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Trouble with Tent Poles

A few years ago, a friend and I decided we wanted to hike Half Dome in Yosemite National Park.  I found out the best way to get a permit for the hike was to apply for an overnight backcountry camping permit at Little Yosemite Valley.  This meant getting all the lightest gear, including a backpacking tent.  If you’ve ever seen one of those, you know that the poles are held together with cord – cord that can stretch, or worse, break! Depending on the tent, a broken pole can mean that you’re left with a very expensive wad of fabric that’s pretty useless. It can absolutely ruin your entire trip. Luckily, when I learned this lesson, I was able to put a knot in the cord to get through the night and continue on to Half Dome as planned.

Once I got home, I started looking into what it would take to fix the problem. I was worried that I would have to order a whole new set of tent poles – which was almost as expensive as buying a new tent! I’m glad I didn’t. After more research, I found out that you can actually replace the shock cord in your tent poles.  Here is how you do it. 

Step 1: You need to figure out the thickness of the shock cord you need.  I found 1/8” thickness to be about perfect.  A quarter inch was too big (ask me how I know LOL).  I ordered a 100’ roll of shock cord on a website and had it shipped to my house.

Step 2: Take one of the tent poles (only disassemble one at a time), unscrew the end piece from the pole and pull the end until the knot comes out from the end of the pole. 

Step 3: Pull the end piece off the shock cord and set it aside.  It has an opening that allows you to pull it off the shock cord. 

Step 4: Cut the shock cord near the knot and pull the sections of the tent pole off the shock cord.  Keep the sections in the same order as you pull them off the cord.  This is really important so the tent poles go back together in the same way.  Unscrew the second end from the pole and pull the shock cord all the way out.  Pull the second end off the sock cord and set it aside.

Step 5: Take the new shock cord and make a loop with a knot at the end.  Make sure the knot is really tight so it doesn’t come undone.  Stretch the loop out a little and put one end of the tent pole on the loop.

Step 6: Put all the pole sections together so you know how long to cut the shock cord.  Cut the shock cord a few inches longer than the entire tent pole. 

Step 7: Disassemble the tent pole and slide the free end of the shock cord through the first section. Pull the shock cord until the knot below the end is in the tent pole and screw the end back onto the tent pole. 

Step 8: Thread the free end of the shock cord through the next tent pole section.

Step 9: Continue doing this until all tent pole sections are threaded on the new shock cord.

Step 10: While keeping all tent pole sections together, pull the shock cord so there is a good amount of tension in the elastic. While holding on to the free end of the tensioned shock cord, make sure you can still pull the sections apart for stowing the poles but when assembling they will “pop” together. Once you find that balance, put a knot with a loop at the free end of the shock cord. Stretch the loop out and put the second end on the loop. There will be extra shock cord after knotting the loop. 

Step 11: Trim the extra off approximately one inch from the knot. Stretch the end piece away from the tent pole end and feed the cord and knot into the tent pole. Screw the second end onto the tent pole end. Now you have a fully functioning tent pole again.  I recommend repairing all tent poles at the same time if one is stretched out.  

Most important lesson I learned was to always check my tent poles when I am packing for a backpacking trip!

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