8 Items Every Dirtbag Needs in Their Emergency MacGyver Kit and How to Use Them

If dirtbags are one thing and one thing only (aside from dirty of course) we are a resourceful bunch. When things go wrong out in the wild, it’s always best to have a little fix-it kit at your side. We asked fellow dirtbags what were some of their best MacGyvered moments and came up with the ultimate lineup of DIY, fix-it tools you need to have on hand for your adventures.

1. Duct Tape

Duct tape can truly fix almost everything, even if it’s just for a little bit. Wrap several feet of it around a water bottle or trekking pole to take with you on the move. We were miles from anywhere while in Nepal and our third water filter failed us. Instead of purchasing disposable bottled water (which is simply burned in villages here), we duct taped our filter back together. It held up just long enough to get back to civilization. It was a win for the environment and a win for duct tape.

2. Zip Ties

Who knew that these little plastic do-daddies could be so useful in a pinch? It turns out, zip ties are a quick substitute for nearly everything, from a thread to attaching ski skins. Pro tip: Carry a few different sizes, from the bigger eight-inch ties all the way down to the thinner, four-inch variety.

Outdoor Pro Greg C. busted open a seem on his ski gloves during a backcountry hut trip. He used zip ties and a knife to “sew” the glove back together. He’s also reattached a skin tail with zip ties in the field, so he could keep on earning his turns.

3. Shoelaces

So you may want to carry a rated thin cord, such as 7mm cordelette if you indulge in any vertical activities, but shoelaces make super convenient ties, loops, sunglasses leashes, dog leashes, and more. Resident dirtbag Pro Kerr A., created a tag line from shoelaces and cut slings. Although we don’t recommend following in his footsteps, that’s a pretty fantastic (and scary) use for extra laces.

4. Climber “Tat”

Climbers use all sorts of weird slang to describe whatever it is they are talking about (sometimes even climbers don’t know what other climbers are saying), but tat refers to cut lengths of nylon webbing. Even if you don’t climb, a few extra nylon straps can really come in handy should you need ’em. Aside from creating safe climbing anchors, you can use these bad boys to rig a sling for a hurt arm, tie down extra gear to a broken backpack, and more.

5. Dental Floss

So you know how the dentist always gives you extra floss for your visit? Throw some of that goodness in your emergency fix-it kit! Madeleine B, an Outdoor ProLink member, fixed her glasses with dental floss. I’ve used dental floss to fix broken flip flops and whip up a sunglasses leash while rafting in Costa Rica. You’d be amazed at the power of this stuff, especially when it’s wrapped or braided. Bonus? It’s minty fresh too!

6. Hair Ties

Forget your hairbrush? No problem. Stop nappy dreads by braiding your hair and tying it off with hair ties. Did an elastic go out on your pack, shoes or pants? Hair ties can fix that. These handy, glorified rubber bands work well to put a temporary bandaid on a problem with different straps and cords. Wanda R, an outdoor Pro, once fixed her snowshoes with elastic hair ties.

7. Ski Straps

Ski straps combine the best things we love about zip ties and elastic hair ties into one incredibly useful item that goes beyond the slopes. Use a ski strap to attach gear to a backpack, Strap together pieces of a broken trailer, or be like Mark L, resident Outdoor ProLink member, and re-attach skins that have lost their stick. Ski straps are rubber, durable, and have buckles to help you really cinch down something tight and snug.

ski straps
Photo courtesy of Mark L.

8. Key Ring

Key rings are an excellent way to reattach pieces of broken metal, especially in a chain (think crampons and microspikes). Although you should only trust your body weight to a rated carabiner, key rings are awesome at fixing things where you need something to be durable, like when Wanda R. needed to fix a broken link in her microspikes.

9. Other  Handy Items

This list isn’t comprehensive. We’ve found that having a few additional items in your fix-it arsenal can go a long way in the event that something breaks. Here are a few other items we always like to carry on hand:

  • Waterproof matches or a magnesium fire starter
  • A knife – it doesn’t need to be big, but something that’s sharp and ready to cut
  • Tenacious Tape
  • Extra batteries (no one wants to use a dead headlamp)
  • A few rated, wiregate carabiners
  • Superglue

Who else has MacGyvered something great in the outdoors? Do you have a handy item in your emergency kit that has been useful to you? Let us know in the comments below.

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