Bent camping tents poles are one of the most common issues one has to deal with when he goes camping. Personally, I only had to deal with the problem once, although it had its impact and undoubtedly compromised my confidence in building a sustainable campsite. Before I began writing this article, I did have a few ideas in mind for a solution; however, they most certainly weren’t enough. After researching that topic little deeper, I learned some interesting ways on how to straighten a bent tent pole – allow me to share it all with you.
You can straighten a bent tent pole by using a tube straightener, a rubber mallet or the Mighty Mite Bender. If you wish to stick to cheaper solutions, you might as well try the sand-filling technique which will allow you to unbend the pole without breaking it.
If none of these had worked, I suggest that you get yourself a new one – although there are several things you have to take into account first – I will explain them later on in this article.
The first method I will discuss is probably the most effective, although it is a bit expensive and won’t be cost-effective for single use.
Tube straighteners have been on the market for a long time by now, and frankly, they do a great job with bent tent poles.
I’ve personally used this once when I visited relatives, and they happened to have it. If you have some handyman friends – ask them if they have it, you may be surprised.
Also, it is a useful tool for plumbers – don’t be shy and ask the one you know. If you are determined and wish to buy one – take into account that they cost around 100$.
Nevertheless, if bent poles or pipes is something you have to deal with regularly – don’t hesitate to get one of these to your garage.
The Sand Fill Method
I have never used that technique before; however, I am so thankful I came across it in my little research – the principle behind it is brilliant.
When you bend hollow pipes (like tent poles) – there is a good chance they will give up and break. That is because you weaken the bonds between its particles when you apply significant pressure on it.
Well, the sand fill method overcomes the issue.
- Pour sand inside the pole until it is entirely full – do not compromise on that – it has to be complete.
- Apply duct tape on the top, so the sand stays in place and doesn’t slip outside.
- Bend your pole to the opposite direction of the curve – you may use something for contra, a large rock for example.
The idea is that the small sand particles support the pole, so it doesn’t collapse on itself and break down, so you may bend it almost to its original shape.
Try Rubber Mallet
Have you seen these old movies in which crafters used a burning metal and a hammer to change the shape of metal? Well, there is a logic behind it, since when you heat the pole it becomes more elastic and there are fewer chances it would break.
Still, burning it to high temperatures may be difficult and when handled wrong – may ruin the pole entirely. Nevertheless, if you feel like you know what you are doing and have nothing to lose – I suggest that you give it a try.
To heat the pole, you may use a butane torch or perhaps even the burner in your kitchen. Then, place the pole above a flat platform and hit it with a rubber mallet until its shape begins to change to the original one.
That technique is quite primitive, although it might do the trick if you wish to use materials which you probably have at home.
Still, take into account that it is quite dangerous – make sure you wear some oven gloves and that there are no small children nearby.
The Mighty Mite Bender
I will say that in the beginning – if you don’t have one at home (or know someone who does), there is no reason for you to buy the mighty mite bender.
That is because it is entirely not cost effective for a single use since it is significantly expensive. However, if you by any chance own one – it would be wise to use it.
In opposed to the tube straightener, with the Mite Bender, you’ve got to use some force to bend the curve to the opposite direction.
Its primary purpose is to turn pipes which are already straight, although several forum comments have mentioned that it could work the other way around.
I wouldn’t elaborate too much about that product since I guess it wouldn’t be your way to go if you do not own it (although I will give you here an excellent video that shows how to use it right).
Just Leave it
Many times we worry that a bend in our tent pole would take down our tent in the middle of the camping adventure. From personal experience, I can tell you with no doubts that shelters could hold impressively even with bent poles.
Whether your tent would stick or not depends on how bad the curve is and what are going to be the weather conditions.
If the bend doesn’t affect the pitch process, which means that the length of the pole hasn’t changed much and the tent doesn’t stand on a severe angle – it will be okay.
Still, that wouldn’t be the case if it affects the tent shape and you are facing some strong winds. Even though, you may use ropes and some knots to strengthen the tent structure.
In fact, I’ve dedicated a whole article to describe you 15 efficient camping knots that would make all the difference when you go outdoors and planning on building a campsite.
Get a New One
The title to this article talks about straightening a bent tent pole, so advising you on buying a new one would be cheating. Nevertheless, I believe that this solution is the best way to go when the curve in your pole is severe.
Later on, I will explain to you why bending it back to its original shape may weaken its structure, so you will understand why I prefer this option.
When you are ready to buy a new one, there are some principles you have to follow, so you end up with the desired piece.
