How to Fix a Tent Pole

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You’re getting ready to pitch your tent because a storm is coming through. So, you start scrambling to pull out your tent and stakes to begin setting it up. Suddenly you hear a loud snap below you, then look down to realize you have accidently stepped on and snapped your tent pole. Things happen out on the trails most avoidable but sometimes not, in this guide we are going to teach you how to fix a tent pole.

Key Takeaways

  • Learn common issues like breaks and bends, and how to regularly inspect and maintain poles using appropriate techniques and materials.
  • Learn how to perform quick temporary fixes like splinting with a tent stake, duct tape repairs, or improvising with shock cord to keep your tent functional.
  • Learn how to fix a tent pole doing repairs to replace broken segments or worn shock cords carefully, and properly clean and store your tent poles to extend their lifespan.

Identify The Issue

Before delving into the repair methods for how to fix a tent pole, first we need to assess the situation. Things to look at are how the tent pole has been damaged. Did the tent pole break, splinter, or bend? Is it something else like a worn shock cord in the pole that has snapped? Understanding the issue is the first step to a successful repair.

Broken Tent Poles

Tent poles can snap or break for many reasons whether from accidents, stormy weather, or just simple wear and tear. Some tent poles are more prone to breaking than others and the type of material usually will play a role in how and why it breaks.

Aluminum poles are less likely to break compared to fiberglass or carbon fiber because they can bend without snapping. Aluminum tends to get bent more easily than the other two materials.

On the other hand, carbon fiber poles and fiberglass, despite their lightweight strength are more prone to snap, especially when bent tightly.

Bent Tent Poles

Poles bend for many reasons just typically use stormy weather, improper storage, or excessive force are all factors that can bend a tent pole. If the tent doesn’t set up right, or if the pole sections don’t fit together smoothly, chances are your tent pole is bent.

Worn Shock Cords

The final concern we’re addressing in this part is worn out shock cords. You can tell that the shock cords in your tent poles are worn out if they’re fraying, have lost their stretchiness, or if the poles don’t snap together properly.

If the shock cord in your tent is worn out, it might not hold the tent as well because it could lose its stretchiness and often becomes just loose.

Shock cord, duct tape, and tent stake

Temporary Fixes in the Field

After you have assessed the poles and found the problem. Now it is time to temporarily fix the issue. There are many temporary solutions such as splinting with tent stakes, duct tape repairs, and improvised shock cord replacements. Knowing these methods can come in handy in a pinch, giving you the peace of mind without worrying about your tent collapsing on you in the middle of the night.

Splinting with a Sleeve, Tent Stake, or Stick

If you find your tent poles broken, you can splint the break to support the tent. One of my favorite ways for how to fix a tent pole is to splint the pole using a tent stake, sleeve, or stick and some duct tape. To do this you will:

  1. First, straighten out the pole till it is relatively straight.
  2. If using a sleeve slide the sleeve over the broke section, if using a stake or stick align it next to the broken section so that the middle of the stake is lined up with the break site.
  3. Last, use duct tape and tape both end of the tent pole sleeve, tent stake, or stick.

Now your tent pole should be steadier and more stabilized to hold your tent in shape.

Splinting with a tent stake

Bend Tent Poles Back and Splint

How to fix a tent pole that has bent. If your tent pole is slightly bent slightly bend it back into place. If your tent pole is severely bent, try to bend it back straighter and then follow the splinting method above to reinforce the bent or now broken pole.

Improvised Shock Cord Fix

When you’re out in the field, and your tent pole shock cord becomes worn out and too loose, your tent poles will often not fit correctly and will not be able to support your shelter. To quickly fix a loosened shock cord you will need to:

  1. Take the pole a part so you can access the shock cord that has become loose.
  2. The next thing you are going to do is untie the shock cord and then tighten it by pulling some of the slack out of the line.
  3. Basically, you are trying to make the cord a little snugger, loop the cord through and tie with a double overhand knot so it is secure.
  4. Cut off any excess cord that you have now created.

