Kenyon Ripstop Repair Tape
Kenyon Ripstop Repair Tape (courtesy, REI)

What can I do about a tent mangled by a falling rock?

While camping near Havasu Falls, a rock fell from the side of the canyon, shattered, and bounced through my tent fly and the tent itself (and then bounced out), putting an eight-inch tear in each. My sleeping sister and I fortunately both escaped unharmed! Can the tent be repaired or shall I take my friends advice and frame it—and go buy a new one? If repaired, will the fly ever be truly waterproof? Meg Covington, Kentucky

Kenyon Ripstop Repair Tape

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That’s a good story! Glad you got out unscathed. Reminds me of one of the British climbs up Everest in the early 1970s, I think. The route was notorious for rockfalls, and camp had to be made on exposed slopes. So one of the climbers—a very famous guy of that era named Don Whillans—devised a box-like tent made from ballistic cloth. Basically, bulletproof. Maybe that’s what you needed.

Kenyon Ripstop Repair Tape Kenyon Ripstop Repair Tape

As for your tent, it’s perfectly repairable. The rock put in a tear, right? So you can match the torn edges together. You have two options. One is a homemade fix, involving a fair amount of repair material such as Kenyon Ripstop Repair Tape ($3 a roll; or Kenyon K Tape (same price). Use the K Tape for the tent fly. Use the Ripstop tape for the inner tent. Just mate up the torn tent edges and tape away, using tape along the tear and, at intervals, at right angles to the tear. It won’t be terribly aesthetic, but it’ll hold up and work fine. And the fly will be waterproof.

Alternatively, you can send the tent either to The North Face for a repair, or to a good outdoor-gear repair specialist such as Rainy Pass Repair ( in Seattle. I would expect to pay around $50 or so for a good-quality fix.

Get it fixed, use it for a few more years, then retire it and hang it on the wall with all its battle scars.

For more essential tent-care tips, read “Respect the Roof” from Outside‘s
2004 Buyer’s Guide

From Outside Magazine, April/May 2021
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Lead Photo: courtesy, REI