I love small kits. Any kind of kit, but especially for the outdoors. Over the years, I’ve acquired and even assembled all kind of kits ranging from first aid kits, fishing kits, and all types of survival kits. But, recently I had the opportunity to review another kind of kit and they’ve found a true fan in me. McNett produces and distributes all types of outdoors gear for various activities, but it was their Gear Aid Kit series that really stirred my interest.
As you can see in the first picture, McNett produces a variety of kits and refill packages that are sure to meet the needs of just about anyone who spends a lot of time in the outdoors. Right before our trip down to North Carolina, we received a box chock full of repair kit goodness. In fact, if I’m not mistaken, they sent a representative sample of each item in their Gear Aid Kit line of products. Along with the refill packs, we received their Camper Kit, Soloist, Explorer, their Cuts And Bolts Kit, and the Guide Kit. The Gear Aid Guide Kit was the one I worked from during the trip and for the duration of this product review. I passed out the other kits to some of our writers for Woods Monkey to try out and see what they thought. And, it didn’t take long for the kits to come in handy to help repair some gear. The first thing that came up was a tent repair that had to be made.
I had received a tent for review during that week long outing and as soon as I took the rainfly out of the box I saw a hole about the size of a golf ball staring back at me. A hole that size isn’t a welcome sight on any part of a tent, but especially not for a rainfly on a tent that only has mesh panels for the main roof area. I hate to admit it, but I was actually kind of glad to see the hole in a way. It’s like first aid kits–they are kind of tough to review unless something happens to occasion their use. So, as soon as I saw the hole in the rainfly, I was reaching for the box of McNett products. Along with the pre-assembled kits, they included some of their refill packs including their Fabric Repair Patches. It took all of about three minutes to pick the appropriate patch, peel the back and get the fly positioned on a flat surface to get a good seal from the self-adhesive patch. Thankfully, we did have the patches on hand since it rained fairly hard the next couple of days and there wasn’t one leak or issue with the patch. I won’t go so far as to call the storm a maelstrom, but it was strong enough to give me a good sense of the effectiveness of the repair made with the patch.
The next thing that came about needing repair was a large canvas prospector’s tent that a few of our writers shared for the duration of the outing. The tent is very spacious and harkens back to the days when men were men…well you get my drift. The center pole of the prospector’s tent was propped up against the ridgepole, but it hadn’t settled into the socket properly. So, when someone tried to reposition the pole, the top slipped out of the recess and then poked a hole in the roof of the canvas tent. McNett to the rescue! We grabbed the Explorer Kit and used it to make the repair. For that repair, we used copious amounts of duct tape to repair the hole since we didn’t figure a fabric patch would hold very long on the canvas material. The repair was a temporary fix and we discussed them using the kit to make a more permanent repair later when the tent was down and more easily worked on when it was on the ground. So far, we’d made two repairs pretty quickly and had some happy campers–including myself!
As we had a bit of an audience while we were working on the two tents with the kits, we had another fellow mention to us that he had a busted tent pole and wanted to know if we had anything to help fix it. Not to worry! I remembered that we had received a Tent Pole Splint Kit from McNett and I fished it out of the box and handed it over to him. He walked off with a smile on his face knowing he had a dedicated way to make the repair to make his shelter right and his week a bit more enjoyable.
