So you bought a down jacket. With regular care and washing, it'll provide versatile, packable warmth for season after season, but eventually, its ultralight ripstop shell will tear. It'll snag on a branch, scrape against a rock or get caught in a suitcase zipper. Roughhousing with your dog might do it, too — you never know! But what you should know is that patching a down jacket is easy.
Take it from Josh Schill, the repair manager at Patagonia's Reno repair facility. Patagonia has long been known for its Ironclad Guarantee, which backs up damaged gear with a promise to fix what can be, typically for free. Schill and a team of nearly 100 specialists brought roughly 50,000 items back to full functionality last year alone (and a separate third-party facility handled an additional 25,000 to 30,000).
The majority of repairs that come through, says Schill, are for ripstop items, including down and synthetic insulation jackets. He doesn't have many patches on his own Down Sweater, but needless to say, he certainly knows how to fix a tear.
What You'll Need
Before You Start
Don't use duct tape: "We hate duct tape," Schill explains. "It leaves a super bad residue which really sucks to repair."
Don't try to sew it: Needle holes will create new places for tears to sprout and leave your down jacket susceptible to water logging even if they manage not to tear.
Step 1: Pull down or synthetic insulation back into the jacket.
If you try to pull it out, you might wind up in a magician's scarf trick situation. A good way to coax the insulation back inside is to gently pinch the ripstop fabric on either side of the hole and make a rubbing motion with your fingers. This should bring the insulation back into the jacket. If it doesn't work, use sharp scissors to trim it away.
Step 2: Clean and trim the area around the rip.
Use a rag and some Isopropyl/rubbing alcohol to gently clean the fabric around the rip so that the patch has a clean surface to cling to. If there are stray strands of shell fabric, trim them away with sharp scissors.
Step 3: Prepare your patch.
Schill's team uses Tenacious Tape to patch down jackets. It'll stay on through plenty of washes and you can buy it in rolls or pre-cut patches in various colors on Amazon. Either way, you'll want to trim the patch so that it's slightly larger than your jacket's hole. Round the corners, Schill recommends, so that there aren't any square edges that might abrade or pull away from the jacket.
Step 4: Apply the patch.
Carefully remove the patch's backing, smooth out the jacket fabric as best you can, and apply the patch "just like you're putting a sticker on a water bottle," Schill says. Start at one end and press it down gradually to avoid air bubbles or the patch sticking to itself. (If this does happen, Schill notes, don't worry about it — this is more for aesthetics, and the patch will still stick.)
Remember: Keep it Clean
Wash your down and synthetic jackets regularly to avoid the buildup of body oils and dirt, which can become abrasive and cause a tear over time. Use Grangers Down Wash or Nikwax Down Wash and follow the garment care instructions on the tag.