Telescoping Pvc Tent or Awning Poles




I bought this neat teardrop trailer, but since it seems to rain every time we camp, I decided it needed an awning. After looking high and low for a pole that would be easy to transport, adjustable, sturdy and inexpensive I decided to build my own. I've used them all summer and they have turned out great. I decided to construct two more for an awning off the back of my trailer. I thought I'd share the design with others who may have use for such a pole since I was in the process of making two more anyway.

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Step 1: Gather Your Stuff!

What you will need will vary slightly depending on how you want your poles to look. I used plasti dip to give the tops a nice smooth finish and ended up using pins instead of bolts and wing nuts to secure the poles so I wouldn't have to worry about loosing the wingnut. What you choose is up to you!

To construct each pole you will need:

1 - 1 1/4 inch PVC pipe (the heavy stuff)

1 - 1 inch PVC pipe (the heavy stuff)

1 - 1 1/4 inch end cap

1 - 1 inch end cap

1 - nut and bolt set (approx 2 1/2 inches long)

1 - 1 1/2 inch long bolt and wing nut set (or latching pin)

drill and bits

exacto knife

plasti dip (if desired)

Step 2: Nuts!

Take the 1 inch end cap and drill a hole in the center of the top. Thread your bolt through the hole and secure with the matching nut on top. This is what you will use as the 'point' on your pole. I dipped mine in plasti dip so that the end would be smooth and wouldn't abrade the grommets on my awning.

Step 3: How Tall?

Decide how tall you want your poles to be at their maximum length. Divide that amount in half. Use that measurement as the length for the 1 inch pole. This will be the 'inner' pole.

Then add a little (6 inches or so) to the length that you determined for the the 1 inch pole. Use that measurement to cut the 1 1/4 diameter pole. This is the outer pole and will determine how tall the poles will be when collapsed for transport.

Add the 1 1/4 end cap to one end of the 1 1/4 pvc pipe. Slide the 1 inch pvc pipe into the other end. Add the 1 inch cap (with the bolt sticking out) on the exposed end of the 1 inch pipe.

You now have a telescoping set of poles. You're almost done! Now we just have to add pins or bolts to keep the poles in place while in use.

Step 4: Drill It!

Remove the inner pole from the outer one.

Set your outer pole (the 1 1/4 one) on the ground (or work bench). Measure about 3 inches from the top of the outer pole and mark with a pencil. This is where you will drill your hole for your support pin.

Then, holding the outer pole very still drill straight down and completely through both sides at your mark. Use your exacto knife to remove any stray bits of plastic around the holes.

Measure 4-6 inches up from the bottom of the inner (1 inch) pole and make a line.

Slide the poles together just up to where your mark meets the top edge of the outer pole.

Using the holes already on the outer pole as guides, drill holes in the 1 inch pole. Repeat this at varying places along the 1 inch pole at whichever heights you wish. I made my six foot poles so that I can set them at either 6 feet, 5'10", or 5'8" by measuring about 6 inches from the bottom of the inner (1 inch) pole, then again an additional 2 inches, and an additional 4.

Remember: This is your project, you can make the poles adjustable to fit your own needs, just alter your measurements as needed.

When you have finished measuring and drilling your adjustment holes. Slide the poles together as far as they will go. Drill one more set of holes in the inner pole using the outer pole as a guide. These holes will be for holding the poles together while they are not in use.

Step 5: Ta! Da!

Now the easiest part of the build. Put in your bolts or your pins and test out your poles.

You should be able to slide the inner pole up and down until the holes on both poles line up. Insert a bolt with a wing nut to hold it in place. Or as an alternative, a pin. When not in use you can slide the poles all the way together and insert your pin or bolt. This will hold the poles together while you are transporting them, and it will keep your pin/bolt from getting lost.

I hope you have enjoyed my instructable.



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    14 Discussions


    2 years ago

    According to the PVC pipe specs, the heavy wall 1" (1.315 OD) will not fit inside the heavy wall 1 1/4" (1.255 ID). Are you sure of these sizes?

    2 replies

    Reply 1 year ago

    I assume by "the heavy stuff", OP can only mean schedule 40 grade (not the schedule 80 with the specs you're referring to). I've seen even lighter grade PVC for other uses-- for example: pre-fab drain assemblies, vertical shelving support tubes, parts from kids toys, etc. But schedule 40 is typical of what you'd find in a hardware store, and is sufficient for this use.


    Reply 2 years ago

    I just made these for camping tarp poles. The 1" fit inside the 1.25" perfectly.

    Good Instructable.


    1 year ago on Introduction

    This has been most helpful! Great pictures and write up.


    2 years ago

    I _love_ this kind of stuff! Great job.

    I'd suggest building this upside down, though, such that the larger tube us on top in order to prevent the accumulation of rain water.


    2 years ago

    Excellent. Thanks for the idea. I'm going to use this idea to build a telescoping fishing pole :)


    3 years ago

    Very nice. Thanks for sharing this. Headed to the hardware store now!


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Sadly I didn't take pictures when I made the awning so I don't have an instructable for it. Maybe someday.....


    4 years ago on Step 5

    I think I would put some visible alignment marks on the inner pole to indicate the position of the holes.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Did this project using conduit instead of PVC. Perfect. I put a hole toward the foot and will be able to use a round barbell weight and a stake through the hole to hold them down when we go to anyplace that doesn't have dirt to stake a guy line or anywhere that doesn't allow you to stake your tent.

    Thanks for the idea!


    We are going to build a teardrop next year, will definitely return to this instructable. I hadn't even considered rain yet.


    4 years ago on Step 5

    Great idea and nice, clear directions! Thanks!