Rafting is fun but, occasionally
you can get into trouble. On a one day trip you can do emergency gray tape
repairs that will allow you to get to the take-out before dark. A cut
(rip/tear) in your raft on a long wilderness trip can cause an unwanted delay;
after all you are there to enjoy yourself and the river.
A field repair is most of the
time performed under poor conditions. Sometimes rain and temperature can
aggravate what is already a difficult situation. Move your raft to a safe
location and dry it off. Instruct everyone who is going to assist you (2-3
people is ideal) on what you are attempting to do. I have seen a bystander
accidentally kick sand onto a patch just as it was to be applied. Remove all
the water and sand inside the tube and dry it out. If your cut is large, place
gray tape on the inside to align the tear after it is dry. Place a board or box
under the raft where the cut is to give you a hard flat surface to work on. Now
you are ready to begin patching your raft.
Use only the type of adhesive
recommended for your raft material. New adhesive should be purchased before
going on wilderness trips if it is out of date, check the stamp on the can.
Shelf life of adhesive is usually very short. Store adhesive in plastic bags in
your repair kit. To avoid waste, mix only the amount of adhesive that can be
used in 30 minutes. Mix small batches in dixie cups and stir with a clean
stick, cover the adhesive for a longer working time. Be sure you are aware of
all hazardous materials handling requirements for adhesives and
- Make sure the surfaces to be
joined are clean and dry.
- Cut a patch with scissors to
cover the cut area with a 2-inch overlap in all directions. Use a can bottom to
outline round ends for a neat patch shape. Do not have square corners as they
can allow easy lifting of a patch.
- Place your patch over the cut
and outline the patch with a ball-point pen on the raft, making sure all edges
of the patch are at least 2 inches from the hole. This gives you an outline to
buff* on the raft. Avoid overlapping a seam or D-ring patch, which can leave a
space open capable of leaking. If necessary lift the edge of a D-ring and glue
your patch directly on the tube, then glue the D-ring patch on top of the
- Buff* thoroughly with course
sandpaper the outlined area on the raft until all of the shiny surface is
dulled. Sand just beyond your outlined area to allow for a misaligned patch.
Also buff the side of the patch you are going to glue. Avoid touching the newly
sanded surfaces with your bare hand, they are clean and ready for gluing. Wear
surgical gloves whenever possible.
- Apply a THIN coat of adhesive
on the raft and patch brushing from the center out to the edge. Glue beyond
your outline to allow for a misaligned patch. Swirl your brush in small
circles. Let the adhesive dry until it is no longer tacky to the touch.
- Repeat above procedure to
apply a second THIN coat of glue and again let it dry until it is no longer
tacky to the touch.
- Carefully apply the patch on
the raft starting from the center and working toward the edges to prevent
- Press the entire patch very
hard with the edge of a blunt tool starting from the center or use a roller to
apply pressure on the patch. Be sure the edges of the patch have enough glue
and are pressed down VERY hard.
- Clean excess glue from around
the patch by rubbing very hard with your fingers and a small amount of
toluene** on a rag. At the same time, smooth out the edges of the patch.
- Let the patch cure at least
two hours, but preferably overnight. If you must get on the river just don't
put much air in the tube.
- For best results the inside
of the tube cut should be reinforced with gray duct tape or an inside patch to
prevent wrinkling when applying the outside patch. Inside patches are not easy
and I would recommend using gray tape in the field. When placing gray tape on
the inside be sure to cover all parts of the cut to avoid gluing the inside of
the tube together.
- For an inside patch, shape
the patch using round corners that will overlap the cut THREE INCHES on all
- Buff* the patch on one side
and the inside of the tube for an inside patch. This part is difficult
depending on the size of the cut. Shape a patch to cover the cut area for an
outside patch with a 2-inch overlap in all directions. Outline the outside
patch and buff.
- For an inside patch introduce
the patch through the cut and place it inside the opposite wall of the tube as
flat as possible. (use a board under the raft)
- Apply a THIN layer of
adhesive on the patch, leaving it inside the chamber, then apply a THIN layer
of adhesive around the inside of the cut on the inside of the tube. Let it dry
until it is no longer tacky.
- Apply a second coat using the
- Position the patch exactly
under the tear. (tricky part requires a lot of hands helping)
- This is the very tricky
part.... Holding the tear closed by pulling at each end, press the tube onto
the patch inside the tube. BE VERY CAREFUL TO AVOID WRINKLES. Apply pressure.
- Apply another patch on the
outside of the raft as per "SMALL CUTS" INSTRUCTIONS.
- Let cure for three hours
before testing, or overnight. The inside patch will require much longer to cure
than the outside patch.
Early rafts came with Schrader
metal valves which should be kept lubricated to prevent corrosion build-up on
the valve seat and leaking. To clean the valve use a stainless steel brush or
brass wool. DO NOT use any other metallic abrasives. Spray Armor All inside
valves to protect and prevent corrosion.
Check with your raft manufacturer
for the proper maintenance for your valves.
