Pole care in salty air

10:05 p.m. on November 11, 2012 (EST)
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Me again. Today's question is about keeping aluminum poles healthy when they spend most of their time in the sea-spray wind and briny fog that comes off the North Atlantic (we have weather you can taste). I expect the salt will eventually weaken the metal (DAC Featherlite, with hubs), but other than wiping them off after trips I'm not sure what to do, if anything. I imagine the salt gets inside the poles, to some extent, as well as on them.

Generally a person would use an oil or lithium grease on metal in these conditions, but obviously I won't do that with silnylon involved. What if I sprayed them with a silicone based lubricant? I know that an attached plate of magnesium can draw the corrosion, as seen on boats' outboard motors, but I don't see how to apply that here. Another appeal to your impressive collective wisdom.

2:01 a.m. on November 12, 2012 (EST)
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Ok, here goes. I hope I get this right because it's been a while since I owned a boat. The part on an outboard motor you speak of is called a sacrificial anode. Generally, the anode is a metal which is less noble than the metal it is attached to. In this example, the outboards lower drive unit is aluminum so the anode would be magnesium. Reason being is magnesium will corrode before the aluminum. Now this occurs due to electrolysis. All water has some salt in it. Your car battery essentially is highly concentrated salt water. it is able to hold a charge. lakes and oceans with varying salt content are essentially the same. Boats have wiring, batteries, electronics and such and stray currents happen. These stray currents find their way to the water and anything that isn't grounded properly exhibits signs of corrosion. This corrosion takes place on metals parts which are submerged in the body of water. If you look at an aluminum hull boat, especially an older one, you will notice the metal is not shiny but actually dull. This is because the metal oxidizes. The oxidation actually protects the metal from further corrosion. So your poles, unless you submerge them in sea water for long periods of time, should be safe with an occasionally wipe with freshwater. If you see the metal starting to become dull, let it, because oxidized aluminum won't corrode.

5:10 a.m. on November 12, 2012 (EST)
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If you are worried about corrosion, you can alway use an auto wax to protect the poles.  But the bigger issue is protecting the tent fabric from mildew.  If you store the tent where mildew won't become an issue, that alone will cure any corrosion problem.


9:14 a.m. on November 12, 2012 (EST)
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Thank you both. My concern is that the poles, even though aluminum won't rust, will become pitted and brittle, possibly leading to failure in high winds.

Rob, am I right that oxidized aluminum is structurally weakened? Because if it's only cosmetic I'll quit caring. But I'm inclined to think that even if it takes a long time, the poles will become fragile. Bad news in an 80km/h wind.

Ed, I'm careful with tent storage, but when a trip lasts a week or two or more, that's a long exposure to salt. I can wipe down in the field, but I can't get out of the salty air. If I can find a silicone based wax that's compatible with silnylon, that should help. I can always test on a stuff sack to be sure.

I appreciate the help! I have a new tent that I just love, and I want it to last a long time.

12:07 p.m. on November 12, 2012 (EST)
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First off, I'll point out that your DAC poles are most likely anodized. According to Wikipedia, "Anodizing is an electrolytic passivation process used to increase the thickness of the natural oxide layer on the surface of metal parts." Therefore oxidation is no longer a major consideration, corrosion is.

I bought a tent(Walrus) that had DAC poles which had been used at a youth camp in coastal Maine; the female ends of the poles were corroded where they had been nicked from allowing the pole sections to snap together. These nicks became scalloped and sharp from the loss of metal due to corrosion; so much so that the shockcord was being cut. I disassembled the pole set, filed all the corroded ends, soaked the poles in fresh water, then treated them with Salt-X

The poles were reassembled with new shockcord, and I've had no further problems with corrosion, even though I camp on the California coast, and the filed ends of the poles are no longer anodized. Depending on how much salt spray the poles are subjected to, I soak the poles in fresh water(and allow the shockcord to completely dry before storage) every 3 or 4 uses. I treat the poles with Salt-X minimally, roughly once a year. This stuff is GOOD! I use it to keep my saltwater fishing poles and reels free of corrosion.

I neither work for Salt_X, nor receive compensation for my endorsement.

1:17 p.m. on November 12, 2012 (EST)
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Metal wax

1:20 p.m. on November 12, 2012 (EST)
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Islandess - I'm guessing that the aluminum poles you have are "anodized." This electrochemical process THICKENS the natural layer of oxidation that forms immediately on pure aluminum.  This has the effect of preventing further oxidation and maintains the structural integrity of the pole.  So - to your question, aluminum oxide is less ductile than aluminum, but a thin coating of the oxide actually strengthens the pole.

OK.  My amateur attempt at metallurgical reasoning is over.  I'm waiting until Bill steps in and makes hash of my clumsy explanation!

6:36 p.m. on November 12, 2012 (EST)
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Seth said:

OK.  My amateur attempt at metallurgical reasoning is over.  I'm waiting until Bill steps in and makes hash of my clumsy explanation!

Lol, that is funny.

I would personally just rinse them off with fresh water(tap) after use/exposure and call it a wrap. 

Unless the tent is going to be up and subjected to these conditions for prolonged periods I wouldn't be too worried about it. 

7:46 p.m. on November 12, 2012 (EST)
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Did some more research on these poles, and yup, looks like I can relax about it. These are not my dad's aluminum poles. DAC Featherlite NSL Green Anodized, cutting-edge space-age super-sticks. DAC's own website wasn't hugely helpful, proprietory secret stuff I suppose, but enough Googling led me to a page that promised 3000 hours (=125 days) of salt spray exposure before corrosion on similarly anodized aluminum. That's without any cleaning at all, and no doubt much more intensive salting than I'm dealing with. So back to rinse it, wipe it and forget it. But I will do an occasional treatment with this Salt-X (thank you abman47!), because I hope me and this tent will have a long and happy relationship.

Thank you for your help and your patience!

6:16 p.m. on November 21, 2012 (EST)
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15 years of diving the North Atlantic and I've never heard of this Salt-x stuff. You'd think it might have come across the table once or twice in that time. Honestly, I wouldn't bother with it, salt dissolves very readily in fresh water.

Looking at the boat docks, the way you know the dive boats from the fishing boats is that the dive boats all have barrels of fresh water on the dock at their slips. I step off the boat with my gear, stop & dunk it a couple times, then in the back of my truck. Certain pieces of gear may get a little more attentive soaking or rinsing at home and that is all. And that is after hours of immersion in salt water under significant pressure. I'm as anal about maintenance as anyone could be and this is gear my life depends on. Your tent poles will be fine with a good rinse. That anodizing is mega-tuff stuff.

6:49 p.m. on November 21, 2012 (EST)
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Islandess said:

I hope me and this tent will have a long and happy relationship.


11:10 p.m. on November 21, 2012 (EST)
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Salt x is like rain x for fishing gear, kinda a wax/ lubricant. I used to fish off the nc coast and have used it a bunch. Dive gear has no gears and is made to be submerged, you are somewhat limited with lubes and fishing as petroleum products can degrade or destroy some fishing lines. The salt x is much more gentle and works well.

11:27 a.m. on November 22, 2012 (EST)
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The normal rule for all equipment around salt water is to rinse it with fresh water and dry it off.  If we are talking about tent poles, paint them to protect from corrosion from salt.

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