How To Repair Tents: From Holes To Sticky Zippers

Rilor Staff
Update: March 8, 2023
Table of Contents

Learning how to repair tents is crucial to ensure that you can keep your shelters intact and in good condition. With the right skills and tools, you will be able to maintain the structure and livability of your tents. 

A Quick Overview

The majority of the camping tents are designed to withstand constant use and abuse, especially if we are talking about expensive and branded tents. But of course, these tents aren't fully impervious to damage. Constant exposure to the elements can reduce their overall rigidity over time. 

An example of this would be the reduction of the durable water repellent (DWR) or water-resistant treatments on the tents because of prolonged exposure to rain and heat. Another example would be the wear-and-tear sustained by these tents because of the repeated packing, unpacking, assembly, and disassembly. And, of course, accidents happen, as well. Sharp branches can rip the fabrics of these things. 

Essentially, repairing tents is a crucial skill that every outdoor enthusiast should learn. It is needed to ensure that your tent remains in good condition before, during, and after you use your shelter. It also saves you money from buying new tents every time your existing ones get damaged.

We listed some helpful tutorials below for DIY tent repairs. Check them out. 

How To Repair Tents: Patching Holes 

One of the first repair skills that you need to learn is patching holes in your tents. Of course, your tent can be punctured by stones and sharp sticks and branches. These are common perpetrators when it comes to putting holes in anyone's tent. Some of the holes are small enough to be covered by patches. In comparison, others are big enough that they require professional sewing or repair services. 

If there's a considerably small hole in your tent's wall, rainfly and tarps, and mesh, you will be able to cover it as long as you have a tent repair kit. You can do this procedure while you are still at your home or while you are at your campsite. 

Tools you need:

  • Repair tape
  • Scissors
  • Rags
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Mesh patch (if it is needed)


  1. First, you need to clean the fabric first. Dirty fabrics are difficult to repair because of the lingering mud or dirt that could get in the way. Start on the exterior of the tent and work around the damaged area. Use rubbing alcohol here, and let the fabric dry before proceeding. 
  1. Get the repair tape and cut it so that it can become rounded. It should be big enough to cover the hole and its surrounding areas of the torn part. 
  1. Next, place the damaged fabric on a flat, solid surface. After that, patch the tape to the hole. In doing so, make sure that you remove the back portion of the patch so that you will be able to apply it properly. 
  1. If necessary, place an interior patch, as well. We recommend that you do this if the damage took place in areas where there's a lot of tension, such as those near the poles. 
  1. Don't use the tent immediately after patching. Let the repair tape cure for a day to ensure that it won't peel off. 

How To Repair Tents: Patching Holes In The Tent's Mesh

The mesh of tents can be fragile sometimes. So they are susceptible to snagging or getting ripped. In fact, it is a normal occurrence for some to see tears on the mesh panels. 

Fortunately, repairing this damage isn't a difficult task. If the mesh has been snagged, you can tweak the netting's strands so that you can close them together. If you deem that the damage requires repair, then a mesh patch can help you on this one. 

Tools you need:

  • Mesh patch
  • Repair tape
  • Scissors


  1. The first thing that you need to do is to place the damaged area on a flat surface so that you can repair it seamlessly. 
  1. Next, prepare the mesh patch. Here, you need to ensure that the patch is centered on the hole. Once you have centered the patch, take out the backing of the repair tape of the said mesh patch. 
  1. When applying the patch, make sure that it is properly aligned. In this way, you won't see loose strands. They can eventually be torn again if not properly covered. 
  1. Similar to patching holes in tent fabrics, patching mesh holes requires curing. Specifically, it should take at least a day before the patch can be cured. Only after this period can you safely use the tent. 

If you don't have a mesh patch with you, then you can opt for a solid tent patch instead. This is a standard inclusion to repair kits. However, this particular repair method will not yield clean results. So only do this if you don't have any other choice. Otherwise, go with the standard procedure. 

Repairs on the field could also be considered a medal of honor. They serve as proof that you have done them all! 

How To Repair Tents: Fixing Broken Poles

Modern poles are built to be durable, especially if we are talking about the poles used in backpacking tents and 4-season tents. However, this doesn't mean that these poles are invulnerable. Eventually, the elements can get them (i.e., strong winds). Or, if not, someone in your group could accidentally step on these poles and split them in half. 

Damaged poles should be replaced or fixed. You can do this easily if you still haven't moved out of your home. But things are different if you are in the field already. 

Camping preparations are necessary if you are expecting broken poles during your trip. When repairing tents, what you need to have are pole repair sleeves. But they are also called splints, which are tiny tubes that typically come with the tent package. If there's none present in your tent, then you should buy one. 

