Last updated: 17/10/2022

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Camping is a lifetime adventure. Be it at the North Sea, in the mountains or on the beach – no one should miss out on the indescribable feeling of freedom. When it comes to buying camping equipment, however, camping newbies often don’t inform themselves enough. You wonder why a huge tent on the North Sea suddenly blows away in a strong gust of wind?

The answer lies in the tent poles. The tent poles are the complete framework, the base of your tent. It must be made of the right material to support the tent optimally. When buying tent poles, you need to pay attention to more than just whether they fit in the tent. In our tent pole test 2022 we explain in detail which tent poles you should use when and why. In addition, we give you some camping tips and answer the most burning questions.




Summary

  • There is a wide range of tent poles made of aluminium, steel and fibreglass. The material determines the stability of the pole.
  • The choice of tent poles is influenced by the transport possibilities, the weather conditions and the type of tent.
  • With proper care and stowage, tent poles will last a long time. You can even bend them back if they are deformed.

The Best Tent Poles: Our Picks

To give you a first insight into the variety of the best tent poles, we present some of the editors’ favourites below:

Buying and evaluation criteria for tent poles

If you search for the right tent pole for you on the internet, you will come across a large selection of models and offers. In the following section, we will show you which factors you can use to find your way between these many tent poles and make your decision.

The criteria you can use to compare tent poles include:

Material

The most common materials for tent poles are aluminium, steel and fibreglass.

Aluminium poles are characterised by their stability and low weight. It is often used for awnings, sun canopies and pavilions. It is suitable for camping trips to windless places in summer. Aluminium is also a suitable pole material for lightweight trekking tents.

Within the variety of aluminium poles there are high quality differences. These include both pure aluminium poles and alloys.

If you are going on holiday to the Atlantic, the North Sea or the Baltic Sea, a steel tent pole is essential.

Steel is very robust and heavy. Steel poles are usually thin, but there is no danger of them breaking.

Another variant similar to aluminium poles is fibreglass poles. Fibreglass is somewhat cheaper and more elastic than aluminium. Here, too, there are enormous differences in quality. Strong UV rays can cause fibreglass to fray, so be sure to pack spare poles.

Dimensions

There are many different sizes of tent poles. Normally, the diameter starts at 7.9 millimetres and goes up to 12.7 millimetres.

The smallest poles start at 0.8 metres long.

The longest rods are up to 8 metres long. These are then often very thick – about 11 centimetres.

Aluminium and fibreglass tent poles with a length of 2-6 metres usually have a diameter between 8 and 9.5 millimetres. Steel poles are much thinner.

Before buying a new set of tent poles, you should know exactly what length and diameter they should have. Poles that are too thin or too thick are both unstable, as they do not match the tent pegs.

Weight

Depending on the means of transport and the destination, you should pay attention to the weight when buying tent poles.

Lightweight poles are not suitable for windy conditions. They often cost a little more than heavier models and are widely used nowadays because they are extremely practical.

Aluminium and fibreglass poles are extremely light and therefore suitable for pretty much any transport – whether on foot, by bike or in hand luggage. These lightweight poles are quite sufficient for cosy camping with the family or for stretching a sun sail.

Heavier tent poles are necessary for holidays on stormy coasts or very large, heavy tents.

Steel tent poles are heavy and robust, so they are not easy to transport. They will most likely have to go in your luggage.

Tent type

There are an incredible number of tent types, which luckily for you often come with their poles.

For many types of tents, aluminium, steel and fibreglass are all possible pole materials. You decide individually on their use, taking into account the planned trip.

For particularly large tents, such as group tents and cotton sun canopies, steel is used as a frame or as a single support pole.

Steel poles are heavy and guarantee maximum stability.

For lighter tents, such as throw, second and trekking tents, tent poles made of fibreglass or aluminium alloys are suitable. These poles are light and elastic, which is why they are well suited as pole arches and pitching poles. They are also suitable for lighter awnings, pavilions, tarps and awnings.

Decision: What types of tent poles are there and which is right for you?

If you want to buy new tent poles, there are basically three popular product types you can choose between.

