Need advice re: removing flaking seam tape from an MSR Mutha Hubba tent fly, and re-sealing

7:02 p.m. on October 18, 2011 (EDT)
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Hey all, first post here on Trailspace—hi!!!

I've got a first-generation MSR Mutha Hubba tent that's given fantastic service since my wife & I purchased it in 2011, since which time we've probably slept in it several hundred times.  Despite caring for it, storing it dry, and protecting it from UV as much as is practical, the seam tape on the underside of the fly is starting to peel, flake, and generally disintegrate like zombie flesh.  The coatings on the outside & inside of the fly (which I believe to be silicone / urethane, respectively) seem fine, however, despite reports that I've read from other users experiencing hydrolysis of the coatings on the earlier hubba series flies (flys?).

MSR is generously offering to replace the fly with one of their newer flies, but I'm hesitant to do this for a number of reasons: first and foremost, aside from the seam tape, this fly seems to be in great condition, and it seems a complete shame to consider it disposable, without first resigning myself to a bit of maintenance, which I don't mind doing if it's practical.  

Also, our tent fly is the older orange version, which my wife and I are rather fond of (we're in coastal British Columbia, where camping frequently means rain, and the color of the light inside the tent goes a long way towards feeling less gloomy inside), and which is vented, whereas the newer MSR fly for this tent is not.

On the flipside, MSR claims that the newer flies have better, more durable coatings; since aside from the seam taping I'm not having an issue with coatings, I'm not sure how much of a factor this should be in my decision regarding how to proceed.

Anyhow, getting to the point: I'd like to attempt re-sealing the fly prior to resorting to a warranty replacement, but some exploratory attempts to remove the flaking seam tape as per McNett's instructions (the manufacturer of seam grip) have resulted in the tape partially pulling away while leaving behind a shiny residue; it seems like the tape's backing is pulling away, and leaving a thin film of old adhesive behind, along with tons of tiny flakes of decayed tape.  

Does anyone have any experience or advice regarding:

  1. how the heck to clean off all of this gunk so that the seam grip adheres properly? I've tried alcohol and a scotchbrite pad, and it pretty much doesn't work. Short of spending the next 3 days going at it with my thumbnail, I'm at a bit of a loss for how to successfully clean up the seams prior to re-sealing.
  2. just how clean do the seams need to be for the seam-grip to be successful, and not bubble or delaminate prematurely?
  3. is it even worth repairing the darned thing, or is this a fools errand? Should I bother, or should I just suck it up and accept a replacement fly, with all of it's perceived shortcomings?

Thanks in advance for any insight—this tent was the first piece of really great outdoors gear that we purchased, and the sentimental value, as well as the fact that it seems like it should last for many more years, are making it hard to figure out what to do here.
-Tim

8:04 p.m. on October 18, 2011 (EDT)
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Hey timichango : Welcome to Trailspace.

timichango said: "Anyhow, getting to the point: I'd like to attempt re-sealing the fly prior to resorting to a warranty replacement,........"

 

I would first call MSR and see what they have to say about your fly. It could be that they are having problems with all of their fly or maybe even just a certain batch. If you fail in your attempts of fixing the problem you may find that since you messed with the construction of the fly that you will not be covered by their warranty. They may be just fine with you attempting your fix. Write down the date and who you talked to so you have a reference point to go back to in any further discussions with MSR.

Once you decide that for sure you are going to try the fix yourself I would be willing to give you my advice, as I'm sure that so many others here will as well. You will find the Trailspace community to be kind and helpful and very insightful.

There are many past threads that have delt with such subjects and doing this may well take such a large amount of time as it may not be worthwhile when MSR may be willing to just send you a spanking new fly.

Good luck and let us know what you decide to do and how it turns out.

 


 


 

11:45 p.m. on October 18, 2011 (EDT)
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Hey Apeman, thanks for the response and the welcome!

I've actually mentioned my intentions to MSR and confirmed that attempting to re-seal the fly is not going to void my warranty—and since the correspondence was over email, I've got it in writing to boot.

I was recently googling around to see if anyone else was having problems with the hubba series flys, and it sounds like there was a problem afflicting some of the coatings, but I haven't been able to find any anecdotes about just the seam tape letting go—fortunately my fly's coatings seem just fine so far, despite heavy use, and I reckon the seam tape was bound to go at some point—from what I've read, it seams like aging seam tape coming off is a pretty common phenomenon, but I'm only relying on scattered information here.

In any case, while the idea of a spanking new fly is somewhat tempting (definitely easier, and there's the appeal of shiny new gear, for sure), I still feel obligated to try to save an otherwise perfectly good piece of gear from getting thrown away and replaced with something newer after just 5 or 6 years of use... too much stuff is disposable these days, and we're pretty attached to this tent in its current incarnation, minus the seam tape problem. I'm willing to put in a few nights of work to wring another 5-10 years of service out of this thing :)

I'd love to hear any advice you've got concerning getting the flaking seam tape and its gunk off of my seams, and concerning the re-sealing process. I get the impression that you only get one shot with seam grip, and I definitely want to get it right the first time around if at all possible.

Thanks!

-Tim

12:51 a.m. on October 19, 2011 (EDT)
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timichango said:

"In any case, while the idea of a spanking new fly is somewhat tempting (definitely easier, and there's the appeal of shiny new gear, for sure), I still feel obligated to try to save an otherwise perfectly good piece of gear from getting thrown away and replaced with something newer after just 5 or 6 years of use... too much stuff is disposable these days, and we're pretty attached to this tent in its current incarnation, minus the seam tape problem. I'm willing to put in a few nights of work to wring another 5-10 years of service out of this thing :)"

Dang dude, sounds just like me. Taking the harder road less traveled by. I very much respect that. There is a warm fuzzzy feeling that one gets when sleeping in a tent that one has brought back to life as the pounding wind and rain are pummeling your tent. Then waking up in the morning to find that all is well and the then has held up and done it's job.

My experience with seam taping is that once the tape peals of the adhesive will either be flexible or flake. My experience is that if its flexible it will peal of slowly. To aid it this procedure use a hair dryer to make it come of faster. If it is flaky then all you need to worry about is getting the flaky material of of the stitching. I usually use a stiff bristle toothbrush. This may take a while but keep at it.  For pesky pieces that won't come of with a brush use a pair of tweezers.  The best way to do either of these procuders is to set up your tent inside under cover.   Turn the fly inside out and put it on the tent as you would if you were camping, just turn the fly inside out and attach it to the tent.

Beware, here in lies the crux of your problem. As you said some of the fly's of this model of tent have had problems with there coatings where as your's just seems to have a seam taping problem. What if you do all this work and take all this time only to have the coating start to peel of the moment your done. Just a thought.

There have been many discussions on Trailspace as to if you should seam seal a tent fly one the inside or the outside that I have watched with great amusement. First of, manufactures seam seal fly’s on the inside. Ok, that makes sense. How about this. How about doing both sides. That’s what I do.  The best way I have found to do this is to go to your local feed store and ask for a large syringe that you would use to give shots to your farm animals, usually 5 mill.   I usually use the largest gauge needle at the end of the syringe that you can also get at the fed store. You want and need to do this out of the sun in warm temputures.  This will take along time but you will want go over the entire fly stitch by stitch on the inside with the fly left on the tent. Leave the tent set up as long as possible after the first side is done, say a week. To expedite the drying process you can put a room fan(s) around the tent on high as this will make your drying process go 2 to 3 times faster, it's all a matter of air flow. After you do the inside of the fly flip it over on the tent and do the same thing to the outside seams. Now one thing a lot of people forget to do is the flap on the seam. People always seam seal the stitching on the seams, but, to make sure its really water proof you need a bead of sealant along or better yet under the flap of the seam. This can or cannot make a difference depending on the fold of the seam.  If there is exposed stitching under the flap then you need to seam seal under the flap.  You can do this along the edge of the flap but it works much better in the end if you can get it under the flap. Some times you can't see what you have to work with under the inky binky flap. The Needle on the end of the syringe is very handy for this if you can get the seam sealer to flow through it. If you plan on doing much of this all at once than you can ask the feed store for what’s called an irrigation syringe which is a much larger syringe made for cleaning out wounds and such. If you have to stop for some reason do not leave the syringe laying around as it will dry out quickly. Put it in a Ziploc baggie rolling the air out of it and place it in the fridge till you can get back to it. If it's been in the fridge for a while and is cold it will not flow thru the syringe very well. Take the syringe in the Ziploc and set it on the back of the warm TV or your warm stereo and let it warm up for 20 min, it should then flow smoothly.  This is the method I use on all my tents including my single wall tents.  You will  be well rewarded for your efforts by taking your time, and time consuming it is.  Please tell use how it went and what you decide to do.

Hint.  Most people try to use a thinner to lessen the viscosity of the seam sealer.  By warming or heating it up you can make it thinner flowing. 

1:58 p.m. on October 19, 2011 (EDT)
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Thanks Apeman! 

That's super-helpful, and I really appreciate the help—the brush & tweezer tip is one of those lightbulb moments, and I'm sure I'll be tweezering away like a madman.  I'll be diving into the project in the next few evenings, or potentially over the weekend if I run out of free time this week, so I'll keep you posted about how the process goes, and if I run into any hurdles. 

Again, many thanks!!

-T

2:04 p.m. on October 19, 2011 (EDT)
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p.s. thanks for the tip on the irrigation syringes as well—I actually have a few clean ones in the garage, as building/rebuilding bicycles is another hobby of mine, and I use them for applying various lubricants. I get'em from Lee Valley, a chain of woodworking stores, which sells them for wood glue application.  Here's a link in case you're ever looking for another supplier for them: http://www.leevalley.com/en/wood/page.aspx?p=20003&cat=1,110,42967&c=

Not sure why I hadn't considered using them for seam grip, but I'll definitely be taking that advice!!!

7:56 p.m. on October 19, 2011 (EDT)
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A couple of additional thoughts:

When using irrigation syringes the nipple that would hold on the needle is larger than a regular syringe as well as the hole going thru the nipple being larger. To use a needle on the end of the syringe you will have to whittle the nipple down to a smaller diameter so that the needle will fit. Further more when using the irrigation syringes, with the hole being larger the sealer will come out much faster. The answer to this is to sick it in the fridge and that will cause the sealer to become more viscose and much easier to work with in relation to the irrigation syringe.

When ever applying a seam sealer use a small brush after applying to lay flat the bead so that the sealer fills the stitch hoes and in fact seeps in and soaks the threads. This is very important as I have seen many a tent leak when people do not do this.

 

9:20 p.m. on October 19, 2011 (EDT)
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I would chime in here to help but you already have the resident tent expert on the job!

11:39 p.m. on October 19, 2011 (EDT)
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@ Jake W :  Please chime in.  I only know what I know and am still learning every day.

2:24 p.m. on October 20, 2011 (EDT)
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Always the contrarian (and a cheap, lazy one at that).

I wouldn’t do anything to the fly. 

I’ve had tent flies that not only had failed seal seals, the fabric coating also had long since peeled away.  I have used these tents in storms with little consequence The rain soaks through the fly, but it generally flows down the fly and drips off the bottom edge, rather than drips onto the tent.  Try it out in your back yard, you have nothing to lose.

Ed

3:19 p.m. on October 20, 2011 (EDT)
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Just did this to a 1980 Sierra West tent. But this tents tape  just peeled right off In long strips. Yas there was a residue on the seam. I just seam sealed over it. Tape is nice for peace of mind but I think it might be overrated. I'm with you on the color of the fly, it must be pleasant.. I'm on the Oregon coast so I understand about the rain and sunless skys that you encounter up in BC coastal areas. I backpack alot in the winter here. And a warm pleasant color tent is very important to wake-up to. It just sets your day off good.

6:02 p.m. on October 21, 2011 (EDT)
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Hello everyone - new member and first time poster . . . My name is Dale and I work with the tent team at MSR. From lots and lots of personal experience with this (on our tents and others), I would suggest that you don't try to remove the tape. Removing the tape will also likely damage the coating beneath it. However, if you really really want it to look nicer, then I'd suggest using the hair drier technique. Scrubbing it or peeling it off ususally results in loss of coating as well as the tape. Remove what comes off easily, but don't go to crazy pulling off the tape that is still stuck on there.

I would pick up a tube of SilNet seam sealer from McNett and seal the seams on the outside of the tent. Using a syringe or very small ans stiff paint brush will give you the best results at making it clean and neat.

Alternatively, you can use the standard McNett Seam Grip on the inside or underside of the fly. If you go that route, use some tape and mask off the areas on each side of the seam, leaving about 1/8" - 1/4" of the non-taped material on each side of the old tape exposed. Then paint on the seamgrip. Later (24 hours later), peel off the masking tape and you will have a very clean looking repair and very well sealed seams. (McNett has great instructions on thier website if you want to check it out).

As for the color . . . I agree. I like the orange as well. When we switched to the green flies, I was a bitconcerned. But after repeated trips in the Cascades (we are in Seattle, WA), I was impressed with the green. It was rather nice and pleasant. We chose a color close to vine maple leaves in the spring. So it feels spring like inside. You can always jump inside one at a store to see it first hand.

Good luck on the repair! I wish more people would repair gear instead of dumping it. Nice work!

6:39 p.m. on October 21, 2011 (EDT)
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@Dale- Welcome to Trailspace. Great to have ya aboard(nice hair too lol.)

I have to say your post gave me a slight feeling of relief. I thought I was the only one that took the time to mask off the seams when going through this process.

Maybe I don't have ocd after all. Then again I'm sure my wife would argue that point. I am a stickler when it comes to attention to detail.

@timichango- welcome to Trailspace as well. I hope you find the info here helpful. 

I was also thinking that using a product such as Nikwax Tent and Gear Solarproof may be a good thing as well after you get the issue you are experiencing rectified.

Here is a product link:

http://www.trailspace.com/gear/nikwax/tent-gear-solarproof/

Todays gear is great but at the same time it still requires periodic maintenance for it to perform to its full potential. 

Happy hiking-Rick

7:30 p.m. on October 21, 2011 (EDT)
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No Rick you are anal LOL

7:38 p.m. on October 21, 2011 (EDT)
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mikemorrow said:

No Rick you are anal LOL

I would have to aggree with mikemorrow.  With that beings said, quite often being anal and or OCD results, in better results.  On the other hand sometimes it can be quite annoyoying.  ;;-}}> 

8:14 p.m. on October 21, 2011 (EDT)
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Thats becouse you know me. And know I'm full of crap. :) I'm hoping that Denis can visit this summer. I'm pumped up for the 3 of use to get together.

4:18 p.m. on October 23, 2011 (EDT)
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Hey all!  Thanks to all of you for the wealth of insight that you've contributed to inform my approach—my weekend wound up being far busier that I expected, and I haven't gotten down to business on the tent yet, and I'm glad: definitely going to take all of the new recommendations into consideration when I start the process in earnest this week.

Dale: I had been wondering if removing the tape, or fussing over the flakes would damage the coating underneath; and was wondering if this was an issue given that I'll be slathering Seam grip onto it afterwards.  Actually, I've got a few questions about dealing with the specific fabric on this fly, that you may be able to clarify:

  1. Is it correct that this fly is made of a silicone-impregnated nylon, with a urethane coating on the underside?
  2. If the above is true, and the urethane coating is damaged by tape removal, will that affect the ability of the seam-grip to adhere to the underside? Or can I safely remove the easy strips of tape that peel off more easily, get the worst of the flaky mess off (this is mostly concentrated on the ridge seam; the tape on the side seams are more intact, but still peeling), and go bananas with the seam grip, and be fairly confident that it'll adhere properly, and not wind up peeling off itself?
  3. You mention peeling the masking tape off after the seam-grip has dried: I've read conflicting instructions concerning this that assert that once the goop has dried, it's harder to remove the masking tape since it's effectively underneath a lip of solidified rubber, and to remove the tape while the seam grip is still liquid, but after it's firmed up a bit and is less liable to run.  What are your thoughts on this?


Rick:  I'm a graphic designer by trade, and I do a bit of custom metalwork in my spare time, so I'm afflicted by the same obsessive inclinations ;)  I'm pretty particular about getting my approach figured out before diving into projects, as once I start I like to work fast, but want great results and hate to do things twice.  I'm a measure six-hundred-times, cut once kind of guy. Good advice on the solarproof—I'll definitely look into that. I'd been wondering if there was a good way to fend off UV, other than camping in shade 100% of the time.


Whomeworry:  I hear ya—despite my obsessive inclinations (see above), I'm also pretty darned lazy.  Unfortunately, this always winds up getting overridden by my belt-&-suspenders need to feel like I've covered my bases. Twice.  On top of that, I'm starting to play around with gear fabrication a bit, and generally find that fixing stuff is a good inroad to making stuff, so the time's well spent in terms of accumulated experience even if it winds up being futile on a given project.
Thanks again, all—really helpful stuff!!!
-T

2:13 p.m. on October 24, 2011 (EDT)
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Thanks for the warm welcome!

Rick - as another outdoor gear junkie with OCD, I salute you! If it weren't for us OCD folks, who knows what would become of the world . . .

As for the hair in my profile photo . . . as usual, those types of hairdo's form on about day 4 or 5 of a nice backpacking trip. That one was on day 4 of a recent 5 day backpacking trip in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Those of you on this forum can certainly appreciate the head space you get in after extended wilderness time. . .

@timichango - good catch, you are correct. Pull the masking tape before it gets fully dry. But I usually wait a bit before pulling. Otherwise, it can still run/spread (especially if you use the "quick method" by mixing with Cotol). Also, feather the edge, so that it isn't full thickness over the tape.

As for the tape removal damaging the coating and such, you are correct in that if you are coating it with SeamGrip, then you will be taking care of any leaking coating. I'd just hate for some piece of tape that is really well adheared to the fabric to cause a tear. Sure the SeamGrip will fix it, but it would be better to not have to deal with a tear.

Okay - on to the numbered questions.

1) kind of. It is a lightweight nylon with a PU (blend) on the underside and a silicone DWR on the outside. The DWR tends to migrate into the nylon, so it does become "impregnated", but it is not impregnated before the PU is added to the underside. PU won't stick to Sil - nor will much of anything. I know that this is splitting hairs, but everyone on this thread seems to be pretty technical.

2) you should be pretty safe with the method you've described. SeamGrip (from my experience - but not as a "manufacturer") has bonded to everything from PU coatings to raw fabric. But if you are in doubt, check with McNett on thier products.

3) I responded out of order, sorry. See the first part of this post. :>)

Good luck! I am sure that with all of this prep, you will be in great shape with the actual repair.

5:10 p.m. on October 24, 2011 (EDT)
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Regarding the use of tape. First off I find that masking tape used for house painting works the best as it has adhesive that is designed not to leave a sticky residue and and as to be easily removable, most tapes are designed to stick for as long as possible. There is a new tape called "Frog Tape" that is suppose to excel in respect to the application we are discussing here.

I stopped using tape along time ago due to a number of things.

1. It take a really long time to tape of a tent (fly) properly.

2. You need to set the tent up where it will be in the shade in the proper temp. and out of the sun. This can be a real hassle.

3. If you do not get the tape of before the seam seal agent hardens you will have   A) tape stuck to the tent under the sealent; or   B) the tape will pull up the sealant exposing the seam and or leaving a rough edge; or  C) both.

4. I use way more sealant than necessary to seal the seam as I'm trying to keep the amount consistent between the edges of the tape rather than being concerned about the actual sealing of the seam.

These of cource are just my experiences.

 

5:19 p.m. on October 24, 2011 (EDT)
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You could also use a product like Kenyon Recoat and not worry about tape. 

I have a tub of this goop somewhere in the bat cave. 

Here is a link:

http://www.kenyonconsumer.com/store/product.php?productid=74&cat=4&page=2


12:52 p.m. on October 28, 2011 (EDT)
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call the manufacturer

9:14 p.m. on October 31, 2011 (EDT)
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How did the repair go ?

What worked ?

What didn't ?

What would you do different if all over again ?

12:20 a.m. on November 4, 2011 (EDT)
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I'm about to start a thread on refurbishing vintage packs (looking for advise and found techniques).  I've done a little trial and error research, and I found a couple things to work on flaking waterproofing.  Maybe one of them could also work for this task.  First, try a natural bristle brush to remove as much of the old tape as possible, but that will only go so far (which you've probably already exhausted with the Scotchbrite pad).  I've never damaged any material with one.  What I found to work even better, and possibly be easier and less likely to cause damage, is an air compressor.  I have one with a fine nozzle attachment, and it blasts off the old waterproofing to a great degree.  In-between pneumatic sprays, I use the brush to both sweep away the flakes and to take a second shot at loosening any further compromised proofing.  The more I thought about this as typing, the more I realized these likely won't work on tape residue.  Still, maybe someone can use the compressor idea for something else.

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