Best Tent Poles
They’re the bones of our shelter in the outdoors and give a tent its shape, tension, and basic strength, but we rarely think beyond what we’re given. They’ll do the job, and aren’t as important as the waterproofness, space inside and how many lantern hooks you have, right?
A good quality tent or tarp pole can be anything from a lightweight alternative to your savior in a bending or breaking emergency. Whether you need to replace or fix your tent, or set up and all-important tarp shelter over the porch, you’ll need a strong pole, which fits with your other equipment, and holds up under pressure.
Go pole to pole with our range of picks and get to know what’s holding you up, or possibly bringing you down.
- Green Elephant
- Safety features
- Tex Sport
- Simple set
- Easy to use
10 Best Tent Poles
Between 80 and 99 inches. Be aware that if trekking, they will stick out of a 60 liter backpack as they pack down to around 29 inches.
The Kelty is strong, and can handle a large canopy in adverse conditions. It can handle hammocks, heavy tarps, clothes lines etc. Predictably, they work well with the Kelty Noah tarp.
Length can be varied by almost 20 inches using a push-button.
Uses a 2-inch grommet pin tip, which is relatively long and so creates a secure attachment. There are some sharp edges, but the ends have rounded rubber feet.
They’re the poles that fans buy again and again - a trusted go-to. They come with their own carrying case and hit all the bases. Although not the cheapest poles, it’s worth it, and they’re not so prohibitively expensive that you couldn’t buy a few.
Slightly longer when packed up
The poles come in a set of two, and weigh 17 oz each.
Aluminium alloy, which explains the light weight.
The poles pack down to around 31 inches, so will be slightly too large to be carried in a 60 liter backpack without sticking out.
The Green Elephants come in their own carry bag, and impressively have a rust-free guarantee. Each one can support more than 85 lbs! They don’t flex or bend, with no lateral movement when locked, holding an awning tarp for four days in fairly severe conditions.
They can get as tall as 7 feet 6 inches, and have three easy to use adjustment points and so three lengths, the smallest being their packed size of 31 inches, around 3 feet.
1.5 inch grommet pins and twist-lock adjustable points. One feature we like are the small plastic tip covers to prevent the grommet pins tearing fabrics when in use or not, as well as rounded rubber feet.
Green Elephant really care about their products, and about their customers if you make a purchase. These poles look great, hold weight, are super-tall and overall do the job. They’re also great value for money as a set of two.
Easy to use
Slightly longer packed size
Less than 1 lb for the whole kit.
Fiberglass and zinc-coated ferrules.
The set comes with four poles, each of around 25 inches each. Overall, there’s 7 feet 16 inches of replacement pole in the kit.
They work well, replacing poles on various brands of tent, and standing up to the challenge.
They’re not adjustable in and of themselves, but the relatively versatile length of 25 inches means that they’re a useful length for most repairs, but shouldn’t need to be cut too much if you need smaller pieces.
The kit comes with the poles, the ferrules, vinyl coated pole caps, grommet tips, 10 feet of elastic shock-cord and a 29 inch leader wire.
The Tex Sport set is everything you need, and at a very reasonable price.
Easy to use
No carry bag, just a packet
Just over half a pound each (set of two), which is lightweight and easy to carry.
7001 series aluminium. This is the highest yield strength before the pole bends or breaks, so these poles are stronger than they look!
They come in six lengths ranging from 11 feet 3 inches to 20 feet.
These poles are so strong and durable, some users actually replace the fiberglass poles which came with their tents. You can of course just use them as a repair kit, but if you’re confident of the measurements you need, they might enhance your existing tent and reduce the weight.
They’re not adjustable, but come in sections of 13.5 inches, so it’s unlikely you’ll need to cut them, just cut and rethread the cord through as many sections as you need.
Smooth connectors and shock-cord threaded through the poles.
These great replacement poles aren’t just for repairs, but are easy to use if you do need them for that, as they look and behave like traditional tent poles. They also come with a 12 month warranty.
Swap for existing tent poles
No carry bag
1.8 lbs for two, which makes them very reasonable to carry.
Folded and collapsed, the pole sections are just under 27 inches.
They’re strong and work with most structures, but we recommend a guyline to avoid bending. However, they do hold up well in a strong straight wind storm.
There are three sections, and aren’t adjustable, but when put together each measures 8.2 feet.
