Tent poles – which is best … fibreglass or aluminium (aluminum)?

Tent poles are often mentioned in tent specifications, but does this mean that the materials used are important? Why are more expensive tents usually equipped with aluminium poles? What thickness should they be? Does it even matter? At Camping Cooking we thought this deserved a quick look…
Coleman Mackenzie tent
+ thickness and weight can be tailored by manufacturer to match expected demands
+ poles tend to splinter rather than collapse and can often be patched up in an emergency (carry some duck tape!)
+ replacement poles are cheap and easy to cut to length
– can be become fragile at temperature extremes (we have seen them fail on hot and cold days)
– heavy
– splinters hurt!

+ weight is good for a given length and strength
+ retain flexibility at cold temperatures
+ resistant to crushing or twisting damage
– when they break, they break! (and cannot generally be patched up)
– needs to be anodised to avoid corrosion

+ the ultimate in weight saving
+ stiff
– carbon alone is not that strong so careful material mixing is essential
– expensive!

Cost and weight will be your deciding factor here. We feel that as long as you avoid the skinny 6mm fibreglass poles used on bottom of the range tents (see our Gelert Fossa review) then fibreglass is a perfectly fine material for tent poles, particularly for the car based camper where weight saving is not a critical issue.
If you are a frequent camper or perhaps carrying your kit on foot or bike, then aluminium will pay dividends in weight saved and longevity.
We think carbon fibre is overkill for the recreational camper who will be concerned about budget.
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