written by Conor Foley

What is the lifetime of your gear? We know that gear is born in a busy factory amid the constant thrum of sewing needles and piles of assorted essential parts: zippers, fabric, down, etc… We know that gear is raised in backpacks and closets and muddy creek beds. Lately, our social media sites have become family photo albums for our gear full of “remember when” and “look how cute”, documenting all of the wonderful moments in our gear’s life. But when does gear die. When a part fails? Busted zipper, so long old friend. Big old tear, it’s been nice knowing you. Were they our family we would not think twice about getting them stitched up. For many of us, that is the case for our gear as well. It is covered in jagged scars or sticky patches that mark memories and more days ahead. But too often, as is the case for many things in our society, our gear ends up on the trash heap. How can we as avid outdoor explorers and responsible stewards of our environment help to keep fewer items from ending up in the landfill? The answer for outdoor gear is the same as for the many products we purchase on a daily basis: reduce, reuse, recycle!


Reduce means throw fewer things away. Keep using those old school pullovers inherited from the previous generation’s explorers. Or, if you’ve already got the gear but it’s a little worse for wear, get it fixed! Many of the items you find in our shop come with a lifetime warranty against manufacturer’s defects. If your gear is still covered under warranty then breathing new life into it may be as simple as sending it into the manufacturer. If your gear does not qualify for warranty repair or replacement then what you need is the The Gear Fix.

3R patagonia

Image from Patagonia’s guide to installing a new zipper

We are lucky to have The Gear Fix, a wonderful repair shop, close by in Bend, Oregon. Luckier still, they come to The Salem Summit every three weeks to pick up and drop off gear that needs to be repaired. The folks at The Gear Fix can perform the type of magical repairs that keep your gear on its feet, anything from a broken zipper on your jacket to a new sole for your shoes. That means you can spend less money on new stuff and have more funds for new adventures.

If you enjoy the satisfaction of doing it yourself, there are many guides for how to make repairs at home. Patagonia has compiled quite a few helpful how-to’s for you to use on your next project: http://www.patagonia.com/us/worn-wear-repairs  These fix guides include instructions on how to install a zipper, how to fix a busted baffle, how to wash and dry your outdoor gear, and more!


There are certain items that have a defined lifetime for safety reasons. Much of the climbing gear in your closet falls under this category. Unfortunately, no fix you could perform is likely to restore these pieces to full working order. However, that does not necessarily mean they have outlived their usefulness. The boundaries of your creativity are the only limits to what can be done with gear that is beyond fixing. Many climbers have found very creative second lives for their ropes in particular. There are a number of businesses that will take your old rope and turn it into a woven rug, a dog leash, a horse lead or any number of useful items. Patches of fabric may be taken from an old piece of clothing and stitched to make an overcoat for a dog or a small pouch for you to use while backpacking. The possibilities are endless.

If you would like to give new life to your climbing ropes check out this video tutorial on how to weave a rope rug: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uX9DJp_pfgM


Someday in the future your gear will come to the end of its useful lifetime. Hopefully, it will be well marked from decades of great memories. When this day comes and it’s time to say goodbye, remember that there is still a chance for your gear to be reborn! Thanks to the pioneering efforts of Patagonia, there are now options for recycling your apparel. Patagonia has worked with several recycling companies to turn your old garments into new fabrics. In fact, an increasing number of the products in their own collection are made from recycled materials.

Recycling your gear can be as easy as mailing in your old Patagonia clothing or dropping it off at your nearest Patagonia store (in our case that is in Portland). To find out more about Patagonia’s Common Threads recycling initiative visit their website: http://www.patagonia.com/us/worn-wear/

Much of the non apparel gear in your closet is likely made with aluminum which can also be recycled. For those of you interested in recycling used fuel canisters, there are special considerations to take into mind. These canisters must first be punctured using a special tool which we happen to have at The Salem Summit Company. Bring your canisters to us and we will recycle them for you!

We enjoy the great privilege of living in a beautiful corner of the world filled with countless opportunities for adventure. It is our responsibility to ensure that this paradise can continue for the enjoyment and support of the coming generations of inhabitants, animal and human alike. Do your part to make this a reality by reconsidering what you toss and how you might make treasure out of trash.