Advantages of fiberglass/aluminum tent poles

3:33 p.m. on September 12, 2006 (EDT)
Blackbeard
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What are the advantages of the two tent pole types? What are the advantages of the different aluminum pole joints? There is just so much hype in the ads.

I'm guessing the disadvantages are splintering and breaking with fiberglass; bending with aluminum. Any other things to condsider here?

Steve

4:56 p.m. on September 12, 2006 (EDT)
Bill S
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When fiberglass poles break, they tend to have "green stick" breaks that are very hard to do an emergency repair on. Aluminum poles tend to bend, rather than break. Some kinds of aluminum are stronger than others, and of course, larger diameter poles of any given material are stronger than smaller diameter poles (trade weight for strength).

When aluminum poles bend, you can often still use them, and with care, you can straighten them somewhat. If they break, you can splint them to a usable state (the tent repair kits have short sleeves to go over the broken section - but usually too short for the way fiberglass tends to break).

Used to be Easton aluminum poles were the best choice. But now, Easton makes several grades of pole. So you need to know which one you are getting.

For high wind load conditions, aluminum is the material of choice. Carbon fiber would be, since it is of such high strength. But it is extremely expensive for high quality poles, plus when it does break (rarely), it suffers the same problem as fiberglass.

11:26 p.m. on September 13, 2006 (EDT)
lambertiana
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I think it would be difficult to have bending issues with the new DAC aluminum poles. You would really have to abuse them to get a permanent bend.

The other thing that is a definite plus with the aluminum poles is that if you use a tent that has the poles go through a sleeve (my backpacking tents don't, they are 100% clip-on attachments for the tent) the aluminum poles go through the sleeve effortlessly, while the joints on the fiberglass poles are always snagging and making setup and takedown more difficult than it should be.

The fiberglass poles typically weigh more, too.

5:56 p.m. on September 14, 2006 (EDT)
Bill S
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on the DAC poles - difficult to bend, yes, but not impossible. I have already seen one get bent in actual use. Well, abuse is the better term. The guy tripped over himself and landed on it against a rock.

11:01 p.m. on September 15, 2006 (EDT)
sabino
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I've got a 1970's Sierra Designs Wilderness tent. It saw some rough use when I hiked. It saw even more "dangerous" use as a family tent when the first child or two was born ( one small kid was ok, two was ghetto living, and off to buy an inexpensive Coleman "family tent") and as the kids backyard camping tent.

It has aluminum poles with shock cords to keep the parts together and make for an easy set-up. The poles remain in good shape.

8:34 a.m. on September 16, 2006 (EDT)
Blackbeard
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All of the tents I've ever owned have had aluminum poles and I've never had a problem with any of them. Of course, all of these were family tents, mostly with canvas tent material, so they were all heavy.

The two exceptions to the family tents I have is a 70's Eureka backpack tent, given to me used back in 1974. Two small aluminum shock-corded poles. This tent went all over the US by the person who gave it to me and I still use it for the backyard tent when kids come down. And a Coleman family nylon tent with fiberglass poles. I really like this one too, but I don't use either of them enough to know the advantages/disadvantages of either type pole. I just know they have worked up til now.

Steve

4:31 p.m. on September 20, 2006 (EDT)
Geo.
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I've had tents using both types of pole.
The only problem I've ever had was with the fibreglass type breaking during use in heavy wind. I tried 'splinting' and binding the pole for a while, but it was not very satisfactory, as once those rods split then it's hard to get them to assume the correct 'bend' again.
My current tent has alumimium poles and has been used in all weather conditions over long periods with no problems.
I think that in the unlikely event one did break, then it would be a lot easier to make a satisfactory temporary repair by inserting a suitable diameter stick/tree branch into the poles at the location of the break and still maintain the correct 'curve' of the pole.
Cheers, George

7:19 p.m. on September 20, 2006 (EDT)
Al Dennis

Aluminum poles are usually lighter, it's that simple. All types of tent poles will work very well with the tent they are designed to be used with. All types of tent poles will break under the right conditions, just be carefull so you don't place them under those conditions. Very few tent poles broke when they were being properly used just as there has never been an insurance policies that prevented any accidents. Just make sure you have a tent that will handle the weather conditions you expect to encounter and if you don't have that tent, wait until next weekend.

6:59 p.m. on September 28, 2006 (EDT)
Cumberland Hiker
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You have to be careful in making these comparisons as there are many different grades of aluminum and fiberglass and different constructions used to make poles. The cheapest poles are "pultruded fiberglass". They are about 2 to 3 times heavier than equivalent aluminum poles and will split lengthwise if flexed too far because almost all of the reinforcing fibers run lengthwise. To resist splitting they need to be solid or have thick walls. Because the are so weak in hoop strength only external connectors can be used.
There are many aluminum alloys but only a few are used for tent poles. Dome tents use stronger aluminum and cabin tents use weaker alloy but larger diameter poles. Aluminum is made stronger by alloying it but the the heat treatment is also critical. The stronger it is the more prone it is to breaking rather than bending. All high performance tents use aluminum poles while family tents for car camping will generally use fiberglass.
There are also carbon fiber poles available. The material itself is much stronger and stiffer than aluminum which allows for much lighter poles. But they are more expensive than aluminum and because they are so light they can be damaged more easily.

8:12 p.m. on September 28, 2006 (EDT)
Bill S
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Cumberland Hiker cautioned "You have to be careful in making these comparisons as there are many different grades of aluminum and fiberglass and different constructions used to make poles."

Which really says, buy tents made by the top quality manufacturers that are designed for the purpose for which you will use the tent. It costs more up front, but is cheaper in the long run. Use the poles intended for the tent. If you buy a cheap tent from a mass marketer, it will have poorer quality poles, which are more likely to break, especially if you use the tent in conditions other than those for which it was designed.

9:04 p.m. on September 28, 2006 (EDT)
Blackbeard
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OK, thanks for the extra tips.

I hope I did right, as I have an MSR Zoid 2 coming. Seemed to have good reviews, but I would liked to have gotten a free-standing tent. Maybe the next one will be. I sure can't beat the weight and packed size, and I only have a 2000 ci daypack right now, so it should fit.

I also still have that 40 year old Eureka backpacking tent if I can figure out how to get that plastic film fixed inside, or when I absolutely know it's not going to rain. The fly is in excellent condition, although it's just a cover-tarp type and not an all encompassing fly. I have a sentimental attachment to this one. It's all Eureka original except for the stakes.

Thanks again,

Steve

May 25, 2020
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