I got a rip in my down jacket. I assume the fabric is nylon. What is the best way to repair a rip in a down sleeping bag or jacket?
There's a product called "Tenacious Tape" which is used for fabric repair. You should be able to find it at your local outdoor store, or search for it online.
I would probably use sail repair tape, which you should be able to get from most chandlers. You can get a range of colours to try and match your sleeping bag.
As well as rolls of tape you can also get patches which are slightly easier to use and are often slightly cheaper, but give you a lot less tape. If you are only repairing a single patch these may be better value.
To improve the lifetime of your repair cut your tape/patch into a circle or lozenge as the corners peeling up if generally what causes the repair to fail.
For large rips it may be worth sowing the hole shut first, as this will improve the strength of the repair and stop the hole growing. For sleeping bags and jackets this is probably not necessary in most cases as they do not often undergo high forces and it makes the repair significantly more difficult. If you do so use a reasonably strong thread and as thin a needle as possible to minimize further damage to the fabric.
According to this German blog post either duct tape, the Tenacious Tape mentioned by Greg Hewgill in his answer or – and I was a bit surprised about that – also bicycle tube patches should be OK for an on-trail repair.
However, the post also argues that normally these do neither look very nice nor are they very durable. Instead, they suggest to get the hole fixed either by the manufacturer of the respective gear or some professional repair service for down gear as soon as you get home again.
The old school way to repair it was:
- Sew the hole closed with long stitches -- this keeps the feathers in place
- Use nylon patch material coated with adhesive and apply over the hole.
- Sew a fabric patch over and around the hole.
I took a 45 year old nylon/down sleeping bag that had been patched this way on a 9 day trip, and had no issues whatsoever.
So far I've far avoided needing to make such a repair but most of the repairs I've seen in the wild have either been gaffer tape or a patch of fabric stuck on with seam sealant. Sometimes if its a small hole just pinching it together and covering with seam sealant.
Six Moon Designs has a useful guide for which sealants are best for which materials and a recipe to make your own. I'll summarize below encase the link becomes dead.
silnylon use McNett's SilNet
Polyester Fabric use McNett's Seam Grip or McNett's Seam Sure
Cuben Fiber use McNett's SilNet or McNett's Seam Grip
DIY seam sealant
If you wish, you can save some money when seam sealing SilNylon shelters. You can easily make your own sealer that'll work as well as the commercial stuff. It'll also give you a better looking seal.
- Purchase the following items. They should be are available from most local hardware stores.
- GE Silicone II clear tub and sink caulk - The small tube will make enough to seal several tents. The large tube will make enough to seal everything you own and then some.
- Mineral Spirits - Commonly used for cleaning paint brushes. Preferably the odorless kind. Your nose will be thankful.
- Small brush to apply the sealer - A 3/4" foam brush works well.
- Paint stirrer attachment for an electric drill.
- Dilute Silicone In a glass jar, mix one part mineral spirits with one part silicone caulk (1 ounce of mineral spirits and 1 ounce of silicone should be enough). When mixture is the right consistency, it will be smooth and milky, and flow evenly when applied. If it's too thick or lumpy, the waterproofing won't flow well into the seams, or be absorbed by the exposed threads.
- Hint #1: You can mix by hand with a regular paint stirrer, but caulk is stiff, so will take much longer to mix. Using an paint stirrer in an electric drill will give your sealer a smooth silky appearance. It will dry faster and clearer.