Just as tents are integral for camping, so are tent poles. In addition to holding up the tent, they keep the sidewalls, the top, and the bottom secured together.
Therefore, having sturdy poles that provide a reliable foundation and adequate support is crucial for sturdy tents.
Ideally, tent poles must be strong enough to withstand stress and not snap or crack during adverse conditions.
When choosing tent poles, campers mostly turn to aluminum and fiberglass, the two most commonly used materials for tent poles.
Each has its advantages and disadvantages, making it difficult for beginner campers to decide on one.
So, if you’re deciding between aluminum vs. fiberglass tent pole, this article can guide your decision by outlining their differences.
Aluminum And Fiberglass Tent Poles: What Makes Them Different
Aluminum and fiberglass are two completely different materials. The former is metal, whereas the latter is a synthetic polymer.
Let’s take a look at how their differences affect the deciding factors.
The first thing you should consider when choosing a pole is its weight –– the lighter one is always better.
Aluminum tent poles are much more lightweight than fiberglass ones, weighing roughly half as much. That’s important if you have to carry your poles long distances or don’t have someplace to stash them while you’re camping.
Some people might think that choosing a lighter tent pole isn’t a big deal since they’re just going camping for the weekend.
However, if you plan to carry your tent pole for an extended period, weight does matter.
For example, each pound you carry counts when hiking or backpacking. If you’re planning on trekking for days with your gear, carrying around a heavy tent pole will tire you out faster and make the journey more difficult.
And undoubtedly, the last thing you want is to carry around a heavy pole because you were too lazy to check if it was too heavy in the first place.
It’s not uncommon for the average camper to assume that fiberglass tent poles are sturdier than aluminum ones. This assumption often relies on fiberglass tent poles being heavier than aluminum tent poles of equal length.
Fiberglass tent poles are indeed stronger in tensile strength than aluminum tent poles. Tensile strength measures a material’s ability to withstand tension or stress.
Aluminum tent poles tend to be lighter weight and are more malleable than fiberglass tent poles. They bend easier, but they will spring back into place when released, making them less likely to break during use.
The flexibility of aluminum tent poles can actually be an advantage if you’re using them to support a “flex-free” type of canopy or screen room.
Fiberglass tent poles are much more rigid and heavy-duty than aluminum ones, which can be a drawback in some situations.
Say, for instance, you have very high winds or are camping on particularly uneven ground. In that case, the rigidity of fiberglass poles may cause your shelter to be top-heavy and prone to falling over while being buffeted by strong winds.
Campers complain about the corrosion of tent poles as one of their biggest problems. Corroded poles develop rust that inhibits their structural integrity and makes them unreliable.
After prolonged contact, it can even leave behind unwanted spots and stains. In terms of corrosiveness in tent poles, fiberglass has the edge over aluminum.
The reason is fiberglass’ 100% anti-corrosive and anti-rust properties. Since it’s made from synthetic materials, prolonged exposure to moisture has no chance to affect them.
But aluminum is something else entirely. It can rust and corrode easily because of its metallic properties.
Specifically, it degrades quicker in the presence of moisture, as happens when you camp by the seashore or while on hikes during the rainy season.
Fortunately, however, you can keep your aluminum or any rust-prone tent poles rust and corrosion-free with just a little care.
Besides, if you choose aluminum tent poles with protective coats (and reapply them every few months), you can keep rust and corrosion from setting in.
Whether camping in the mountains or on a beach, the weather is always a factor. Typically, aluminum tent poles are more durable than fiberglass tent poles during inclement weather.
Because of their stiffer construction, aluminum poles have a greater chance of winning your tent standoffs against heavy rain and stormy winds.
However, aluminum’s rigidity isn’t enough to justify using it during the hot summer months because of its metallic properties, which allow it to heat up quickly.
So, while both materials can stand up to rain and wind, more or less, fiberglass is the better choice for those who don’t want their tent to turn into an oven in hot conditions as it’s much more resistant to extreme heat and sun than aluminum.
Many campers don’t realize that tent poles can pose a hazard from time to time, regardless of how carefully you use them.
