Imagine it’s 3:23pm on a Friday afternoon and you’ve just left work. You dipped out a bit early (come on, we all do it!) because you and a couple of your friends are hitting the road for a weekend backpacking trip. Your friends are picking you up at 4, so you rush home to pack up the last of your gear.

Tent – check. Sleeping bag – check. Hammock – check. The various gear you contemplated bringing is strewn all over the floor, and just before you zip up your pack you spot the jacket on the chair next to you. Will it fit in your pack? Sure it’ll fit! Better safe than sorry, right? You shove the jacket down into your pack with all your might, but when you tug on the zipper to close the pack the zipper tab rips right off. Crap.

It’s ok. You don’t panic. There are enough straps and clips on your pack to hold it most of the way shut without the zipper. You pull one of the straps tight and just manage to clip the buckle shut. Then, right as you think you’re in the clear you hear a pop! and the clip flies apart. One of the prongs from the male end of the buckle has cracked off and is now laying on the floor.

You might think you’re screwed at this point. It’s 3:45 and your friends will be here in 15 minutes all ready to go. There’s no way you’re going to be that guy that holds everyone up, so you weigh your options. You could pull a MacGyver and throw something together, but there’s really no need. Instead, you whip out your phone. You find the maker of the pack’s website, and you download the blueprints for both the zipper tab and the buckle. Then you hit “print”.

Behind you your 3D printer kicks into gear. 5 minutes later your zipper tab is ready to go, and you attach it to your pack. This time you’re a little more careful and you manage to zip your pack successfully shut. You wait a couple more minutes for the printer to finish making the clip and when it’s done you slip it on your pack’s strap. You clip it to the other end and cinch it tight. Done and done.

Your friends pull up outside your house at 4:02 and you chuck your gear in the trunk. As you hop in the car your buddy in the passenger seat says, “Got everything?” You cooly reply, “Yep, good to go!” And so begins another epic outdoor weekend.


It’s not that crazy of a story, right? Well, even if you think it sounds crazy right now it won’t sound crazy soon enough. 3D printing is on it’s way, and it’s going to have a big impact on the gear industry. Not only will you be able to instantly print replacement parts for the gear you buy, down the line you’ll even be able to print the gear itself. Imagine printing your own ice ax!

If you happen to own a 3D printer (yep, they’re already out there) you can already search for 3D blueprints using a 3D model search engine like Yeggi. You can even download the blueprints for some types of camping gear. While the selection of blueprints is somewhat limited right now, it won’t be for long.

If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, soon you’ll be able to design your own gear and print it in your own home as well. Check out these guys that have already 3D printed their own kayak!

As you can see, there’s about to be an explosion of opportunity in the gear industry. A lot of gear, especially replacement parts, will be available to be printed on demand, and there will be a huge opportunity for those that want to take a stab at designing or improving their own gear. Many gear brands are already using 3D printing in their manufacturing processes, and it’s only matter of time before you’ll be able to do the same in your own living room.