Gear worth owning is pricey, and repairs used to be the path of least resistance. Today, it’s actually kind of a pain. Most companies aren’t going out of their way to announce or offer repair services. They’d rather have you buy this season’s version. You’ve got to pick up the phone or dig on websites to find repair policies. Once you’ve found where to have it fixed, you have to schlep to the post office, pay for shipping and the repairs, and then be gearless for weeks or sometimes longer. This process isn’t exactly new, but our patience for long waits in the very instantaneous world of Amazon Prime has waned.
But the hassle is well worth it for a number of reasons. There are the usual suspects: you’re reducing and reusing, saving money, and keeping more waste out of a landfill, all of which are valid in and of their own right. But for me, the real motivation is sentiment, a sense of shared history and the possibility of future adventures. While many of today’s products are disposable and designed to be — that’s okay, I’m glad not to still be rocking a Nextel — quality gear can hold up with a little TLC. It can build character by surviving scraps and rough patches, just like you.
Nicks, scratches and wear aren’t imperfections; they’re signs of a life well-lived.
This past winter a number of favorite pieces of gear reached that point in their lifespan where things started to give way. My Goruck backpacks had been around the country and the world, survived a handful of Goruck events, and usually made the daily commute with me to Boston. But the zipper on one had opened for the last time, jamming the pack open, and the other had a small tear after being dragged along the cobbled ground while dodging a speeding moped in Hue, Vietnam. So out they went to the brand’s repair facility in Bozeman, MT. Two weeks later they were back — with a few “scars” as Goruck likes to call them — but ready for more action.
At around the same time, my favorite Raleigh Workshop jeans suffered the dreaded crotch blowout after three years of wear. Perfectly worn in and one of the few pairs of jeans that will actually fit me, they couldn’t be retired. After some research and a recommendation from a friend, I shipped them out to a facility in Missouri for darning. I even ended up doing some repairs myself, minor surgery really, as I learned again to sew on a button (thanks, YouTube) and spent an afternoon actually using all those tiny envelopes of buttons I’d mindlessly tossed in a drawer to repair a few of my favorite shirts.
Every piece of gear I sent out or sewed up myself ended up even better than before, in my eyes. Their nicks and stains remind me of the places I’ve gone and events I’ve participated in, along with a few mistakes and close calls. The buttons I sewed are a small reminder to take the time to learn basic repairs. Since then, I’ve had a few more pile up that’ll require a trip to the Post Office or more YouTube tutorials. I don’t mind. My gear deserves the opportunity for a refurb, another shot at hitting the road, the trail, or just the subway commute. In fact, I’ve learned a pretty good lesson: nicks, scratches and wear aren’t imperfections; they’re signs of a life well-lived.