When it comes to gear I’m an indifferent steward, as anyone who has been around my bike or skis—or heaven help them, my ski boots—can attest.
I’m frugal but not handy, and I don’t like working on gear. When I do, I sound like the dad in “A Christmas Story,” inventing a new lexicon of swear words while fixing the furnace.
I’m a dyed-in-the-wool dirt bag, and it shows as clearly as the orange duct tape holding together the seat of my ski bibs.
Here’s the thing about duct tape though: It doesn’t really work. It falls off after a few washings and leaves a glue-y residue. And because it has no elasticity, you can forget about patching stretchy material or a hole near a joint.
When gear repairs exceed the scope of adhesive, I give up.
Take my Rab puffy. Three years ago in Glacier National Park, a black bear startled me while I was climbing over a fallen tree, and in my surprise I snagged the armpit of my jacket and added a 4-inch-long DIY pit vent. For more than two years, that puffy went from the coat closet to the coat rack and back while I gradually tuned out the “send in jacket for repair!” sticky note on my laptop.
Then I discovered NoSo Patches. These pre-cut patches come in an array of colors and shapes, from skulls-and-crossbones to salmon. They apply in seconds, and the strong-yet-stretchy material stands up to the rigors of whatever activity rips gear in the first place.
I placed an order for a handful of patches, and the day they arrived I swabbed the tear in my Rab jacket with rubbing alcohol, applied the patch, smoothed it out with my thumb, and threw it in the dryer for five minutes. Then I experienced the special kind of satisfaction that comes only from completing a task that’s been delayed out of proportion to its actual difficulty. I experience this feeling a lot.
Like that, my Rab jacket was back in rotation. It was like putting on an old coat and finding forgotten money in the pocket.
The old adage says something like, if the only tool you have is a hammer, it is tempting to treat everything like a nail. After I applied my first NoSo patch, everything I owned all of a sudden looked moth-eaten.
I immediately dug out my cherished Brooks Range expedition-weight puffy, which regularly exhales feathers from a number of leaks ranging from pinhole- to pencil-eraser-sized. I pasted a skull-and-crossbones patch on the shoulder and immediately got compliments. No one has ever complimented my tasteful duct tape work.
Since then I’ve patched stuff sacks, stove burns in coat sleeves, and blown-out seams. I’ve applied the patches to purely cosmetic holes for purely cosmetic reasons. I’ve rescued things that had been consigned to, if not the dustbin of history, then at least the cardboard box of good intentions.
More importantly, I’ve given new life to old gear, which in this world of high prices and high carbon footprint means more than a little. For my gear, NoSo Patches have meant the difference between “loved to death” and “loved.”