How To Fix A Tent Pole

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Written By Jay Clatworthy

Off Grid Camping contributor.

Tent Repairs - Everything You Need To Know

What is the purpose of tent poles?

Tent poles are used to form the frame of a tent. The poles are inserted into the tent pole sleeves and give the tent its shape. This keeps your tent stable and prevents the material from falling down. There are two types of tent poles:

Flexible – made from fiberglass, steel, or aluminum, the poles are connected by a cord which makes it possible to be folded for storage and reconnected when pitching tents. Flexible tent poles are used in camping tents.

Rigid – these are used in traditional tents like gazebos, trailer tents, or frame tents.

Different types of tent poles

Fiberglass tent poles

This type of tent pole is used in car camping and cabin-style tents. It is flexible and bends when faced with strong winds. 

  • Pros
    • Strong
      • Because of their flexibility fiberglass tent are quite strong.
    • Cheap
      • Fiberglass is cheap material to acquire which is the reason why it is used in the poles of the less expensive tents. If they break or splinter, spares can be found in the most outdoor equipment stores.
  • Cons
    • Not for cold weather
      • The enemy of fiberglass is cold temperatures. The material has poor cold conductivity and can crack or break in cold weather.
    • Can splinter
      • Fiberglass poles are prone to splintering if put under heavy pressure. If your tent has this type of pole make sure not to put it under heavy items or luggage.
    • Heavy
      • Fiberglass is solid and flexible but this also makes it heavy, which can be a drawback if you want to travel light.

Aluminum tent poles

Aluminum is one of the two most used materials for tent poles. It is used in mid-end to high-end tents, especially in lightweight and family-size tents.

  • Pros
    • Strong
      • Aluminum tent poles are known for their high strength to weight ratio. These poles can take on a lot of weight.
    • Light
      • Tent poles made of aluminum are light making them easy to carry
    • Flexible
      • As flexible as it is strong, aluminum has remarkable tensile strength and it can adjust as needed for any tent shape in almost any weather condition
  • Cons
    • Expensive
      • The good qualities of aluminum poles can drive tent prices up a bit.
    • Can rust
      • The problem with this type of tent pole is that they are prone to corrosion especially in salty winds.

Steel tent poles

Steel tent poles are strong and durable, which makes them suitable for car-camping tents and for tents that use heavy-duty fabrics like canvas.

  • Pros
    • Strong
      • Steel tent poles can withstand heavy weights on them. 
    • Cheap
      • Despite their strength and durability, steel tent poles cost a lot.
  • Cons
    • Can rust if it’s not stainless 
      • As with aluminum, steel tent poles are prone to rust especially when exposed to saltwater.
    • Need 2 people to set up
      • Steel tent poles are strong and durable but this also makes it really heavy. As a result, more than two people may be needed to pitch tents with steel poles.

Air beams

Air beams are utilised in inflatable tents. It is easy to set up, even with one person: an air pump is used to inflate air tubes sewn into the tent. There were some issues with the first versions of air beams as outside temperature affected the air inside the beams causing them to explode. This has since been corrected, and air beams are safe to use.

  • Pros
    • Strong
      • Air beams are easy to maintain and extremely tough
    • Flexible
      • Even in strong winds, air beams will bend and snap back into position
  • Cons
    • Expensive
      • Air beams are flexible, strong, and made of durable materials. This is reflected in the price.
    • Not easily Replaceable
      • Although some brands sell replacement air beams, repairs can be made through puncture kits.

What will happen if you use a broken tent pole?

Tent poles are the skeleton of the tent. As such, they provide structure and shape. If tent poles are broken, it could cause the tent to collapse. Always make sure to have spares or repair kits in case of broken tent poles.

How do you fix a tent pole?

Tent pole repair in the field

There may be times when your tent poles can get broken while you’re on a camping trip. You can use this method to repair broken tent poles:

  • Get a tent pole sleeve and duct tape. The sleeves are carried by most camping or outdoor stores.
  • Lay the tent pole flat and slide the sleeve over the damaged area
  • Use a duct tape to wrap each side of the sleeve

Check out the range of tent repair accessories available from Snowys.

Pole care and tips

Depending on their material, tent poles can be prone to breakage or corrosion. To make your tent poles last longer.

  • Don’t flick your poles out

Connect your poles properly when unpacking your tent.

  • Fold it in the right way

Fold your poles in the right places and make sure that the shockwave cord that connects the poles is not tangled.

  • Inspect the poles before using it

Before using your tent, it’s important to check every part. This includes your tent poles, check for damage, and check if the poles are in proper working condition.