As for me, I’ve spent the past month or so using the Guide Kit whenever I could to see how versatile the kit was and how effective the repairs would be. In fact, I used the Guide Kit before I took the trip down to North Carolina. You see, I got a new pup back in October and he tends to get into things he shouldn’t. I had lay my Marmot sleeping bag out on the living room floor to check it out and to decompress it since you shouldn’t leave sleeping bags of this type compressed for too long. I thought I had it far enough away from Jethro’s crate to avoid any issues, but I guess he went the extra mile stretching out to get it. As many out there know, puppy claws are very sharp–much like little needles. Well, he took a few swipes at the sleeping bag and made some impressive cuts in the bag’s fabric. When I saw the slits in the fabric, I remembered how much I had paid for that bag and it took a bit of counting in my head to bring myself back from my boiling point. So, when I received the box from McNett, I used one of the fabric repair patches to cover those cuts in the material of the sleeping bag. Actually, I cut the patch into different size strips to match the cuts and went about making the repairs. All told, it took about ten minutes to cut the right size patches and then apply them to the bag. I had my sleeping bag back! Now, the color of the patch didn’t match the fabric, but they give the bag a bit of character and will be a reminder in later years of a story about Jethro when he was young.
As an example of what’s included in the Gear Aid Kits, I’ve taken the content for the Guide Kit from McNett’s website and pasted it here. The Guide Kit is for those folks who are responsible for a group of folks and their respective kit. The other available kits have the amount of gear appropriate to the level and/or duration for which the kit is intended. The picture includes a few extra buckles and zipper repair items that I added to the Guide Kit.
1 Seam Grip ¼ oz Adhesive
1 Tent Pole Splint, .5”
1 2″ x 50″ Duct Tape
1 Black Paracord, 60″
1 1″ Flat Black Polypro Web, 40″
1 Blanket Pins, #7, Nickel
2 Cable Ties, 4″
2 Cable Ties, 8″
3 PDI Alcohol Towlette
1 Glue Stick 1 EA
1 2″ Side Release Buckle Set
1 1″ Side Squeeze Buckle Set
1 Siamese Slik Clips
1 Sliplock Buckle
1 Quick Attach, Tensionlock Buckle
1 Posigrip Cord Lock
Adhesive & Fabric Patches
1 Nylon 420D Patch 4 x 6
1 No-See-Um Patch, 4 x 6
1 Dark Blue Tenacious Adhesive Patch, 3″x10″
2 Safety Pin
1 Sewing Needle, #18, Chenille
1 Sewing Needle #16, Yarn
1 Bobbin #69 Olive Green
1 Button, Black, #201
Button, Black #24
2 Zipper Slider Coil Double #8
1 Zipper Slider Coil Double #5
1 #10 Coil Slider Single Tab
1 Zipper Slider Single #5 Black
In addition to the gear that’s included in the kits like the Guide Kit that I used for this review, there is also a large fold-out diagram that illustrates various types of repairs that can be made with the kit. The instructions provided in the diagram are pretty comprehensive yet easy to understand. I was impressed with the amount of detail included with each repair description. The one picking point I have with the instructions is the media on which they are printed. The pouches that contain the various kits are not waterproof, so if the bag got wet, it would be very easy to ruin the instructions. They could get wet and then disintegrate if not carefully looked after and it’s an easy fix, in my opinion, to keep that from happening. I would like to see each repair put on either the front or back of a laminated card. That way, you could have two repairs for each card in the pack. They wouldn’t necessarily have to be very thick, but the lamination would help with the problem that could arise from moisture or direct exposure to water. The pouches themselves are a good enough size to accommodate cards in the 4 inch by 6 inch range. While I think this would be an easy enhancement to the kit, I have no idea what the cost would be or if McNett would choose to do it. Short of that, it would be fairly easy for someone to trim the instructions to fix on cards and then laminate them as sort of a homemade waterproofing measure. While this seems like a trivial thing, some repairs have specific instructions and for the inexperienced the instrucitons could be invaluable.
