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DIY Wood Center Pole For Bell Tent | Strengthening Your Pole

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Bell tent center poles provide the primary structural support for keeping your canvas shelter upright and stable.  The pole can also be functionally used to hang lighting, decorations or clothing.   

When the canvas is dry, the center pole can easily handle the weight of the 80 – 100 lbs. of canvas that it supports.  The pole will also not have a problem handling the weight of rain-soaked canvas either.  But expecting the center pole to handle the added weight of snowfall, or excessive rain + wind, may be setting expectations a bit too high for these portable devices.  Just a couple of inches of snow can add 2000 lbs of weight to your canvas – creating a force that will put excessive force on your center pole that could cause it to fail if not maintained and left unattended.

To ease your mind when snow or storms roll through, you could consider strengthening the support system of the center pole within your bell tent.  This could be done for under $100 by:

  1. Wrapping manila rope around the full length of your center pole.
    We can't quantify the increased strength that this will provide to your pole, but it should help to some level - plus it looks really great!
    rope wrapped around bell tent center pole
  2. Add a second center pole to your bell tent
    Two Poles are better than one.  However you will need to make sure that these two poles are perfectly centered on the center ceiling cap and are placed as close to one another as possible.  
  3. Create a DIY wood center pole (The Best Option)
    bell tent wood center pole made with 4x4 post

Creating A DIY Wood Center Pole

Not only will creating a center pole out of thick wood help to add strength, but it will also look great and can be used for adding multiple hooks for storage. One special note to consider; this pole won't flex and break from too much load - thus if enough heavy stuff is on the canvas, this sturdy pole could puncture through your ceiling.  So maintenance is still suggested. 

We’d suggest using a 4” x 4” post for this project.  These can be purchased at most hardware stores in lengths of 10 feet or 12 feet, for under $50.  Measure your existing pole to see what length you will need.

Supply Checklist:

  • 4”x4” Wood Post
  • 4x4 post cap (like this to protect the floor during install)
  • Saw
  • Electric sander
  • Bucket or 5 Gallon jug
  • Coffee Mug / Canning Jar
  • Pair of Saw Horses
  • Duct tape (optional)
  • Marker / Pencil

The Process:

  1. Measure your existing center pole and mark the length on the 4x4 post
  2. Cut the 4x4 post to length with a saw
  3. Round off the top of the post
    1. Use a mug or jar to trace a 3+ inch circle on the top of the post
    2. Use a bucket or jug and trace a curve on each of the 4 sides
    3. Sand down the top of the post until you reach the marked guides that you created above.
  4. Sand clean any concerned areas from the remainder of the post (you don’t want splinters).
  5. Cap the bottom of the post to keep it from damaging your floor. This can be accomplished with Duct tape or purchasing a cap like this (confirm that the measurements are accurate with your exact post.

Confirm that you feel good that the bottom and top are well done so as not to damage your ceiling or floor during installation.  Once installed you can now accessorize the center pole with coat hooks, light hooks or even small shelves. 

wood replacement bell tent pole

Comment below with any other suggestions you may have as you go through the process!

Brandy Lamb
Brandy Lamb

Father of two aspiring glampers, husband to one inspirational wife, and Co-Founder of Life inTents. Continuiously striving to help make camping more comfortable.

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