Knowing how to repair a torn tent is important if you have a tear while out camping.
If you’ve ever had to repair a torn tent you’ll know the importance of doing a good job.
Most tents come supplied with a small quantity of extra material, included for the very simple fact that tents can and do get torn.
Often a tear is as a result of something falling against the tent, or someone catching it as they go past, with tools or a bike and similar.
Table of Contents
To repair or not to repair
Dry and cozy in your sleeping bag, you hear the first raindrops hit the rain-fly.
You drift back to sleep.
You are awakened when the wind picks up, and the sides of your tent begin to shake like a flag blowing in the breeze.
That’s when you notice the damp floor. You feel the windward side of the tent wall, and discover a small tear.
Through the tear, a steady stream of water flows down the inside wall and accumulates on the floor.
Unless the rain lets up soon, you know you are in for a night of mopping and wringing.
When your tent dries out, you know you will have to make a repair.
Or buy a new tent.
If the tear is within the fabric covering of your tent then the repair is not too difficult to do.
Tent fabric, whether nylon, canvas, or vinyl, is susceptible to a host of ills that weaken the fabric to the point where a repair will not hold.
When you repair an area with a patch, the tension that caused the original tear is simply transferred to the fabric surrounding the patch.
If the surrounding fabric then tears, you have wasted your time making the repair.
Before you attempt to patch a tent, pull on the fabric surrounding the tear to make sure that it, too, does not tear.
If it does then the tent may be beyond repair and you may need to consider the purchase of a new tent.
Preparing the surface
Once you know that the tent fabric will hold a patch, you’ll next need to get the area ready for the repair.
When a tent tears it often leaves ragged edges where the fibres have ripped.
You will need to get a pair of scissors to cut away any fibres and create nice, smooth edges without any fraying.
As you’ll be using glue to fix the patch, you should clean the fabric with white spirit or similar to get rid of any grease or waterproofing.
Make sure that you clean both outside and inside and, if the tent is made of an artificial material, then lightly sand the area with fine grade sandpaper, just to create a ‘key’ for the glue.
Let the area dry properly after cleaning.
Make the patch
The best material for your patch is the material that matches your tent.
If you don’t have any spare then just make sure that you use canvas patches on a canvas tent, nylon on nylon and vinyl on vinyl.
You should be able to get patch kits at a camping shop or you can get these types of kits online here.
Cut the patch twice as long as the length of the tear, and at least several inches wide on each side of the tear.
Cut the patch in an oval shape, because square corners will tend to peel when the tent is flexed.
It is important that the patch is sufficiently large.
Patches that fail do so along the edge of the patch, because the cloth flexes more at a point where a great thickness (the patch) meets less thickness (the fabric).
To prevent failure there, make sure that the edge of the patch is far enough from the damage that the load is sufficiently reduced.
Fixing the patch
Glue is the best way to attach a patch, because when you use glue, the fabric won’t fray and the repair won’t leak.
The best glue for patching is one which will adhere to the fabric reliably under all the conditions (heat, cold, moisture, packing, etc.).
Latex cement is often touted for tent repairs, but avoid it; it doesn’t adhere very well in extreme conditions.
Contact cement performs well, but can be a little stiff.
The glue recommended by tent rental companies is called Barge Rubber Cement.
It can be purchased on Amazon and at some shops.
Barge Rubber Cement stays flexible in just about any conditions your tent is likely to encounter, and over long periods of time.
Paint the glue on the back of the patch, and on the area surrounding the damage.
Leave the glue until it turns tacky, and then press the patch onto the fabric. Be certain the edges of the patch are well glued.
To be certain that the patch is well glued, support the fabric from underneath and hammer the patch with a rubber mallet or roll firmly with a rolling pin or veneer roller.
For best results, patch the damage from both sides of the fabric.
Allow the glue time to cure before packing the tent for storage.
While you are making the repair, place some of your repair supplies in a plastic bag and pack them with your tent; you never know how far from home you will be the next time to need to patch a tear.
Emergency torn tent repair
If you do not have any glue or material to repair a torn tent and you need a quick fix, then there are tape products available that you can use until you are able to make a proper repair job.
These tapes are very sticky and, provided that your tent is dry when you apply them, they should stay strongly fixed over any tear.
Most are waterproof and are widely available at hardware shops.