In a circular economy, repair should be prioritized over replacement. Although it might be easier and quicker to send out a new product, what happens to the “broken” one? Both eco-conscious consumers and legislation are increasingly demanding the right to repair. In March 2023, the EU adopted a new proposal promoting the repair of goods to ensure that consumers have easier and cheaper options to repair products that are technically repairable.
Many brands have repair procedures in place, allowing customers to send in faulty clothing, footwear and sporting equipment items. But lots of repairs can be done by consumers themselves, saving valuable CO2 associated with shipping and returns. The easiest way to facilitate this? With “How To videos.” In our listicle, we highlight the outdoor and sporting brands and retailers who are already helping consumers repair their own outdoor gear, making it last longer and keeping it in circulation for as long as possible.
In our article Patagonia’s Re:Thinking: How circular is one of the most ambitious outdoor brands? we ask exactly that: How circular is one of the most ambitious outdoor brands, Patagonia? Often held up as one of the best examples of sustainable business in the outdoor industry, it of course offers a repair service and launched the Worn Wear program as far back as 2005. Globally, Patagonia now has 72 repair centers and repaired over 100,000 products in the past year.
But for consumers keen to try and repair their own Patagonia products, there is also a series of videos available on YouTube, including how to repair a zipper, how to fix a buckle and how to “better a sweater,” which details depilling a sweater.
2. Helly Hansen
Some clothing repairs can actually be avoided by following the correct cleaning and care processes for technical clothing. This is especially true for performance clothing, like wool base layers, down jackets and outer shells.
Helly Hansen offers a series of free product care videos for its range of products on YouTube, including how to wash and care for wool base layers and down jackets. With the right care, damage from incorrect washing procedures, such as shrinking and loss of DWR coatings, can be avoided.
Swedish consumers’ favorite sustainable brand Fjällräven has a series of videos on YouTube with topics ranging from small repairs like patching Fjällräven rucksacks and clothing, to routine care videos including how to take care of wool garments, storing down items and maintaining water repellency.
Norrøna is another Scandinavian brand offering videos on its homepage which show you how to do simple fixes on your outdoor clothing, including patching Gore-Tex items, fixing tears in down jackets and replacing zipper pulls. The brand also provides spare parts to make repairing Norrøna products even easier.
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When it comes to keeping outdoor and sporting equipment in service for longer, US outdoor retailer REI has a varied list of instructional videos that cover a wide range of activities. These include videos on how to clean a rope, how to fix a broken tent pole, and how to clean a hydration bladder.
6. Mountain Hardwear
Mountain Hardwear is helping consumers to repair their own outdoor equipment and clothing with its YouTube series: MHW Gear Care. The videos look at repairing tents, sleeping bags, and caring for down and rainwear. There is also a video on field care, for repairs on-the-go.
Adventure gear supplier Exped has a long history of prioritizing repair. Durability, reliability and repairability are key focus areas in its product development. Repairs can be processed in-house by Exped’s repair team but the brand also offers a comprehensive playlist of How To guides. This includes how to repair a tear in a camping mat and how to fix a leaking sleeping mat.
When it comes to repairing footwear, shoe manufacturer Icebug is well known for its realistic approach to sustainable business practices, with its philosophy: “You can’t save the planet by buying Icebug shoes … But if you need a pair of shoes, we’re doing what we can to reduce the environmental damage.” As such, the company does its best to help consumers repair.
If a stud or even two is lost, customers can send a photo to Icebug, who will evaluate the condition of the shoes and decide if it is worth sending out a replacement stud. To try and make repairs, however small, as environmentally friendly as possible, customers are actually encouraged to visit their local shoemaker to repair shoes with minor defects.
Icebug offers reimbursement for minor repairs and supplies retailers and shoemakers with spare studs, to eliminate unnecessary shipping from/to end customers, who can have a repair done locally.
For the Boa Fit System used as a closing system on many Icebug models as well as ski boots from Salomon, and Atomic, running shoes from Scarpa, La Sportiva and Adidas Terrex, and even cycling shoes, Boa has an extensive catalog of repair videos.
Repairing the heavy duty material of Deuter products often requires an industrial sewing machine, but the German-based outdoor company is keen to get consumers to carry out small repairs themselves. To do this, the Deuter Repair Service now has a dedicated section on the brand’s website, with DIY tutorial videos for replacing certain straps, buckles, or a rucksack closing skirt. Spare parts can also be purchased.
Any work that cannot be carried out by the consumer can be sent to the Deuter Repair Service, which has been undertaking repairs for 120 years.
If you have an Ortlieb bicycle bag that needs repairing, you may be able to fix it yourself. The brand now has five repair videos explaining how to repair your Ortlieb product: From buckles to quick locks, to top locks and seat packs. All are available on YouTube.
Vaude is another outdoor brand with a long-standing focus on repairs as part of its sustainability strategy. In 2020, Vaude introduced its Repair Index, which systematically embeds repairability in product development to ensure that products are designed to be as repairable as possible from the outset.
Some of these repairs can be carried out by the brand, but others can be done by consumers themselves. To find out how to fix your Vaude product, the brand has a number of blog posts including how to sew the hem on a functional jacket, how to rethread a zipper, and how to change the wheels on Vaude trolley luggage.
Vaude also cooperates with the online platform iFixit and the Repair Cafés, to provide even more instructions on how to fix a Vaude backpack, mounting plate, strap, buckle and more.
Did we miss anyone out?
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if your brand also makes it easy for consumers to repair their own equipment and clothing, and we’ll add you to the list.
Up next: Repair and the challenges that brands face on the road to offering repairs
Consumers and legislation are demanding a right to repair, but providing this service is often not so simple for brands. With examples from those doing it right, we look at how the outdoor and sporting industry are overcoming the challenges of providing repair services.