Repair for tents, sleeping bags, and jackets
by: Brandon Behymer
You may be reading this in your office and wondering what the dirt feels like on a local trail. Maybe you’re yearning for the feeling of take-off, on your way to places and people far away. It’s that time of year again. The time of year that the holiday hangover begins to wear off and we all begin to realize we have 300ish days before it’s socially acceptable to unbutton our pants at the dinner table. It’s also the gear repair season. Repairs on our liver, family bonds (nothing spices up the Christmas ham like family friendly conflict), and outdoor gear repairs. Needless to say, I wish you luck with the first two, but I can actually help with the third.
The most important part of gear repair isn’t the gear itself, it’s you. Yes, even through all the ups and downs, cursing, and joy that you and your gear share, at the end of the day the gear is selfish. You invest all this money in it, the least it could do is dry itself out and quietly make its way to a cool (50-70 degree), dry closet and hang itself up. Then patiently await the next opportunity to carry your means of survival. Making the habit of cleaning your gear when you get home from a trip is the single most important thing you can do as far as maintenance. Though I don’t have the numbers to back up this statement, I venture to say the number of tents ruined due to being stored wet is astronomical. Whether it be a tent, jacket, stove, boots etc., cleaning it before storage will all but guarantee a longer lifespan of the product.
Setting up your tent in the garage or front yard after a trip is important to let it dry out. This prevents mold from building up and compromising the PU coating on the nylon that keeps you dry. After years of use you may notice some ‘bubbling’ on the inside of the seams. The seams of the fly are taped to waterproof all the little holes that are the result of stitching the fabric together. Once the tape begins to bubble or turn white and brittle, it’s time to tear it off and apply a new form of seam sealer. I usually use a silicon-based seam sealer and apply it with a brush. (video)
Waterproof jackets. The more often you wash these, within reason and properly, the better they will perform in the long run. (video). If holes do develop in the fabric you can patch it with the same fabric the jacket is made of whether that be Gore-Tex, Event, Pertex etc. A bit of repair adhesive and a small patch will keep water out. A repair to a seam is a little more difficult to repair but not impossible.
Down Clothing and Sleeping Bags
Down is a material that only truly works when it’s dry. The key to longevity is keeping it clean and dry. This is an impossible task due to the nature of the activities in which down is used but care should be taken to accomplish this. I recommend only washing down pieces once it is noticeably soiled (video). The most common repair on down insulated garments is patching holes caused by embers from a fire burning through the thin nylon shell. This is easily fixed with a small piece of K-Tape.
Do you have some bigger jobs, or still nervous about doing your own repair? Stop by RRT for some more advice or professional help.