Two of the most popular tent pole materials are aluminum and fiberglass. Wood, carbon fiber and plastic all have issues that prevent their widespread use. Because tent poles make up the support frame of your tent, what they are made of is important. Aluminum and fiberglass both have strengths and weaknesses. This look at both materials will help you choose when it's time to buy your next tent.
Aluminum poles are fairly lightweight. However, given their weight they are very strong. Most, but not all, aluminum poles perform as well in frigid winter weather as they do in the summer. Overburdened, these poles probably will only bend--and if they do break will snap cleanly in two. Since a bent tent pole can be repaired, this is a big plus. The only real drawback to aluminum poles is that they are subject to corrosion. Most come with a protective coating, but you can count on it eventually wearing off.
The great virtue of fiberglass tent poles is that they are cheaper than aluminum poles. Another minor benefit is that fiberglass does not rot or corrode. The only source of wear and tear is rough handling during use. On the downside, fiberglass is not as strong as aluminum. That means a fiberglass pole has to be thicker to support the same amount of weight, making it heavier as well. Furthermore, when a fiberglass pole breaks it tends to shatter rather snap. This is a problem in freezing weather, when fiberglass is more brittle. A broken fiberglass pole likely will put a big tear or gouge in your tent. Wear and tear also can cause fiberglass poles to produce splinters, making older ones a nuisance to handle.
Aluminum poles have replaced fiberglass poles as the standard for tent frames--with good reason. Virtually the only reason to buy a tent that has fiberglass poles is to save money. If you are a casual tailgate camper or need to buy a lot of tents on a budget (for a scout troop or youth group, for example), you may want to go with fiberglass. However, if you plan to use your tent for awhile or use it often it's better to buy a tent with aluminum poles.
Article Written By Edwin Thomas
Edwin Thomas has been writing since 1997. His work has appeared in various online publications, including The Black Table, Proboxing-Fans and others. A travel blogger, editor and writer, Thomas has traveled from Argentina to Vietnam in pursuit of stories. He holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from American University.