How to patch a canvas tent? [6 Easy Steps]

Our outdoor gear tends to be subject to a lot of wear and tear over the years, especially if it’s something we use a lot like a canvas tent. Sometimes tears, rips, and other damages occur over time, and we wonder “do I fix the canvas tent, or do I buy a new one?”. Normally, you’re going to try the first one before looking to splash the cash. So, how can you patch a canvas tent? We’ve got you covered in six, easy-to-follow steps. Let’s dive in and find out more.

Creating a patch for canvas tent
Creating a patch, Source: Unsplash

How to patch a canvas tent: DIY Guide

There are six pretty distinct phases to fixing your tent at home. Before you start getting the fixing tape or sewing kit out, check your tent’s warranty or the manufacturer’s website. As this Reddit thread details, some companies, like Big Agnes, will repair your canvas tent for a small fee if you ship it out to them. It is worth considering, especially if your tear is in a tricky place like a seam or along a zip.

Okay, with that in mind, let’s move on to the six steps for how to patch your tent.

Step 1: Determine If You’re Patching Or Sewing

First things first, you need to work out what kind of repair your tent needs. Not all rips, tears, and holes are the same and they all need a slightly different fix. Small circular holes can be easily repaired with some polyurethane glue that’s filled the hole and been left to dry. This canvas glue repair is by far the easiest fix and well worth doing if you spot a small hole. The bigger the hole, the more hassle it is to repair!

If you’re dealing with a large or medium hole, you’re going to want to patch it. Patching a canvas tent is a lot easier nowadays with the improvement of canvas patching kits and the ready-to-use patches that are widely available. We’ll go into more detail on how to apply and secure canvas tent patches in the next couple of steps.

Longer tears or seam rips normally indicate that you’ll have to sew your canvas tent. Sewing prevents the tear from getting any longer. Also, it keeps the seam or canvas nice and tight for adventures to come.

Step 2: Clean the area around the rupture

Before you get your repair kit out, you need to clean the canvas around the rupture to ensure that any patches will stick and hole on a long-term basis. You’ll need to open up your tent on the ground, making sure that it’s not being pulled or tensed in any way.

Once you’ve located the damage, cut away any fraying fabrics that might get in the way, or get caught and cause further ruptures while you’re patching the canvas. Next, you’ll want to clear away any dirt and brush the area with a mix of alcohol and water to ensure all the dirt particles have been removed. This gives you a nice, clean base to work off and gives your patch a better chance of sticking. 

Step 3: Sew The Holes Shut

If you’re needing to sew a tear in your canvas tent back together, there is a good chance that it’s around three to six inches long. So, you can either use a traditional sewing machine, or you can use a speedy stitcher. A speedy stitcher is going to create much better and strong results than traditional hand-sewing techniques. 

Whichever method you’re using, the guidelines for the strongest binding is around six to eight stitches per inch. This will keep the material secure and allow for easier waterproofing. Once you’re happy with your handiwork, apply waterproof seam sealing tape and press down hard. This should be easily accessible from Amazon, hardware stores, or outdoor stores. 

Step 4: Select your patch and glue

If you’re needing to patch your canvas tent, it’s important to note that not all patches are the same. You can get some ready-to-use patches, which are pretty great, and include adhesive tape for a seamless fix. It’s definitely one of the easiest ways to patch your tent, so it’s worth getting a few the next time you’re at a camping store or putting in an Amazon order.

The more traditional patches are normally made out of the same material as your tent. You will just need to affix them with the appropriate glue. Liquid cement glues are certainly the most popular ones to go for and tend to be sturdy and waterproof. If you have a canvas repair kit, you might find appropriate glue already in your kit ready to go!

Step 5: Cut The Patches

In most cases you want your patches to be at least a couple of inches bigger than the rupture. This is because the hole has probably already affected the tensile strength of the material around it. So you’re really securing the whole area, not just the rupture.

In order to prevent any peeling patches, it’s normally advised that you cut out your patch in a circular shape. Corners can have a tendency to peel or catch on things, undoing all your hard work. So, measure up your rupture and make sure you’re cutting out a canvas patch three to four inches bigger. 

Step 6: Apply The Patches

Okay, so now you’ve prepared all the various components for your canvas tent repair, you can put it all together. Take a small paintbrush and carefully glue the area around the rupture. You don’t want to use too much or too little, especially if you’re using strong cement glue.

Wait a minute or two for the glue to settle and then put your patch on top in one smooth motion, ensuring that the glue goes right to the sides of the patch. Once on and pressed down, you can use a rolling pin, dough scraper, or window squeegee to remove any excess glue. Wait another minute for it to feel secure and then flip the canvas and repeat on the other side. 

After you’ve patched both sides, side the material under something heavy and even like a stack of books or a full box or crate, to ensure it’s all secure. That’s it – that’s how you patch your canvas tent. You’ll be ready for your next adventure in no time!

Wanna know the best thing? You can fix your canvas chairs by using the same six steps from above.

Tools for patching a canvas tent

We’ve named a lot of the tools that you might need already in this article, and the tools do vary based on the type of repair you need to make. Some essentials include:

  • Liquid cement glue
  • A selection of patches; either ready-to-use or traditional
  • Fabric scissors
  • Speedy stitcher with spare pins, needles, and thread
  • Seam sealing tape
  • Heavy weights for securing
  • Paintbrush 

This is by no means an exhaustive list and if you’re on the trail, the chances of you bringing heavy weights “just in case” is probably low – we can only carry so much after all! You should also consider bringing duct tape for any emergency or quick gear fix, as well as some extra water for cleaning. If you have a canvas repair kit, it should have the majority of these items already in there. 

How long does it take to patch a canvas tent?

Honestly, it depends on the size of the hole, the method you need to repair it, and how practiced you are at fixing canvas tents. The first couple of times, it can take up to an hour to identify, clean, repair, and dry. It’s not always a quick fix, but it’s worth spending the time to make sure your tent is functional for years to come.

As you become more practiced, a canvas tent repair can take as little as 20 minutes. You’ll also become better at spotting smaller ruptures that are more easily fixed, rather than waiting until it becomes a more time-consuming six-inch seam tear.

Storing tips to avoid rips and tears

If you’re looking for storage tips to avoid damage in the first place, keep your tent in a dry room on a smooth surface. Dampness is a tent’s worst enemy and can lead to a whole host of other issues including mildew. No one wants that. You primarily want to keep your tent in a place that’s away from any pests or sharp edges that might nick the fabric.

Final Words

To wrap this handy guide up, there are a couple of easy ways to patch your canvas tent depending on the type of rupture. Even though nylon tents are fast developing, if you’re looking for longevity out of your tent, then the canvas is still the way to go. The material is a lot more durable and hardwearing, perfect for spending years on the trails. Whether you’re gluing, patching, or sewing, you can keep your tent in great shape for years to come – no expensive investment is needed!

About Antonio

I’m Antonio, a passionate traveler, and outdoor lover who’s running this website. I started this site to share my passion for camping, traveling, and bikepacking.