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Backpacker Magazine – December 2007

Make Your Gear Last Forever

Backpacker's Ultimate Fix-It Guide

by: Annette McGivney, Illustrations by Supercorn

PAGE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

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.

PAGE 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11

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Aug 28, 2012

DO NOT listen to the recommendation from John regarding putting the footprint INSIDE the tent. His reasoning, that a regular footprint will create a bathtub, makes no sense, and if you put the FP inside, then puncture a hole in the actual tent, water will still seep inside causing the very problem he discusses (bathtub). If you are going to take one, listen to everyone else and use it as intended, outside and beneath the tent. I'm like most others, depending on the situation I may or may not take one.

For a long trip where weight is an issue I leave it, but for shorter hikes I prefer to have it. When there are two or more in our party we split up the gear (like fire starters, water purification and food stores) and one takes the footprint while the other packs the tent, that way if there's a separation the second person can make a quick shelter if need be. It's also great on protracted afternoon showers to create a quick retreat where we can fix lunch and enjoy the surroundings.

Apr 03, 2012

the idea of using a tent footprint under your tent is asking to make your tent into bath tub. water driving by a little wind or where part of the footprint is exposed causes water to fill the space between the the footprint and the bottom of the tent. no tent bottom is of totally water proof for long.(micro holes caused by sand) A better and cheaper idea is to cut a piece of plastic to fit the inside of the tent. This layer can be replaced as needed. so you will a thicker replaceable water proof layer between you and the ground

Apr 03, 2012

You do not need the grommets in your plastic sheet footprint to help protect the bottom fabric from wearing out sooner, just cut it so it matches the bottom. If you want to use the above idea keep in mind that most footprints use nylon straps so the only the strap goes to the pole. This helps keep it from collecting water. If you want to use the above idea with plastic sheet you should consider trimming only a thin width of plastic out to the pole and reinforcing this area with either clear packing tape or duct tape before installing the grommet.

Brian Preston
Apr 03, 2012

I am disappointed at the print option for these wonderful tips. There's way too much white space and pointless icons (I get that you have to sell ads to stay in business) so the print-outs are about twice as long as needed--wasting the trees I want to see when I hike. Your online print options need to be reconsidered and streamlined.

Eliza Winters
Jan 09, 2012

Thanks for all the great tips on how to care for outdoor adventure products. Getting all of the gear can be a huge investment and it is a shame that people do not care for it well enough and end up buying new equipment every year. I would rather invest in lasting equipment than spend more, in the end, repurchasing cheaper products.

Aug 01, 2011

As an added step to the hydration bladder hanging tip, instead of wrapping the rough edges with duct tape, use a open flame to melt the rough edges to create a smooth tip.

Apr 15, 2011

I've found that washing my sack, sleeping bags, mats etc by hand with no or light detergent like organic soaps with out caustic chemicals then I hang dry my items until bone dry then put away. Sometimes with dryer sheets or ceder blocks sandwiched in. But this is not required for neutral smelling gear.

Mar 01, 2011

@ Joe Jul 20, 2010 MiraZym helps really well against mold/mildew on sleeping bags/tents/pads

Jul 20, 2010

Anyone know how to get rid of mold/mildew on sleeping bags/tents/pads?? I had some mold start growing in my basement, and of course it was where my equipment was. Any ideas on cleaning my equipment without destroying my equipment? Thanks!

ryan b.
Apr 29, 2009

When cleaning a hydration system, pull out the hose from the balader, with a pair of pailers, so you can clean the whole hose,

Apr 27, 2009

Contemporary fabric softeners tend to be based on quaternary ammonium salts with one or two long alkyl chains, a typical compound being dipalmitoylethyl hydroxyethylmonium methosulfate.[2] Other cationic compounds can be derived from imidazolium, substituted amine salts, or quaternary alkoxy ammonium salts. One of the most common compounds of the early formulations was dihydrogenated tallow dimethyl ammonium chloride (DHTDMAC). I looked it up. see Wikipedia cut n paste. no animal fat here.

Mar 03, 2009

Under "Pole problems (Online Bonus" it should read "splint the broken pole," not "split the broken pole."

Feb 04, 2009

no, eric's right - the first posting says mentions washing in a top-loading washer. the second posting specifically says to never do this. (the second is the right one; never wash a sleeping bag in a top-loading washer)

Sean Columbus OH
Jan 19, 2009

A point about dryer sheets, the main ingredient in them is rendered animal fat (look it up people) so you may smell pretty good to a bear. In areas with uber predators, keep smell to a minimum, in camp and on your person.

Dec 14, 2008

Uhm, not really Eric. It just says to wash them.. sparingly. And then it tells you how. :B

And no, Anon, I don't think dryer sheets would attract bears. They smell more chemically than delicious or even edible.

Anyway, this article is great! Wow, so many tips. I suppose it's okay to store bags and pads rolled/stuffed if they're clean and dry and in a dry indoor closet, right? Plus my Thermorest doesn't have foam.

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