Now your tent poles should fit snug. Do not forget to fully replace the shock cord when you get home.

Untie one end & increase stretch on cord
Tie it off, snip excess cord

Improvision if shock cord is severed

Now worst-case scenario, if the shock cord is completely severed it is possible to pitch a tent without the elastic.

You will need the duct tape all the ferrule connections to the poles and pitch the tent like you normally would. Being careful not to overbend the connections and loosen the duct tape too much when sliding the poles through the tent fly or clipping them in.

When you get home follow the repair for putting in new shock cord down below.

Duct taped ferrule ends

At-Home Tent Pole Repairs

While temporary fixes in the field are great for immediate issues, a thorough repair at home can ensure the longevity of your tent poles. With the right tools and a little patience, you can replace broken pole segments, fix kinked poles, and replace shock cords.

Repairing a Broken Tent Pole Section

Replacing a broken tent pole segment might sound like a daunting task but it is not too bad once you get the hang of it. Most places sell a tent pole repair kit which you can use to change out your tent poles. The one thing you will need to do is measure or look up your tent poles diameter so you can order the right size.

Supplies for Repairing a Tent Pole Section

How to fix a tent pole that is broken. For this repair, you’ll need:

ItemsPurpose
Tent Pole Sections Replacing old tent pole sections
TweezersRemoving shock cord from ferrules
GlovesProtect hands from fiberglass splinter
Tape MeasureMeasure length of pole for cutting
Small HacksawCut new pole sections to correct size
SandpaperSmooth out ends of tent pole
Thin Wire (Wire coat hanger)To thread shock cord
TapeTo help thread cord

*Tip: You can get pole repair kits that come with several of these items. I recommend Coughlin’s repair kit or the Stansport tent pole kit. When looking at pole section replacements make sure the diameter of the poles you find match your original tent poles.


Steps for Replacing Tent Pole Sections

  1. First determine the diameter of your pole, then measure the length of your original tent pole with new pole section for length.
  2. If the pole is too long it can easily be cut down using a hacksaw. When cutting the pole be sure to rotate the pole to get a even cut, also wear protective gloves to protect from any splinters.
  3. After making necessary cuts. Sand down the pole using the sandpaper while still wearing protective gloves. Be sure to rotate the poles to evenly sand the pole down.
  4. Find the end of your set of poles that will have one ferrule connected it will make rethreading the pole easier. The other end will typically have two ferrules connected or one ferrule and a vinyl or metal pole tip.
  5. Use the tweezers if needed to retrieve the knot from the ferrule or disconnect the tip and then untie the knot.
  6. Next, make your way down towards the damaged or broken tent pole section. Place each pole down in the order that you remove them to make it easier later when you reconnect them.
  7. Be careful removing the broken or splintered pole as it may have splinters, wear gloves to be extra careful.
  8. Replace the splintered or broken pole with your new one and then start threading the shock cord through the poles.
  9. If needed use the thin wire to thread the cord through the pole. I like to use a really small piece of tape. Tape the end of the cord with the end of the wire and then pull it through.
  10. When you get to the last section you will have to pull the slack out of the shock cord. Then tie a slip knot or clamp the end if you are able.
  11. Finish up by tying up the last section of shock cord with a double overhand knot.

Replacing Tent Pole Shock Cord

Finally, we’ll discuss how to replace tent pole shock cord. The shock cord is basically an elastic cord that keeps the sections of a tent pole together. It gives the tent pole some tension and flexibility. If it wears out, you can swap it out with a shock cord replacement kit.

Supplies for Replacing Tent Pole Shock Cord

For this repair, you’ll need:

ItemsPurpose
Shock cord to replace old cord
TweezersRemoving shock cord from ferrules
ScissorsCutting cord length and trim loose ends
Tape MeasureMeasure length of cord
Thin Wire (Wire coat hanger)To thread shock cord
TapeTo help thread cord
Lighter To burn up fray ends if needing to trim

*Tip: There are a lot of different types of shock cords. Find the type that is close to the internal diameter of your tent poles. I have used Coughlin’s shock cord and Gear Aid’s shock cord with good luck.


