Aluminum VS Fiberglass tent poles

1:36 p.m. on May 17, 2010 (EDT)
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I am getting ready to replace my tent of 10 years for a new 4 season tent I have done my research on manufactures and have narrowed it to a few choices, here is my problem though. All of the tents that have made the final selection all have aluminum poles, I am used to fiberglass poles and I feel very confident with them the aluminum poles just look so weak how will they hold up under snow weight or high winds? Any feedback positive or negative will be greatly appreciated; I don’t feel like dropping $300 to $400 dollars on something that will collapse on me. Thanks RR

2:21 p.m. on May 17, 2010 (EDT)
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Although I haven't had snow on my tent yet, the aluminum poles held up well to 50mph + winds one night. But it was so noisy, it was difficult to sleep. Need to add earplugs to my 1st aid kit. :-)


3:30 p.m. on May 17, 2010 (EDT)
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The reason high-end tent manufacturers use aluminum poles instead of fiberglass is that aluminum poles are much stronger and far less likely to fail in extreme conditions such as severe cold or high wind. As temperature decreases, so does the ability of fiberglass to bend; it instead snaps or shatters(splinters)along it length. This condition isn't field repairable. The most common failure of an aluminum pole occurs when the user fails to fully insert a pole section into the adjoining pole before attempting to bend the pole. This can be avoided by checking the pole for proper assembly(same as fiberglass) before inserting it into the pole sleeve of the tent, and by ALWAYS pushing the pole through the sleeve rather than trying to pull it through. An .340" Easton Aluminum pole has an ultimate tensile strength of 96,000 PSI. Tensile strength of fiberglass tent poles is seldom listed, but data from one manufacturer in China suggests a range between 5,000 and 9,000 PSI.

8:00 p.m. on May 17, 2010 (EDT)
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Hi rescue_ranger,

If you felt secure with fiberglass you will feel even more secure with aluminum once you get used to them. I will not use anything else now for strength and weight, aluminum poles are lighter than fiberglass. Abman47 is correct that they shatter along the length and they are hard to repair. Aluminum usually bends and the odds are better that this can be straightened out if it occurs.


9:39 p.m. on May 17, 2010 (EDT)
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The aluminum used for poles is incredibly strong, I would much rather have the aluminum vs. fiberglass.

You'll love them.

9:56 p.m. on May 17, 2010 (EDT)
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To emphasize what all the previous posters said, in my many decades of camping, backpacking, and teaching others outdoor skills, I have seen dozens (literally) of shattered fiberglass poles and only a couple of aluminum poles so severely damaged they could not be salvaged. In those cases, the poles were damaged by a really severe incident (someone falling on a tent in the course of horsing around), but still could be "splinted" enough to remain usable for the remainder of a week-long trip. The poles were not broken per se, but were in one case bent such that the ferrule came out and was smashed flat and in another the pole bent such that it flattened at the bend and cracked. The usual pole repair kit (a short tube slightly larger than the pole diameter) held up just fine. One other case was a pole bent by, again, someone falling on the tent, then trying to straighten it by brute force. In other words, you have to work pretty hard to make an aluminum pole unusable.

Fiberglass poles, on the other hand, will very easily shatter the resin , leaving the fibers and a floppy pole that usually cannot be splinted.

Note that virtually all ski and treking poles these days are made of aluminum or carbon fiber. There are none on the market currently except the very cheapest that are made of fiberglass. Ski poles take a much more severe beating than tent poles.

Here is a photo of an aluminum pole tent with some snow on top -

That's close to 3 feet of snow on the top of the tent, with about 6 inches on the top of the vestibule, and more came down. The rest of us had built snow caves, but Doc said he didn't feel comfortable in a snow cave. Well, he got one anyway!

10:05 a.m. on May 18, 2010 (EDT)
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What kind of tent was Doc using?

10:53 a.m. on May 18, 2010 (EDT)
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When dome tents were first being developed several firms experimented with fiberglass versus aluminum poles and over time aluminum was clearly the winner. The only fiberglass poles I thought were worth anything were on old Early Winters tents and these were a unique design. Go alumiunum, you won't be sorry.

