You’ve hiked all day to get here: your dream campsite. You can finally drop your heavy pack and start setting up camp.If you move swiftly, you’ll be enjoying dinner by the campfire just as the first star comes out.
Wait—what was that snap?
A broken tent pole is a painful, but relatively common camping mishap. Causes range from strong winds to poles weakened by age to cheap materials—and sometimes, it’s just plain old wear and tear.
If this happens to you, there’s no need to panic—you’ll just have to get a little crafty in order to make it through the night.
Carry a Repair Sleeve
Best-case scenario: you happen to have tossed the tent pole repair sleeve that came with your tent into your pack before you set out on your adventure. Few of us actually do this, so you may want to head to your local outdoors shop and pick one up. Think of it as a first aid kit for your gear. No repair sleeve? Read on.
Duct Tape, Duct Tape, and More Duct Tape
While repair sleeves may not be a commonly found item in a pack, odds are pretty good that someone in your group brought duct tape on the trip. Depending on where the pole snapped, you might be able to salvage a temporary fix by winding on the duct tape. The more, the stronger, so tape away.
Borrow From the Fly
If your tent comes with a fly, you may be able to get a little creative. For example, a vestibule is nice, but not a necessity—if you’ve got one, borrow its pole and see if it can configured to replace (or support) the broken pole. Alternatively, you might be able to get away with a saggy wall if you’ve got a solid fly to keep the elements out.
Seek Help From Mother Nature
If the pole snapped at a crucial point, look around camp for a strong and sturdy stick. You may be able to use it as a splint for your pole, with the help of some string or duct tape. If you go this route, you’ll likely have to get a little creative with clips and pole sleeves, since they aren’t built to accommodate sticks and branches—but this could give your tent the structural integrity it needs.
Alternatively, if you’re on a well-travelled trail or camping at a more popular spot, you may find an old can tossed aside somewhere. This is the only case where litter may be helpful. Use a multitool to cut the can and wrap the metal around the break in the tent pole. This will add some strength to your temporary repair—just add duct tape, and voila.
Make Do Without
If the pole is snapped and there doesn’t seem to be a way to fix it or substitute it with something else, you may need to sacrifice a little comfort. If your tent requires multiple poles, it might be possible to get away with setting up the tent without the broken pole. Sure, it might slump a little and make the inside less roomy, but it’ll work in a pinch.
Sleep Under the Stars
If you’ve got a more minimalist-style tent with only a few poles, and it’s proven impossible to fix it, it may be time to rethink your sleeping arrangements. You can still use your tent without poles: lay the tent material down to cover the ground, unroll your sleeping bag, and use the fly as a blanket to help keep some moisture out. Picture it as a sandwich: the tent and the fly are the bread on the outside, and you and your sleeping bag are the veggies and meat. It may not be the most comfortable, but hey—it’ll be a night you’ll never forget.
Upon your return to civilization, be sure to pick up a tent repair kit—these are all temporary fixes that will see you through a night or two, but you’ll want a more permanent solution for future camping trips.