Backpack failures? How to prep for that?

So this weekend was the ARRL VHF/UHF/Microwave contest, one of my favorite contests and a good chance to work on a SOTA microwave award.

The plan was to hike up W2/GC-055, a short hike, and contest from there. I packed a ton of stuff, IC-905, aluminum mast, beams for 2m-5.7Ghz and HTs for 33cm and 1.25m. Its a short 1 mile hike so I figured what the heck!

Unfortunately I was delayed, the weather became a bit intense and I found myself going up in about 10-15F with a driving wind late in the afternoon…but I had plenty of cold weather gear so I pressed on.

What I was not prepared for was my 15 year old Osprey backpack (Kestrel 48) failing. The left shoulder strap ripped off of the bag when I was 3/4 of the way up, and being that the weather was so intense and it was about sunset I decided to turn around and scrap the operation rather than haul all my heavy gear down on one strap at night in cold/snowy/icy conditions. I have never had a pack fail before.

So instead of W2/GC-055 I ran a bit of the contest from the drive up summit W2/NJ-009 today in slightly warmer weather.

But the thought occurred to me, what would have happened had the bag split and the contents spilled out onto the ground? What would have happened had this not been a 1 mile hike but rather a 7 mile hike with a million little ham doodads spread over the ground around a split pack? Even if one didn’t have a million little things go everywhere, its not always possible to carry lots of stuff by hand for miles in the event of a failure, especially on tough terrain.

Do people have any ideas for planning for backpack failures? I can’t be the only person who this has happened to?

Are people carrying sewing kits suitable to fix backpacks or is this something so rare its not worth thinking about?

How much life are people getting from their backpacks?

Tom, N2YTF

BTW Osprey apparently has a lifetime guarantee so lets see if they fix/replace the pack now.


DUCT TAPE…lots of it.
:slightly_smiling_face: :slightly_smiling_face:


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I’ve never had a backpack break like this before…

But I have antenna wire, cords, cables,… with me and could have used them to make a second shoulder strap.

73 Armin


Hi Tom, my Lowepro camera backpacks have never failed me.
They are waterproof, protect my gear and fit my IC-705 or my
KX3 with antenna, cable and LiFePO4 accu.

73, Alex - DH2ID

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Hi Tom, a repair could be tricky. Maybe better to inspect critical kit from time to time as we would a parachute or climbing harness.
I have certainly overloaded my backpack occasionally, so it’s something I’ll think about…


I’ve had zips fail on 2 backpacks when in the field (open in the middle). One was a laptop bag at Edinburgh airport on the way to Friedrichshafen. 10mins of swearing and it got it fixed so it was good enough for the flight. The other fail was a new bag in OK a few kms from the car. Again 20mins of swearing and I was able to make it work. The zip was sewn in at both ends and the stitching came undone allowing you to move the zipper off the end :frowning: There was a hotel sewing kit in the hotel (needles and some cotton) so I was able to sew a new end stop to limit the motion. The repair holds up still 7 years later.

As for major failures? I just do a careful check every 3 months or so. Just check to see if there are any small holes/tears that might grow. I fixed a few in my old rucksack. I check the plastic buckles for damage and the straps for signs of stitching failing.

I think what is important is to treat all walking gear as being wear item and expendable. I retired my previous bag after 10 years SOTA. The bag has loads and loads of life in it but the foam in the straps was heavily compressed with heavy use. So no matter how you arranged it, after a few hours walking my shoulders hurt. I suppose I could have found a walking goods repair service to fit new straps but in the end I bought the same model again.


After 15 years (of regular use?) you’ve probably got your money’s worth out of it.

A new 20L rucksack (an Xmas pressie) recently replaced my favourite but old 18L one, which had split in several places due to constant over-packing for many activations. Fortunately, I carried small items in the zip compartments or in large dry-bags so no risk of them falling out the holes or getting wet.

