One of the most frustrating things when overnight backpacking is a rip in the tent. Maybe you pitched your tent on a sharp rock, or a stray branch fell on your shelter and ripped a hole right through it. A rip can even be caused by strong winds if you’re camping in an exposed area.
But you don’t need to throw the tent away—and if you have the tools, you won’t even need to cut the trip short. Here is how to repair a ripped tent in the field.
Little tears are much more likely to occur than a big rip, but they can be just as difficult to repair. Normally little rips occur when the tent is dragged against a stone or a rock, and this small hole can let wind and water into the tent. It can also release your scent and that of your food, so likely attracting wild animals.
For a quick fix, duct tape works. It will stay for a short amount of time, but when you get home from the trip you should take the time to fix the hole with tent repair tape.
For a more permanent fix, you want tent repair tape. Start by pulling and holding the rip in the tent together, then apply tent repair tape to one side of the rip. Let go and apply tent repair tape to the other side of the rip. This will help to reduce the chance of the tear re-opening.
Once you have done this you should cover the inside and the outside of the rip with seam sealer. This will help to guarantee that the rip won’t re-appear the next time you put strain on the rip area.
A bigger tear will take longer to repair. It is possible that you will be able to temporarily fix the tear using tape so that you don’t have to cut your trip short, but if you don’t have the right tools you may need to head home to do a proper repair.
A proper repair starts with you trimming away any loose threads, as they could make the rip worse further down the line. You can simply use a pair of sharp scissors to get rid of any loose threads.
Then clean that area of the tent. If your tent is dirty it will be very difficult to repair since dirt will get in the way. Clean the tent using warm, soapy water and then use rubbing alcohol to clear the tear.
An optional third step involves steaming the area around the tear, as this will help to iron out any creases in the fabric. This may seem unnecessary, but creases in the tent can make it very hard to effectively sew the tear up.
Once the tent is clean and crease-free you can start to repair the tear. Hold both sides of the tear and pull them together, folding the top side slightly over the bottom side. When the fabric is in place (you may need a second set of hands to hold the material) you can tightly sew the tear together. Use waxed thread as this is durable and strong (sturdy floss can work, too), and once you have finished sewing apply seam sealer to reduce the chance of the hole ripping open again later.
If the hole is too big to be pulled together you may need to buy a new tent. Alternatively you can buy patches of tent fabric that you can use to cover the hole. Simply iron or sew the patch over the hole using waxed thread and then apply seam sealer.
How To Avoid Tears In The Future
Tent tears are one of the most frustrating things about backpacking, but you can reduce the chance of them happening in the future if you follow these tips:
- Don’t pitch your tent too rigidly; instead make sure that it’s able to flex a bit in the wind.
- Check the campsite for rocks and sticks before pitching your tent.
- Use shock cords and guy lines to stabilize your tent.
- Don’t go to bed with sharp tools on your belt.