How to Fix Tent Poles: Tent Pole Replacement & Repair

There’s nothing that can stop a camping trip in its tracks quite so fast as when your tent poles are on the fritz. Whether you need to replace the shock cord or one of your poles breaks when you’re out on the road, it’s critical to understand the basics of tent pole replacement so you can tend to the issue immediately.

Tent poles are the support system for your tent structure and serve to keep the shelter upright and sturdily in place. If a pole snaps, bends, or breaks, you could notice the tent begin to flap or sway, and in some cases, collapse completely.

First, we’re going to walk you through the step-by-step process of how to fix a tent pole. Next, we’ll teach you how to replace a shock cord in the event of damage so you can secure your structure and get it back in sturdy condition as soon as possible.

How to repair tent poles

A tent pole can break for an array of reasons, from someone stepping on it to gale-force winds that are just too much for the structure to withstand. Whatever the case may be, you need to attend to the broken tent pole without delay when you’re out at the campsite. When you get home, you can always seek professional help for replacement tent poles or any additional repairs the shelter may require.

When it comes to tent pole replacement, you have a couple of different options. First, you can opt to use a tent stake to splint the pole, and second, you can repair it with a pole sleeve.

The tent stake splint method

If you don’t have the pole repair sleeve that likely came with your tent when you purchased it, you can still make temporary repairs as needed to splint the pole until you get back home again.

  • Start by aligning the sections of the pole that broke. If the pole didn’t actually break but bent instead, you can gently straighten the pole.
  • Next, line up the stake against the pole so that it lies next to the center of the piece alongside the area of breakage.
  • Take your trusty duct tape or any other sturdy tape you have with you, and tear off two long pieces.
  • Wrap a length of tape several times around each end of the stake, binding the stake and pole together. 

When you’ve finished, the stake will function as a temporary splint for the pole so you can stabilize your shelter in the field.

The pole repair sleeve method

The swiftest and simplest way to fix tent poles is with the repair sleeve that should have come included with your tent when you first bought it. The pole repair sleeve, also known as a splint, is an essential piece to carry with you on the road in case you ever have a broken pole on your hands.

If your camping tent didn’t come with a repair sleeve, go out and buy one to bring on your camping trips, just in case. The best repair sleeves are a little larger than the pole to avoid slippage.

  • Start by aligning the sections of the broken pole. Again, if the pole only bent but didn’t make a clean break, just carefully straighten out the pole as best you can.
  • Insert the end of the pole into the sleeve, so the sleeve is positioned right above the break or bend. You may have to grab a pair of pliers to straighten the pole as needed, so the sleeve goes on with ease.
  • Once the sleeve firmly encases the area of breakage or bending, use duct tape or similar to wrap each end of the sleeve and pole together several times.
  • If the break location is where one pole meets the other pole, you will need to use the sleeve to splint both poles together. Just know that the poles won’t fold up as usual when you break down the shelter later. 

How to replace a broken shock cord

In order to replace a broken shock cord, you will require the following items:

  • A multi-tool or needle nose pliers
  • Replacement shock cord
  • File
  • Wire to thread the cod (this is optional)

Here’s the quick, step-by-guide to shock cord replacement.

1. Cut the shock cord knot

Start by cutting the knot at the end of the cord. You can try to unpick the knot, but you probably won’t be able to. Use the pliers to grab the knot out from the pole if needed.

The shock cord stretches, and once the tent pole is reassembled as normal, the cord will go taut. So, your replacement cord needs to be at least ¾ of the length of the fully assembled tent pole. 

2. Unthread the cord

Next, you will need to unthread your shock cord. Pay close attention to the pole sequence for your structure to ensure you don’t mix any sections up when you reassemble later on.

3. Replacing the shock cord

To replace the cord, start by tying a knot at the end of the new cord. Be careful to leave some extra cord trailing behind the knot so you can take it out of the pole with greater ease if you have to replace it again.

Be sure that the cord ends aren’t frayed, and snip off any frays as needed to ensure you have an easier time threading the cord inside the tent poles.

You can use a piece of wire if you wish to thread the new shock cord inside the poles, but this is completely optional. Since the thread is somewhat stiff, once you get it inside the pole, the rest of the threading process will move right along.

4. Check the cord tension one last time

Finally, once you’ve threaded the shock cord through the last pole section, make sure the cord is sufficiently taut. Snip off any excess shock cord sticking outside the pole, leaving a tiny portion of the tag for wiggle room.