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How to Fix a Tear or Rip in a Tent!

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You’re planning to go camping next weekend and you just remembered that on last year's camping trip you noticed a small tear in your tent. If not repaired, that small tear can quickly become a larger problem. However it really is easy to repair, even on the trail). So remember to always take your mending kit with you when tent camping.

What You Need in Your Mending Kit

For a canvas tent:

  • small scissors
  • sewing awl
  • strong T-pins
  • leather sewing needles (also called glover's needles; these will help get through heavy canvas even if it's multi-layered)
  • canvas repair patches or tape (sometimes called taffeta repair tape)
  • seam sealer made for canvas
  • waxed thread or heavy-duty cotton thread
  • thimble (optional)
  • mini pair of needle-nose pliers (optional)
  • (see "tent flooring" below for details) "kiddy blow-up swimming-pool’ repair patches and adhesive.

For a nylon tent:

  • small scissors
  • regular straight pins
  • sturdy sewing needle with large enough eye for use with waxed thread
  • "rip stop" nylon repair patches or tape
  • seam sealer made for nylon tent (make sure you're using the right sealer; canvas sealer could damage a nylon tent)
  • waxed thread
  • thimble (optional)
  • (see "tent flooring" below for details) ‘Kiddy blow-up swimming pool’ repair patches and adhesive

For a screen tent:

  • small scissors
  • regular straight pins
  • scrap nylon screening
  • waxed thread
  • darning needle (no thicker then the holes of the screening)
  • thimble (optional)
  • (if your screen tent has flooring; see below for details) ‘kiddy blow-up swimming pool’ repair patches & adhesive

To mend tent flooring: Most tent floorings are made of fiber- or fabric-reinforced ‘tarping." To mend the tent floor and make it watertight again, you don't sew it; you need patches and adhesive made for kids' inflatable pools. Add patches from inside and outside, following the manufacturer's instructions. Duct tape over the whole patch outside will give added protection.

The Method I Use

Even though the patch kits say sealing is enough to repair a rip, I prefer to sew all the tears then cover them with the appropriate patch and sealer inside and out.

My old canvas tent has had a patch for over twenty years and is still in use. Our newer nylon two-room tent has two patches. One large one is near the front flap where it got zippered in accidentally; this one had to be fixed at the camp site fast, as there was danger of us being carried away by the bloodthirsty jeep-sized mosquitoes.

The following method has served me well. Large tears must be sewn closed before being patched with a patch or repair tape because the tension on the fabric could eventually pull the rip apart again. You can do the on-site fixit job then add a larger permanent patch once you’re home, using the sewing machine. Give the patch a double topstitching all around, then remember to run a sealer bead over the seams to make it water-resistant again. Reseal occasionally, once every year or two.

How to Patch the Tent

  1. Cut two patches, one that is at least 1½ inches wider & longer and one that is 2 inches (5 cm) wider & longer than the tear.
  2. Pin the smaller patch on the inside of the tent.
  3. With your thread and needle using small back stitches sew the patch on securely.
  4. Working from the outside, gently lift the tent fabric at the tear and squeeze in a small amount of the sealer/adhesive all around the tear.
  5. Flip tent around so that you can work on the outside.
  6. Cover the larger patch with sealer/adhesive and center it over the tear from the outside hand press firmly in place. Wait ½ to 1 hour at least, then run a bead of sealer around patch. Check product description for the full curing time, usually about 1½ hours, then spread a bead of adhesive around the patch on the inside of the tent.
  7. It is important to wait at least the full curing time, but 24 hours is best before packing the tent away. If the circumference bead is not totally, totally dry, it can adhere to unwanted parts of the folded-up tent during transportation.

How to Patch a Screen Tent

  1. Cut a patch of nylon screening at least 2 inches (5 cm) wider and longer then the tear.
  2. Center the patch and gently pin it into place, working on the outside.
  3. Stitch the patch in place with small stitches, using the screening holes for easy work. Give it a triple stitching starting very close to the outside edge of the patch, and one tacking down as near to the tear as possible.

Happy tenting…see you at the campsite!


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Comments

Glenn on January 19, 2019:

Have you seen this product? www.fixmytear.com. I bought this repair tape a few yrs ago and am finding it really helpful in a lot of different surface repairs.

Ajay on August 30, 2013:

Recently i went for camping and due to rough weather i got my tent sheet torn. Then one of my friend got me a Coghlan tent repair kit and i felt its quite handy in repair of tent. Enjoy Camping!!

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on August 18, 2011:

maxravi, thank you for taking a look and for commenting.

regards Zsuzsy

Ravi Singh from India on August 17, 2011:

nice hub. I will keep it bookmark.thanks..voted up!

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on March 28, 2011:

HerbalMama, thanks for taking a look and for commenting. Good luck with the fixings... if you follow step by step it will work out just right.

regards Zsuzsy

HerbalMama from United States on March 28, 2011:

Just what I needed to know! My dog ripped a huge hole in the screen of our backpacking tent two years ago and I have never fixed it 1) b/c I didn't know how and 2) the thought of how expensive it might be to repair by the company! Thanks so much!

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on February 22, 2011:

armysurplus365, I have a canvas tent that's been used every year for 27 years. If I remember right it has at least 8-9 patches and two new zippers. I also own a two room nylon tent that's only 12 years old, friends borrowed it and it came back with some major damage but I was able to fix it using the procedures written up in this hub. I hate to throw anything out that still has potential for use.

Thanks for taking a look and for commenting

regards Zsuzsy

armysurplus365 from Cornwall on February 22, 2011:

Such a great hub. I've never really had a ripped tent. I prefer to purchase army surplus tents to make sure that I don't get faced with these issues. I'm not very patient and should my tent rip, I think I'd give up and buy another one !!! great hub :)

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on October 08, 2010:

Thanks for taking a look and for commenting, reversecharles.

regards Zsuzsy

reversecharles from Houston, Texas on October 07, 2010:

Great useful information!