Without knowing exactly where the strap broke, you were probably right to err on the side of caution and turn back especially in adverse weather conditions. I carry a (spare) long boot lace since someone on this reflector said their boot lace broke and couldn’t be re-threaded. It came in handy a few times for different reasons. A boot lace or string might have allowed you to make a temporary repair at least to make your return journey more comfortable.


Never had a problem like this with a backpack.
I did once stand on the plastic buckle and break it, which made for a slightly uncomfortable descent.
I do always carry gaffer tape (duct tape) and re-useable cable ties, which may have facilitated a temporary fix.

Stuart - G1ZAR

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That’s really strange to hear of a shoulder strap ripping off an Osprey pack! They are made extremely well and is the pack company of choice for many of us here in Colorado – I call it the “Colorado State pack” ;-). I have several Osprey packs – one for winter, for summer/fall, for mountain biking, etc. That being said, I have learned to carry items to make field repairs easier when needed. I carry zip ties and small diameter polyester rope. I’ve used zip ties to repair micro spikes for my boots and for other things. Works great! I can also use pieces of my SOTA EFHW antenna if I had to!

In any event, you’re in luck as Osprey stands behind their products and will take care of you. That’s why I also buy many products from Outdoor Research, MSR, and some others that have great customer service and warranties.

73, Brad

I typically keep a bungee cord in my pack, so my first thought would be to employ that.

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Hi Tom @N2YTF ,

My Osprey Kestrel 48 is about 3 years old. It’s been on many hikes, usually carrying 5kg - 10kg of kit. Mine failed at the point the waist belt attaches - see here:

Fortunately I wasn’t far from the van, so not a major issue, but had I been at the half-way point on a 20 mile day, the failure would have been a PITA.

Looking into UK warranty claims, I had to visit Go Outdoors (where I originally bought it), who said they couldn’t help as it was outside of their warranty period. So I then needed to either get the bag to Osprey at my cost for “warranty evaluation”, or send them a load of photos and they’d advise whether it was covered or not. Either way, the view from Go Outdoors was that it would be treated as wear & tear and/or being overused/overloaded, and thus not likely to be covered under warranty.

My experience with a Scarpa UK warranty claim I made on a similar wear & tear failure made me think going through Osprey would be a waste of time and effort (I’m happy to be corrected) and, as I needed the bag (we go out virtually every weekend), I thought it would be easier/quicker to just have it repaired at a UK-based repair place. Fortunately there is one just around the corner from our Burnley offices, so I was able to drop it off while attending site.

That company had my bag for almost 3 months and when I got it back, they’d repaired it using very weak cotton thread. Given they are one of the UK’s most well-known repair businesses, I had expected better frankly. Guess what? The bag broke the first time I used it - so instead of wasting more months waiting for the people in Burnley to fix it under their warranty, I just ordered a sail repair kit from Amazon and sewed it all up myself. It may not look neat, but it has been fine now for a few months and I’ve chucked the bag around some pretty tough terrain recently, whilst fully loaded - no issues at all.

I’ve no doubt other bits will break on the rucksack, but hopefully I’ll be able to fix them myself using the sail repair kit I bought. That was £5 from Amazon, so a hell of a lot cheaper than posting the rucksack to Osprey or paying for a repair at an independent place.

I do like the bag, so I intend to keep it for as long as possible. They were up to £180 last year, but I see on Go Outdoors they are back down to £99, which is still £30 more than I paid for it originally.

I’ll be really interested in hearing how your warranty claim goes :+1: Good luck!

73, Simon


Hmmm interesting. I was going to use them to resole my old TNF Hedgehogs. I’d worn the Vibram sole down to nothing over 60% of the sole but the shoes were in good condition and the Goretex still worked. But £65 for a resole was more than a price of a pair of new TNF Cragstone approach shoes in the TNF outlet shop which have a 1yr warranty.

I use the Hedgehogs for biking now where the lack of tread is not a problem. Saves them going into landfill.


