slider teeth, I used a pair of needle nose pliers for greater precision. I used the tool to bend the teeth back into shape. If you do this, remember to be gentle as a tooth could easily snap off.

Lip balm can be used to lubricate jammed zips, but dry lube works better. When the slider needs to be completely replaced, don’t worry. When that happened to my backpack, I just bought a new zip slider and replaced the broken one in minutes. I had to be very careful removing the older slider so I wouldn’t damage the zip. I just cut it off with a pair of pliers, then slid the new one onto the zip.

Replacing a broken buckle on the go won’t be that easy. Since what broke was a chest strap buckle (this also applies to a broken buckle on your hip), I replaced it with another one that was in a less crucial area of the pack and that was of the same or approximate size. When I got home, I replaced the broken buckle immediately with a new one and then put back the other old buckle where I had taken it from.

When all else fails, just get a new backpack. That being said, it is always a great idea to get a really durable top quality backpack at the onset, so you wouldn’t have to worry about repairs in the future.



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