Are you thinking of picking up a tent soon but don’t want to get one that breaks too soon? One of the most common problems of tent durability are the choice of tent pole materials.
Weight, price, strength, maintenance – what do these have to do with the aluminum vs fiberglass tent pole debate?
Read on to find out!
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Are fiberglass tent poles cheaper than aluminum?
Fiberglass tent poles are cheaper to produce than aluminum or alternative tent pole materials. This is due to aluminum requiring extraction from the natural deposits, rather than the fiberglass which is synthetic. As a result, most popular casual camping tents which focus on low cost materials use fiberglass tent poles.
Their low cost doesn’t necessarily make them bad for your situation, but it is worth considering why many larger and heavier tents use metal poles. You are also unlikely to find fiberglass tent poles in backpacking tents, which need to be able to stand up to strong winds and heavy snow loads.
Which tent poles are lower weight?
Low weight tent poles doesn’t matter much if you’re car camping but if you’re having to carry around the tent then they can be a life saver. Many backpackers are obsessed with saving as much carry weight as possible, leading to the booming popularity of ‘ultralight’ gear.
Aluminum tent poles are lighter than fiberglass tent poles and is much more likely to be used in backpacking tents. The added cost of aluminum tent poles is one of the many reasons why backpacking tents are so much more expensive than car camping tents.
Many backpacking tents also opt for the expensive DAC tent poles. DAC are the leading tent pole manufacturer and have progressively cut the weight of tent poles while maintaining their strength. They predominantly focus on aluminum poles but the lightest tent poles they offer – the DAC Featherlite NSL – are an aluminum alloy.
Fiberglass or aluminum tent poles for strength or durability
While aluminum tent poles are lighter than fiberglass tent poles, they are also stronger. This, along with their ultralight credentials, is another reason why they are used in backpacking tents and some large car camping tents.
Strength is an important characteristic for tent poles. The tent poles provide the structure to your tent and ensure there is proper tension across the walls (a vital part of waterproofing). Strong winds or heavy snow can add a large amount of stress on tent poles. The last thing you want when you’re spending a night outside is a broken tent pole and the whole tent coming down on you.
Fiberglass is not a particularly strong compared to aluminum and this is why you’ll typically only see them in 2 season tents (i.e. summer and fair weather) or 3 season tents (fair weather or standard rain and wind). But you won’t be seeing fiberglass used in 4 season tents (strong wind and rain or some snow) or 5 season tents (mountaineering – think climbing Mount Everest).
Larger tents or canvas tents are also use aluminum tent poles for their strength. At larger capacities the amount of material required for the tent can start adding up and can be heavy, particularly if it’s canvas.
Do aluminum tent poles corrode?
Aluminum is a metal and corrosion and rust can be an issue over time. This is particularly true if the tent poles aren’t dried fully after a rainy night or if you’re camping by the beach. Some aluminum poles do come with a protective coating which can help reduce rust problems.
Fiberglass, comparatively, is corrosion and rust free.
Do aluminium tent poles bend?
Yes, if there is too much force applied to aluminum tent poles then they will bend. Fiberglass instead will splinter or crack. It’s definitely easier to repair a bent tent pole than a cracked one.
Aluminum vs fiberglass tent pole
Aluminum tent poles are better than fiberglass tent poles in almost every way. Aluminum tent poles are lighter, stronger, longer lasting and a better choice for backpacking tents or large tents. Fiberglass tent poles are cheaper to produce however, so you’ll often see fiberglass tent poles used in budget casual camping tents.
Aluminum tent poles pros:
- Very light
- Robust in strong winds and cold weather
- An ideal choice for backpackers or heavy tents
- Bends rather than shatters – easier to repair
Fiberglass tent poles pros:
- No corrosion
- Doesn’t conduct electricity (think, lightning)
- No issues with rusting / low maintenance