Hi Andy,

Yes, the supplier is well known for doing re-soles. Whilst there, I asked about fitting new Vibram soles to my current Mammut boots (I use the Kento Tour High at the moment), but they wanted £99 to do the pair and needed them for a few months(!). As the boots were only £125 new at the time, I didn’t think it was worth it. I’ll just use them until they are destroyed and then I’ll start on the next pair, which I picked up in Andorra last year for about €140 - in fact, given the very low VAT rate in Andorra, it may be worth visiting the country again to buy all my future gear… :grinning:

It’s a shame that re-soles and other repairs are so expensive when compared to buying new boots/new kit generally, because it makes doing the right thing for the environment too expensive/just not economically viable.

73, Simon

Yes. It’s why I was pleased that I can get more use out of the old Hedgehogs. I reckon they’ve done over 1500km of dog walks (grass, forest, pavement, tracks) and summits in I/HB9/HB0/OE/DL/F in 4years and they were cheap anyway as they were the previous year’s colour scheme so about 2/5th normal price in the outlet shop.

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I’m old enough to remember Karrimor and their gold seal warranty on rucksacks. I have a 65l alpine sack that has been all over the European alps, up some real winter horrors in Scotland and other big trips into North Africa. It was used for summer & winter climbing, ski-mountaineering and less extreme trips. It got repaired for free three times, holes worn in the fabric, and is still a solid sack now. Beaten across the Dolomites last summer doing via ferrata.

There are no excuses for straps letting go of the sack. In the right (wrong?) environment it could consign someone to an avoidable death. Manufacturers hunting margins instead of assuring quality.

I’ve always thought Osprey to be over featured and lightly made. In reliable conditions, not a bad thing as it increases comfort. Unfortunately they cannot be described as squaddie-proof which is what you need in wilderness or harsh conditions.

Some cable-ties and a means of punching holes, like a tent peg or that spike on a Swiss army knife, may have helped but you shouldn’t need to be equipping for a primary strap tearing out of it’s foundations.


I’ve snapped sub-frame sections in 3 packs - normally, I suspect, when sitting back when taking an accidental slide on steep country - and the pack taking my full weight and momentum. Electricians tape and a tent-peg generally splints that until I get home and can order a new part.

I carry sewing gear in my ‘1st aid kit’ with both thread and stronger but thin cord used to repair tears in packs and reattach straps that start to fail. But I doubt I could sew a shoulder strap back on well enough to support the full weight of the pack.

Most overnight tramping (hiking) packs sold here would be used as much by hunters as trampers, and I suspect that applies to many other countries around the world. Some hunters do use hunting-specific brands, but more would have the usual international hiking pack brands. And as such these packs will regularly be carrying 40kg+ when bringing out meat. So I’d not expect the weight carried by a SOTA activator to be beyond their design capabilities.

Yep! After an embarrassing garment failure I carry a small sewing kit, about half the size of the iconic Altoids tin and weighing a few ounces. Never had to use it, but I reckon as long as I carry it, it won’t be needed!

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Really bad luck ! I carry a 1 metre lashing strap, a multitool/knife , and lots of the zinc oxide / elastic adhesive bandage tape found in first aid kits for field repairs.

The strap is dead useful for strapping stuff back together and kit to my rucksack! But the zinc oxide tape is the most useful, dead good stuff. Hope this helps !



I only ever had a buckle break, but that was my own fault as it got caught as I closed the back door of my car.

On several occasions I overloaded my backpack, creaking under the weight as I lifted it. But then quickly got to my senses, realising I was about to climb a mountain for SOTA and ditched the ‘just in case’ radio equipment.
I tend to carry two jackets in my pack, so a couple of well placed knots could either hold the gear inside the pack or function as a make-shift strap.

During a multi-summit day or weekend, I tend to carry a full set of walking & radio gear (pole, radio, antenna, coax etc) in a spare backpack. Wouldn’t help me in case of severe breakage during the hike, but it would not stop me from activating any remaining summits that day/weekend.

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i spotted a Benchmade folder

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