How to repair a damaged tent
It doesn’t matter how carefully you look after your tent, there’s a fair chance that it will eventually suffer some damage. But before heading to the local dump, try a bit of DIY repair work.
Chances are, if something goes wrong it’s likely to be while you are on site. Running repairs can limit further damage and hopefully keep the elements out. Every camper should have a roll of duck tape in their kit – it’s invaluable for emergency repairs on everything from broken poles to ripped fabric and damaged PVC windows.
Once you’re back home you can think about longer-term repairs. Some rips can be simply sewn back together, either by hand or with a sewing machine, then coated on both sides with seam sealant. For ragged tears and seams it makes sense to add a patch. Gluing as well as sewing the patch on will make the repair more durable and, again, you should apply a seam sealant.
For an effective temporary repair to a snapped pole, slide a short metal tube over the break and tape in place. Most repair kits will come with one of these sleeves but if yours has gone missing (or has already been used) then a length of tube of the correct diameter from a hardware shop will do the trick.
If a fibreglass pole splits along its length, the answer is to wrap the pole in duck tape.
A wide range of spares is available including spring clips for poles, pole kits and sections and shock cord repair kits.
Happily, tents are able to take quite a lot of abuse but every now and then the fabric will be torn and a repair is needed.
As they are not meant to be waterproof, inner tents can be stitched up fairly easily even when torn in a ragged pattern.
Damage to the outer waterproof flysheet is different. First of all, check the overall state of the fabric. If the damage is down to material being weakened and worn out by age or the effects of the sun, then a temporary fix might be all that is possible and a new tent will need to be added to your shopping list.
An accidental tear or hole in a newer tent with years of life ahead of it needs a different approach. Self-adhesive patches or a short-length of duck tape can be used as an emergency fix for a small tear or hole. But make sure the area around the damage is clean and dry to ensure a secure fix. Spray all around the repaired area with reproofer to make it more waterproof.
Tent windows can also be repaired with tape – and you can even get clear versions if you prefer.
Once home, it is time to assess the problem and decide how best to deal with it for the long term. A nylon flysheet that is torn cleanly is relatively easy to hand-sew or run through a domestic sewing machine. Once the repair is done, paint on both sides with seam sealant. It pays to add plenty of extra stitching at each end of the rip to ease the inevitable weakness under strain.
Sometimes ragged tears and seams are too awkward to sew and if that is the case it makes sense to add a patch. Make sure it is big enough to cover the rip generously with edges folded under to avoid them unravelling. Gluing as well as sewing the patch helps to spread the strain on stitches but ensure the glue won’t damage the material. Sewing patches together on each side of the rip or hole, gluing them and applying seam sealant should ensure a durable flysheet repair.
On inflatable tents, the air tubes are tough and should provide years of trouble-free camping if you follow the instructions. But if you do get a puncture it’s possible to repair it yourself, at least until you can contact your dealer to organise a replacement. First of all, don’t open the protective sleeve until you’re sure you have a leak and never open it when it’s fully inflated. If a tube appears to have lost pressure, it may actually be due to environmental factors – pressure can drop in cold temperatures so you may need to add air to compensate, particularly at night.
If you are sure you have a puncture, let out all the air and try to locate the damage. Look for visible damage and if that doesn’t help, pump in some air and listen closely for air escaping or feel it against your cheek. Apply a little water to the spot you suspect as small bubbles will show up. Once you’ve found the puncture, mark the damaged area, completely deflate the tube and open the sleeve zip until you reach the location of the leak.
Clean the area around the puncture then cut out and carefully apply a repair patch (Stormsure, Tear Aid and Stormsure all supply suitable products), ensuring that it’s smooth and there are no air bubbles present. Once the adhesive is dry, replace the sleeve and inflate, leaving overnight to make sure the repair has worked. In an emergency, you can also use duck tape, although this is unlikely to be a long-term solution. When you get home, contact your retailer and find out about being sent a replacement tube.
Zips are one of the simplest parts of the tent design but one that can go wrong so easily. Pitching the tent properly should avoid the problem of the zips bursting open because the fabric is drawn too tight. The other side of the coin is catching loose fabric in the zip’s teeth. You need to avoid damaging zip and fabric. Keep the zips free of dirt or grit to help them to run freely and if all else fails make sure you pack a few safety pins to secure the door.
Guyropes can get worn through friction, especially the loop that goes around the peg. Pack a decent length of spare cord and a few adjustable runners
Sewn-in groundsheets can easily be damaged by stones on your pitch. A tear or hole can be fixed with a patch but if there is a lot of damage then it’s impossible to fix. The problem then is if you have a sewn-in groundsheet, your entire tent is rendered useless. The best way to avoid this is to use a groundsheet footprint from the start. This protects the groundsheet from any sharp objects on the pitch and is much easier to clean when you get home.
When eyelets fail but the fabric surrounding fabric is fine, any repair usually means having to attach another eyelet (simple plastic and metal versions can be found in outdoor and hardware shops). If the fabric is damaged then rather than using similar fabric, pick a heavier weight for extra durability. If the failed eyelet is close to a seam or hem, then place the new one further away to reduce the strain.
Here are the essentials you should include in your DIY tent repair kit
1 DUCK TAPE
Every kit should have a roll. Has a million uses on the campsite – from temporarily patching ripped a flysheet to treating blistered feet.
2 METAL POLE SLEEVE
Tent poles have a habit of snapping at the most inconvenient times. For an effective temporary repair, slide a short metal tube over the break and tape in place. Most repair kits will come with one of these sleeves but if yours has gone missing (or has already been used) then a length of tube of the correct diameter from a hardware shop will do the trick. If a fibreglass pole splits along its length, the answer is to wrap the pole in duck tape.
3 SPARE LENGTH OF POLE
If a repair is impossible, a length of pole is the solution. Some tents come with one included but if not you should be able to buy one from your local retailer or direct from the manufacturer.
4 SELF-ADHESIVE TENT PATCHES
These will cover up any small rips or punctures in your tent’s fabric for the length of your holiday They come in various fabrics and colours – in fact your tent might even come supplied with a patch of its own. Include a small bottle of reproofer in your kit to spray onto the patch and keep your tent waterproof.
5 NEEDLE AND THREAD
Split seams and peg loops or guyline anchors coming lose are common problems. A small sewing kit will let you to deal with simple repairs like this.
6 SPARE GUYLINES
Guyropes can get worn through friction, especially the loop that goes around the peg. Pack a decent length of cord and a few adjustable runners for an instant repair.
7 SEAM SEALANT
Leaking seams can be repaired by painting sealer on to the seam. It’ll take a couple of days to dry fully – and you have to hope there will be no rain in the meantime.
8 BITS & PIECES
A wide range of spares is available at specialist stores including spring clips for poles, pole kits and sections and shock cord repair kits.
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