No-Sew Repair of Backpack Buckle




About: I am a mechanical engineer, home improvement/DIY/repair guy, and a Maker. I'm part of Omaha Maker Group.

A few years ago, I bought a backpack that turned into being one of my favorite ways to carry stuff when I travel. Unfortunately, the buckle on the shoulder strap broke apart after one too many times of swinging a heavy load over my shoulder. I'm all-thumbs with a sewing machine, so I sought out a way to replace the buckle without sewing.

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Step 1: Tools and Materials

Here are the basics that you'll need:

  • A replacement buckle. I wanted one that was typically installed with a loop of webbing, and that matched the size of the old buckle on the backpack. Buying this strap gave me the buckle I wanted, plus some webbing for a future project.
  • Wire bending jig. Harbor Freight sells this, but I have also seen them in other places. It makes bending wire much easier, and allows you some consistent radius forming. You don't need to use this, but it helps.
  • Needle-nose pliers. Using two pairs allows you to hold the wire with one while you make the final bends with the other.
  • Wire cutters. To cut the wire, of course.
  • Tape measure. In my case, I have an adhesive measuring tape mounted to my workbench top.
  • Wire. I actually used Stainless Steel TIG filler rod. I had a supply of a few sticks leftover from an old project, and the stainless steel comes in handy.

Step 2: First: Get Rid of the Damage

We need to remove the old buckle first. I used the wire cutters to carefully snip away the old buckle in chunks. You can also use a Dremel tool or similar cutter - just be sure you don't damage the nylon strap!

Step 3: Cut Your Wire

Use the wire cutters to cut the wire to length. I "guessed" at 3" based on the 1" width of the strap and adding about an inch on each end to form the loops. If you aren't sure, cut the wire long and you can always trim the ends off when you are finished.

Step 4: Get Ye' Buckle

Now we need to get the buckle ready to go. Use the cutters, or scissors or a knife, and gently cut away the stitching that holds the strap to the buckle. The cleaner your cuts, the more strap that's available for another project.

Step 5: Start Forming

Our goal is to create a wire hinge to hold the buckle to the strap. The straight wire goes through the strap, and the loops on either end will hold the buckle. You want to form the loops as much as possible, but leave room on the open ends to hook in the buckle. For reference, by nylon strap on the backpack is 1" wide, so the straight part is 1" long.

Step 6: On to the Backpack

The next step is to thread the wire into the strap on the backpack, using the existing loop that used to secure the buckle. You might have to bunch up the nylon a little to get everything fully threaded through. Also, install it so the open ends of the loop are pointed up, as shown. This will make the final installation much easier.

Step 7: Attach the Buckle

Place the buckle into the wire so that the wire loops around the same bar that the nylon strap was looped over. Then, using the pliers, start closing up the loops. You want them to be closed and tight, but not so tight that they prevent the buckle from moving around. A buckle that can swing and pivot easily makes it easier to thread in and adjust the straps.

Step 8: Finished!

Once your wire is closed, simply thread the shoulder strap through the new buckle, adjust to fit, and off you go!

As it turns out, the _other_ original buckle on the backpack broke about 2 weeks after I replaced this one. That was okay, because I knew exactly what to do to replace it, and now both straps have the same wire loop and same replacement buckle. Almost looks like I planned it!

I have entered this Instructable in the "Fix It" contest. I would really appreciate your vote. THANKS!!!!!

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    6 Discussions


    2 years ago

    Nice trick! I do hate those broken buckles!


    2 years ago

    This is a very nice way to repair a strap. I'd never thought of this. Thanks for sharing


    2 years ago

    have you stress tested this fix to see how much strain the fix can take before deforming?

    1 reply

    Reply 2 years ago

    I know that the typical load that broke the old buckle - a laptop, notebook, and other travel accessories - has not given any challenges to the fix. The stainless steel wire is very strong, as experienced from the force required to form the bends, and I suspect the new plastic buckle would fail before the wire did.
    I did make a point to size the straight length of the wire to position the loops as close to the ends of the buckle as possible, to minimize the potential moment arm on the cross piece.