These poles use a twist bolt and screw to fasten each section, which is an unusual fixing method. The core is elastic paracord. They can be difficult to collapse after being used.
The Odolands are a good, standard pole, with a reassuring twist mechanism so you feel confident that you’ve secured them. There’s a carry bag too.
Twist and screw
Set of two
May bend without a guy line
Can be hard to collapse
1.5 lbs for the set of two, which is heavier than some.
Each section is around 25 inches.
Great support, holding up a tarp in eight hours of steady rain. The red also helps with visibility and safety on the campsite.
They’re not adjustable themselves, but the four lengths can be used alone or together to make up a full length of around 7.8 feet, in 25 inch sections.
Fix together with a spring-lock and push-button mechanism. There are grommet pins and rounded rubber feet for protection.
Although mid-range in price, they’re popular with fans and are a classic repeat buy. The Soomlooms are sturdy and come with their own storage bag.
Heavier than some
1.65 lbs for two
Powder-coated steel, which means it’s got a protective skin which is factory-applied and becomes integrated with the material.
They’re thin, at ¾ inch in diameter, and only 22.5 inches when collapsed, which make the Mountainsmiths some of our most compact poles.
As expected with this treated steel, they weathered heavy rain and thunderstorms with no problem. The inner shock cord is also steel-woven.
They’re collapsible not adjustable. The four just over 20 inch poles can be put together to reach 6.8 feet.
They fix into each other in overlapping sections. This is a bonus on some push-button models which can weaken and fail over time.
Mountainsmith’s hallmark is durability, and that’s what these poles are all about. They’re mid-range in price, but for a strong set of two it’s worth it. They also come with a stylish carry bag.
Heavier than some
1 lbs for two.
Aluminium alloy resistant to corrosion.
Each of the 11 sections are 15.7 inches each, so pack up to be very small. The diameter is also only 0.3 inches.
As well as the corrosion-resistant material, the lightweight and versatility means that they can replace your existing poles if you’re looking for a lighter weight overall. The shorter pieces also mean that they’re not as vulnerable in the wind as one long piece can be.
They’re adjustable in length by sawing or cutting the poles and bungee cord. Otherwise, they collapse easily like a regular tent pole. Completely extended, the poles reach 13.3 feet.
The joins are covered joins, to which an anodizing process has been applied for smoothness.
These poles have a supreme overall length and so will work with a lot of sizes of tent if you do want to completely replace your poles. In general they would work for a 3-4 person tent. They’re super-thin yet strong and lightweight for carrying.
Very long overall length
Lots of sections to keep organized
Each pole piece weigh 1.4 oz, so overall they’re nothing to carry as a four.
Aluminium alloy, which contributes to the low weight.
Each piece is just under six inches long and 0.43 inches in diameter. As they are designed to slip over but fix securely around your poles to work properly, check all your measurements carefully to make sure they’ll be effective.
They work perfectly for their purpose, repairing poles for the long term, not necessarily just a quick fix until you can replace the pole entirely or find a permanent solution.
Not designed to be adjustable, and at their short length, they shouldn’t need to be cut down. They’re thin enough that you could without too much trouble, but beware of compromising the support provided to the original pole; a small link could put pressure on the join and make it vulnerable.
They work pretty simply as hollow tubes which slip over the two ends of your broken poles to connect them again.
The TRIWONDER kit is cheap, compact and easy to take on a long journey. If you need a fix and don’t want to be measuring and cutting, this four pack is ready when you need it. We thought it was a worth inclusion in our list as an alternative to tent poles.
Very good value
Sizes must be checked carefully
Three sizes of 1lb 9 oz, 2 lb 3 oz or 2 lb 6 oz each - so they’re certainly heavier than most.
The Snow Peaks range from 6 feet 11 inches to 9 feet 2 inches, so begin to justify that weight as great sized poles.
They worked well and held up a 12 x 12 feet tarp in a strong wind.
Depending on the overall length, each pole has four sections. They’re not adjustable but are modular in that they can be used in up to three lengths.
A classic push-button, with a rubber foot on the base pole and grommet pin on the top one.
A sturdy, well-made, tall pole which does the job. They are our most expensive pick, but Snow Peak are a brand worth the money.
