As a regular camper who spends perhaps 70 or 80 nights a year in the bush, I can guarantee that one day you will be faced with the situation that needs a bush repair and fix it job. It could be anything from a broken camp chair, torn tent, or simply a bent tent peg. The possibilities are endless and can range from the mundane to the more dramatic, but whatever the situation, your response to them will require some level of resourcefulness and a basic kit of tools and “fix it” aids.
My core fix-it-kit contains pliers, shifting spanner, screw drivers and a hammer. A folding multi-tool is also useful with its ability to cut, file and perform numerous other tasks. In addition, I also carry a small bag containing some rope, coil of stiff wire, electrical tape, duct tape, hose clamps, cable ties, silicone, WD40 and a selection of different glues.
This kit can be kept with your camping equipment and added to as circumstances demand. You may have a gas jet that blocks regularly and requires cleaning with a fine needle. Other campers I’ve met routinely carry a cordless drill with drill bits, metal threads and even lengths of threaded rod. However, most repairs can be handled with more basic items.
Cable ties are especially useful as the first line of repair in many situations, they can be used to stitch a tarp tear together, attach seat fabric back to a camp chair, or even splice a broken fishing rod back into one piece. Large cable ties are even sufficiently robust to repair a broken tent pole by using several pieces of fencing wire as a splint, and then pulling the bundle together with the ties. Chair frames can be repaired using a similar technique – although using hose clamps rather than ties may give as a stronger fix.
I also like to carry a product called Rapidfix, a new generation superglue that includes a powder capable of building up a strong surface between broken parts. It’s a very effective product that quickly adheres to most materials and is amazingly strong. It’s far from being just a “get you home” type of repair, in fact many items fixed with this product will be suitable and strong enough for use on future camping trips and beyond.
Other products worth carrying are silicone and WD40. Silicone can be used to waterproof a cut tent that has been stitched with cable ties, or used as an adhesive where the repair needs to remain pliable – for example when gluing the sole back on a boot or fixing holes in fishing waders. Spray lubricants such as WD40 will ease, and free up jammed zips and hinges, while offering some assistance to de-water a drowned car ignition system.
Lengths of stiff wire are also useful items that can be used to deal with many structural failures. I have even used short lengths of fencing wire to tie a star picket over the break in a trailer suspension arm. The wire is folded in half then wrapped around the broken part and its splint, before being twisted in a corkscrew fashion, using a screwdriver or similar to increase the tension. In this instance cable ties and duct tape kept the assembly together, allowing us to reach a workshop for permanent repairs.
Thankfully, not all repairs require this level of commitment, and before attempting any major ‘fix-its’ such as this, the consequences of a temporary repair should be thought through carefully. The trailer damage mentioned occurred off road and the slow limp onto the next town was done in a traffic free environment with no risk to other people.
Even a camp chair repair should be tested for structural stability before using it – and even then, maybe reserve that chair for the lightest member of the camping party.
Sophisticated repairs in the bush tend to be vehicle orientated, rather than gear related, and demand some skills and additional tools. A full kit of spanners and specialised tools including Allen keys, pozidriv bits, pliers, multimeter etc are usually required for bigger jobs. In addition to those tools, oils and other applicable fluids should be carried together with epoxy metal; fuel tank repair putty, and even battery powered welding equipment.
Of course, some knowledge will be required to undertake difficult repairs out bush, but if you are travelling into remote country, just carrying some additional gear is good insurance and offers peace of mind. You may not know how to deal with the repair, but a passing traveller could very well have the skills to use your gear to get you going again.
Routine repairs such as straightening a tent peg using a hammer and a nearby rock for support, or tying a broken rope back together are ideal tasks for the younger members of your group. Their involvement at this age will encourage them to think laterally and build up their confidence to deal with more demanding situations down track in the future.
One of the best things about a family camping excursion is that you all learn to adapt and work together in a less than perfect world, where all of the mod cons and quick fixes to problems we take so much for granted are not instantly available. There’s great satisfaction in dealing with, and at least attempting to fix broken equipment using basic items and a resourceful mind.
Author: Murray White