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December 2007

Make Your Gear Last Forever

Backpacker's Ultimate Fix-It Guide

fix iconRipped mosquito netting
For holes or tears smaller than 2 to 3 inches in diameter, an adhesive mesh patch (see "Products") provides a quick fix. Or put a swatch of adhesive nylon repair tape over the gash for a less aesthetic but equally quick, permanent repair. For larger rips up to 12 inches long, Backpacker field editors prefer to sew the mesh back together using nylon thread and apply adhesive tape reinforcements as needed. If the mesh shredded completely or separated at the seams, salvage what you can and return the tent to the manufacturer or a repair shop (see "Resources").

fix icon Torn tent fabric (Online Bonus)
For rips 2 inches or smaller in the rainfly or canopy, there’s no need to sew. In fact, sewing may encourage leaks and stress-related tears. Choose from a variety of adhesive repair products or the "liquid stitcher" Seam Grip. Plug tiny holes–caused by embers from a campfire–with a dab of Seam Grip. Allow at least 8 hours for the glue to dry before packing the tent or laying inside it.

fix icon Torn tent fabric (Online Bonus)
Small holes "If you want to do your own repair, an adhesive tape or patch is the best and by far the easiest option," says Julie Parker, manager of Rainy Pass Repair. You can repair a small gash in a tent quickly and permanently with ripstop repair tape like Kenyon’s adhesive Nylon Repair Tape, or with a number of pre-cut peel-and-stick patches.

  • Wipe the damaged area clean with water and/or an alcohol prep pad from your first aid kit. Let it dry. (1)
  • Cut a piece of tape to create a round patch that extends approximately one-quarter inch beyond the tear. Rounded edges eliminate corner that can fray. (2)
  • Place the material on a hard surface like a book or cutting board.
  • With one hand, pull the torn tent fabric back together as closely as possible. Use the other hand to apply the repair tape. Press from the middle toward the edges, smoothing any ripples. (3)
  • If the floor or rainfly is torn, repeat the taping process on the opposite side of the patch for extra security. The glue backing the adhesive is as waterproof and durable as the tent’s polyurethane coating.

Plug tiny holes–caused by embers from a campfire–with a dab of Seam Grip. Allow at least 8 hours for the glue to dry before packing or entering the tent. Note: this same technique will work for packs, sleeping bag shells, and other non-siliconized fabrics.

fix iconTorn tent fabric
Big holes
Holes and tears more than several inches wide are too large for repair tape or pre-cut patches. Instead, create a waterproof polyurethane patch with Seam Grip.

  • Cover the gash as best you can in the field with McNett Tenacious Tape or duct tape. Tape both sides of the torn fabric. (1)
  • When you get home, pull off the tape on one side.
  • Lay the tent on a hard surface and paint over the damaged area with Seam Grip. Spread the glue one-quarter inch beyond the hole. (2) If fabric is missing (say, from a hungry rodent), buy a swatch of ripstop nylon from a fabric store and glue it on.
  • Let it cure overnight, then remove the tape. (3)
    big holes

fix iconWaterproofing (Online Bonus)
Seal the seams Most shelters come with factory-taped seams on the rainfly and floor, so manually sealing is required if:

  • You purchased an inexpensive tent with untaped seams. Check carefully: We’ve seen tents with main seams taped, but not corners. Seam tape typically looks like a quarter-inch clear plastic coating over the stitches.
  • You bought a single-wall shelter (most are not factory seam-taped), or one made from silicone-coated nylon (which resists plastic seam tape). McNett’s SilNet is the only sealer we know that bonds to silicone-coated fabric; it’s also handy for repairing holes.

fix icon Waterproofing (Online Bonus)
Seal the seams To seal seams using Seam Grip or SilNet, set up the tent outside and clean all seams with a damp sponge. Once seams are dry, apply the sealer in a line about the width of a pencil eraser using an irrigation syringe (available in the first-aid aisle at drug stores). For single-wall shelters, apply the sealer to the exterior seams, where the flatter fabric allows for easier waterproofing.

fix icon Waterproofing
Replace the tape Seam tape on well-used tents will eventually crack and peel off. Here are a few fixes recommended by McNett Marketing Manager and long-time backpacker George Farkas:

  • Repair minor damage by applying Seam Grip to a peeling section with the bottle applicator or a brush, and pressing it back into place.
  • For major damage, remove the flaking tape and clean the seams thoroughly–pushing deep into fabric crevices–with a cloth and rubbing alcohol. The alcohol will make the surface more receptive to the sealer while removing gunk. (1, 2)
  • Using an irrigation syringe, apply sealer to all exposed seams. (3) In effect, Seam Grip is replacing the factory-installed seam taping. >>Allow tent dry overnight (for at least 12 hours) before it is packed or slept in.

Fact or Myth? (Online Bonus)
Q: Sealing exterior seams on factory-taped a rainfly adds extra protection against pounding rain.
A: Myth! This only adds weight–as in ounces and ounces of Seam Grip. "If the seams are taped, they’re totally waterproof," promises MSR’s Terry Breaux.

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