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 the information in these tabs 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.
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® or Tyvek®. (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 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 or Patch’N’Go®. 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.
You must clean, dry, and lubricate your Cargo Fly Zipper after every trip and often while in the field!
MAINTENANCE KIT: You will need a small (about 3×3″) clean rag, zipper lubricant, and a small brush. You can use old t-shirts to make new rags. Keep your kit with you in the field and maintain often.
CLEANING: If you are having trouble getting your zipper to close, it is most likely due to an obstruction in the chain (i.e. the teeth). Therefore, you need to keep your zipper chain clean and free of sand, dirt, and debris. Because lubricant attracts sand, we do not recommend applying lubricant direct to the chain. If your zipper needs cleaning, start with a small brush and use warm soap and water for more difficult cleaning.
LUBRICATION STEPS: Your zipper should always run smooth and easy. If your zipper is difficult to move or feels sticky, it needs lubrication. Always make sure the zipper chain is clean before lubricating.
- With the zipper CLOSED apply a lube to the rag and use the rag to work the lube into the urethane laminated exterior of the zipper. Do not apply lubricant directly to the zipper teeth!
- Continue to use the rag to until all exterior surfaces of the closed zipper are coated.
- Wipe down the zipper until all excess lubricant is removed. Excess lubricant will attract dirt and sand.
- Open the zipper and use the rag to lightly lube the chain and sealing edges.
- Apply a small amount of lube to the docking end.
- Open and close the zipper several times, it should slide smoothly and close easily. Repeat the above steps if necessary.
The goal is to regularly maintain a very thin coat of lube along the length of the zipper allowing the head to slide freely and dock easily.
STORAGE: After each use, leave the zipper open and allow to dry thoroughly. Failure to dry will cause the zipper to rot and crack, which is not covered by warranty! If you need to travel home with a wet packraft, leave the zipper on the outside where it can breathe
- Separating Behind Zipper Head: If the zipper separates behind the head, it will self heal by pulling the zipper head behind the separation and reclosing. You may need to follow the cleaning and lubrication steps to make it reseal. If necessary, close the zipper by hand through the problem area.
- Separating at Zipper Base: If the zipper separates at the base, you will need to clean the area and manually close the first 3cm of the zipper by hand and then back the head over the closed area to reset.
- Leak at Zipper Base: Sometimes the zipper will close, but leave a small gap at the zipper base due to an obstruction in the teeth. You will need to separate the zipper by hand at the base, clean the area, and then reclose following the steps above.