How to Repair a Broken Tent Pole

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So you busted a tent pole. Firstly, doh. But don’t fret too much. Fixing a broken tent pole is not only possible but really straightforward.

If you’re out camping, don’t let a broken tent pole cut your trip short. If it’s just the shock cord that’s come loose or broken, you don’t really need to do anything.

Shock cord performs two tasks – it keeps all your pole sections together so you don’t lose them and it holds the entire pole assembly together making for easy thread through the pole sleeves or loops on your tent.

Broken fibreglass tent poles

Eek. That’s quite a break. The fact is, we actually staged this break for the photo and you know what, fibreglass poles are flipping hard to snap! 

On the other hand, if you snap a pole, you’re likely to need to do a little emergency repair work at the campsite to keep your tent operational for the rest of the trip. This could be as simple as taking to the pole with a good serve of duct or gaffer tape or fitting a tent pole repair sleeve or ferrule.

When you get home, you’ll be able to replace the broken section or the entire pole.

Temporarily taping the pole

In an emergency, tape is your friend.

Why it’s important to carry spare parts for your tent

This brings me to something that is rarely considered when camping but should be. Carry some spare parts and a repair kit for your tent when you’re out bush.

You wouldn’t venture up Cape York or the Birdsville Track without a spare wheel for your 4WD, a repair kit for your air bed, spare batteries for your torch, or a couple of extra tent pegs.

But, every day, people head bush without so much as a tube of Seam Seal in their camping kit. Depending on your tent, it’s advisable to carry at least a couple of spare pole sections, a length of shock cord, and maybe a ferrule.

If you have a fast-pitch tent like an Instant Up, Turbo, or Fast Frame Tourer, consider carrying a spare knuckle and hub.

Use a sleeve when out camping

A ferrule can come in handy if you snap a pole.

So, how do you fix a broken pole?

So, you’re home from your trip and have a broken pole to mend, or you’re still out there but have a pole section on hand, how do you fix it?

Keep in mind, this article is aimed at broken fibreglass tent poles. If you have aluminium poles many of these steps will be relevant but try and avoid cutting sections – buy a section that directly matches your tent.

Also, many lightweight alloy poles have screw-in spigots at the end, with a hook into which the shock cord loops, making it easy to replace a section without replacing the cord.

Here are some tools and supplies you will need:

  • Needle nose pliers/multi-tool
  • Spare shock cord
  • Spare pole section
  • Tape (sticky, gaffer, or duct)
  • Hacksaw
  • File
  • Wire for threading the cord (optional)

Shock cord and pole sections come in different sizes. Try to match these to what was originally used for your tent. Typically, shock cord is available in 2mm, 3mm, 6mm, and 8mm.

Pole sections come in 6.9mm, 7.5mm, 7.9mm, 8.5mm, 9mm, 10mm, 11mm, 12.5mm. Ideally, buy spares from the same manufacturer as your tent and that look as close to the existing sections as possible.

Here’s how to replace a broken section of pole and shock cord:

1. Cut off the knot at the end of the shock cord

It’s unlikely you’ll be able to unpick it. You may need to use some needle nose pliers to fish the knot out the end of the pole.

You have the option of just replacing the broken section and keeping the existing cord, but chances are it may be a bit too short now that you have cut it. So let’s assume you are replacing the entire shock cord. Shock cord is stretchy and when your pole assembly is set up it will be under tension. You’ll need a length of cord that is roughly 75% the length of the assembled pole. Keep this in mind when purchasing your cord.

2. Unthread the shock cord

But make sure you don’t lose track of the sequence of poles – some poles feature different sized and shaped sections.

3. Remove the broken section and prepare your new one

You may need to cut the section to size. Use the broken section as a guide. File the end to remove any rough edges – a jagged end could fray your shock cord meaning another repair.

You may need to cut the pole to size

Use the broken section to help cut the new section to the right length.

4. Time to replace the shock cord

Tie a knot or two at the end of the cord but leave a nice long tail/tag, this will make it easy to fish out the end of the pole next time.

Make sure the other end of the cord is nice and clean and free of fraying. If it’s a bit messy, snip a little off the end with a sharp knife or scissors or heat the end with a lighter and shape a point. This will make it easier to thread through the poles.

Melt the end to help with threading through the pole

Some recommend using a long metal rod or needle, or wire to help thread the shock cord through the pole. We don’t bother – the cord is pretty easy to thread.

Some tutorials suggest using a metal rod or piece of wire to help thread the cord through the poles. This can be helpful but isn’t necessary. Most shock cord has a degree of stiffness to it so once you’re started it will thread through rather easily. Let gravity help you too – hold the pole sections vertically and feed down. Once you have started, the cord will almost trickle down the rest of the way.

If you don’t have an excess of shock cord, you can tension as you go by doubling some cord back each section and tapping it to the shaft of the pole. That way, by the time you get to the last section of pole, you’ll have enough slack to work with. By doing this to the final section too, it’ll make typing that final knot easier.

Tensioning the shock cord

Tension, tape, and tie. Corey, our Warranty Manager’s, top tip for repairing a broken tent pole.

5. Undo the tape, double check the tension, and you’re done

Cut off any excess cord, remembering to leave a bit of a tag.

See, it wasn’t so difficult, was it? Remember, always carry some spare tent parts when you’re out and about. It could mean the difference between a ripper camping trip and one cut short.

Do you carry spare parts for your tent when you camp? If so, which parts?

About the writer...

Paul Goodsell

Hiker, bushwalker, tramper. Let’s just say Paul likes to get around by foot. When he’s not, it’s usually by bike. He’s usually found knocking out another section of the Heysen Trail, or hut bagging his way around the South Island of New Zealand.

Joined back in November, 2015

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