Nothing beats a down jacket for warmth to weight and packability. Whether you’re climbing, hiking, camping or backpacking, a down jacket, vest or gilet is almost always a useful item to have stashed in your backpack.
Modern jackets are tougher than they look, largely due to the use of ripstop fabrics. However, down garments are still susceptible to wear and tear. After all, when it comes to kit the great outdoors has more than its fair share of hazards – whether it’s a hole caused by a flying spark from a campfire, a ripped sleeve caught on a stray branch or a snag in the shoulder from the rogue pick of an ice axe.
If your down jacket has a rip or tear, you should try to fix it as soon as possible to prevent that precious down from escaping. The good news is that you can often make the necessary repairs yourself, with minimal skills and equipment – and it won’t usually require sewing.
If there’s down escaping from a hole in your down jacket, don’t pull it out! The same applies to down leaking from stitched seams. Pulling it out tends to cause the down to form a chain as it’s forced through the narrow hole (like spinning raw wool or cotton into yarn), and you can basically end up emptying the whole baffle of the jacket as you continue to pull. Instead, reach behind the hole from the inside of the jacket, pinch the down through the lining fabric and draw it back inside.
Furthermore, this guide will give you the know-how you need to make a neat and effective repair to your down jacket. And even if your jacket has suffered major trauma, there’s still no need to throw it away – scroll to the bottom for advice on specialist repair services.
Should You Try And Sew Up A Torn Down Jacket?
It’s generally not a good idea to try and sew up a rip or a tear in a down jacket. Due to the very lightweight face fabrics used in the construction of most down jackets, you’ll need a very fine needle and thread to do the job, and even tiny needle holes can cause surprisingly dramatic down leakage.
Down Jacket Repair: Quick Fixes
For field repairs, where you just need to patch a hole quickly, the classic solution is simply to stick some tape over the rip or tear. Duct tape or gaffer tape generally works well, as it sticks to most fabrics, and is an item that most climbers and hikers carry in case of emergency.
If the down fill of your jacket is escaping, try to poke it back inside the jacket. Rip off a strip of tape large enough to cover the tear and stick it carefully over the damaged area, smoothing out the tape to ensure a good hold.
Your repair probably won’t look great, but it should at least be effective. A down jacket patched with duct tape will also add to your ‘gnarly climber’ or ‘rugged outdoorsman/woman’ credentials.
Note that duct tape is difficult to remove once applied, so if you’re considering having the jacket professionally repaired when you get back to civilisation (see final section), use sparingly.