- First, make sure that the new tent pole belongs to the same brand as your existing tent – that would ensure that the new one is in the same length and diameter as the old one.
- Second, you should go over the pitching instructions and make sure that they are accurate and don’t have any mistakes in them (you may compare them to those on the internet).
If they do, I suggest that you take a picture of them along with the bent pole and send it online to the manufacturer complaint center.
By doing so, there is a good chance you will get a new one while still owning the bent pole which could serve as an alternative in the future.
Will Bending The Pole Make it Weaker?
Remember when I said that I prefer getting a new tent pole instead of bending it back? Well, that is because turning metal makes it weaker due to the metal fatigue process.
When you are trying to fix the curve while the metal is in solid shape, what happens is that you stretch the outer layers while compressing the inner ones.
As a result of this, the bonds between the metal particles break and you end up with a weaker pipe with small cracks in it.
Although, that isn’t the case when you heat the metal and reshape it with a mallet. When you increase the temperature, you deliberately break down these bonds so they can reform in a unified way – keeping the metal’s strength.
What Makes Tent Poles Bend?
Let’s say you’ve dealt with the bent pole and now trying to do everything you can to avoid that issue in the future. Allow me to present you with three scenarios in which that happened to me – maybe you can learn from my bad experience.
Stored Inside The Backpack
When taking a hike or going camping, there is this ongoing hesitation – should I hang my tent outside or perhaps put it inside my backpack?
Well, I suggest that you at least attach the poles out, since they can easily bend when placed inside, especially at the bottom.
There are countless ways to improvise this, so I guess it wouldn’t be too much a problem. Still, you should also make sure to pack them together tightly, so they don’t fall off while you are hiking.
Too Strong Winds
The second scenario that happened to me is when I was camping in open fields while I knew some strong winds are about to come.
Let’s say that bent poles weren’t the only issue I had that night, although it did have a significant impact on the following days. When you are facing some strong winds and harsh weather conditions – make sure that you are covered with shelter.
My favorite way to protect my tent is by hanging a tarp over my tent – I highly recommend that you read my article about it, I’ve dedicated half a day to gather you all the reasons why that might be a good idea.
Choosing a Bad Storage Spot at Home
The first time I stored my tent, I put it in the garage under some heavy tools. That was a horrible mistake since its poles lost their shape and the canvas got damp and developed mold.
When you store your tent, make sure that there is no heavy gear above it and that you place it in a dry spot – perhaps a room’s closet or attic. If by any chance your tent developed mold, please read my article regarding 15 different ways on how to get rid of it.
How to Repair a Broken Tent Pole?
Let’s say that you’ve followed one of my suggestion on how to straighten a bent tent pole, although by accident you’ve broken it. Well, you shouldn’t give up so easily on it, since there are several techniques which will allow you to fix it.
My favorite one, which is also recommended by REI, is using a repair sleeve which usually comes with your tent. If it hasn’t, you might as well buy a new one in the closest store – it may also be handy in the future if you are stuck with a broken pole.
Another way to do so is by using one of the tents stakes – many times there are spares in your kit (although this method is less stable).
- Straighten both broken parts as much as possible, so they are on the same line
- Feed the broken area inside the sleeve
- Wrap both sides of the sleeve with a sufficient amount of duct tape
How to Repair a Tent Pole Sleeve?
Most modern tents don’t feature one long pole – instead, they are made of several sleeves that feed each other through an elastic cord.
I’ve explained above how to repair the body of a broken pole, although many times the case is that the sleeve breaks on its end.
If that happened to you, you probably know that until you fix it, you cannot use the rest of the pole – it becomes useless.
From my experience, the best way to fix it is merely to cut the broken edge with a pipe cutter. If you do it right and remove the pole distally to the thicker transition area, the new side would feed into the sleeve instead of the broken one.
A bent tent pole is an annoying issue which many times prevents us from building a stable shelter. There are ways to straighten the pole, although you should take into account that it wouldn’t be the same once you are done, mainly due to the metal fatigue phenomenon.
Also, there are some cases in which you may still use the pole as it is – especially when it hasn’t significantly shortened and your shelter doesn’t feature a wide angle.
Whether you’ve decided to fix it or get yourself a new one, you should know what to avoid, so the issue doesn’t reoccur.
Do not store the poles inside your backpack, for instance; your gear would apply pressure and most likely damage them. If you by accidentally broke it, you may try using a sleeve or a spare stake to regain its firm structure.
I hope my article answered your questions and pointed you in the right direction. If you have any hesitations or new ideas, let me know all about them by leaving a comment below!