Long in length
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Tent and tarp poles broadly perform two basic functions – replacing the structure of an existing tent, or creating a new one. Within that, replacement pieces can be there to repair breaks in the original poles or replace them entirely. Foldable, standalone poles can be used to support a tarp, awning or porch roof on their own. Unfortunately, you can’t use them interchangeably because they have quite different characteristics.
Replacement tent poles or pieces tend to be narrower and thinner. They also have an elastic cord running through them to allow the pieces to be pulled apart and collapse but remain tied together and strong. Usually, the fixings between the sections aren’t more than a smooth covering, overlapping two sections and eventually creating a complete length when all the pieces have been joined. These poles are more flexible, as they need to bend to the shape of a tent and pull the walls taut. Some campers buy a set of new tent poles to replace those that came with their tent, even if it is new, just to make it stronger and lighter.
If using tent poles to repair broken sections, you’ll need to measure how much length you need, pull the poles apart, cut the central cords, attached to the original pole’s cord, rethread and then attach at the other end. This section has now been repaired by the new piece of the pole. You may need to cut the piece further if it’s too long using a saw. Whatever you do, make sure you have carefully measured the original and new piece and not just the length, but the diameter of the tube and thickness of the metal as well. Luckily, many kits will include a piece of wire so that you can keep the cord pulled through and don’t lose it when you’re rethreading the pole pieces.
The other type of pole is a fixed, standalone pole which is used to hold up a non-enclosed, less permanent structure like a tarp roof or porch. These poles can have sections as well, but they’re either telescopic or in separate pieces which are fixed together. The main thing here is that the poles should be securely fastened at each section and placed on solid ground. The other thing to look out for is the style of the end. Most of these poles have a pin end to fit in a grommet, or ring in a tarp or tent, but sometimes they’ll have a hollow end for clipping onto a notch. They may also feature a rounded rubber foot to provide a solid surface and cover sharp ends.
When it comes to a tarp for your structure, there isn’t much variation, your main concern will be size. Tarp, or Tarpaulin, is a piece of canvas or polyester, often coated with polyurethane, or a piece of polyethylene plastic. The next important thing for camping use is that the corners have reinforced grommet holes for securely attaching to your tent poles. As well as poles, these grommets can also be threaded with guy ropes and attached to hooks for extra tension and sturdiness. This is particularly important in the rain so that water doesn’t pool and add weight to your structure. Tarp is cheap and durable, so along with the right poles, is a viable option for creating an extra structure.
Much of the importance of size will depend on the function of your tent poles. If they’re for replacing and fixing, they’ll need to fit your existing tent or poles. They come in a wide variety of materials and sizes, so do make sure you check this carefully. If you’re using the poles for a porch or awning, you’ll also need to make sure that the poles extend to the right height to be useful, especially if you’re planning to stand at full height underneath your structure.
The other consideration when it comes to size is how the poles can be packed. Whether telescopic or collapsible, all poles will start out or fold into a smaller size. This is really worth checking, and perhaps even comparing and testing, especially if you’re planning to backpack or trek with your poles. Whatever you’re using them for, ensure that when compacted, the poles will fit where you need them to. Most of camping is about traveling, so the poles need to be able to transport well.
While most original or provided tent poles are made of fiberglass, most replacement pieces and separate tarp poles are made of aluminum or steel. Fiberglass is strong but heavy and can break under pressure. It can also be hard to fix. However, an aluminum replacement piece can be slotted in to replace a broken fiberglass section, whilst leaving the rest of the pole as fiberglass – there’s no need to match the material, just the length, and dimensions.
Aluminum or aluminum alloy is light yet strong. High-end dome and lightweight hiking tents have flexible alloy poles. Not only are they lighter, but more reliable than fiberglass. These can’t really be fixed when they break, but it’s easy to replace a section, as with fiberglass poles.
Steel is heavy but durable. If anything, you’re more likely to see freestanding solo structures featuring steel poles. It’s usually cheaper and can take more of a battering.
Weight is often an important issue when considering camping gear. Weight is related to material in that steel is heavier than aluminum as mentioned, and fiberglass is midweight to heavy.
Weight may or may not have a bearing on your decision. If you know that you need to carry your gear for a while, you might want to bring the lightest possible repair or replacement poles. It’s also unlikely that you’ll be carrying freestanding poles, so don’t need to worry about weight there. If you’re only worried about repairs, why not consider small, short replacement tubes. They slip over two ends of a section and join them – no cutting or rethreading needed. Some weight-conscious travelers may even replace all the poles of their tent for lighter aluminum ones when they’re not broken.