So, is everything else 100% perfect with the kits? Yes and No. The kits are pretty comprehensive and cover a wide range of repairs that can be made, but I made some additions to the Guide Kit that I was using in order to augment the kit’s versatility. First off, the Guide Kit is intended for use to maintain the gear for a group of people. In my mind, that should mean the kit contains everything the other Gear Aid kits contain but have a bit more as well. For instance, the Guide Kit comes with 1 tube of Seam Grip adhesive. This is the same amount that comes with the Explorer and the Soloist. If you’re going to be responsible for the repairs for a group of people rather than one person, I would think the addition of at least one more tube would be needed. Also, McNett provides a refill kit that includes 2 tubes of Aquaseal for repairing various waterproof materials. However, there is no Aquaseal included in the Guide Kit. I took the two tubes from the refill kit I received and put them in the Guide Kit to mitigate that shortcoming. And, while the Guide Kit includes a tent pole splint, the actual Tent Repair Kit they sell includes 2 different splints to accommodate different size poles. So, I took the size splint from the Tent Splint refill pack that the Guide Kit didn’t have and put it in there as well. Besides the different size splint, just about the only other thing the Tent Repair Kit includes that’s not in the Guide Kit is the Mirazyme enzyme based deodorizer. I don’t see that as a must-have for something like the Guide Kit since you can live with an odd smell while you’re on the trail. But, it would be a nice addition to the kit if there was room. However, for the Tent Repair kit itself, it’s a definite must-include item.
No, I didn’t stop there. I took the contents from the Buckle Replacement Kit and the Zipper Repair Kit and put them into the Guide Kit along with like items. Though the Guide Kit contains items for these kinds of repairs already, I was more concerned about quantity since the Guide Kit is for a group rather than just one person. At this point I’ll admit that these are tiny quibbles that I’m talking about now. For each addition McNett would make to the Guide Kit, you can imagine that the cost will go up as well. As provided, the Guide Kit is probably the best balance of contents for the types of expected repairs to make for the money. But, as anyone who knows me will attest, I’m gonna take the kitchen sink if possible. These additions to the kit satisfy my need to personalize the kit for my own personal needs as well. And, since I was doing this already, I added a few more things just to be sure including a couple of small eyeglass screwdrivers, a few more small zip ties, an extra roll of duct tape, a few more buttons, and a bobbin of Spectra thread to be used in repairs where something a little stronger than normal thread is required. The only thing I didn’t have on hand at the time was an extra glue stick to add to the one that comes with the Guide Kit. All of the above items fit into the Guide Kit pouch with the standard contents and I think I could fit in a small roll of brass wire and a few more patches as well. Oh, I could go on and on with the enhancements.
Just to clarify, do not take the previous two paragraphs as an indictment of the Guide Kit. These are just my personal thoughts about what I think should be in the kit and what actual additions I made. You could keep adding components forever until the price is completely out of hand or it’s just too bulky to easily put in your pack. For instance, McNett has a great little sewing kit as a separate product, but alas, it won’t fit in the Guide pouch. So, I had to decide which was more important and I felt the gear I already had in place was more critical–especially since there were already some rudimentary sewing supplies included. Everyone’s different and going to have their own views. If McNett put everything into the kit that I added on top of the standard fare, the price would be way out of bounds for the mainstream market. The fact that I’m tinkering with the kit at all says something about my impressions of it. If I didn’t like the kit, I wouldn’t even bother to add items or personalize it. It’s a great kit for about 90% of the outdoors folks out there and it’s a strong foundation for the other 10% that want to tweak it just a little bit.
So, finally! I’m at the point where I’m not itching horribly to get in the kit and customize anymore. I’m pretty happy with what has turned out to be an educational and fun process. And, after using the kits and various components several times over the past month to either repair my stuff or gear belonging to friends, I can definitely see the advantage to having a kit like this in your pack. Not everyone is going to need all the gear in the Guide Kit, nor are they necessarily going to tweak, poke and prod the Guide Kit like I did. That’s why McNett provides the different levels of kits on their website. Between the assorted packs and the various refill components they’ve got on hand, you can come up with the perfect kit for yourself, your family, and even your friends.
McNett has done a great job providing quality components that are going to be needed most often for repairs in the field and I heartily recommend that you pick up a kit for yourself just in case. You never know what’s coming, and it’s a great feeling knowing you’re ready for whatever comes your way!