Even the toughest tent can suffer the occasional tweak, tear or leak. With a few simple fixes, though, yours can provide many more seasons of backcountry bliss. And you don’t have to be a DIY wizard for these repairs.

This article will cover three common tent repairs:

  • Fixing small tears in the tent fabric
  • Sealing leaks in the seams on the rainfly and tent body
  • Splinting a broken or bent tent pole

Note, too, that basic tent care is also critical to tent longevity. For details, read our Tent Care article. 

 

Patching Rips in Your Tent

Sharp sticks, stones and errant tree branches can sometimes result in tears to your tent’s fabric.  If you carry a patch kit with you while camping or backpacking, you can repair a tear in a tent’s wall, mesh or rainfly while you’re out there. Or you can wait to do it at home.

 

Video: How to Patch a Tent

 

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • A rag
  • Scissors
  • Repair tape, such as Tenacious Tape
  • Mesh patch kit (if patching a mesh door or window)
 
application of a patch on a ripped tent

Here’s how to patch a rip in your tent:

  1. On the exterior of the tent, start by cleaning the area around the tear with rubbing alcohol and a rag.
  2. Cut a piece of repair tape to cover the hole and at least one inch of fabric surrounding it. If you round the corners of the tape, the patch will last longer.
  3. Lay the tent fabric on a solid surface and remove the backing on the tape patch. Press the patch into place.
  4. If the tear is in a high-tension area, like near a pole, it’s a good idea to patch the inside of the tent as well.
  5. Let the patch cure for a day before packing the tent away.
 
 
application of a patch on the mesh part of a tent

If you have a rip in a mesh door or window, here’s what to do:

  1. Lay the torn section on a flat surface.
  2. Put the mesh patch from the patch kit over the hole.
  3. Remove the backing from the ring of repair tape that came with the patch kit.
  4. Line the tape up with the patch and press it into place.
  5. Let the patch cure for a day before packing the tent away.
 

Professional Repairs

If you have a long tear or a puncture along a seam, your best bet is to send the tent in for professional repair. REI has partnered with Rainy Pass Repair, the nation’s largest outdoor gear repair service for fabric and outerwear repairs. Learn more about professional repair services.

 

Shop Gear Repair Products  

 

Sealing Leaks in Your Tent

applying sealant to tent seams

Most tents are sold with seams sealed by seam tape, but it’s easiest to do a repair with a liquid seam sealer. Seams are vulnerable areas, so when you're between trips, inspect your tent seams periodically for damage or signs that water is sneaking in.

 

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A rag
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Seam sealer (be sure to get the right type for your tent. Silicone-treated fabric takes a different sealer than polyurethane-coated fabrics.)
 

Here’s how to seal seams:

  1. Set your tent up in a dry, sunny spot or brightly lit room so you can easily examine all of the seams. You will seal seams on the underside of the fly and the inner side of the tent body. It’s helpful to put the fly on inside out for easier access to the seams.
  2. If you find seam tape that is coming loose on the underside of the fly, gently remove any peeling sections, but leave intact sections in place.
  3. Prep the seams by gently cleaning them with a rag and rubbing alcohol.
  4. Apply the new seam sealer to the seams.
  5. If one seam is beginning to fail, the rest might not be far behind, so you may want to apply seam sealer to all the seams.
  6. Allow the seam sealer to dry completely.
 

Check out our How to Waterproof a Tent article to learn more about seam sealing as well as how to refresh a flaking urethane coating and how to apply new DWR coating to a tent.

 

Shop Gear Treatments and Washes  

 

Splinting a Broken Tent Pole

Whether your tent pole gets stepped on or a powerful gust of wind does the damage, a kinked, split or snapped pole needs immediate attention in the field. You can look into having the pole replaced or permanently repaired when you get home.

 
using a sleeve to repair a tent pole

Using a pole repair sleeve: The easiest and quickest way to fix a broken pole is with a pole repair sleeve. Also called a splint, this short tube is often provided with your tent. If not, buy one and pack it with you. A good pole repair sleeve is just slightly larger in diameter than your pole so that is doesn’t move around too much. Using a repair sleeve to fix a broken tent pole is simple:

  1. Line up the broken pole sections.
  2. If the pole is bent but not fully broken, gently straighten out the bend.
  3. Slide the sleeve over the pole end until it’s centered over the break or kink; you might have to use pliers to crimp or a rock to bend splayed pieces so that the sleeve can slide over them.
  4. Wrap each end of the sleeve/pole a couple of times with duct tape, or whatever heavy-duty tape you have on hand.
  5. If your pole breaks where one pole end inserts into the next one, you will have to splint the sections together; keep in mind that this will prevent the poles from folding up neatly when you take the tent down.
 
use of tent stake to repair a broken tent pole

Using a tent stake as a splint: If you’ve lost or forgotten your pole repair sleeve, you can use a tent stake to concoct a crude splint:

  1. Line up the broken pole sections.
  2. If the pole is bent but not fully broken, straighten out the bend.
  3. Align the stake so that it’s centered next to the break.
  4. Wrap each end of the stake/pole multiple times with duct tape, or whatever heavy-duty tape you have on hand.
 
To learn more about tent-pole repair, including how to replace shockcord, see our article, How to Fix a Tent Pole.
 

Professional Tent-Pole Repairs

If you’re questioning your ability to fix a tent pole, REI stores can do basic repairs.

 

REI Repair Services 

 

Another great option is TentPole Technologies, the nation’s leading pole repair service.

 

Related Articles

Tent Care Basics

Backpacking Repair Kit Checklist

How to Set Up a Tent

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Contributing Experts

Lindsey Stone
Lindsey Stone

Lindsey Stone is the operations director at Rainy Pass Repair, Inc. in Seattle. Prior to that she worked for 12 years as a professional sewing technician. She enjoys hiking, camping and canoeing with her husband, daughter and dog.

Chris Pottinger
Chris Pottinger

Chris Pottinger is a senior tent designer for REI Co-op in Kent, Wash.

Jon Almquist
Jon Almquist

Jon Almquist is the tents product manager at REI Co-op headquarters in Kent, Wash.

Laura Evenson
Laura Evenson

Laura Evenson is a sales lead in the camp and climb departments at the REI Conshohocken, Pa., store. A resilient adventurer, Laura’s 2013 Appalachian Trail thru-hike featured 27 straight days of rain.