How to Repair Your Tent

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How to Repair Your Tent

Looking for info on how to repair your tent?

You’re in the right place! In this guide, we will be covering the following:

    • How to easily fix zippers
    • Busted Pole? No problem!
    • Fabric & Tent Seam repairs

Perhaps more than any other item of our camping kit, our tents are liable to damage in the form of breaks, tears, and punctures. Whether it’s your lightweight hiking pole shelter or your behomouth of a 12 person camping tent With a little know-how and a fairly simple kit, however, you can easily fix the most common tent troubles in a matter of minutes.

Below, we explain how it’s done.

Fixing Zippers

Fixing a broken zipper on your tent is probably the trickiest of all DIY repairs, but is very doable with the right kit and a little patience.

First up, buy a zipper repair kit with a variety of different sized sliders. In most cases, the kit will come with a needle and thread and a seam ripper. You’ll also need a pair of pliers to first take off the old slider and fix the new one in place.

Your tent zipper will have a sewn-in stopper at the end to prevent the zipper from sliding off the track. Remove the seam and pull the original slider off of the track, using the pliers if you need to enlarge the opening of the slider to do so.

Next, slip the new slider onto the track, taking care to ensure that the zipper pull is on the correct side and with the “nose” or pointed part of the zipper oriented towards the closed side.

Pull the slider up to check that it is closing the zipper correctly. If so, pull it up until you have enough space to resew the stopper, which you should do with a dozen or so cross-stitches.

Fabric Tears & Punctures

To fix a rip or puncture in your tent’s wall, mesh or rainfly, you’ll need a repair kit that contains the following:

  • Rubbing alcohol/surgical spirit
  • Scissors
  • Repair tape (Kenyon Ripstop Tape or Tenacious Tape)
  • Fabric patches (wall, mesh, and/or fly)

First up, wipe down the area around the rip or puncture with the rubbing alcohol and a cloth.

If fixing a smaller rip, you can simply tape over the rip, making sure you use enough tape to completely cover the hole and a little bit extra (around one inch) on either side.

If fixing a puncture or larger rip in the fly, tent wall, or a mesh window or door, cut the patch of the repair material in your repair kit to size, lay the rip area out on a flat, solid surface, and then tape the patch over the hole, again taking care to cover at least an inch or two on either side of the hole.

Seam Repairs

Seams are one of the most frequently cited points of vulnerability in tents and can become leaky over time as manufacturer sealants or tapes wear down.

To renew the seal in your tent’s seams, you’ll need rubbing alcohol and a seam sealant.

Be sure to use the correct sealant for your tent fabric: silicone-based sealants (like Gear Aid Seam Grip SIL) for silicone treated tents and urethane-based sealants (like Gear Aid Seam Grip FC) for polyurethane (PU) treated tents. 

Lay your tent out in a well-lit spot on the floor with the underside of the fly or body exposed. Remove any old, worn, or peeling seam tape. Give the seams a quick clean with the rubbing alcohol and a cloth, apply the sealant with the supplied brush and leave to dry thoroughly.

Repairing Poles

There are a few ways to repair damaged tent poles without going to the length of buying a whole new pole set.

Splint repair

Most tents are sold with a repair kit that will include a stubby segment of tent pole that’s a fraction wider in diameter than the poles in your tent. This is called either a “splint” or a “sleeve” and offers the simplest way of repairing a broken, bent, or split pole.

All you have to do is wiggle the splint down until it is positioned over the breakage point, press the two broken pole ends together so they meet as close as possible to the middle of the splint, and then wrap duct tape around either end of the splint to hold it in place.

If, for any reason, you don’t happen to have a repair splint with you when the break happens, you can improvise by using a tent peg instead. This is done by simply lining up the tent peg over the break and wrapping duct tape tightly around the two from the top to the bottom of the peg.

Shock cord repair

Start by removing your old shock cord and purchasing a new one either online or at a local hardware store. In most cases, a single pole on a two-man dome-style tent will require roughly 5 meters/15 feet of cord. To ensure you don’t have to repeat the repair in a hurry, we recommend opting for 3mm cord.

Line up your pole segments where they can be fully extended—you’ll have to assemble the pole completely to adjust the tension. 

Thread the new cord through each segment of pole and then tie a knot (figure-of-eight works best) in one end of the cord and connect the pole segments. Pull the untied end of the cord until you have adequate tension in the cord, remembering that the pole will be flexed when in use. Finally, tie a knot in the other end of the cord and cut off the excess.

Kieran James Cunningham is a climber, mountaineer, and author who divides his time between the Italian Alps, the US, and his native Scotland.

He has climbed a handful of 6000ers in the Himalayas, 4000ers in the Alps, 14ers in the US, and loves nothing more than a good long-distance wander in the wilderness. He climbs when he should be writing, writes when he should be sleeping, has fun always.

Kieran has taught mountaineering, ice climbing, and single-pitch and multi-pitch rock climbing in a variety of contexts over the years and has led trekking and mountaineering expeditions in the Alps, Rockies, and UK. He is currently working towards qualifying as a Mountaineering and Climbing Instructor and International Mountain Leader.

Kieran’s book Climbing the Walls—an exploration of the mental health benefits of climbing, mountaineering, and the great outdoors—is scheduled for release by Simon & Schuster in April 2021.

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