Tent repairs


Rainstorms, heavy wind and curious insects aren’t too much of a problem on a typical camping trip. However, when a hole or a tear appears in your tent fabric, these nuisances can suddenly become a much bigger deal.

Whether it’s a hole, a broken tent pole or a split seam that has you scratching your head, there are some simple fixes that campers can do. We’ll be outlining an easy step-by-step method for each problem, and if you’re still yet to depart on your trip, these are some helpful tricks to know, especially when you’re putting together your camping checklist.

Man looking through his equipment (Marek Piwnicki / Unsplash)

How to repair a ripped tent

Equipment required: tent repair tape or duct tape, seam sealer (recommended), scissors or another sharp object (recommended), rubbing alcohol (optional), ruler (optional).

Note that nylon tents will require tent repair tape and sealer specifically designed for nylon tents, while canvas tents will require taffeta tape and canvas seam sealer. Using the wrong type of tape or sealer can damage your tent’s fabric.

1. Rinse away any dirt using water or rubbing alcohol.

Scrub away any dense dirt using a rag and water, then wipe clean with rubbing alcohol to ensure that debris doesn’t get in the way of your handiwork.

2. Tidy up any loose fibres using scissors or a sharp object.

Frayed fibres are easy to catch on clothing or other objects, which will re-open the tear even after it has been fixed up, so they need to be trimmed away.

3. If you’re at home, steam the fabric surrounding the tear.

Those of you who are already at your campsite are unlikely to have a steamer lying around. However, if you’re at home, you’ll benefit from adding this step because it will iron out any creases in your tent’s fabric, making it easier to mend. 

4. Measure the length of the tear.

After allowing the fabric to dry, measure the length of the tear using a ruler or your fingers.

5. Measure and cut your tent repair tape or duct tape.

Measure out and cut a piece of tent repair tape (or duct tape), ensuring that it’s at least half an inch larger than the tear on all four sides.

6. Apply the tape to the tear from the inside of your tent.

Slowly apply the tape to the tear from the inside of your tent, ensuring that it covers the whole area and that there are as few creases as possible. It may help to run your finger over the tape as you go to iron out any creases.

7. Check that it’s stuck in place.

Give your handiwork a prod to check that it’s firmly stuck in place.

8. On the outside of the tent, smear a thin layer of seam sealer onto the tear.

Use your finger or a compact brush to cover the entire area with seam sealer, a waterproof product that will repel rain away from the area. If you don’t have any seam sealer, the tape will offer some protection from water; however, we’d recommend taking this step to waterproof the tear completely.

9. Allow the repair to sit for 24 hours.

Let your newly mended patch sit for 24 hours in order for it to dry and set in place.

How to fix a large tear in a tent without repair tape or duct tape

If your tear is too large, you’ll need to use a sewing kit. Equipment required: sewing awl, waxed thread, seam sealer.

1. Pull the two flaps of material together, placing one side over the other.

2. Use a sewing awl and waxed thread to stitch up the tear.

Taking care to place your stitches close together, use a sewing awl and waxed thread to puncture holes in the tent fabric and stitch up the tear.

3. Apply a thin layer of seam sealer around the entire area.

4. Let it dry for 24 hours.

How to fix a split seam on a tent

Equipment required: liquid seam sealer, rubbing alcohol and rag (recommended), sewing awl or sewing kit (optional) and nylon or polyester thread (optional).

Before you order a seam sealer, check that you have the correct one for your tent’s fabric. For instance, fabric coated in silicone will require a specific silicone sealer, while those layered with polyurethane will need a sealer designed specifically for polyurethane. Both can be ordered online.

1. Dismantle your tent and examine your seams to assess the damage.

Seams are a delicate area to deal with, so you’ll need plenty of natural light to see what you’re doing. Look out for flaking or loose fabric and small tears in the material. 

2. Turn the flysheet inside out.

It’s easier to mend the seams when the flysheet is turned inside out, because splits in the seams will be on the underside of the fly or on the inside of your tent.

