How to replace shock cord in tent poles

Have you ever had that loosey, goosey feeling? The one where your tent poles don’t automatically want to snap together, standing to attention like skinny, lightweight soldiers on parade? If you’ve had your tent for a while and it’s been on lots of adventures, sooner or later, you’re going to want to know how to replace shock cord in tent poles.

YouTube video
Watch the step by step video here

The great news is that replacing the shock cord in your tent poles isn’t hard to do. In fact, it’s part craft project, part jigsaw puzzle.

Here’s how I went about replacing the shock cord in my Macpac Sololight tent.

You will need:

  • Replacement shock cord (try your local hardware shop, marine store, eBay/Amazon or your tent manufacturer)
  • Scissors
  • Tape (sticky, gaffer, masking, duct)
  • Sharpie
image of tent pole shock cord that is damaged and needs replacing
This old shock cord had lost its stretch and on inspection, had these solid sections of damage where the cord appeared to be fused to itself.

Step 1 : Remove the old shock cord

The way to access and remove the cord may be different for each type of tent. Mine had a simple screw top fitting at each end. Alternative, simply cut the cord and slide it out.

how to replace shock cord in tent poles step 1

Step 2 : Keep the poles in order and number them

Those smart folk who design our tents may have a particular order that poles need to be kept in to ensure the tent retains its correct shape. For that reason, number your poles so you can easily fit them back together again… just like cheating on a jigsaw puzzle.

Use sharpie to number your tent poles for replacing shock cord

Step 3 : Tie a knot in one end and secure

It may be helpful to take note of how the manufacturer had secured the end knot, so you can recreate it. Trim off any excess behind the knot.

Tie a knot in one end of the shock cord before feeding through

Step 4: Start feeding through your cord

Move to the other end of the cord and start gently feeding it through the number 1 tent pole, pulling through to the lug and securing it firmly in place.

replacing shock cord in tent poles

Step 5 : Continue threading poles in order

Now, it’s simply a matter of threading the cord through the poles in order, checking that you’re starting with the right ‘end’ so that they fit together.

Step 6 : Apply tension and hold in place

As you get towards the end, the elastic shock cord will need to have some tension applied to allow it to reach through to the end. You’ll need to add some tape to hold it in place whilst you continue threading the last pole.

use tape to secure shock cord in tent pole whilst adding tension

Step 7 : Test the tension

Before you tie everything off at the end, test the tension by bending your poles into the approximate shape of your tent frame.

Step 8 : Tie a knot in the end and secure

Tie a knot in the end and secure it to the end lug. Feed the knot and lug into the end of the pole and lock in place.

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