Steps for Replacing Shock Cord

You can replace the shock cord by following these steps:

  1. Measure the length of your tent pole sections, then measure out shock cord. Length should be about 2 or 3 times shorter than the overall pole length that you are replacing. Cut your cord.
  2. Locate one of the ends of your tent poles and remove the old shock cord.
  3. Find the end with two ferrules connected or one ferrule and a vinyl or metal pole tip. This is where you will start threading the new shock cord through.
  4. Using the thin wire tape, the cord to the end and then thread it through. After getting through the first piece, you will probably not need the wire for the other sections and can just push the cord through by hand.
  5. When you get to the last section you will have to pull the slack out of the shock cord. Then tie a slip knot or clamp the end if you are able. This just makes it easier to thread the last bit through the last pole section removing some of the tension.
  6. Finish up by tying up the last section of shock cord with a double overhand knot.

Maintaining Tent Pole Integrity

Having discussed how to identify and resolve common problems both on-site and at home, we’ll now direct our focus towards the vital task of preserving the structural integrity of tent poles. This involves cleaning and storing your tent poles properly and doing regular inspections.

Cleaning and Storage

After an enjoyable camping trip, it’s important to cleanse your tent poles prior to stowing them away. Simple cleaning with a cloth or sponge and a bit of mild dish soap should do the trick for regular dirt. For tougher stains like tree sap or bird droppings, use a soft brush with mild soap.

When it comes to storage, it’s best to store the tent poles separately from the tent body and fly to avoid any damage. Keep them loosely in a cool, dry place, like in a cardboard box inside a dark, dry, and cool closet. The temperature really matters as extreme conditions can harm the tent fabric and coatings.

Hard plastic containers or double-walled cardboard boxes are recommended for storing tent poles as they keep your poles safe and in good condition.

Regular Inspection

Regular inspection is the best prevention for problems out on the trail. By inspecting your tent poles you can help identify issues early, allowing for timely repairs. Make it a habit to give your tent poles a once-over every few days while you’re using them and conduct a thorough inspection at least once a year.

While inspecting, look for signs of wear and damage like:

  • cracks
  • bends
  • sharp broken segments in aluminum poles
  • degraded or snapped fiberglass in fiberglass poles

Keeping your poles clean and dry also prevents moisture from causing decay. Having the right tools like a pole saw, different pole tools, a checklist for inspecting, and materials for fixing things like a tent pole splint and duct tape can make the inspection and maintenance process a lot smoother.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why do tent poles break?

Tent poles can break due to either the poles snapping or the shock cord inside the poles wearing out and losing its elasticity. So, it’s important to inspect and maintain your tent poles to prevent breakage.

How often should I inspect my tent poles?

You should inspect your tent poles every few days while using them and definitely before and after planning to use them for a trip. Also conduct a thorough inspection at least once a year to ensure they’re in good condition.

What are the common signs of wear and damage in tent poles?

Look out for cracks, bends, and sharp broken segments in aluminum poles, as well as degraded or snapped fiberglass in fiberglass poles as signs of wear and damage in tent poles. Be sure to inspect your tent poles regularly to ensure they are in good condition and safe to use.

What materials are recommended for tent poles?

Aluminum and fiberglass are recommended for tent poles as they make them more durable and long-lasting.

Summary

Tent pole issues like broken or bent poles and worn shock cords are not super common but they can occur. With the right knowledge from this article, you will now know how to tackle the various problems that can happen when out in the field. Review temporary fixes prior to heading out on the trail so you will be better equipped to deal with them when they happen.

Be sure to regularly inspect your equipment prior to heading out to the backcountry or the campsite to prevent tent pole failures. Now that you have learned how to fix a tent pole you should be good for the next time you head out in the wild. If you have any questions about how to fix a tent pole let us know.

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