I’ve seen folks ask about the best material for tent poles, so I decided to publish this page as a resource for anyone in need. In short, the tent pole material is determined by the function and features of the tent.
Technologies for tent poles
Tent poles are currently made from a variety of materials and technologies, including
- Composite materials
- carbon fibre
- Beams of Air
Of course, there could be more; please let me know if I missed anything crucial. In any event, not all materials are employed in all types of tents. This is a budget and purpose issue.
One of the most important considerations when selecting a tent is the poles. As you can see from the materials listed above, this impacts the tent’s weight, strength, purpose, and height.
Backpack portable tents include light shock-corded poles with elastic strings running through their segments. Steel wire is used instead in some of the automobile camping tents. Many of the rapid tents shown on this website include hefty telescoping poles with spring-loaded buttons.
The pole ends are often linked to the tent at its base in the following ways:
- System of rings and pins. So you have a pin on a ring that you insert into the end of the pole. This is typically seen in larger automobile camping tents.
- System of pins and grommets. A grommet with holes is used here, and the pinned end of the pole is inserted into one of the holes. This is common in backpacking tents.
What characteristics should tent poles have?
Here are some of the most crucial tent pole qualities that come to mind:
However, these characteristics should be coupled with:
- Tent’s purpose.
- Tent’s material.
As a result, some trade-offs are to be expected. Not every pole material is appropriate for every tent type and function.
1. Tent poles manufactured from aluminium
Aluminium is typically used in pricey and lightweight camping tents. This is due to the high strength-to-weight ratio. However, there are numerous dome-form vehicle camping tents with such poles on the site, and you will find that they are often much more expensive than those with fibreglass poles.
Even extremely large family camping tents now include such poles, although you have high-quality technology designed for long spans in these circumstances. Compared to fibreglass, they have the advantage of providing the same tensile strength with tubes that are both smaller in diameter and have thinner walls, which means they are lighter.
Aluminium poles retain properties such as elasticity even in freezing conditions, but fibreglass does not. However, these two materials are the most frequently used in all tents today. Because aluminium corrodes, producers use processes such as anodising to safeguard it. These poles will bend rather than break; you can straighten them with luck.
What’s great about aluminium poles:
- They are light but powerful.
- They can bend but not break. Even the greatest aluminium poles will bend in winds of up to 80 mph, but this can be repaired in the field.
What is less desirable:
- They are typically pricey. However, there are some great examples of relatively affordable tents with similar poles on this site. Consider the Mountainsmith Cottonwood 6P Tent.
- They rust and should not be used for seaside camping. However, before storing them at home, rinse them with fresh water. Make sure to keep them dry as well.
Alloys of aluminium
Most of the aluminium pole tents on this site are made of 7000-grade aluminium. This means the main material is aluminium, with other metals added to increase performance. As a result, the strength, corrosion resistance, and so on are improved. You may also notice a notation concerning tempering. The goal is to create less brittle but stronger poles.
The most well-known producer and some types of aluminium poles
- DAC: Dongah Aluminum Corporation (DAC) is a Korean company. They changed this sector 20 years ago with their Featherlite pole.
- Featherlite poles do not have ferrules, which reduces weight by up to 15%. The following diagram depicts the basic structure:
- What is Pressfit: This design in which the insert tube has an enlarged end strongly held by the main tube, resulting in a strong framework. This is found in many premium backpacking tents.
- NFL Featherlite: This design combines the Pressfit and Featherlite styles. This type is utilised in the lightest tents on the market today, such as the Big Agnes Copper Hotel HV UL2 Tent.
- DA17 aluminium poles: These are designed for larger tents requiring flexibility and strength. As a result, these are poles with greater diameters intended for enormous arches. They are currently manufactured in diameters up to 28 mm. You may find them in the Kelty Trail Ridge series, the largest of which is depicted in the image above.
2. Tent poles are made of fibreglass
Fiberglass is now the most affordable material for tent poles. As a result, such poles can be found in many low-cost tents, typically those built for automobile camping domes and cabin-style tents. Many tents on this site include fibreglass poles, such as this Coleman Namakan Fast-Pitch Dome Tent 5:
In other circumstances, fibreglass poles are paired with steel or aluminium poles; this is common in cabin-style tents where the leg poles are metal, and the roof poles are fibreglass; one excellent example is the Browning Camping Big Horn 5 tent:
This is a nice material in general and quite flexible, but fibreglass poles tend to be heavier because they are thicker to provide the same strength as aluminium poles. When you see exterior ferrules at the poles’ joints, you’ll know they’re made of fibreglass. However, such poles can split and crack under stress and tend to shatter at low temperatures. Thus, they are best utilised in summer camping tents.
