A well planned camping adventure is just one part in the fine camping experience. The remaining part consists of selecting a suitable place and a good camping tent for a suitable weather. A good camping tent is always made of the best materials available in the market. Hence it is important to know about these materials that are used in camping tents.
THE TENT MATERIAL VERIETIES
The poles and frames form the skeleton of a camping tent and they are available in:
Fiberglass poles and stakes are well known for their affordability and are easily usable by most of the campers. They are flexible and can be used to build a tent or repair and replace an existing old tent. There are many good fiberglass tents in the market like Stansport fiberglass pole back tent replacement kit etc.
- Aluminium Alloy
Those who want durability consider aluminium poles. They are mostly seen in either very large tents or very small tents. The best thing about aluminium poles are that they can bend back and forth and yet can be used over many years. One such well known brand is Kelty adjustable pole.
Steel poles come in handy for heavy and large framed tents. They hold out against weight very well, plus they are durable too. Ex: Kelty staff tarp pole in steel.
Tent covers determine the suitability of the tent for a particular weather. Some of the various types are:
- Poly cotton canvas
These are made from a mix of cotton with polyester. The tents made of this material are less bulky in weight. One such popular product is Kodiak canvas screen house, 10X14 feet.
- Cotton tents
Though it holds a reputation of being used a lot in tents in the past, cotton is still used in walls and roofs of a good quality tent. Cotton fabric weighs a lot but is very durable. Ex: Trek four season, cotton canvas tent, and 10X16 (sleeps 9) full rain fly.
This material is lighter in weight and is coated with numerous coatings as per the requirement (for waterproofing etc) by the tent makers. One such tent is Coleman sundome tent which is made of Polyester mesh.
ARE THEY HEAVY OR LIGHT?
- Fiberglass poles are lighter compared to steel poles. They can easily hold light weight tent covers such as polyester.
- Aluminium poles are hailed as the lightest among the poles and medium to highly prised tents contain aluminium poles. They can resist moderately weighty tent covers (poly cotton) quite well.
- Steel poles are the heaviest and are used in large framed tents with heavy tent fabrics.
- Polyester fabric does not absorb water and hence it is very light in weight.
- Poly cottons are somewhat heavier because of cotton. This man made blend has many other good qualities but weight is not one among them.
- Cotton is probably the heaviest and is used in large or semi permanent tents. Cotton absorbs moisture very well and due to this cotton fibres absorb water and swell, thereby increasing the weight.
WHICH ONE WILL LAST LONGER?
- Fiberglass poles are no doubt lighter but they are not durable. Large tents cannot be handled by fiberglass poles as they cannot withstand heavy winds. