My gear had some hard abuse over the last few years. It’s now at the point that whatever I wear, be it my dry suit, waders, or dry pants, I end up with wet feet. It was time to get my suit patched up and ready for some cold winter fishing action.
Chances are, you have almost everything needed to repair your waders or dry suit. The most important thing you will need to pick up is Aquaseal®. Aquaseal® is available at most outdoor stores, and certainly any kayak shop. This is what will be filling in small pinholes in the suit, or adhering patches over larger holes. Aquaseal® sells in a small tube for a few bucks, and there is enough for many repairs. Between my dry suit, dry pants, dry top, and waders, I haven't even used half a tube. Aquaseal® is also used for rubber gasket replacement, should that become necessary.
Aquaseal® is the only thing you will probably have to go out and buy.
Another thing you will need is a light source. Flashlights work great, but I couldn't find the one right in front of my face until I was done. Small fluorescent fixtures are good, too, but they are cumbersome. Don't use halogen or incandescent lights, which will get hot and cause even more problems for you. You'll also need a marker to keep track of holes you find, and if you know you have tears and holes over 1/4" long, you'll need some patch material (eVent, GORE-TEX®, etc.). Dry suits usually come with a small patch, but check your local kayak shop if you don't have anything suitable.
Starting off, you need clean gear. Check out the article from last spring to see how to properly clean your breathable fabrics. With everything clean and dry, turn your suit inside out. Reaching into arms and legs, scan around with the flashlight. Light will shine through the holes, if they are there. Use the marker to circle these areas.
What you find when running the light through the suit will dictate where to go from here. I had a couple holes that were patch-worthy, though small. Patches are best made round, so there are no sharp corners that can promote snagging. I chose to use a quarter to shape my patching, but you might need something larger. Patches should extend about 1/2" around holes and tears. Using the quarter as a guide, I traced circles around the holes in the suit I was patching and another circle in the patch material as a guide to cut out the patch. If you have a large tear to patch, you might need something like a fishing line spool, or bigger, to make sure you cover the whole area.
Now, turn the suit right-side out. You need to tape the outside of the suit. If you have a hole, the tape will keep the Aquaseal® from leaching through and gluing the other side of the suit. If you have a tear, make sure the tape is holding the torn edges together as closely as possible. Painter’s tape is the best option for this, as the tape will not stick to the suit. It will remove cleanly and easily when the time comes. With things taped up, turn the suit inside out again.
It's time to clean, yet again, all the spots that require repair. This time all you need is some rubbing alcohol. A rag or cotton ball will be fine. If there was anything left behind from the earlier wash, the alcohol will help take care of it. The alcohol also will not affect the Aquaseal®.
Lay the patch out on a piece of cardboard, and spread a thin layer of Aquaseal® over the whole patch. On the suit, apply more Aquaseal® over the area that the patch is going to cover. Make sure that the whole area is covered with Aquaseal® and even a little bit beyond the area you marked. This will help bond the edges of the patch. Once the glue is on both pieces, line up your patch and press it into place. When in place, cover it with a piece of wax paper and use a large book or other heavy object to help press it into place. Leave it like this at least overnight - twelve hours is ideal.
In the morning, remove the book and wax paper, turn the suit right-side out, remove the tape and inspect the patch job. Chances are your suit is good to go fishing. If at all possible, though, try to give the Aquaseal® another twelve hours to finish curing.
If you have smaller pinholes that don't require patching, or if you need to clean up the outside of your patch job, all you need is the Aquaseal® and a small disposable paint brush. As with the patch job, you need to clean the area with alcohol before proceeding. Once clean, brush on the Aquaseal® over the area, and extend beyond any pinholes and abrasions. This time, since nothing is being glued, just keep the area flat and allow to dry overnight. Aquaseal® dries clear and is abrasion resistant, so it can be used on the outside of your waders as well. This helps make sure you have created a good waterproof barrier to keep you dry once again.
Repairing your waders and other dry gear is not hard work, though it can be time consuming. But, in the end, I think it is well worth doing. It will keep you dryer, warmer, and safer when on the water doing some fishing.