Fixing and fastenings are most important on free-standing poles. Tent poles, by design, need to be flexible, so typically have a piece of smooth metal or a tube which covers the join of two ends of a pole to connect them, but doesn’t extend far down them to retain their movement. A tarp or standalone pole needs to lock fairly straight in order to support the weight.
Some poles are telescopic, although this is less common. This means that they remain one unit, and the length simply extends out of the base. Sometimes you can adjust this by not extending the pole fully and fixing it in place. Mostly, these poles come in pieces and are slotted together and then fastened. A push-button fastening is common, but these can weaken over time, or be difficult to click fully. Another type is a knob that screws the sections together. This can be reassuring as you can control the tightness. A twist and lock mechanism is more usual with telescopic poles as they are wrap around the outside and control the extension of the pole in sections.
The fastening method isn’t the most important feature to consider, and it’s unlikely it will be the deciding factor. You’re much more likely to go for the material, weight and variable length, with the fixings only really important if you know you need something extra-tough.
Q: What should I use to cut a tent pole?
A small hacksaw should be enough to get through most poles. It’s really important to only use a saw if you know how and have a safe and sturdy surface. You might also like to get someone to help you if you’re less experienced. If you need to carry a saw with you for repairs on the road, ensure that you store it carefully. When cutting poles, measure and double check the lengths you need as you can’t uncut them! If you’re not confident cutting poles, go for one piece repair joints or smaller lengths.
Q: How can I tell what type of pole ends I need?
Check the poles that came with your tent. If the end has a pin of around 1-2 inches on the end and your tent or tarp corners have metal holes or eyelets, you’ve got what are called grommets, and you need a pole which fits into these. If your poles are hollow, they’ll likely clip onto small pins which stick out of the tarp or tent. Be aware of this as poles are not universal.
Q: Can I repair a bent pole?
For the time and effort involved, it’s not advisable. Replacement poles and repair kits are relatively cost-effective. Furthermore, trying to bend a pole back could weaken it considerably or even make it snap. Unfortunately, once it’s bent, it’s likely unusable. Research your options and decide whether a whole pole is worth it, or whether you’re confident to measure, cut and replace pieces.
Q: How should I store my poles?
You can look after your original poles by laying them flat to reduce the strain and them vertically. Keep them together in their carry case if possible, and bound around the middle. This is especially important if your poles are corded, so the elastic isn’t stretched or twisted.
Q: How do I know how much or how large a weight my poles can take?
Test them! Really though, the manufacturer’s instructions may advise you on the weight capacity. Most poles should be able to support a porch or tarp, it’s really about creating enough tension to support the structure, but not so much that the poles will wobble or bend. You also want to avoid sagging in the middle, as collected water could increase the weight and pressure. As a guide poles hold up tent plastic, fabric-like material, which are relatively light, so they’re not for holding up wood or heavier material. Make sure they’re carefully fixed together, secured to the tent, and on a solid, even surface and they should be able to support most tents and tarps.
Q: What’s the best material for a tent pole?
There is no best material, really, it’s about what you’re able or willing to carry. Aluminum is the lightest material, with steel being the strongest yet heaviest. Many poles are now made of aluminum alloys for added strength yet lightness. What’s better is if there is a rust-proofing or anti-corrosion treatment as the poles will spend a lot of time outside in the elements. However, most poles are durable enough to withstand the weather. Incidentally, most provided tent poles are made of fiberglass, but replacement poles are usually aluminum or steel.
When considering tent or tarp poles, the main thing to think about is what you need them for and how confident you are in getting stuck into some (temporary) home improvements!
If you need to support a tarp or awning, go for something which has the length or lengths you need, and has the right attachment mechanism. Really crucially do think about the level and method of adjustability that you want. It’s unlikely that you’ll be worried about the weight, as backpackers aren’t usually bothered with these extra structures.
Otherwise, if you are replacing or repairing your poles, as well as taking some instruction on how to do this, think about whether you want to take a few sections in case of breakages, or just replace all of your poles right off the bat. Consider the weight and safety of bringing a saw, and most importantly carefully measure original and new poles to ensure that they are a match.
Carrying extra and replacement poles doesn’t have to be only for the hardcore. With a bit of research and a few checks of your equipment, you too can be a structural expert.