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on August 14, 2010:

PR_am, thank you for taking a look and for commenting.

regards Zsuzsy

PR_am from Oregon on August 14, 2010:

Very useful hub. Thanks for sharing this knowledge.

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on April 28, 2010:

Hiya compu-smart, how are you?

I've fixed quite a few tents in my sewing shop over the years. Any other hints please add them here. Thank you for taking a look and for commenting.

hopw you're well

Kindest regards Zsuzsy

Compu-Smart from London UK on April 28, 2010:

Hey Zsuzsy Bee, i came by to offer you my tent repair tips but you have covered them all and then some!

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on February 14, 2010:

Kim thank you for taking a look and for commenting.

regards Zsuzsy

kims3003 on February 14, 2010:

very well written. well explained directions.

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on November 01, 2009:

Sabbatha thanks for taking a look and for commenting. Glad to know that the tips might come in handy.

regards Zsuzsy

sabbatha1 from patriciamccarty@rocketmail.com on November 01, 2009:

Hello thank you for giving us the great Tips. I really liked how you have your hub set up. With all my children as boys it comes in handy to know how to repair their tents. Thanks.

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on September 14, 2009:

gldwing, I'm not quite sure where the broken hole is located as I'm not familiar with the tent you own but if I understand your problem right you will have to reinforce the pole hole again...you might be able to do that by attaching a large metal washer that has the right sized hole for the pole. My old canvas tent has two such fixings. I glued a washer over the hole on each side of the canvas then using extra strong upholstery thread I sewed it too. Every so often I have to reinforce the washers by sewing them up again as the thread wears and tears. Hope that this will help.

regards Zsuzsy

gldwing on September 14, 2009:

Hi- I am trying to replace or repair a center hub on my Stargazer 6 Eureka tent(discontinued model) it is an older style made of hard plastic and has 4 holes to accept the tapered end of the poles. One of the holes broke so it is unusable making the tent unusable??? Any Ideas???

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on August 06, 2009:

MP, thanks for taking a look and for commenting.

Duct tape, every ones best friend...good luck

regards Zsuzsy

mp on August 06, 2009:

Awesome... I could never get the floor patch to stick... your advice on doing both sides then reinforcing with duct tape is going to nail this sucker down for good... thanks so much

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on July 10, 2009:

KItchen _Witch you're a hoot. '.....jacuzzi at the other end'. I love that. We're on the same page. When I go camping now, I like to rough it... there is a word for it, oh yeah its called 'RVing'. When the kids were young camping was the only holiday I could afford and I didn't have a problem with sleeping on the ground with rock pillows etc. Since the RV (2 years now) I spend a lot of time in it...sometimes just the dogs and I, at other times with the grandkids. I wouldn't want to parallel park that 38' long 'beheamus' though, but I think at my age that's the only way to camp now.

Glad you came by for a visit, I hope you're well

kindest regards Zsuzsy

Kitchen_Witch from The Green Studio of Musings on July 09, 2009:

Great Stuff! Clear instructions wonderful.

My dear husband swears I won't go camping unless its at the Hampton Inn hotels! LOL... Just because I said if I was driving nine hours there better be a jacuzzi at the other end.... sheesh. Besides it rained buckets and buckets on day three so much so the campfire <properly contained in a fire ring> floated away we had to chase it and stamp it out before it met another campers tent in the gully washer's way...... LOL

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on May 04, 2009:

Camping Dan! That is what I learned too, the hard way when we used to tent camp. Be preparred for it all.

Thanks for taking a look and for commenting.

regards Zsuzsy

Camping Dan on May 04, 2009:

Nice hub! I always keep a tent repair kit in the stuff sack so that I am always ready to patch a hole. It never fails for me I get that hole in the first day out of a several day trip. This way I can fix it there and not have to worry about potential leaks or problems.

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on May 03, 2009:

mdawson! Thanks for taking a look and for commenting.

regards Zsuzsy

mdawson17 on May 02, 2009:

Great insight and the information in this hub was very well needed.

mdawson17

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on April 18, 2009:

Sukkran! How are you? It's been a while. Always glad when you come for a visit.

With the way the economy is right at the moment I think camping is going to have a revival this season. Everybody will dig out their old tents when it comes to vacation time and then they will need to fix their tents and spruce them up. This hub on tent repair might hopefully help some.

kindest regards Zsuzsy

Mohideen Basha from TRICHY, TAMIL NADU, INDIA. on April 18, 2009:

wonderful page construction. really very attractive and the content is also useful. great work.

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on April 10, 2009:

Rochelle always glad when you pop in for a visit. If my know-how is useful to those that need it in the tent cities then they're more then welcome to it.I repaired quite a few tents at my sewing shop over the years by this method. I hope this hub will be helpful.

Kindest regards Zsuzsy

Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on April 10, 2009:

Wow, Zsuzsy, do you know how valuable this knowledge would be in the rapidly expanding tent cities that are developing on the edges of towns?

You could make a fortune selling your advice, skills and services to the people who are homeless, out of work . . and . . .broke. . .

Well, at least you could earn their appreciation.

Zsuzsy Bee (author) from Ontario/Canada on April 10, 2009:

RKHenry! My nephew asked about how to fix his tent so I simply 'hubbed' my answer. Thanks for coming to take a look and for commenting.

regards Zsuzsy

RKHenry from Neighborhood museum in Somewhere, USA on April 10, 2009:

How did you know I was thinking about going camping this summer? lol!

Thanks for the advice and tips.