1:28 p.m. on May 18, 2010 (EDT)
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To everyone:

Many, many THANKS!! I will go aluminum your experiences have convinced me more than reading up from fact sheets; nothing compels me more than the opinion of my friends.

Thank you my Friends


12:49 p.m. on May 19, 2010 (EDT)
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I to just bought a tent with Aluminum poles. So this was helpfull information. But I very seldom had problems with FG. They are cheap to replace. I find myself being VERY carefull with the aluminum ones.

1:05 p.m. on May 19, 2010 (EDT)
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I personally am a supporter of aluminum as opposed to fg. I have had many tents over the years and agree w/previous responses in regards to strength and durability being much more apparent with alum. I also totally agree with the strength of fiberglass being substantially diminshed in sub-freezing temps.

I will not use a fiberglass pole tent in cold temps(from experience) plus you get the added peace of mind when mother nature decides to rear her ugly head you will be ok w/alum(unless of course you are in a cat 5 hurricane.) Also guying the tent out has alot to do w/it as well as how you have your tent/shelter set as far as direction of the inclimate weather.

Different ways I guy my tents depending on weather severity.

The tent below is a Columbia Cougar Flatts. It is steel and fiberglass as far as the framework goes. I will not use this tent apast fall seasons.

Eureka Mountain Pass 3xte below. Completely aluminum, I use this year round.

I hope this gives a lil more insight as far as set-up, materials go. Happy hiking.

....Also as a suggestion, for the $ take a look @ the Eureka Alpenlite XT(4 season.) Solid lil shelter ya don't have to break the bank for and ya get a lifetime warranty w/it. See link below.

6:53 p.m. on May 19, 2010 (EDT)
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What kind of tent was Doc using?

Don't recall, except it was some model of Sierra Designs. This was almost 20 years ago.

4:58 a.m. on May 20, 2010 (EDT)
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In my college days (the Miocene period I think it was) I purchased a dome tent from a knock off brand, “Stansport” – even the wet noodle “S” logo closely resemble the competitor’s logo. The tent had fiberglass poles. If one wasn’t careful and missed threading one pole into the feral of the other pole, it was possible to split the fiberglass poles much like splitting firewood. I still have that tent; it was relegated to fair weather hikes after five years of use (it only gets pitched if it rains), due to the poles, and for the last fifteen years is used only by my daughter on car camping trips.

Fiberglass poles are more flexible that aluminum poles, resulting in a tent that deflects more in the wind. Fiberglass poles are also heavier. My poles stood up to gale force winds when I did take it on those kinds of outing, and they seemed to deal with that abuse. It is the act of attempting to fit the poles together in said storms that compromised the shafts and weakened my poles. Given these poles came on a cheap tent, that may indicate the quality of such materials.

2:15 p.m. on May 20, 2010 (EDT)
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Yep; my concern is for very cold condition 30 degrees and below on the fiberglass poles, mine (my current tent) have held up wonderfully in high winds, the tent I have I took to Assateague Island National Seashore it held up to a storm that blew in with winds up to 60mph it stood the test and took in very little sand but never having used Aluminum I was afraid it would crumple in high winds and heavy snow loads, I am going to be using this new tent above the tree line in the fall in Montana to get to some alpine meadows and lakes for some hunting and fishing and I have been advised that the temp can drop below 0 at night and fast moving winter storms can over take you without notice, I have been to several spots in the high country but have usually packed in with a friend who lives’ in Montana and had a ranch with horses, we would go out for 2 weeks by horse back and bring a pack horse with us, this time I will be going solo and without the horses, my dear ole friend is to old now for extended cold treks, so I wanted to make sure I was ready for the unexpected. I am so appreciative of all the advise everyone is giving me, it is forums like this that make, making a decision such as this a much more well informed and better educated decision than just going by what the manufactures specs list and your eager salesperson sales pitches, the “been there, done that” advice is what really counts in my book. Thanks again everyone RR

12:33 a.m. on May 21, 2010 (EDT)
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My Eureka! Apex 2XT came with fiberglass poles. I ordered aluminum replacements from Eureka! and saved almost a pound in weight. Plus I got a stronger pole that can be repaired in the field. Go aluminum and be confident.

April 25, 2018
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