We recommend that you get a pole repair sleeve that has a larger diameter than the existing pole of your tent. In this way, the poles will not move excessively. To use these repair sleeves, do the following. 

  1. First, you need to line all the broken poles. If the pole isn't broken but just bent, straighten it gently. 
  1. Next, you can slide the sleeve already. Specifically, push the sleeve over damaged poles until such time the sleeve is in the middle of the affected area. 
  1. If there are bents, hammer them gently using a rock. In this way, the sleeve can be slid gently. 
  1. After the sleeve is in place, tape it. You should wrap both ends of the sleeve with the use of duct tape or any available tape. 

Another method that you can try is by using a tent stake as a splint. It would be a great alternative if you forgot to bring the pole repair sleeve. The splint will not be clean, but it is acceptable enough as a temporary fix. 

  1. Similar to the first procedure, you simply need to align all the damaged parts of the poles. Straighten the bent of the pole if the latter isn't broken. 
  1. Next, align the tent to the damaged pole, and tape both ends with duct tape or any available tape. Do the wrapping multiple times so that the splint is solid enough to hold the pole altogether. 

How To Repair Tents: Making A Stubborn Zipper Work Again

Stubborn zippers are among the most common problems when it comes to tents. And when it comes to this, it is not a good idea to force a jammed zipper to move up or down. After all, there's a good possibility that doing so could cause more damage than good. 

One important thing that you need to do is to inspect the zipper. Probe if the problem isn't caused by fabrics being bitten by the zipper. 

So what should you do if the zipper becomes stuck? Here are some of the recommended fixes: 

  • Cleaning the zipper is a good solution. You need to do this if you deem that there is debris or dust that gets stuck into the zipper. You should do this procedure while you are still home. Here, you would need some simple brushing using a brush with soft bristles. 
  • If you are in the field and you discover that your tent's zippers are, get an unscented candle. This is a temporary but viable fix to get the zippers running again. Rubbing the candle throughout the length of the zipper teeth could smooth things out. 
  • Lubricating the zipper is still the best way to ensure that your tent's zippers work smoothly. Before your trip, apply a compatible lubricant to the zipper. Doing this would keep the zippers snag-free. 

How To Repair Tents: Sealing The Seams

The seams are among the most susceptible parts of tents. Unless they have been constructed with optimal durability and ruggedness, they are prone to tears and leaks. That's why many backpacking tents today have sealed or taped seams to minimize potential damages. 

Of course, regular maintenance is a must to prevent the seams from being ripped or torn while you are camping. You need to periodically check the seams, especially if you are regularly using your tent. 

The immediate signs of damaged seams are water leaks, loose stitches, and obvious torn parts. Similar to the other issues here, there's a fix to this specific problem. 

Tools you need: 

  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Seam sealer
  • Clean rag

Keep in mind that fabrics with silicone treatment or coating require a special sealer. On the other hand, most tents have polyurethane-coated fabrics. So if you are not sure about this information, check the product manual of your tent. 


  1. The first thing that you need to do is lay the tent flat so that you can work on its seams easily. You should place the tent somewhere that is dry and properly illuminated. Most of the time, the seams are located on the interior portion of the tent. Hence, there's also a need to keep the rainfly in an upside-down position. 
  1. Once your work setup is ready, inspect all the seams of the tent. Specifically, look for the parts where there are worn seam tapes or the seam sealer. If you think that the existing tapes and sealers are already worn, you should just apply a new layer of sealer along the entire seams of the tent.
  1. Meanwhile, you should take out any loose tapes by peeling them. But don't remove the intact tapes. Just leave them be. 
  1. Before applying the seam sealer, clean the seams first. You don't need special cleaning solutions here, though. Just pour the alcohol into a clean rag and rub it to the seams. Once done cleaning, let the fabrics dry for a couple of minutes. 
  1. Now, you are ready to apply the sealer to the tent's seams. When applying the sealer, use a brush. In this way, you can spread the sealer evenly throughout the affected seams. Let the sealer dry for a day. 

Keep in mind that condensation could take place inside your tent. And that could affect the newly-sealed seams. Providing sufficient ventilation to the tent can prevent this from happening. 

Meanwhile, old tents can still leak because of their worn waterproofing. Once this occurs, you simply have to apply a new waterproof treatment to the fabrics. Re-applying the durable water repellent to the tent could further improve its overall resistance to the elements. These DWR treatments also help in boosting the tent's defense against UV rays. 

Final Thoughts

Learning how to repair tents is essential for every outdoor enthusiast. It ensures that your shelter is in good condition, whether you are away or within your campsite. 

With a few basic tools and some practice, you can easily fix small holes, tears, or broken zippers on your tent. Not only will this extend the life of your tent, but it will also give you peace of mind knowing that you can handle unexpected situations while camping.

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