Type Description
Aluminium tent poles Aluminium tent poles are very light and therefore ideal for trekking trips and excursions in warm, windless climates. They do not withstand stronger winds.
Steel tent poles Steel tent poles are stable and robust. They can withstand strong gusts of wind and are durable. They are quite heavy, but thinner than other variants.
Fibreglass tent poles fibreglass poles are lightweight and inexpensive. They are elastic, but can fray due to exposure to the sun.

In the following we will explain the properties and characteristics of the different types of tent poles, as well as their advantages and disadvantages.

Aluminium tent poles

Aluminium tent poles

Aluminium is probably one of the most popular materials for tent poles. Aluminium tent poles are strong and light at the same time, which makes them the ideal companion for trekking tours. This pole is also popular for pavilions, sun roofs and awnings.

Within the large variety of aluminium poles, there is a price range of 10-30 euros due to large differences in quality. It should be noted that there are both alloys and pure aluminium poles.

Additional stability is often given to the aluminium poles by a layer of lacquer or anodising.

For summer holidays in windless places as well as for family outings and smaller hikes, aluminium tent poles are wonderfully suitable. In more turbulent weather, however, steel should be used.

Advantages
  • Stable and elastic
  • Lightweight
  • Often additionally protected by paint or anodising
Disadvantages
  • Only as thick as steel
Steel tent poles

Steel tent poles

Steel tent poles are extremely robust and are therefore particularly suitable for stormy adventure trips and holidays on windy coasts. They are very stable even when thin, but somewhat heavier to transport than their competitors due to their weight.

Another advantage is that you very rarely have to replace steel poles thanks to their stability, as breakage in the material is very unlikely.

Advantages
  • Already thinly stable
  • Particularly durable
  • For all weather conditions
Disadvantages
  • Heavy
  • Difficult to transport
fibreglass pole

Fibreglass tent poles

A cheaper alternative to aluminium poles is the fibreglass pole. There are also big differences in quality here.

On the one hand, fibreglass is very elastic and light, but on the other hand it is also susceptible to fraying. The glass-fibre reinforced plastic is susceptible to UV radiation and so fraying can occur at the ends or at breaks in the poles.

Most fibreglass poles are hollow rods held together inside by a rubber cord. Often, however, the connecting sleeves are on the outside, which makes it difficult to insert them into the pole channel.

Advantages
  • More elastic than aluminium
  • Inexpensive
  • Very hand luggage friendly
Disadvantages
  • Susceptible to UV radiation
  • Can fray
  • Sometimes difficult to put together

Guide: Frequently asked questions about tent poles answered in detail

In the following guide, we want to answer the most important questions about tent poles. In our guide you will find comprehensive information about all essential aspects of buying and using the right tent poles.

What do tent poles cost?

When surfing the internet, you will come across a confusing selection of tent poles within a large price range. In simple terms, the price of tent pole sets depends on the size of the manufacturer as well as the following factors:

  • Material
  • Length
  • Accessories

However, price should be secondary when buying tent poles, as stability, practicality and the safety of the tent occupants should be the focus.

Material

We have compared the prices of various tent pole sets from 8 to 15 tent poles and found the following average prices:

Material Price range
Aluminium 12-50 Euro
Steel 12-50 Euro
Glass fibre 10-30 Euro
Fibreglass 8-30 Euro

As you can see, the average prices for fibreglass and glass fibre are slightly lower than those for aluminium and steel poles. In general, you can say that steel is a more expensive material because it offers the most stability.

Aluminium is also more expensive than some competitors because it kills two birds with one stone: lightness and stability.

Therefore, you should not look at which material might be the cheapest, but which one best suits your needs and the weather conditions.

We have listed the advantages and disadvantages of the materials in our decision section above, so you can easily find your perfect tent pole.

Length

The length of the poles also plays a role in terms of price. There are also different types of poles:

  • Tent poles with fixed length
  • Tent poles with seamless adjustable length
  • Tent poles with fixed extension points

However, what determines the price here is the mass of the processed material. Logically, longer poles cost a little more.

According to our extensive research, however, this price difference per model amounts to a maximum of 3 euros per 15 cm of additional length.

Again, the price for different lengths of a model fluctuates only minimally and should therefore not be a decisive factor when buying.

Accessories

Tent poles often come in sets that may also include pegs, ropes or a carrying bag.

