A quick overview of three popular repair tapes used for outdoor gear repair.
Spring time is when I take jaunts in the foothills. I see the early season wildflowers, watching everything starting to turn green and enjoy the start of a new season.
It also means gear repair and maintenance.
As I wait for the high country to open up, it is time to do the chores that need to be done after an active winter and before backpacking season truly begins.
Clean and treat my boots, place my Nordic gear in storage, get my hiking gear ready and have my three-season clothes pre-staged rather than my winter clothing.
And part of this equipment repair and maintenance is placing patches of repair tape on the nicks, rips, and tears I’ve accumulated over the winter or repairs that I have put off since it was the end of three-season backpacking the year before.
And what repair tape to use?
There seem to be three popular choices:
- Duct Tape
- Kenyon Ripstop Repair Tape
- Gear Aid Tenacious Tape
Which one to use? Here’s my personal take.
Duct tape, along with dental floss, has long been part of any outdoor person’s gear repair kit. Need a quick and dirty repair in the field? Slap on some duct tape. Rips in tents, tears in jackets or even shoes delaminating and you need to hike 90 miles? No problem! Duct tape is the answer.
However, I find duct tape is best for temporary repairs. Esp for thinner nylon shells or pack material, duct tape does not hold for a long period. Duct tape is a “must have” (in my opinion) for a backcountry kit, but it is not a permanent or even semi-permanent fix generally speaking.
Different brands of duct tape have different attributes but all seem to work well enough. I’ve grown to like the Duck Brand as a good, all-purpose duct tape for field repairs. It is thick enough, fairly pliable and durable. Other tapes are stronger and thicker but don’t seem to be flexible enough for outdoor gear and clothing. As always, YMMV.
If you keep your duct tape wrapped around a ski or hiking pole, you’ll want to swap out the old duct tape at the start of the hiking or ski season.
Kenyon Ripstop Repair Tape
For quite a while now, Kenyon ripstop repair tape has been my “go-to” item for semi-permanent or even permanent repairs. Water bottle holsters, mesh nets, jackets, tents and so on over the years have been repaired by this tape. As a bonus, at least for me, it is made in my home state of Rhode Island. 🙂
It has been a useful product. My beater down jacket suffered a tear due to my klutziness on a propane stove one trail head bivy. . Doh! Some duct tape held the tear in place until I could get home. Added the Kenyon tape with a judicious application of heat at home? Nearly five years later, the jacket is still repaired through many trips, in frigid weather no less, and being stuffed and unstuffed in a duffel bag. The tape is durable, resists water at least as well as standard nylon. The material itself is very pliable.
At $3.50 retail for a 3″ x 18″ roll, and in assorted colors, it is a pretty good bargain as well.
Gear Aid Tenacious Tape by McNett
A somewhat newer product is the Gear Aid Tenacious Tape by McNett. It is roughly the same size roll as the Kenyon tape. The Tenacious Tape is slightly more expensive at $4.95 a roll. Tenacious Tape does come in clear and other colors.
The tape is a little thicker than the Kenyon tape and not as pliable. It does appear to be a little stickier.
I received a roll as part of a schwag package and thought I’d use it on a pack repair I had to do.
I must say, I was disappointed. The tape was not flexible enough/too thick and ended up coming off too quickly. It became brittle and hard. It is not much better than duct tape in terms of effectiveness (less, actually) but more expensive by far.
Based on other views, people seem to like the product. Perhaps for thicker material it may work well. But since the Keyon tape has worked so well for me over the years, I see no reason to switch after my first initial test with the Tenacious Tape.
I also suspect, based on the splashy website, the McNett folks have a bigger marketing budget than Keyon as well!
After my disappointment with the Tenacious Tape, I’ll stick to my tried and true combo of duct tape for field repairs and Kenyon tape for longer term repairs. The Keynon tape has worked well and suspect it will continue to work well going forward.
UPDATE 2017: Based on reader suggestion in the comments below, I have since switched to Ripstop Sail Repair tape. The tape is awesome!
How to apply repair tape
No matter which tape you go with, some simple steps should be done to make the repair hold.
- Use a damp cloth to clean the surface that needs to be repaired
- Cut any frayed edges off the fabric. In other words, have a clean tear and not a ragged one
- Cut the appropriate piece of repair tape. Rounding off the edges is advised as well.
- Hold the tear together
- Apply tape on tear and place pressure all-over tape, so it seals well
- Use an iron on the lowest setting and *GENTLY* apply the iron on the repair tape esp on the edges. If you need to keep the iron on for a longer period, have a thin cloth between the iron and the repair tape.
- Voila! You should have a nicely repaired piece of equipment or clothing
I’ve had great success with a product called Sail Rip-pair tape. Found at West Marine, it’s intended for sail repair assumedly. It is a 2″ wide tape on a roll with a releasable, seemingly waxed paper backing. it is a nylon ripstop material with a glue layer and quite thin. I cut it to 4″ pieces, round the corners a bit and put in my repair/first aid kit. It takes a bit of time to bond as it probably needs to vent off its carrier to allow the glue to set and bond. When bonded it sticks tremendously well and… Read more »
Thanks for sharing! Have to check it out. I love improvisation and using of items from outside a traditional backcountry role.
Thanks! Was looking to repair my son’s down jacket that he ripped open on some barbed wire. Was debating between the two tape products but sounded like the clear tenacious tape might not be the best product for the elbow area.
Will give your recommendation a try!
SOme people love tenacious tape. I’ve had better luck with the Kenyon tape. Still going strong 5+ years later!
FYI, the colored versions of tenacious tape are much thinner, more flexible, and longer-lasting than the clear stuff (which I think is what you used from your description). I think the colored stuff is very similar to the Keyon tape (which I haven’t used).
I’m a big tenacious tape fan but I no longer buy the clear stuff, the colored stuff is much better.
I actually have migrated to Sail repair tape. That stuff is the bomb.
I read your update article. Glad to see it’s working for you as well!
How similar is Sail repair tape to Kenyon tape? It looks like it might actually be the same, but reviews on Amazon are mixed. I’d love to hear a comparison between the two, if there is any difference
Sail repair tape seems even more pliable and durable.
Well I used the Kenyon repair tape on the down liner off a 30+ year old Columbia jacket. Yes one of my favorite do all jackets. About 14 years ago I repaired a burn hole and it is still holding to this day. Many cycle through the wash and many season on the mountain. Have tried some other tapes but none can compare. Latest super repair is two one inch tears in a convertible car top. Has been a little over a year and no lifting.