Camping Equipment Repair Techniques
Camping equipment is generally sturdy and should last many years with proper care. Barring misadventure or carelessness that results in tears in the fabric, tents, backpacks, and sleeping bags are likely to need repairs only to those parts that take the most stress and wear: zippers, grommets, tent peg loops, lines and seams.
Frequently the weak point gives out while you are using the equipment on a trip, so it is wise to carry a small kit for field repairs. Include nylon cord, adhesive-backed nylon ripstop tape, split rings, some device to use as a temporary substitute in case a peg loop or grommet tears out, a melt-and-patch stick of rubber glue, and duct tape with a dull finish. These materials are available at most camping supply, hardware, and army and navy stores.
You can make permanent repairs at home. For strengthening stress points, and replacing straps and peg loops, use nylon webbing; it is available in widths of 3/4, 1, or 2 inches. Nylon tape is thinner than nylon webbing and not as strong, but it is easier to sew. Nylon tends to ravel when it is cut. To prevent raveling, either heat-seal the webbing or tape by passing a match flame along its cut edges or make the cuts with the hot point of a wood-burning tool.
For sewing repairs, use a thread with a polyester core and an outer wrapping of cotton. It is stronger and stretches less than nylon. If your sewing machine can handle heavy fabrics and the job is manageable on a machine, you may find it more convenient to use the machine than sew by hand. However, most work will require hand-stitching. Use a needle no heavier than necessary to go through the fabric-the needle opens up holes that will let water through. For very thick fabrics, use an upholsterer's needle or a sewing awl.
Sealing the stitching. In all cases, after sewing anything into a pack or tent, apply seam sealant over both sides of the stitching to prevent leaks. Rewaterproof cotton tents only. If you waterproof nylon, condensation is likely to occur inside the tent; moreover, nylon does not retain waterproofing well. Most nylon tents come with a rain fly of coated nylon with which to cover the tent in wet weather.
Patching fabrics. Use a patch similar in type and weight to the fabric being repaired. For a cotton tent, use water proofed cotton duck or canvas; for a nylon tent or sleeping bag, use adhesive backed ripstop tape. (Ripstop tape has an extra heavy thread woven in at equal intervals in both directions to prevent tearing.) You can mend small tears in backpacks with ripstop tape, but for a large area make a more durable patch of coated nylon duck or pack cloth. To make a field repair with ripstop tape permanent, simply stitch around the edges of the tape.
Patch a cotton tent on the inside of the tent with a piece of fabric larger by several inches than the hole or tear. Turn the edges of the patch under 1/4 inch and hemstitch around the outside of the patch and the edges of the hole or tear. For a tear near a seam, where there is extra strain on the fabric, put a smaller patch directly over the tear and stitch around its edges before patching a larger patch on the inside of the tent.
Enjoy your time camping with family and friends! Good food, fellowship, and nature is the best therapy for the soul.