By Kurt Iverson
“Aww, fawk. It’s the fuel pump. I know it’s the fuel pump. We got plenty of gas – it’s either the fuel pump or the filter.”
We weren’t in any sort of danger – not by a long shot - but this breakdown could all but ruin our day. We were 30 miles outside of a village on a remote logging road on the Gulf Coast of Alaska and we hadn’t seen another vehicle in 3 days. And now our Crummy – which is logger-talk for the beater truck we were driving - had come to a sputtering halt.
At first, we did what guys usually do in this kind of situation. We popped the hood, stared blankly at the engine, and tossed out loose theories about what had gone wrong. We agreed it appeared to be a fuel system problem - but how to fix it? It was our buddy Jerry who had the idea: What about the boat gas?
Hey yeah…what about the boat gas?
After sorting through our repair kit, we found a way to strap a 3-gallon can of outboard fuel to the roof of the truck. We unhooked the truck’s fuel line at the carburetor and plugged in the hose from the outboard tank, fastening it with a small hose clamp. Jerry pumped the fuel line bulb to get a flow of 50:1 outboard fuel mix draining into the carb. We turned the ignition key. The engine turned over, popped a couple times, then fell into a rough idle, belching thick blue smoke out the tailpipe. Heh heh.
For the next hour or so, we chugged back to town; Jerry with his arm out the window and one hand on fuel line bulb (“Yeah, that’s it - pump it baby!”) as we dodged muddy potholes and placed bets on the number of bear crap piles we counted alongside the road.
One thing that made our task easier that day was our small repair kit. Variations of the kit have accompanied us for years, and have been with us literally all over the globe. The kit is a standby for remote float trips, and goes with us on nearly all our other small boat explorations, be it in rafts, power skiffs, kayaks, or canoes. It can be found in wall tents and cabins during deer and duck season. It’s been stashed in cowhide panniers on South American horses, and has been stuffed under the seats of countless jeeps and off-road vehicles. A kid in Costa Rica tried to steal it one time, but it wouldn’t have been a great loss; nothing in it is rare or valuable.
We’re not “kitchen sink” or “prepper” kinda guys. Light and tight is what we strive for when it comes to packing. What we’ve tried to achieve here is a balance between a kit of relatively small volume, but one that still contains items that can cover us for repairs or contingencies that we commonly encounter when we’re in the backcountry for extended periods of time. We find there’s a direct correlation between the length and complexity of a trip and our need for at least some of the kit’s contents. We can’t remember the last time we did a 10-day wilderness raft or canoe trip and the kit wasn’t used at least once.
The items in our kit fit into 8 x 6-inch bag that weighs just under 2 pounds. The contents include several types of glue to match various materials that may puncture or tear, and we like to include some Type A Tear-aid patch material in addition to the never-to-be-left-behind duct tape. Zip ties are wonderful for their compactness and utility, and commercial fishing seine twine also has a zillion uses. A Speedy Sticher sewing awl is a cool classic tool that’s been around for literally 100 years; we’ve used it to put lock stitch repairs to gashes in rafts, tarps, and tents, as well as to do fixes on straps and even shoes. For fine sewing repairs, it’s hard to beat a regular needle and kevlar thread from your fly-tying bench. Grommets blow out of tents and tarps in rough weather – we’ve seen it happen many times - so we throw a few of those in the kit. And steel wire can commonly be put to use – our favorite was when a friend used thin wire to fashion a tip-top guide for his broken fly rod, which he then held in place with duct tape. It worked surprisingly well.
Note the OMG kit doesn’t contain every single thing we take in the way of contingent repairs. Outside of the kit, we always bring a separate box with appropriate adhesives and patch material to repair our rafts or fabric canoes. And to assemble raft frames we always have a couple appropriately-sized hex keys or a nut driver and socket(s), depending on what’s required. All our tents come with tent pole repair tubes and a little duct tape in the tent bag, and our liquid fuel stoves each travel with cleaning and repair gear.
And speaking of tools, note that the OMG kit doesn’t contain any, apart from the needles and stitching awl and the small multi-tool with scissors, so invariably our lengthy trips include a small tool kit too. Along with a full-sized multi-tool (which we think is one of the most wonderful inventions in our lifetime), we’ll commonly bring a compact hacksaw, a hatchet (which doubles as a hammer), small vice grips (which are also very handy around the campfire), and maybe a crescent wrench. Powerboat or vehicle-based trips always involve an appropriate stash of parts and a variety of tools to address potential problems with the outboard motors and vehicles.
Despite its relatively small size, we’re obviously not going to lug a repair kit of this type on a daytrip hike on a creek in Alaska, and it’s too bulky to bring on a lightweight packraft or backpacking excursion, so under those circumstances we whittle down to what we think are the true essentials.
These items include a small roll of duct tape, 10 feet of seine twine, 5 zip ties, a small needle and kevlar thread, and a little tube of super glue (which also has some first-aid applications). These items fit in a 3” x 5” ziplock sack, which in turn slips into a light metal box that formerly held cough drops. The box is so worn we can’t read the brand name on it anymore. It feels like an old friend, and it usually finds its place in a side pocket of our pack. We’ll often bring a length of Dyneema cord too. It’s cool stuff: at 2.5 mm in diameter its breaking strength is rated at something like 1,400 pounds. You see, we have a couple secret fishing spots here in Alaska where we sometimes need it for tippet material.…
Anyway, that’s it. We hope this helps you at least a little when planning for your next trip and maybe these ideas will help you get out of a jam someday. Let us know what you think, and if you have any ideas to offer we love to hear from you.
OMG Kit Contents – 8” x 6” zippered bag
Devcon plastic welder - for plastic
Vynabond - for vinyl (including vinyl coating on ABS canoes) and PVC (e.g. dry bags, PVC rafts, etc.)
Aquaseal - for waders, seam sealing tents, neoprene, urethane and urethane-coated nylon
Rubber tire patch & adhesive
Speedy Stitcher – 2 sizes of threads; 3 needles (fine, sturdy, sturdy curved)
Standard sewing needles and fine kevlar thread
Misc. safety pins and buttons
Tear-Aid Type A patch material
Rescue self-fusing silicon tape
2 sizes of hose clamps
2 sizes of zip ties
Misc nails & brads
Misc small screws, nuts, bolts
Screw-connecting chain links
Tent and tarp grommets
20’ tarred seine twine
20’ 2.5mm Dyneema cord
Small Leatherman with scissors
Tent pole repair in tent bag: includes 2 pole splice tubes; small roll of duct tape
Stove cleaning and repair: flat wrench; gaskets, cleaning wire, extra nozzle or carburetor
Boat repair kit: patch material; cleaning solvent; sandpaper; adhesive; boat frame parts; valve repair;
Wader repair kit: patching material, Aquaseal adhesive (see above)