Both aluminum and fiberglass tent poles fall in this category, so you must be aware of the different ways they can harm you.
As we’ve said previously, aluminum poles have a more robust structure and can withstand heavy rain and storms better than fiberglass poles.
Simultaneously, though, they can also pose an electrocution threat during thunderstorms due to their electrical conductivity.
Meanwhile, fiberglass tent poles may not pose a similar threat as they don’t conduct electricity but aren’t without risks either.
Manufacturers use multiple layers to reduce the structural weakness of fiberglass poles.
But since they aren’t as flexible as aluminum, it’s not unlikely that such a multi-layered build could crumble under pressure, causing tears on your tent and even injury to you.
Besides, temperature disparity causes fiberglass poles to develop razor-sharp splinters in cold weather, which can hurt your hands when handling them.
The price of aluminum tent poles is usually higher than fiberglass and other types of tent poles, such as wood and plastic.
That’s why most budget tents under $100 use fiberglass tent poles.
Aluminum tent poles are more expensive to manufacture than fiberglass tent poles, which is one reason why their price tag is steeper.
Considering that aluminum is a natural metal, any product derived from it must go through extraction and processing. In contrast, fiberglass is entirely synthetic, and its production is much cheaper.
However, although fiberglass poles are generally less expensive than aluminum, this isn’t always true.
For example, if you’re looking at Marmot tents, aluminum is cheaper than fiberglass in every case (except one – the 2-person Hubba Hubba NX).
It comes down to the specifics of each tent line, so do your homework before deciding on this point alone.
Comparative Overview: Aluminum Vs. Fiberglass Tent Pole
|Considerable Factors||Aluminum Tent Pole||Fiberglass Tent Pole|
|Weight And Handling||More lightweight, easier to carry, handle, and setup||Heavier to move and handle|
|Strength And Flexibility||Sturdier, more flexible, longer-lasting||Not as strong and flexible as aluminum|
|Corrosiveness||Corrodes and rusts||100% rust and corrosion-proof|
|Suitability To Cold Weather||More suitable||Less suitable|
|Suitability to Hot Weather||Less suitable||More suitable|
|Cost||More expensive||Less expensive|
Considerations When Choosing Between Aluminum & Fiberglass Tent Poles
As you can see, each tent pole type has its advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, the choice between aluminum vs. fiberglass tent poles ultimately comes down to your personal preferences and needs.
In that regard, you ought to ask yourself these questions when selecting tent poles.
Does Pole Weight Matter To Me?
If you spend a lot of time hiking or camping, weight should be a significant consideration for you. Any backpacker who has spent time on the trail knows every ounce of weight adds up.
Hence, aluminum tent poles will be ideal for this purpose.
Do I Intend To Use Them Often?
Compared to fiberglass tent poles, aluminum poles are sturdier and last longer.
Therefore, if you camp frequently, you should always choose aluminum poles as they are meant to withstand heavy use and abuse.
What’s My Camping Location?
If you intend to camp near beaches, rainy woods, or other wet places, aluminum tent poles are a definite no-no.
Excessive moisture can damage these materials in both structure and durability.
Which Size Tent Do I Have?
Aluminum tent poles are the perfect option if you’re buying a large tent, such as a 12 person tent.
They’re sturdier and more durable than fiberglass tent poles, allowing them to carry massive, heavy canopies, canvasses, and tents without sagging or snapping.
Am I Taking My Children Camping?
You should avoid fiberglass poles if you are constantly camping with your children. As previously mentioned, fiberglass is more prone to breaking than simply bending.
When they crumble, splinters and shards will fly, which can injure both you and your children.
So, who wins this battle between aluminum vs. fiberglass tent pole? From our discussion, it’s pretty obvious that aluminum is a better choice in most cases.
They are more durable, lightweight, and overall, more reliable than fiberglass poles. However, fiberglass poles tend to be cheaper than aluminum ones.
So, what’s the solution here?
The best way to decide which one will work best for you is to look over your specific camping needs and see what kind of tent you want.