Waterproof jackets are an essential piece of kit for anyone who wants to spend any time outdoors. A good waterproof jacket has a waterproof membrane, a DWR-treated outer layer and taped seams to keep you dry in a deluge or fend off a nasty windchill, all of which play an important role in safety outdoors as well as comfort. When you’re using your waterproof jacket a lot, you’ll notice that it can lose its waterproof qualities over time, and when that happens all you need to do is follow our easy guide to waterproofing your jacket. But there’s another reason why your jacket might let in some moisture, and that’s when it has a hole in it.
A torn your waterproof jacket is a vexing, though fairly common, side effect of living outdoors. Though modern waterproof jackets can be made using quite resilient, stiff materials, often the more lightweight they are the more fragile they are (this is especially true with running jackets and windbreakers). A thorny branch on an overgrown trail or stuffing your jacket in next to your tent poles in your backpack can leave you with a hole that basically renders your outermost layer pretty pointless.
Sure, you can do what everyone does and whack a piece of duct tape over the hole, which makes for a solid emergency repair in the field, but particularly with the rising cost of good waterproof jackets, you probably want to get it back to peak shape if you can. The good news is that a hole in your waterproof jacket definitely doesn’t mean you need to replace it, or walk around with gaffer tape on your jacket for the next ten years. With our handy guide to patching your waterproof jacket (or rain pants), you can breathe new life into your well-worn adventure gear and keep the rain out no matter what season you’re exploring in.
How to patch a waterproof jacket
To make life really easy, there are loads of great gear tapes out there for mending waterproof jackets, rain pants, tarps and camping tents these days such as Tenacious Tape which comes in a few different colors that you might even be able to match to your garment. You can use this tape on the outside or the inside of your jacket, and for the best results, you can do both.
However, if it’s the best results you want, you don’t want to just stick a strip of tape over the hole on your way out the door for your next roam in the mountains. Instead, follow these simple steps to ensure your repair does its job and lasts for ages.
1. Clean the area around the tear
The patch will stick best to clean fabric, but you might not want to machine wash your jacket when it’s torn for fear of making it worse, and of course if you do, you’ll have to re-waterproof it too. Instead, you can just put a little rubbing alcohol on a clean cloth or use an alcohol swab and gently wipe the area around the hole, then set the jacket aside to dry.
2. Ready the patch
Measure the hole in your jacket and cut off a circle (or strip, if it’s a big tear) of tape that will leave you with about 1/2 inch of patch on all sides of the tear. If you’re cutting a rectangular strip rather than a circle, use scissors to round the corners since right angled corners will be more likely to peel off.
3. Prepare your jacket
Once you’ve cut your patch, decide if you’re patching the inside or the outside of your jacket, then lay it out on a large, flat clean surface, then pull the edges of the tear together as well as you can. Remove the backing of the patch and use one hand to hold the edges of the tear together then apply the center of the patch onto the tear. Use your fingernail or a plastic ruler to gently smooth the patch from the center out to the edges, removing any air bubbles.
If you’re patching both sides of the tear, turn your jacket inside out and repeat this step.
4. Let the patch adhere
Don’t throw your jacket on and head out for a rainy walk straight away! Instead, hang your jacket up for 24 hours and let the patch fully adhere. Now you’re ready for a romp in the rain.
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Julia Clarke is a staff writer for Advnture.com and the author of the book Restorative Yoga for Beginners. She loves to explore mountains on foot, bike, skis and belay and then recover on the the yoga mat. Julia graduated with a degree in journalism in 2004 and spent eight years working as a radio presenter in Kansas City, Vermont, Boston and New York City before discovering the joys of the Rocky Mountains. She then detoured west to Colorado and enjoyed 11 years teaching yoga in Vail before returning to her hometown of Glasgow, Scotland in 2020 to focus on family and writing.