3. Carefully peel away any seam tape that has come loose.

Leaving any firm sections as they are, peel away the parts of the seam that are flaking, split or loose.

4. Carefully wipe the seams clean using a rag and rubbing alcohol or water.

This will remove any dirt that’s in the way.

5. Apply seam sealer to the split seams.

After allowing the area to dry, liberally apply seam sealer to the slit seams, ensuring that the area is laid out flat to avoid any bubbles during application.  

6. Allow the seam sealer to set for 24 hours.

7. If you’re able to, stitch up the seam using nylon or polyester thread.

This final step will fully brace your tent for all weather conditions. Use a sewing awl or a sewing kit with nylon or polyester thread, keeping the stitches as close together as possible.

How to fix a zip on a tent

Equipment required: a new slider, needle, thread, pliers.

1. If your slider is caught at the end of the zip, remove the sewn-in seam using a pair of pliers.

Every zipper has a sewn-in seam to stop your slider breaking free at the end of the track. If your slider is caught there, you’ll need to use pliers to prise the seam open carefully. 

2. Remove the slider using your fingers or pliers.

Simply zip the slider down and off the track, using pliers if necessary.

3. Replace it with a new slider.

Slide a replacement slider onto the track, ensuring that the handle is facing the inside of your tent and that the pointed end of the slider is facing up the track. If there’s a lot of material between the track and your new slider, you may need to use a pin or needle to force the fabric through the slider until it fits into the grooves.

4. Check that the zip is functioning correctly by moving the slider up and down.

5. Replace the stopper at the bottom of the track.

Re-attach the stopper firmly around the bottom groove of the track by passing it into the grooves.

6. Re-stitch the bottom seam of the zipper using a needle and thread.

Carefully stitch together the seam where the bottom of the zipper joins the tent fabric, taking care not to get any of the thread caught up in the slider or the grooves. Around 15 to 20 stitches should do the trick.

7. Check that the stopper is secure by pulling the zipper to the bottom of the track.

What if a piece of fabric or clothing is stuck in the zipper?

The best trick is to apply soap to the fabric to make it more slippery, then pull on the fabric until it comes free. If that doesn’t work, use a needle to prise the fabric free or, in very stubborn cases, make an incision in the trapped fabric to make it smaller and easier to remove.

What if the zipper has a missing or there's a broken groove in the track?

Home remedies will be futile in this case, so you’ll need to get in touch with a professional tailor to get it fixed. Ask for the cost upfront, as it may be cheaper to order a new tent.

How to fix a broken pole on a tent

There are two ways of repairing a broken tent pole. The quickest and easiest method is using a pole repair sleeve as a splint – these are often provided with your tent or can be ordered online.

How to repair a broken pole with a pole repair sleeve

Equipment required: a pole repair sleeve (this should be just larger in diameter than your tent pole, so there’s little wriggle room) and duct tape.

1. Straighten out any bend in the bent pole, or line up your two broken pole sections.

2. Insert the tent pole into the sleeve until the broken section is in the centre of the sleeve.

Pliers may come in handy here to push or manipulate the pole into the sleeve. 

3. Cover each end of the sleeve with a few layers of duct tape to keep it in place.

How to repair a broken pole without a pole repair sleeve

Equipment required: a makeshift stake, duct tape.

1. Straighten out any bend in the bent pole, or line up your two broken pole sections.

2. Locate something that you can use as a stake, such as a straight sturdy branch.

3. Line the stake up with your tent pole, ensuring that the centre of the stake is aligned with the break in the pole.

4. Wrap a few layers of duct tape around each end of the stake, ensuring that both the stake and pole are covered.

Now that your tent is nicely fixed up and ready for action, you might want to make sure that all of your gear is in good working order; our general camping guides have more advice on what kit you won’t want to be missing to make sure that you have more time for all the good-quality stuff, like firepits, walks in the countryside and morning beach trips.

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