Flush valves occasionally with
fresh water, attempt to clean the back of the plate while doing this. If
leakage has occurred, use a small "L" shaped tool to scrape residue from the
backside of the metal diaphragm.
TO REPLACE A VALVE BOOT
If you need to replace an entire
valve boot and not just the valve in the boot.
- Slowly work loose one section
of the gray ring around the valve using heat from a hot air gun or hair dryer.
- Remove the valve and ring
- Clean any remaining glue or
material off with toluene** solvent.
- Buff* the surface of the raft
around the hole.
- Proceed with the usual gluing
procedure to install new valve boot.
Repairing D-ring patches is
easily done. Sometimes the fabric D-ring edges work loose. If a corner comes
up, glue it back down, but if the whole D-ring seems insecure, it is best to
remove it, clean the surfaces and reglue it. You must buff* both surfaces, but
be careful not to cut through many threads on the D-ring patch. You can use a
power drill motor or a Dremel Tool with a pointed stone for getting under the
D-ring patch for buffing.
When installing new D-rings on a
raft inflate the raft and mark with a ball-point pen where you want the patch.
Deflate the raft and buff* the outlined area and the D-ring patch. Buff* beyond
the outline to allow for misaligned patches. Glue as outlined above.
REPAIR OF A LEAKY SEAM UNDER RUBBING STRAKE
Inflate the raft to 3 psi. Using
a tracing solution of soap and water in a spray bottle to find the area where
bubbles are the largest. At this area use a hot air gun or hair drier, and
carefully pry the rubbing strake loose in an area approximately six inches long
(use a 2" putty knife with rounded corners to pry). Underneath a lap seam will
be visible. Apply the soapy solution over the seam and look again for bubbles.
When the main seam leaks, the air travels along under the chafing strip to a
place where it can escape. Usually the easiest place for it to come out is
where a vertical seam goes under the rubbing strake. The bubbles will appear to
be coming from under the rubbing strake. Continue to pry the rubbing strake
loose in the direction the bubbles are coming from. Check the newly exposed
seam with soapy water until the leaky area is located. Use the hot air gun and
pry the seam loose in the area without completely separating the
Completely deflate the raft.
Clean the fabric and buff*; clean again and re-glue. Allow adhesive to dry
overnight and pressure to 3 psi. Test with soapy water again (let sit overnight
to see if pressure is lost). After all tests are done re-glue the rubbing
strake in place.
CLEANING YOUR RAFT
For Hypalon rafts, clean rust and
dark marks from the fabric or chafing strips use SOS pads and spray with Armor
All*** and wipe dry to restore the luster. Wash off your raft on top of the
tubes of all excess Armor All*** to prevent a slippery surface. Check with your
raft manufacturer for any special instructions for your material.
*BUFF - When making shop repairs
you may use drill motors for sanding with a small drum sander.
**TOLULENE - Is a hazardous
material it is flammable and an eye irritant. Use a respirator when using it as
inhalation will irritate the respiratory tract. Follow all directions given to
you with the purchase of this solvent.
***ARMOR ALL - Over the passed 10
years or so a new product called 393 protectant has been found to do a better
job than Armor All. For one thing, it doesn't make the treated surface slippery
at all. Another is that 303 protectant is a noticeably better fabric cleaner
and seems to do a better job of anti-sunlight protection.
RIVER RAFT REPAIR KIT
You should carry this kit along
with an air pump on every trip. Adapt it to meet your needs. Another great
piece of equipment for your vehicle is a LVM Blower, 12 volt air pump, for
inflating your raft.
- 1/2" stiff bristle brush -
- Paint can opener - (for
opening glue can)
- Roller w/wooden handle -
Northwest River Supplies
- Roller and rasp w/metal handle
- Northwest River Supplies
- Ball Point Pen
- Dixie cups
- Emery cloth - for sanding raft
- Clean rags
- Pliers/ vice-grips
- Putty knife, w/rounded corners
- Stir sticks / Tongue
- Extra 2-1/4" radiator hose
clamps for clips
- 2 rolls quality duct (gray)
- Patching material for your
type of raft for tubes and floor
- Glue for your type of
- Toluene or acetone solvent in
a small plastic bottle
- Surgical gloves - for glue and
solvent hand protection
- Extra clip and pin
- Wrenches for frame
- Extra "D" ring
- Spare bolts for
- Valve and boot
- 50 cal. waterproof ammo box
for all the above to take with you.
These are in addition to your
river raft repair kit for your maintenance and home repairs.
- Drill motor, variable speed or
- Brush - for removal of old
glue for drill motor
- Clean'n Strip Brush, #7770 by
- Sanding drum, 1-1/2" dia. x 1"
face, Sears #2497
- Abrasive sleeve, for sanding
drum Medium (60 grit) 1-1/2" dia. x 1" wide
- Air pressure gauge - (to fit
in raft valve only has to go to 3lbs.)
- Utility knife
- Heat gun or hair
- Soapy water in plastic spray
- Lettering paint - quart,
($15.00) for identifying your raft
- GACO Gray Paint - quart,
($15.00) for plugging pinholes in bad fabric
- GACO thinner - quart,
- SOS pads for cleaning