Gear Guy

How can I make old gear look as good as new?

Instead of buying all-new gear with the requisite bells and whistles attached, I'd just like to have my old stuff upgraded. I do remember hearing about a company that will restore or fix your old gear as well as upgrade it; you know, putting new straps on a backpack or adding new zippers to a rain shell. Have you heard of any companies like that? Evan New York City

A: There are a variety of ways to keep old gear up to date and functioning well, provided the stuff isn't completely falling apart. Keep in mind, too, that some stuff can look fine—tents in particular—but the fabric can be so sun-weakened that it's just waiting for a gust of wind to shred it.

Nikwax TX Direct

In your own home, you can launder nearly all outdoor gear and chuck it in the clothes dryer (with the exception of tents, which are best hand-washed then hung out to dry). Clothing can also be treated with one of several after-market liquids that restore or even add water repellency. Examples: Nikwax TX Direct Spray-On ($21; for outerwear, and Nikwax TX-10 Polarproof ($11) for fleece and pile. You can also iron on patches of various types to plug holes and leaks. McNett makes a Gore-Tex Repair Kit that sells for $6 ( Beyond that, several companies can perform extensive repairs, replace zippers, add features, and so on. The outfit I regularly use is Rainy Pass Repair in Seattle—they do warranty work for several big companies and can fix nearly anything. Call or e-mail them (888-747-7867;, describe the repair you need, and get a reasonably accurate estimate. This past summer I used Rainy Pass to retrofit a favorite pack of mine with better lash-on straps. They've also repaired a travel duffel of mine that had a blown-out zipper. The repair not only looked perfect, it actually improved on a design defect, rendering another blow-out highly unlikely.

So give it a shot, and keep that old gear looking great and working well.

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