How to Fix a Tent Pole

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Tools and supplies for fixing a broken tent pole

Tent poles are the skeleton of your outdoor shelter, providing structure to keep the tent upright. If a pole breaks, your tent may wobble, flap or completely collapse, so it’s smart to be prepared with the necessary equipment and knowhow to fix a damaged pole. In this article, we’ll teach you how to:

  • Splint a broken tent pole: Learn how to use a repair sleeve or a tent stake as a splint to fix a pole while you’re in the field.
  • Replace shockcord: Learn how to do an at-home repair if the stretchy shockcord inside your tent pole breaks or wears out.

Professional repairs: If you need professional help, many REI stores can do basic repairs. Another great option is TentPole Technologies, the nation’s leading pole repair service.

 

REI Repair Services 

 

Splinting a Broken Tent Pole

Whether your tent pole gets stepped on or a powerful gust of wind does the damage, a kinked, split or snapped pole needs immediate attention in the field (when you get home, you can look into having the pole replaced or professionally repaired.) You have two options:

  • Use a pole repair sleeve
  • Use a tent stake as a splint
 
 

Using a Pole Repair Sleeve

A broken tent pole that has been fixed with a sleeve and duct tape

The easiest and quickest way to fix a broken pole is with a pole repair sleeve. Also called a splint, this short tube is often provided with your tent. If not, buy one and pack it with you. A good pole repair sleeve is just slightly larger in diameter than your pole so that it doesn’t move around too much. Using a repair sleeve to fix a broken tent pole is simple:

  1. Line up the broken pole sections.
  2. If the pole is bent but not fully broken, gently straighten out the bend.
  3. Slide the sleeve over the pole end until it’s centered over the break or kink; you might have to use pliers to crimp or a rock to bend splayed pieces so that the sleeve can slide over them.
  4. Wrap each end of the sleeve/pole a couple of times with duct tape, or whatever heavy-duty tape you have with you.
  5. If your pole breaks where one pole end inserts into the next one, you will have to splint the sections together; keep in mind that this will prevent the poles from folding up neatly when you take the tent down.

 

Using a Tent Stake as a Splint

A tent stake being used as a splint for a broken tent pole

If you’ve lost or forgotten your pole repair sleeve, you can use a tent stake to concoct a crude splint: 

  1. Line up the broken pole sections.
  2. If the pole is bent but not fully broken, straighten out the bend.
  3. Align the stake so that it’s centered next to the break.
  4. Wrap each end of the stake/pole multiple times with duct tape, or whatever heavy-duty tape you have on hand.

 

How to Replace Tent-Pole Shockcord

Over time, the stretchy shockcord that’s inside your tent poles may get abraded and break or simply lose its elasticity. If the shockcord snaps while you’re in the field, you can still use the pole by carefully assembling the individual sections. However, when you get home, you’ll want to replace the shockcord; it makes assembly simple and keeps you from losing a pole section. Fortunately, replacing it is a straightforward process.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • A permanent marker
  • Masking tape (optional)
  • Scissors
  • Locking pliers (optional)
  • New 1/8-in.-diameter shockcord (approximately the length of your tent pole)
 

Replacing the shockcord on a tent pole

Here’s how to replace the shockcord:

  1. Start by laying the tent pole out straight. To avoid mixing up sections, you can label them with a permanent marker (use masking tape if you don’t want to write directly on the pole.)
  2. Snip the old cord, then pull the elastic out from a pole end; take care to keep all of the pole sections in the same order and orientation as you work.
  3. Some tent poles have a small metal piece at each end where the cord is tied; keep an eye out for these and don’t lose them!
  4. Unknot the ends and lay the old cord down next to your new shockcord; cut the new section of shockcord to match the full length of the original.
  5. If the old shockcord is stretched out and no longer elastic, cut the new section about 8 inches shorter than the old one. 
  6. Tie a knot in one end of the shockcord, then feed the other end through all but the last pole section.
  7. Stretch the shockcord to extend its length, then tie a temporary knot to keep it from slipping back inside the second-to-last pole section; alternatively, you can use a pair of locking pliers to hold the cord.
  8. Feed the remaining shockcord through the final pole section and knot the end.
  9. Go back and untie (or unclamp) the cord between the final two pole sections. Double-check that all pole sections now seat tightly in the fully assembled pole.
  10. If the shockcord is still loose, untie one end and remove 6 inches at a time until the poles are held together firmly when assembled. Do not over-shorten the cord.
  11. Unseat the sections and fold up the pole, starting at the middle point.

 

 

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Contributing Experts

Jon Almquist

Jon Almquist is the tents product manager at REI Co-op headquarters in Kent, Wash.

Laura Evenson

Laura Evenson is a sales lead in the camp and climb departments at the REI Conshohocken, Pa., store. A resilient adventurer, Laura’s 2013 Appalachian Trail thru-hike featured 27 straight days of rain.

Chris Pottinger

Chris Pottinger is a senior tent designer for REI Co-op in Kent, Wash.

Lindsey Stone

Lindsey Stone is the operations director at Rainy Pass Repair, Inc. in Seattle. Prior to that she worked for 12 years as a professional sewing technician. She enjoys hiking, camping and canoeing with her husband, daughter and dog.