Your tent is your shelter. It’s what stands between you and the elements. It allows you to rest at night so that you’re geared up to hit the trail, river, or mountain in the morning. Though tents are tough, they require proper care and maintenance to survive the long haul.
Rips, tears, and holes in tents are quite common. They can be easily fixed with the right tools and a little bit of patience. They cannot, however, be ignored. A small rip can quickly turn into a big hole. Likewise a tear that is not properly fixed can leave you drenched later on. It is best to invest the time and do it right the first time. You won’t regret it.
The first step is to clean the area that is torn and make sure it is completely dry before you begin. If the tear is small, cover it with a piece of repair tape on both sides of the tent, carefully smoothing down the edges and making sure that there are no air bubbles. Liberally cover the edges of the patch with a seam sealer on both the inside and outside of the tent. The repair tape and seam sealer must match your tent material so choose accordingly. For example, nylon and canvass will require different materials.
Large holes or rips cannot be fixed quite so easily. They usually require stitching either by hand or machine. The way you repair the tear will depend on the area where it is located and how much stress that particular part of the tent typically endures.
If the tear is not in a tightly stretched area, turn the upper edge of the tear under about a quarter of an inch and stitch along the outside of the bottom of the torn edge. This will create a new seam. Short stitches that are close together tend to hold better than long ones. Waxed thread is extremely durable. A double stitch is the most effective. This can be done by first stitching either 1/16 or 1/8 inch from the edge of the material then making another stitch either 1/8 to 1/4 inch from the edge. Stitch in order to create a runoff effect, ensuring that the new seam will not cause the tent to hold water. Waterproof the new seam with a coat of seam sealer.
If the hole is in a tightly stretched area, cut the patch or repair tape about two to three inches longer and wider than the hole. Place the patch or tape over the hole on the outside of the tent and stitch around with a double stitch. Trim the torn area into a square or rectangle on the inside of the tent, diagonally slitting the corners, folding the tabs under, and then double stitching around the entire damaged area. Don’t forget to make the seam watertight by applying seam sealer all around in on both the inside and outside of the tent.
If you have to make a temporary fix to your tent while you’re out on the trail, be sure to fully repair it as soon as you get home. It is a good idea to keep an emergency repair kit with you at all times when using the tent. This should include scissors, repair tape, seam sealer, waxed thread, appropriate patching materials, and straight pins to hold your repairs in place as you stitch. Duct tape is also a great thing to have on hand just in case.
There are things you can do while you’re camping to lessen the chances of getting a rip or tear in your tent. Be careful not to pitch your tent too tightly. Use shock cords if possible when setting up your tent. Watch for protruding rocks in the ground or nearby limbs and tree branches that can fall and tear your tent. Placing your tent on a protective tarp can also help to minimize damage from sharp objects on the ground underneath your tent.
Always inspect your tent before and after each trip, carefully checking for damage or other wear and tear. Keep your tent clean and properly stored when not in use. This will prolong the life of your tent.