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Fibreglass Tent Pole Repair guide

This article is to explain how to check and repair broken Fibreglass pole-work on modern tents and lightweight awnings. As you will see, even if you don't think you've got broken sections, it's a good idea to check your poles at the beginning of the season as there can be fractures which are hard to see.

It's better to find out about them before you set of than have the pole fall apart as you try to pitch your tent.

Recommended Kit

  • Junior hacksaw
  • Sandpaper (180g to 200g is best)
  • Tape measure
  • Replacement Fibreglass sections
  • Replacement Shockcord (elastic)
  • Electrical tape or Permanent marker

Latex or rubber gloves and a vernier calliper if you have one are a good idea but not required

Terms & Jargon

What we mean when we say certain things in this article.

  • Pole Section - A single fibreglass section usually with a metal sleeve at one or both ends
  • Complete pole - One complete tent pole made up of several fibreglass sections with a length of elastic running through the middle
  • Ferrule - The metal sleeve at the end of a fibreglass pole section
  • Shockcord - the elastic "string" which runs through a complete pole and holds the pole sections together
  • Spiggot - A metal fitting that goes on the end of some tent poles so they can fit in to an eyelet. An alternative to the more common ring and pin system
Checking for damage

Check each complete pole one at a time and mark each damaged section as you find it so you know where you're up to. Hold the bundle of poles up to the light and look down the ends to check for cracks. Some cracks can be small and hard to see but will fracture next time you bend the pole to fit to your tent. Don't forget to move the string aside to check the whole of each section.

Turn the bundle over and check the other ends.

Next, lay the pole out and connect it together as though your were going to erect your tent. Check along the length of each section for cracks and pull the sections apart to check the shockcord (elastic) underneath for fraying. It might snap as you try and put your tent up making it very hard to thread the pole through the tent sleeve.

Mark each damaged section with electrical tape or marker pen on the metal sleeve (ferrule) as you find them so you can easily keep track of which ones need replacing and don't need to find them again later as you fit the new sections.

Cutting new sections

Each individual section on a fibreglass tent pole consists of a fibreglass rod with a metal sleeve on one or both ends. When you buy new sections they will be too long and will need cutting to length to match the sections they are replacing.

Cut sections and fit them for one complete pole at a time before moving on to the next. this means you don't pile up a load of cut fibreglass sections and can't remember which pole each one goes on.

Your new fibreglass sections might have a different length metal sleeve to your originals. To ensure your finished, repaired pole is the same length as the original;

  • When cutting sections from the end of the pole - Place the new and old sections next to each other and match the ends of the metal sleeves. Then cut to the same overall length
  • When cutting mid-sections from the pole - Lay the new and old sections next to each other and line up the small dimples in the metal sleeve. Then cut. this ensure the overall length of the fibreglass is the same.

It's a good idea to wear gloves when cutting fibreglass to avoid getting splinters and dust in your skin.

When cutting the section to length, always cut towards the centre to avoid splintering the edge when you cut through. Cut part way through the pole, then turn it and cut part way. Repeat until you cut right through.

Fitting the new sections

Once you've cut all the replacement sections for one pole, fit them before moving on to the next pole. This saves building up a pile of cut sections where you don't know which pole each one goes on.

Before undoing the pole count the sections, measure the overall length and make a note of both so you can check the repaired pole is right before packing it away.

Remove the knot from the end of the pole - Sometimes the pole end can be stuffed with dirt so dig this out first. You might find you can just push the knot out from the other end of the section, otherwise, pull it out with needle nose pliers or a wire rod through the pole.

Next, cut the knot off the end of the elastic and un-thread the broken sections. If replacing the shockcord because it's frayed remove all sections. Tie a knot in one end of the new cord and push it through the sections. If you have an end section with 2 metal sleeves thread this section first as it makes it easier to thread all the other sections afterwards.

Once all the poles are in place, connect them together, pull the shockcord to remove the slack, then pull a little more to put some tension in the elastic. There is no exact amount to pull through - just enough to hold the sections together when you're putting your tent up.

Tie a knot in the end of the shockcord and cut off any excess. Now count the sections and measure the overall length and make sure it matches what you wrote down before packing the pole away.

Now repeat the above steps for cutting and fitting for each complete pole you have with damaged sections.

Buying replacement poles - Getting the right size

When buying replacement pole sections for tent pole repair you need to work out what length and diameter sections you need. If you're buying from a shop take your old pole-work with you. The staff should be able to tell you what size you need.

If you're ordering online you'll need to measure the sizes yourself. You need to get sections of the right diameter and which are too long and then cut them down to length. To work out the diameter you need you can use a vernier calliper if you have one, or, a tape measure if not.

To measure with a tape measure you need to remove a section from your pole, lay a tape measure or ruler on a table and put the section, end down, on to the tape measure. Now read the diameter. Trying to measure the diameter by holding the tape up to the pole is nearly impossible to do accurately.

Measure the diameter of the fibreglass - not the metal sleeve.

The sizes used on most tents are 7.9mm, 8.5mm, 9.5mm, 11.2mm and 12.7mm. There are occasionally sizes below this for very small poles but there are no sizes in between. Check your tape measure, the smallest number of mm you can see will be the size above what you need (e.g. if you can see 9mm, but not 8mm - your pole will be 8.5mm diameter).

For the very small sizes of pole less than 7.9mm replacement sections are not stocked. These will need to ordered from the tent manufacturer.

Some larger tents occasionally use 16mm diameter poles. Again, these are very rare, Call us if you need these sections as we sometimes carry stock.

At Camperlands we have a fully equipped workshop and can carry out fibreglass and alloy pole repairs for you. If you would prefer us to perform the repair, you can either bring the pole in to the shop, or book a repair through our website on our pole repair page.

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