Let’s talk about tape.
My field repair kit has evolved from anticipating a glued patch to expecting tape to be enough. This is largely because simple tape repairs have been working.
This text is a modified excerpt from the upcoming Packraft Handbook. Sign up to receive updates and emails with this kind of content.
Tape is incredibly versatile and can be used to repair pinholes, gashes up to several inches long, and torn drysuit gaskets. If possible, apply tape to both the inside and outside of the puncture or tear. Some tapes will not adhere to the exterior side of the hull, as indicated in the descriptions below.
Tape should extend at least one inch (two cm) beyond the edges of the puncture or tear. Round the corners on a tape patch to make the repair more durable.
I like to carry multiple tapes so that I have options if Plan A doesn’t work. I carry at least two feet of tape, and commonly use the tape on other equipment (torn clothing, leaking tent, cracked water bottle).
Sheathing tape is designed for use on house wrap vapor barriers. Sheathing tape has no stretch and uses aggressive acrylic adhesive. Firmly apply the tape using a stick or other hard edge. The adhesive is so sticky that you will likely not be able to cleanly remove the tape after it has cured. Sheathing tape is available at hardware stores.
Vinyl Underwater Tapes: Gorilla Waterproof Patch & Seal, Nashua Aqua-Seal, Flex Tape
These tapes work on wet boats! Vinyl underwater tapes come with a very thick layer of adhesive that allows you to press water out to the tape’s edges. Once applied, the tape is difficult to remove. For floor repairs, apply tape to the inside surface so that the tape doesn’t abrade on the river bottom. Vinyl underwater tapes are good candidates for drysuit gasket repair.
I carry a chunk of vinyl underwater tape in my PFD and have used it on my wet boat for an instant repair that lasted years. Vinyl tapes are available in the plumbing section of hardware stores and online.
Patch-N-Go: Kirch’s Kwik Patch
Patch-N-Go is designed to be a permanent patch. This is the right tape for a careful repair job, the only more durable option is to glue patch material to the boat (see below). Patch-N-Go can be purchased from some packraft manufacturers or online.
Tenacious tape has more stretch than sheathing tape. Tenacious tape is best on uncoated nylon (the interior of some hulls), and not as good for TPU-coated nylon (the exterior of most hulls). Tenacious Tape is carried by outdoors stores like REI.
Like Tenacious tape, Gorilla and duct tape sticks better to uncoated nylon (interior) than to TPU-coated nylon (exterior). These tapes are good candidates for torn drysuit gaskets. While wearing the suit, wrap the gasket several times to create a temporary seal.
It feels like my step-dad might disown me for saying it, but duct tape is not very useful here. Duct tape is significantly less useful in cold and wet conditions compared to Gorilla tape. Duct tape quality varies greatly and the more expensive options are generally worth the greater cost. I’m loyal to the Nashua brand.
Gorilla and duct tapes are available in hardware and grocery stores.
Aquaseal can be used to seal pinholes or stitched seams that have been sewn shut with needle and thread. Aquaseal currently comes in three varieties with different cure times. Longer cure times result in more durable repairs.
If possible, tape the inside of the tube before applying Aquaseal to the outside. A dab works on pinholes, a bead with ¼” overlap works on everything else. Aquaseal should be applied as a thin layer. Thick layers are more inclined to peel.
Aquaseal repairs generally don’t need to be redone at home. But if the repair starts to peel at the edges, replace it with slow-cure Aquaseal or a full patch job.
Minimal Field Repair Kit
- Vinyl underwater tape
- Patch-N-Go tape
- Aquaseal UV
Expedition Field Repair Kit
- Vinyl underwater tape
- Aquaseal UV
- Aquaseal FD
- Gorilla Tape
- Tyvek Tape
- Patch-N-Go Patch
- Multi-tool with pliers
- Needle and dental floss
- Zipper repair kit (brush, pick, lubricant)
- Spare tube material, ideally a section long enough to cover the cargo zipper
- Cap gasket and/or spare cap
- Replacement mouth valve, if relevant
- Alcohol swabs