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What sturdy pipe is best for tent poles? Answered

I'm trying to build one of those old fashioned military style tents at a reasonable price.  I already have a bunch of recycled canvas for the walls but I don't know what kind of tent poles to use.  I think PVC is too flimsy and unstable, I'm not sure about electrical conduit because it isn't rated to withstand a lot of pressure but it is cheep, aluminum tubing is expensive but lightweight. Any Ideas?


Larger military wall tents (GP Medium & GP Large) used wooden poles with metal pins in the tops that protruded through brass grommets in the canvas. The wall poles were about 2" in diameter and about 4" for the center poles. The smaller tents used telescoping aluminum poles.

If you are using traditional cotton canvas, the weight will probably require a substantial support pole and wood would probably be your best bet. You might do some checking with military surplus stores/websites to find the original style poles. You might also check with tent rental companies. They might be able to direct you to a supplier. If you're going to use nylon or vinyl tarps for the tent, EMT or PVC conduit will work. Many Boy Scout tents are supported with PVC pipe.

Thanks for your ideas, do you know where i can get wooden poles that are long enough? Also, when I said recycled canvas, I meant some old coleman tents that I have cut up and stitched together. Not actually canvas but some kind of lightweight nylon ripstop I think I'm not trying to do some kind of military reenactment, just some good old fashioned manly camping.

How big/tall is the tent? Is it a wall tent ot more of a "pup tent" style? For a medium to small sized wall tent 3/4" to 1" EMT conduit should be sufficient to hold up the walls at a 5 to 6 foot interval. The center pole(s) would most likely need to be more substantial using maybe 1-1/2" or 2" conduit depending on the height and weight of the roof canvas.

If you want wooden poles you could most probably make them yourself by ripping down 2x4 lumber on a table saw. Military poles are hexagonal in shape, but a 1-1/2"x1-1/2" square pole for the tent sides should hold up anything that you would need. Just make sure the lumber is free of knots.

The main reason I'm building this tent is because I'm tall (6'2") and i want to be able to stand up at the peak of the tent.

Also, Its a wall tent

Thanks, that really helps, I thought I would have to make my own fittings by bending and welding the pipes.

You are correct to avoid PVC.  I had an awning set up in the Kansas sun and the PVC poles softened enough to let it collapse.

I have a large sun shelter that uses EMT electrical conduit, I think it's 1" size.  It does not have center poles, just support around the edges, so perhaps wood might be better for that.

Like FOH says, wood, or possibly Bamboo.

Have you thought of using wood?
I had a military tent a long time ago; it had wooden poles (see photo) with metal cuffs where they joined each other.