What’s great about fibreglass poles:
- Low-cost and simple to manufacture.
- These poles will not rust. So, if utilised properly, they can endure a long time.
What is less desirable:
- Fiberglass requires more attention and is less durable.
- Because they are not as sturdy as aluminium, they are built thicker and thus heavier.
- Under strain, fibreglass poles tend to break and snap.
- After much use, the surface may produce splinters, which isn’t ideal when you have to pass them through the sleeves of the tent.
- If you have a damaged fibreglass tent pole, read our fibreglass tent pole replacement article.
3. Tent poles made of carbon fibre
Carbon fibre poles are extremely robust and much lighter than aluminium poles. They are, however, highly pricey and will not be found in family camping tents. This is a material used for professional lightweight tents. They are available in the MSR Carbon Reflex range.
This material is generally employed where weight savings are critical, such as for backpackers and long-distance adventures. However, this item must be handled with caution.
One point should be emphasised: the characteristics of such poles are determined by how well they are engineered. If you’re looking for something like this, Easton carbon poles should be your first pick. They claim their Carbon FX and Custom Carbon 6.3 are significantly more durable and lighter than aluminium. However, their ION pole, used in the Easton Kilo tent, is 40% lighter than the Carbon FX.
- The carbon poles are extremely light.
- They are really powerful.
What is less desirable:
- They are pricey.
- They are not adept at bending and flexing.
4. Poles made of steel
As you might expect, steel is heavy. Thus, you’ll see steel poles in automobile camping tents, usually in cabin-style tents where the leg poles and sometimes even the roof poles are steel. They are also employed in tunnel tents, particularly in large canvas constructions. For example, this Crua Loj 6 tent is an all-steel frame and an insulated tent unlike any other on the market.
However, dome tents with steel poles are also available; the model below is among the best in its class. The Bushtec Adventure Alpha Kilo 4000 is a canvas camping tent; the material is hefty and supported by steel:
What’s great about steel poles:
What is less desirable:
- Corrosion occurs in steel.
- It’s hefty.
5. Easton Syclone poles are made of composite materials.
Nothing on the market currently can match these poles in terms of versatility. These poles are said to be 80% more resistant to bending and breaking than aluminium.
These poles are built of aerospace-grade composite materials that bend but do not break and return to their original shape when subjected to wind pressure. Their strength is derived from multi-directionally wrapped aerospace-grade S-Glass composite materials, which can endure even the fiercest winds.
They are nearly identical to aluminium poles in terms of weight and cost. They can be found in the Easton Torrent tent series.
6. Beams of air
Air beam tents, often inflatable, have recently gained popularity. This technology has been available for a decade, but early air beams could have been more reliable. The situation has changed, and many of these tents are now mentioned on the site; you may find them under the category of Inflatable Tents. This Vango 5-Person Odyssey Air 500 Tent is an excellent example of an inflatable tent:
Most tents come with a pump and can be set up in minutes by one person. In some ways, they are similar to quick tents. Almost all of the inflatable tents on this site are tunnel-style, including the example pictured above.
What’s great about air beams:
- The setup is simple.
- Excellent performance in gusty winds. Such buildings do not resist the wind but adapt to it and rapidly regain shape. This distinguishes them from any rigid pole stated previously.
What is less desirable:
- Air beams have the potential to leak.
- These tents are typically more expensive than others.
So, I hope you know there is no ideal material for tent poles. You use poles that are appropriate for the features and purpose of the tent. Thick metal poles, generally steel, are used in hefty canvas camping tents to support the weight. In windy areas, you will utilize something that does not oppose the wind; this would result in a losing war; you will need a material with a lot of flexibility. If you require trekking poles, naturally, you will choose the lightest feasible, but first consider your budget.
Based on the most important characteristics of the poles listed above, I recommend the following two options:
- The best poles for weight are 1. composite materials and 2. carbon fibre.
- The best poles for price are 1. fibreglass, 2. steel.
- The best poles regarding flexibility are 1. air beams and 2. composite materials.
- The best pole for strength is 1. steel and 2. aluminium.
- The best poles regarding durability are 1. steel and 2. aluminium.
Do you agree with me?
Thank you for taking the time to read this. This material will be updated as news and advances in the tent poles sector occur, so bookmark it and return frequently. You might also be interested in my ideas on pole tents vs airbeam tents.
Is there anything I forgot to mention? If so, please let me know in the comment section below.