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Always bring a Repair Kit and KNOW HOW TO USE IT if you want to make it home on time!
Packrafts are made of lightweight materials and will require maintenance and repair under normal use. Knowing how to repair your raft is essential to a successful packrafting experience. Read the following information carefully. Be Prepared!
Be patient! Use an extra pair of hands if available! Dealing with tape, glues, and fabrics can easily get out of hand. Think through your repair before starting.
A note on fabrics: Most of our older boats (purchased before 2014) have a urethane coating on both sides of the fabric. Our current fabric (from 2014 on) has urethane only on one side (the outside) of the fabric, which significantly improves tear strength. The inside of these tubes resembles a woven fabric and does not feel smooth like plastic. We call this the “Uncoated” side. It is important to know which type of fabric you have so you are prepared to fix it. Look inside the dump valve, or stick your finger inside and scratch the fabric, if it feels smooth and a bit shiny, then it is double coated. If it looks like looks and feels like a nylon jacket, its single coated fabric.
Tools of the Trade: Get to know your packraft repair materials.
- Alcohol Wipes: Basic denatured alcohol wipes available at your local drug store, great for prepping the raft for a successful bond of repair tape or glue.
- Patch-N-Go: A strong, easy, and effective repair tape, great for most tube and floor repairs. Provides for long lasting repairs when applied correctly. This is a great product.
- Tyvek® Tape: Amazing on packrafts! (Lowe’s® House Wrap Tape works too) We discovered this by accident. You can buy Tyvek® Tape at any hardware store that handles Tyvek® House Wrap. This tape is almost as good as the Patch-N-Go®, it just isn’t as strong. With 15 feet (4.5 meters) of tape, you can literally re-assemble your boat after a Grizzly bear uses it for a chew toy, and it will probably get you home. Consider wrapping a few yards of it around your paddle or around a lighter in your repair kit. The longer you leave it on, the better it sticks! Be sure to remove any temporary repairs that you don’t want to become permanent when you get home. We have seen small Tyvek® Tape repairs last several seasons, though we prefer more permanent methods.
- Tenacious Tape®: A strong repair tape for the uncoated side of raft and spray-deck fabrics. Great for backing (inside) tube repairs and spray-deck repair. Can be used for temporary repair of small holes (>1/2” 1cm).
- Gorilla Tape®: For backing the inside of tube repairs and quick spray-deck repairs. Can be used for temporary tube and floor repair in a pinch. Works best on the uncoated side of fabrics, as in the underside of the spraydeck.
- Aquaseal®: Aquaseal is an air-curing adhesive sealant. It’s great for patching small holes, reinforcing stitches, sealing seams, and much more. It’s flexible when dry and completely waterproof when properly applied. Requires a minimum of 6-8 hours to dry and cure! Cotol® Accelerator will reduce cure time to 2-3 hours. Does not work well for attaching grab-loops or bonding fabrics, as it needs air to cure.
- Aquaseal® UV: Instant curing version Aquaseal. Apply in the shade and then move to direct sun or use a UV light pen and sealant will cure in seconds. Perfect for instant repairs and long lasting, but not quite as good of a bond as regular Aquaseal.
- Carmo PVC-PUR SEAL® Glue: Great for valve repair as well as bonding fabrics together. Can be used for quick, long lasting repairs to patch holes using urethane fabric. Full cure takes 24 hours, but the boat can be used immediately after the patch has been applied.
- Urethane tube and floor fabric: You should have received small pieces of both tube and floor fabric in your repair kit. These can be cut to shape and glued on with Carmo glue in the field for long lasting repairs. Aquaseal can be used in a pinch, but doesn’t bond well sandwiched between layers, as it needs air to cure.
- Basic Kit– for afternoon getaways near civilization where walking out is an option. This will cover most of the repairs you’ll encounter during normal use of your raft.
- Alcohol Wipes – Clean repair area prior to applying a patch or glue
- Tyvek® Tape – Instant temporary and durable patch on coated fabrics, can permanently bond if left too long
- Patch-N-Go® – Clear long lasting patch on coated fabrics when applied properly
- Tenacious Tape® or Gorilla Tape®, for backing uncoated fabrics
- Aquaseal – Permanent repair sealant, but requires 8-hour cure. Overnight replacement of Tyvek Tape repairs.
