Quick Fixes for Hikers: Mend a Ripped Tent

Don’t let a minor malfunction ruin your big trek. Learn to patch a sleeping bag, glue together a boot, and make four more simple repairs that everyone should master before setting foot on the trail.

    Photo: Debbie Oetgen/Shutterstock

The situation: As you unroll your tent for the night, you notice a long, jagged tear in the fly. Lighting flickers above a nearby peak, and you know you’ll need the waterproof shell during the night. How do you keep from getting soaked?

The fix: While duct tape might be the obvious choice, the powerful adhesive can leave behind a sticky residue that’s difficult to remove if you decide to have your tent professionally repaired.

The experts at Kelty recommend McNett’s Tenacious Tape for tears in the tent’s fly, body or screen. Clean and dry the rip, then lay a piece of the tape over it. The versatile, lightweight stuff can also mend gashes in sleeping bags and pads, backpacks, clothing, and vinyl rafts. The same company makes a seam grip, if you want to make more permanent repairs in the field.

How do you prevent these tears from happening in the first place? Stay away from the sun—which causes UV damage to fabric just like it does to your skin—and be wary of sharp objects.  

“Just being careful to keep your tent away from low, sharp branches, abrasive rocks, and cacti is probably the easiest way to prevent tears,” says Phil Mesdag, Kelty tent product manager.  “Campfires can also kick off embers that will burn holes in your tent, so it’s best to pitch far away from the fire ring.”

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