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Summer is tent season here at Rainy Pass Repair. Although we can fix many problems such as tears, broken zippers, and missing hardware, there are certain conditions which we cannot repair. The main issue that we see is UV damage or “sun rot.” UV damage is most common on tents and rain flies, but can also affect garments or packs that have lots of exposure to sunlight. The first sign of sun damage will be a fading of the color of the fabric, followed by a deterioration of the fabric and threads, often near the seams but sometimes in the middle of the panel.

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The fabric above is UV damaged- it tears as easily as paper, and the fabric is brittle and discolored.

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UV damage occurs when long term exposure to the sun damages the fabric and thread of your tent or rain fly. The fabric will become thin and brittle. If you tent or rain fly seems to rip for no reason or with very light pressure, this could be the reason. The outside of the fabric will often appear to be a much lighter color than the inside. The tears often have a frayed appearance and you can fold the fabric and tear it as easily as if it were a piece of paper. We see this most often on the apex of rain flies or sun shades, but it can happen to any area that is exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time.

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We cannot repair UV damaged fabric because it is too weak to be patched. Every hole that the sewing machine needle makes will cause another tear. Adhesive patches may solve the problem temporarily, but there is really nothing that can be done once the UV damage starts.

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Mesh screen and vinyl windows can also be damaged by UV- the mesh will start to degrade and tear out at the seams, like below.

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Vinyl windows will turn yellow and start to crack. As long as the surrounding fabric is okay, we can fix this!

There are preventative measures to avoid this problem. First, be sure to always store you gear out of sunlight- make sure any windows in your garage, basement or attic are covered so the gear does not sit in the sun while it is stored in the off-season. There are several UV blocking products on the market which basically work as sunscreen for your gear. At Rainy Pass Repair we sell UV Tech, which is part of the McNett Gear Aid line. These products are especially important for those of you who live and camp in the Southwest or far north, where sun exposure can become extreme.