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Carbon Fiber Tent Poles
What a carbon fiber tent pole looks like
About Carbon Fiber Tent Poles
Simply put, carbon fiber is a space-age material. Its strengths include maximum tension strength of five times that of steel, stiffness twice that of steel and feather-like lightness. In tent poles, lightness for the backpacker and strength to hold the tent structure are essential, so to use carbon fiber for a tent pole is a no-brainer.
In the world of tent poles, two basic materials have monopolized the market share since the first modern-day tent was erected—fiberglass and aluminum. Fiberglass and aluminum are wonder materials. They have high strength-to-weight ratios, which is the only property important to a good tent pole apart from flexibility.
Fiberglass and aluminum work well as tent poles and people continue to use and depend on them daily. Choosing fiberglass over aluminum, and vice versa, is a matter of personal preference. One has advantages over the other, and it would be hard to say for sure which one suits the job best.
On a side note, plastic and bamboo are also used to make tent poles, but are not as popular.
Fiberglass is lighter than aluminum. Its strength is more than enough for the average tent user. However, in extreme conditions or under unexpected circumstances, it can still break. When a fiberglass tent pole fails, it splits in half. This is why a more-experienced tent user would favor aluminum over fiberglass. Aluminum, although a tad bit heavier, tends to bend instead of break. In the wilderness, a bent aluminum pole (which can be straightened anyway), is still usable.
Even if in the odd case an aluminum pole splits in half, it is easier to splint and repair to a usable state. When a fiberglass pole breaks, it leaves a messy joint—think of a twig splitting in half—and it is harder to temporarily join together.
Still, others would prefer fiberglass over aluminum. They would argue that the strength advantage is minimal, and/or, because aluminum is vulnerable to corrosion.
Enter carbon fiber tent poles. It is both stronger and lighter. It will break, sure, as nothing is indestructible, but the chances are very, very slim to none. The only thing preventing the average backpacker from switching permanently to carbon fiber poles is cost. Carbon fiber is quite expensive—until now.