A broken tent pole is one of the most common instances of damaged equipment, and can often happen without warning. In some cases, it makes it tough for your tent to stand up, so it’s important to know how to repair one if you need to.
In this article, our team of experts covers the following:
Step-by-step guides on how to repair a tent pole, including a broken pole and replacing the shock cord
Materials you’ll need
Information on different types of poles
Broken Tent Pole Repair
This type of repair deals with when your pole breaks somewhere in the body. This type of damage needs to be fixed immediately if you’re out camping and don’t have a replacement pole. On the bright side, it is pretty quick relative to other tent fixes.
There are two different ways to repair a broken tent pole:
Using a pole repair sleeve
Using a stake as a splint
A tent sleeve or stake to use as a splint
Some heavy-duty tape, preferably duct tape
Tent Pole Repair Sleeve Method
A pole repair sleeve is a piece of equipment made specifically to fix broken tent poles. Many tents will come with at least one included, but they’re also relatively cheap to buy at a local outdoors or hardware store. If you’re looking to buy one, the sleeve should be just large enough to go over your tent poles but not move around much.
Here’s how to use a tent pole sleeve to fix your tent pole:
Line up both broken pole sections so they fit nicely with one another.
Slide the repair sleeve up the poles until the break is right in the center of it. If any pieces are stopping the sleeve from sliding up, gently bend them back into place.
Using your duct tape, wrap each end of the repair sleeve tightly. Add a couple of layers for extra stability.
Tent Stake Method
If you don’t have a pole repair sleeve, another option is to use a stake as a splint.
Here’s how you can repair your pole using this method:
Same as above, line up both broken pole sections so they fit nicely with one another.
Place the stake parallel and right up against the pole, with the center on the break.
Wrap each end of the stake tightly with duct tape. Wrap multiple times for extra stability.
Tent Pole Shock Cord Replacement
All tent poles have something called a shock cord inside. This is an elastic cord that helps poles keep their shape and snap back together when you’re done camping.
Over time, shock cords can get stretched out, lose their effectiveness, or even break. While that doesn’t make your poles immediately unusable, it can be annoying and ruined cords are worth replacing before your next trip.
Since it’s a bit more complicated to fix than a broken tent pole, it might be easier to wait until you’ve gotten home. It does make tent setup more difficult, but it should stay together once it’s up even without a working shock cord.
Your new shock cord
A marker or pen
Tent shock cords are easy to buy online or at a store. Most tent poles are the same size and will fit any shock cord you buy, but be sure to check in case.
Here’s how to fix your tent shock cord:
Lay out your tent poles and label each of them with your marker or pen. The poles are supposed to go in a specific order and this will let you avoid confusion if they get mixed up.
Take the pole tip off of your outer pole. Using your scissors, cut the knot off the elastic and pull it through your tent poles until completely removed. Try to keep your poles in the same order as they were before removing the cord.
Lay the new cord next to the old one and measure them against one another. If you’re removing the old cord because it’s been stretched out, you should measure the new one about 8 inches shorter than the new one. If it broke for another reason, you can measure them to be the same length.
Tie a knot on one end of the shock cord. Then, feed the other end through your tent poles in the same order you removed them, besides the final pole section.
Stretch the cord to its full length and use your locking pliers to hold it in place at the end of the second to last pole section. Make sure that the cord is somewhat tense before you lock it in.
Run the shock cord through the last tent pole, tie a knot, and reattach the pole tips. You can also unclamp your pliers at this point.
Double-check that the shock cord is the right tension. It should be tense but loose enough that you can fold up your tent poles and fit them inside your bag. If the cord is too loose, you can remove a bit of length and repeat steps 5-7 until you get it right.
Types of Tent Poles:
Different kinds of tent poles can vary on several factors, including price, weight, and how often you’ll have to perform repairs. You should know the differences before buying any.
Aluminum tent poles are lightweight, inexpensive poles that are commonly used in backpacking tents.
In addition, they are one of the most flexible types of tent poles on the market. They are reasonably durable but can bend from time to time.
Fiberglass poles, also known as glass-reinforced plastic, are the most inexpensive poles on the list.
They compare with aluminum poles in terms of flexibility but are a bit heavier in weight. They’re the least durable type of tent pole and are the most prone to breaking.
Carbon fiber poles are the most premium kind of poles due to their lightness in weight, durability, and flexibility. They’re very popular among ultralight backpackers who can’t bring a repair kit along with them as well as higher-end tents.
On the downside, they’re also the most expensive type of pole. You will rarely deal with any breaks, however.
Steel poles are extremely strong, but also the heaviest and least flexible option among those we’ve looked at. Due to this, they’re typically used with larger, heavier tents such as canvas tents.
Because of their durability, it’s unlikely that you’ll see any breaks while using them.
Now that you’ve read this article, you should be prepared for any tent pole repair challenge that comes your way. While you can always buy new poles once you get home, this is still a useful skill out in the field and can extend the lifespan of your poles longer than you might expect.
Just remember to always have the proper repair materials with you, as a break can happen when you least expect it. If you have any other tips on how to fix a tent pole, please let us know in the comments below. Happy camping!
Carl is a content writer for The Camping Buddy, specializing in informational camping articles and product reviews. Carl has been a freelance writer for outdoor news sites while spending his time backpacking across the world. His favorite camping spot is Malaekahana Beach in Hawaii.