Have you ever been on an outdoor adventure and had a gear failure? Well, I have, and it sucks. Buckles are key components to many outdoor gear items, and like anything made of plastic they can break. So what can you do when this happens? Luck for you, Sea to Summit has a whole product line of repair buckles – of which the 1-Pin Side-Release Field Repair Buckle has come in handy for me on multiple occasions to keep the adventure going and keep gear chugging along without having to buy new gear to replace it.
A recent gear failure I experienced was when one of my kids stepped on the chest buckle to our baby carrier and the plastic snapped. If you have used a baby carrier like an Ergo, you know that without a chest buckle it’s pretty much useless (and unsafe to continue using!). We were about to go on vacation and having the baby carrier to schlep around our one year old was essential for our plans. Plus, we had that Ergo since our first kid was born and it had sentimental value – I didn’t want a new one! So I ran down to our local REI and grabbed one of the Sea to Summit 1-Pin Side-Release Field Repair Buckles and fixed it right up.
When Chris and I backpacked a portion of the Appalachian Trail with some buddies recently, I experienced a few buckle failures on my ancient Mountainsmith Phoenix backpack. The Mountainsmith Phoenix was notable when it came out in 2008 as being made with 100% recycled PET fabric and sustainable bio-polymer buckles / hardware. I dusted off my Phoenix backpack after almost a decade of not using it, packed it with my gear the night before our trip, cinched everything down, and SNAP – a buckle broke. I guess those sustainable bio-polymer buckles don’t last very long… Lucky for me I had already repaired the baby carrier so like any resourceful dad would, I looted the buckle from the baby carrier and put it on my backpack. Then, while I was out on the trail, my chest buckle broke too. Again, a chest strap is almost essential for backpacking in how it helps distribute weight. So, I moved the repair buckle I looted before to the chest strap and used a piece of paracord to tie off the other broken buckle spot. Needless to say, as soon as I got home from that trip I ordered a few more of the Sea to Summit 1-Pin Side-Release Field Repair Buckles to bring the backpack and the baby carrier I looted from back up to par. I added a few extra to my order as well, which will allow me to make gear repairs on the fly and not rely on easy access to an REI or depend on shipping delays.
The key to the Sea to Summit 1-Pin Side-Release Field Repair Buckle is that it allows you to replace a buckle that is sewn into a strap. It contains a threaded screw that allows you to feed one side of the buckle through the sewn-in loop. I had to use a pair of wire cutters to break off the old buckle before replacing it with the repair buckle. My Leatherman Rebar came in handy on the trail to make this repair on the fly! You then just unscrew the screw, pull it out, position the buckle around the sewn-in loop, then feed the screw back through the buckle and loop and tighten it down with a Phillips head screwdriver (which my Leatherman Rebar also had!). As for the other side of the buckle, you may be able to just feed your existing strap through it, or if (like mine) the sewn-in stopper on the strap may need to be cut off for you to feed the strap through. You can re-sew the stopper into the strap if you want, but it is not necessarily essential in the moment. I didn’t sew mine in until I got back from our backpacking trip.
These buckles are pretty much universal. While various gear items may have different buckle designs / styles, as far as being able to fit a wide variety of strap sizes these are almost universal for most outdoor gear with buckles. The Sea to Summit 1-Pin Side-Release Field Repair Buckle comes in a variety of sizes, so be sure to measure your strap width before you pick one up.
As evidenced by my gear failure scenarios, these repair buckles are easy to install. Since Sea to Summit has a whole line of these, the way you install each field repair buckle depends on the design of that buckle. But regardless, Sea to Summit put thought into how to design the repair buckles for ease of install. No sewing was required when I was on trail to make my repair – I only had to cut and screw.
These field repair buckles are durable. Our baby carrier continues to be thrown around our minivan, including being stepped on by our kids again and again. In both scenarios, strenuous hiking occurred after the repair and the buckles held up. I would argue they are more durable than the original buckles on most gear brands. You can rest assured that your repair should last.
My only complaint is that the Sea to Summit field repair buckles are a bit expensive for what they are. When you look at possibly repairing a single gear item over time – such as my Mountainsmith Phoenix where two buckles broke, and I’m anticipating more will in the future – the cost of repairing multiple buckles quickly grows. I would say that it’s just cheaper than the cost to ship an item for warranty repair, way cheaper than buying a new piece of gear, but a bit expensive when you think about replacing multiple buckles over time. While some ingenuity went into some of these field repair buckles for easy install, they still amount to a tiny bit of plastic and maybe a metal screw or two. Pricy hardware, but still the most affordable option in most buckle-related gear failures.
- Easy to install
- A bit expensive for what they are
Rating: 4.5 / 5
While I wouldn’t give it a perfect score, it’s pretty close. I could only be happier if the Sea to Summit repair buckles were a bit cheaper – so I’m giving them 4.5 stars. To date, I’ve only had experience with the 1-Pin Side-Release Field Repair Buckle but because of those experiences I wouldn’t hesitate to go back to Sea to Summit for other repair buckles in their lineup. I highly recommend these repair buckles. Don’t throw out old gear, repair it! Because of these buckles, I expect to get at least another decade out of my Mountainsmith Phoenix backpack I bought back in 2008. And the Ergo baby carrier could probably last another three kids if it needed to! If you have a buckle-related gear failure, go with Sea to Summit. You can’t go wrong.
Do you have gear failures you’ve experienced? If so, how did you overcome / repair those? Comment below!