For all camping beginners, such sets are worthwhile in terms of price, as they usually come cheaper than the separate individual parts. Experienced campers will probably want to buy poles to replace or stock up on. There are extra sets with spare parts for this.

Tent poles should be chosen based on weather conditions, usage requirements and transportability – not price.

Buying tent pole sets with additional accessories is therefore more worthwhile for camping beginners. When buying, you should also make sure that accessories and existing equipment are compatible.

What size tent poles should I buy?

The length and number of poles are determined by the tent itself. For camping tents, pay particular attention to the diameter and any hooks. Replacement tent poles should always be purchased with the same characteristics and dimensions.

In an emergency, buy longer tent poles that you can cut to size.

In general, if you are unsure, it is better to buy long poles because you can always cut them to size with a saw.

Thickness is another decisive factor that you can influence with the purchase itself. If you buy poles that are too thin, the awning will not hold optimally in the ground for gusts of wind.

If you buy tent poles that are too thick, they may not fit into the hooks and the tent will again become unstable.

Are there flexible tent poles?

There are indeed flexible tent poles made of the following materials:

  • Fibreglass
  • Aluminium

Both materials can be bent wonderfully, whereby fibreglass is even more elastic than aluminium.

You can simply heat the poles slightly with a hairdryer and bend them by hand, possibly with counterpressure from the knee. If the pole is a tube, fill it with sand first to prevent the risk of kinking.

How do I clean and care for a tent pole?

Not only should you clean your tent after use/before storage, but also your pegs and tent poles. This will ensure maximum durability.

Aluminium tent poles must never come into contact with alkaline solutions.

Especially if you have camped in salty air, you should clean your equipment thoroughly to prevent rust. You can do this easily with a damp cloth.

There are two methods to further protect the poles from rust:

  • Acid-free oil: You can protect your poles optimally with a precision mechanic’s oil and ensure that they continue to fit together well.
  • Silicone spray: Silicone spray is another method of caring for the poles and is particularly practical if you want to treat your tent poles while you are still on the move.

Zeltstangen-1

With the right care, you can use your tent poles perfectly for several years – Clean thoroughly to save you the time and expense of buying a new one.
(Image source: Novikov/ 123rf.com)

Remember to always unstick your tent poles. Never store them wet and uncleaned.

When should I replace a tent pole?

Generally, most good quality tent poles will last for several years with proper care. However, rough transport and harsh weather conditions can damage, break or bend individual elements of the pole. Of course, it can also happen that you misplace a tent pole.

If you only want to replace one pole element, choose one of the same material and thickness. This is the only way it will fit in with the rest of the structure. Therefore, you should measure the old poles before disposing of them.

However, if you want to replace a complete set of tent poles with a new one, keep the following points in mind:

  • Stability
  • Dimensions
  • Weight

These criteria vary depending on the purpose of the tent. Further up in this article we explain which poles are suitable for which conditions.

Always remember to check all your camping equipment before your planned holiday and replace it if necessary!

How can I transport tent poles?

For a long time, the usual way to transport tent poles was to simply wrap them in the tent fabric. Today, however, there is a much gentler way to transport your tent poles.

If you buy your tent with the right poles, they will probably fit in the tent bag. With a tent bag, you can transport your camping utensils compactly and easily.

Tent pole sets often come with a pole carrying bag. A pole transport bag not only makes it easier to carry and store the poles, it also provides a clear overview when camping.

Can I take tent poles in my hand luggage?

Unfortunately, there are no clear guidelines that regulate the transport of camping equipment.

The EU regulation generally states that items that are considered dangerous and could be used as a weapon are prohibited in hand luggage.

However, this assessment depends on the respective staff at the security check. Therefore, it is always advisable to go to the security check early enough in case your hand luggage is rejected.

If you get there early enough, you can check in your baggage as cargo luggage.

Zeltstangen-2

To guarantee your international camping pass, always go through baggage screening early enough and have a Plan B ready.
(Image source: Matheus Bertelli/Pexels)

One factor to consider when assessing is the material of the poles that could be classed as a possible impact weapon. Especially massive and large poles, for example steel poles, might have a harder time than fibreglass poles. There are some campers who swear by fibreglass poles when travelling by plane.

Picture source: anatoliygleb/ 123rf.com

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