- Aquaseal UV – Instant permanent repair sealant.
- Ultimate Expedition Kit– When you’re counting on floating out.
- Alcohol Wipes
- Tyvek Tape
- Tenacious Tape
- Gorilla Tape
- Carmo PVC-PUR Seal Glue
- Spare Valve Cap
- Spare Valve Tip for top-off valve
- Spare tiedowns
- Sewing Kit
- Scissors/Knife – Small Leatherman® or Swiss Army® knife is perfect.
- O-ring for valve cap
- Urethane tube and floor fabric
- Zipper Lubricant for Cargo-Fly
- Accessory Cord/String
- Soft bristled brush cleaning Cargo-Fly
Diagnosis: Leaks can be difficult to locate!
- Make Sure it Leaks: Packrafts are very low-pressure boats and will change pressure with changes in temperature. In cold water, you may have to inflate your boat several times before it becomes full, the warm air from your lungs slowly cools and the boat softens. We call this re-inflating process “Tempering”. Make sure the valves are snug, but not over-tight.
- Carefully Look and Listen:
- Pull your gear off the raft, fully inflate, and slowly look it over. You can often spot damage on the perimeter and bottom of the raft.
- Step away from the noisy river and listen, you can often hear faster leaks.
- Inspect the inside floor seam, use a flashlight if possible. Pour a cup of water on the floor and hold the raft on its side, slowly rotate it around to check the entire floor where it meets the tube for any bubbles.
- Inspect high stress areas near grab-loops, seat attachments, as well as areas where your feet rest on the tubes.
- Break Out the Camp Soap: Soapy water can help to find and confirm a suspected leak if you have extra soap and is helpful for diagnosing valve leaks. Water must be very soapy to show the leak.
- Submerge: If you still can’t find the leak, put a small amount of air in the raft and close the valves. Force sections of the raft underwater and look for a stream of bubbles.
- Pinholes and Small (<3″) Tears:
- Deflate, Clean, and Dry. Clean the area (use alcohol wipes if available).
- Cut and round a patch; Use Patch’N’Go®,Tyvek®, or Carmo PVC-PUR SEAL® Glue with a fabric patch. (See “Tools of the Trade” earlier in this article for more specifics on each) Cut your preferred patch about an inch across. Always round the edges with scissors if possible.
- Apply to the raft; Try to keep the edges clean, rub thoroughly to help bond the glue. Warm the patch with body heat in cold temps to improve the bond.
- Aquaseal® UV: Clean around the hole, shade the area, and apply a thin layer of sealant roughly 1/3″-1/2″ around the affected area. Expose the sealant to sunshine or a UV light pen and it will cure in 5-10 seconds.
- Aquaseal®: For overnight repairs and replacing Tyvek Tape field repairs, you can use regular Aquaseal®. Sealant adhesion is better than Aquaseal® UV, but cure time is a minimum of 6-8 hours or 1-2 hours if you use Cotol Accelerator. Apply in the same manner as Aquaseal® UV and place in a flat and dry area to cure.
- Large (>3″) Tears
- Deflate, Clean, and Dry; Make sure all surfaces are clean and dry as possible. Use alcohol wipes if available.
- Use a backing tape:
- Double coated fabrics (plastic both sides) can be backed with the same repair tape you would use on the outside, such as Tyvek® or Patch’N’Go®
- Single coated fabrics (one side plastic) must be backed with SIGA Wigluv®, Tenacious Tape®, Gorilla Tape®, or duct-tape in a pinch. The uncoated fabric side will soak up water, wipe it dry, or let it air dry if you have time.
- Mark the sticky side of the backing with a pen for easy placement, carefully place the backing inside and press flat
- Cover and Seal: Once the backing is in place, cover and seal the outside with Tyvek® Tape, Patch’N’Go®, or Carmo PVC-PUR SEAL® Glue with fabric patch. Aquaseal® will also work if properly cured and the backing is strong, use only as a last resort, repair tapes are easier and provide instant repairs. (See “Tools of the Trade” earlier in this article for more specifics on each)
- Reinforce laterally: For longer tears over 8 in. (16 cm), apply some more tape perpendicular on top of the patch to keep stress off the patch.
- “L” shaped tears: The fabric will often tear in 2 directions along the grain of the fabric. These repairs are handled much the same way; back the repair first, then seal the tube.
