Can I Use An Iron-on Patch For My Tent?

hole in tent
Better fix this hole before it gets bigger…

With all the adventuring tents allow us to do, it’s no wonder your tent will accumulate holes over time. Holes can happen for any number of reasons, such as from rocks, sharp twigs, or even from being stretched and pulled from moving around. I didn’t know very much about how to repair a tent if it got a hole in it, so I am sharing my research results here:

Can I use an Iron-on Patch for my tent? Iron-on patch kits exist for canvas tents, but iron-on patches should never be used for a nylon tent due to nylon’s low melting point.

So does that mean us nylon tent owners (I’m presuming this is most people) are out of luck? It turns out there are some options for every tent owner which I’ll go over in the rest of this post.

Iron-on Patches For Canvas Tents

Canvas tents are more expensive and will likely last longer than their nylon counterparts, so it makes total sense to make repairs when you can to get the most out of your canvas tent. If you have a hole you can use various patch methods to fix it for your canvas tent, including an iron-on patch kit.

How to Apply an Iron-on Patch

What you need:

  • A clothes iron
  • An iron-on patch kit

Iron-on patches work by applying heat using a hot iron onto your patch, which melts an adhesive and seals the patch directly onto your canvas tent. It’s important to clean the surface you are going to patch to ensure there are no foreign bits that can interfere with the patch.

This company specializes in iron-on patch kits for canvas tents, and also has exact, step-by-step instructions on how to apply.

You definitely can use generic canvas fabric iron-on patches that are not specialized for tent usage, but the material is not going to have the same weatherproofing treatment as your tent material, so you run the risk of letting water soak through which defeats the purpose of a patch.

Other Types of Patches for Canvas Tents

There are many, many other options for patching your canvas tent other than using an iron-on patch. Canvas is more similar to clothes like your jeans than nylon, so you can actually sew a patch onto your canvas tent, although you have to use special preparation since the whole point of a tent is to keep out water.

The simplest option so you don’t have to worry about poking holes in your tent is to glue a patch onto your tent.

Glue a Patch to Your Canvas Tent

To keep it simple, you just need a canvas material that matches sufficiently that you can use to bond to your canvas. If you want the exact fabric type that your tent is made out of, you can try contacting your manufacturer and asking if they can send you fabric scraps.

Otherwise, there are several places where you can get fabric patches:

What Type of Glue Should I Use?

After some research, I found that rubber cement is recommended by some, but after watching videos on this process, does not seem to work at all. However, contact adhesive seems to work very well. I have never used contact adhesive before but it looks like Gorilla makes some. Click here to see on Amazon.

It’s possible you may have this already, but you can also use 100% silicone caulk. These are available at your hardware store for a few dollars. There are small squeeze containers, and larger canisters that require a caulking tool. If you do any DIY repairs at home, it’s likely you have one, already.

Patches For Nylon Tents

Nylon-based tents are the most common tent types you will see. An iron-on patch will melt your nylon and thus is not a suitable way to repair a nylon tent.

Fortunately, there are many options for patches for nylon tents. One method is to glue a patch on as you would with a canvas tent–however the steps differ slightly.

How to Apply

What you need:

  • A scrap of nylon for the patch. You can get more than you could ever dream of really easily. (see price on Amazon)
  • 100% silicone caulk
  • Duct tape
  • Scissors are probably a good idea
  • Something to flatten your patch (an old credit card you aren’t using will work great)
  1. Clean the area that you are patching very well (rubbing alcohol works great)
  2. Apply a small square of duct tape (the cheap kind) on the opposite side you are patching of the nylon tent fabric to keep your tent fabric from folding in itself, which will ruin the patch job
  3. Cut your patch in a circle that is at least a half-inch in diameter wider than your tear or hole.
  4. Apply the silicone caulk to one side of your circle patch and then put it on the rip or tear (the duct tape should be on the opposite side that you are putting on the patch)
  5. Use your old credit card to flatten the patch to get rid of air pockets and excess caulk
  6. Wait 24 hours for the patch to dry

Optionally, you can apply a patch on the other side, but it’s not necessary.

Other Patching Methods for Nylon Tents

Some other options are to patch your nylon tent the same way you would waterproof the seams using sealing tape and seal seam adhesive. This is arguably a much simpler method of patching holes in your tent, as you can just apply the tape or seam seal directly to the whole without needing a patch.

If you are concerned about letting in any water, you can use both seam seal and sealing tape on a single hole (one on each side).

When Are Patches Necessary?

The location of the hole will largely determine whether you need to fix it immediately. Holes in the tent floor are not critical to fix, especially if you use a ground cloth to keep moisture out. See our post about using a tarp as a ground cloth for more information.

However, if your hole is your tent fly, then it’s a really good idea to fix this as soon as possible. A hole in your tent fly means you are going to get dripped on.

Holes in the tent floor are important too, especially for nylon tents. Once a hole starts it will only tend to grow and become more of a problem, over time.

Do I Need to Buy a New Tent?

Small holes are definitely overcome-able. However, if your tent has large rips over 12 inches in length, and a couple inches in length, or holes bigger than a couple of inches, then you have a lot more patching to do. It’s still possible to patch this type of damage, but the level of effort to do so goes up dramatically for bigger holes. Depending on the cost of your tent, it may be worth it to start saving money for a new tent.

Do I Need to Bring Tent Repair Kits With Me?

Even when you are car camping, it’s important to bring what you need and not to bring the whole house. This is up to your personal preference, but the chance of your tent being damaged to the point where it is unusable is very unlikely. Although the repair kits are very small many times, you don’t have to bring them for one or two night camping trips.

That being said, if you are camping for weeks, then it might not be a bad idea to have a patch kit since your tent is now your house.

Related Questions

How to repair a large tear in a tent? The best option for repairing large tears is with extremely adhesive fabric tape, such as Tenacious Tape. (see price on Amazon)

Are their patch kits for tent mesh? Tent mesh repair kits do exist, which are essentially self-adhesive mesh patches such as the one here. However, you can also use mesh tape (see prices for these on Amazon)–a super strong tape meant for repairing window screens. Lastly, you can even use a needle and thread to repair your mesh tent walls.

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