fiberglass tent poles

Aluminum Vs. Fiberglass Tent Poles

Both aluminum tent poles and fiberglass tent poles will work just fine for supporting your tent.  However, there are trade-offs for each.  Within this article, we will provide pros and cons and explore the debate of aluminum vs fiberglass tent poles.

Pros and Cons of Aluminum Tent Poles

Aluminum poles are widely considered the pioneer workhorses of the tent-making industry. And their widespread use all many parts of the globe is not accidental either. Typically, the tent poles act as the framework that supports the entire structure ( the tent and its accompanying canvas ) and its only imperative that it is made up of superior strength material. Aluminum poles fit this bill rather perfectly.

Speaking of which, let’s shed some crucial light on some of the pros and cons of investing in aluminum pole tents.

aluminum tent poles

Pros of Aluminum Tent Poles

Aluminum poles are relatively lightweight.

Unlike wood or some types of thermosetting plastic poles, aluminum is a fairly light material. As a result, poles made from aluminum are lighter than wooden, fiberglass, or pure steel poles.  Convenient – especially if you’re always on the move or run a remote camping business.

Despite their lightweight nature, aluminum poles are very strong.

A majority of aluminum poles will hold fairly well against any overbearing stress caused by overburdening the tent – heavy winds and snow or operator error. But that doesn’t that mean that they can support an infinite weight.

Unlike fiberglass or carbon poles, aluminum poles will likely only bend and not break if overloaded beyond their safety limits. Now remember that a bent pole can be repaired easily – something that frequently backpackers can appreciate.

Still, on strength, it is easier to double up aluminum poles by adjoining them together to increase their elastic limits unlike other types of poles.

Cons of Aluminum Tent Poles

Aluminum tent poles are expensive

It’s no secret that aluminum poles are fairly expensive than wood or plastic poles. And this comes from the fact that it costs several times more to produce aluminum roles than fiberglass poles.

Aluminum corrodes easily.

Under the ‘right’ prevailing conditions, aluminum poles erode and degrade badly especially in saline environments. This kind of corrosion makes the poles weaker thus rendering them almost useless for propping up a tent. The corrosion can also stain your tent.

Note that some simple maintenance and care can do a lot to prevent or minimize corrosion or rusting.  If you are adjacent to an ocean or other highly salty body of water, rinse off your poles when you get home with fresh water.  Another thing that you should do is make sure your poles are dry before you store them away after you get back from a camping/hiking trip.

Pros and Cons of Fiberglass Poles

Fiberglass poles were introduced a few years ago as a cheaper but convenient alternative to aluminum and wooden tent poles.

They have the reputation of a consistent performance under all weather or seasonal conditions, unlike aluminum poles which tend to perform better in frigid winter than in the height of summer.

That said, here are some of the main advantages and disadvantages of using fiberglass poles.

fiberglass tent poles

Pros of Fiberglass Tent Poles

Fiberglass poles are cheaper than aluminum poles.

It is several times cheaper and easier to produce fiberglass poles than aluminum poles. Part of which comes from the fact that fiberglass is purely an industrial compound that is synthesized cheaply than aluminum (a naturally occurring element.)

Fiberglass will not corrode.

Being a synthetic complex compound, fiberglass is 100% rust and corrosion proof. If handled properly fiberglass poles can last decades without any noticeable degradation.

Speaking of handling, it is imperative to note that while fiberglass poles may be immune to rusting, rough handling either during use or transportation can take a toll on the poles due to excessive wear and tear.

Cons of Fiberglass Tent Poles

Fiberglass poles are not as strong or resilient as aluminum poles.

Fiberglass is not as strong as aluminum and not nearly as ductile. For this reason, the standard fiberglass pole has to be thicker (and also heavier) to support the same weight as a similar grade aluminum pole.

Fiberglass poles are less durable. They will shatter rather than bend or snap.

If overloaded, a fiberglass pole tends to shatter rather than bend or snap cleanly into two. In this regard, bear in mind that using a broken/shattered pole will most likely gouge or tear up your tent canvas material. You also have almost no chance at repair or using a broken fiberglass pole.

Similarly, periodic use leading to gradual wear and tear causes the fiberglass surface to produce splinters which, of course, makes handling older poles a nuisance.

Aluminum Vs. Fiberglass Poles – The Verdict: Which is Better?

The bottom line remains that both materials can make an excellent framework for your tent’s structure despite their shortcomings highlighted above.

The decision of which material to go for depends on a number of factors including your budget and duration of use. So if you’re a frequent camper, travels often or simply plan to use the tent for a while, then you would be best served with aluminum poles.

On the other side of the spectrum, the main reason you would consider buying a tent with fiberglass poles is to save money or if you’re operating on a shoestring budget. A casual tailgate camper would thus find a fiberglass tent more fitting if he plans to use the tent once or twice a year.

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