- Seams/Black Tape; If the tear has reached a seam, deck, or the floor, often air will escape along the edges of the black tape. A tiny dab of Aquaseal® or Aquaseal® UV placed where the tear crosses the black tape will help seal these tiny air channels. Use only a tiny amount and do not wait for it to dry, cover immediately with your preferred patch.
- If the tear has reached under the spraydeck; Peel the black tape that holds down the deck back from the tear. Make enough room for the repair tape to pass underneath the deck. Once the tubes are repaired, tape the deck back down on top of the patch.
- Clean and dry around the damaged area
- Repair Tape: SIGA Wigluv® tape is the best we have found for providing a good adhesion to the floor fabric, although the tape itself is less durable and will need to be improved to a more permanent patch overnight or back at home. Patch-N-Go® or Tyvek® Tape typically work best on the inside or top side of the floor, since the bottom is subject to more abuse. You may use tape on both sides if you like. Tenacious Tape®, Gorilla Tape® and duct tape will work for very temporary repairs. A tiny ring of Aquaseal® around the edges of a Patch-N-Go® patch will provide a long lasting repair.
- Aquaseal®: Aquaseal is great for fixing holes and adding life to worn areas of the floor. Clean the areas well, place a temporary piece of repair tape on the underside, then cover the hole with about an ⅛ “ thick layer, working it into the hole to fill it. Lay flat and allow to dry. You may remove the tape on the underside and the bottom with another thin layer for larger holes. Don’t use too much! Thick repairs are more likely to get scraped off.
- Carmo PVC-PUR SEAL® – This glue works well if you have urethane fabric to make a patch. Cut out the patch, trace its shape on the floor. Coat both surfaces with glue and dry for 3 minutes before sticking them together. Press and rub the patch. Glue won’t fully cure for 24 hours, but you should be able to get on the river immediately if the patch doesn’t get scraped badly.
Spray Deck Repair:
- Clean and dry around the damaged area
- Apply a backing to the underside: The underside of the Spray Deck is uncoated fabric, use Tenacious Tape® or Gorilla Tape®Apply Repair Tape to the top side; The top side of the deck is coated fabric. Tyvek® Tape works best for most deck repairs on the top side, however you may use also the Tenacious Tape®, Gorilla Tape®, or duct-tape if needed, though these will not last as long.
- Stitch and Aquaseal: You may also sew the deck together, reinforce and seal with Aquaseal®. This takes time and patience and lots of aquaseal!
Top Off (Elbow) Valve Repair:
- Clean and Check: Make sure the valve is clean of dirt and check again. Drip a bit of water in the tip and look for bubbles.
- Replace: If you have a Spare Valve Tip in your repair kit, cut the old one off. Clean the inside of the tube with an alcohol wipe. Unscrew the cap of the new tip, apply glue to the white collar and insert. DO NOT insert the white collar all the way into the valve stem as it will prevent the valve from closing, leave at least ⅛ in (3 mm) of the white collar showing. Use PVC-PUR SEAL® Glue for an instant repair, or use Aquaseal®.
- Fold over and Tie: In an emergency, simply fold over the valve stem and wrap with string.
- Valve Weld Leaking: If the valve is leaking around the base where it seals to the boat, you’ll need to use PVC-PUR SEAL® Glue, or Aquaseal®. Clean well. Work the glue down into the leak as well as you can, and all the way around the base of the stem. Contact us for warranty repair.
Main Valve Repair:
- O-Ring Seal: The seal on the main valve is created by the rubber O-ring located on the Valve Cap. Inspect this O-ring for cracks. A cracked O-ring will need to be replaced.
- Leaky Cap: Try screwing a thin plastic bag into the threads, make a new O-ring with a bike tire, get creative. In an emergency, if the leak is really bad and preventing you from using the raft, you can aquaseal the valve permanently shut, and use the top off valve for inflation and deflation.
- Lost Cap: The fitting on your inflation bag works best as an emergency valve cap, you’ll need to screw a plastic bag into the threads to create the seal. Zipper Lube in the threads will assist with sealing.
- Valve Weld Leaking; If the valve is leaking around the base where it seals to the boat, you’ll need to use PVC-PUR SEAL® Glue, or Aquaseal®. Clean well. Work the glue down into the leak as well as you can, and all the way around the base of the stem.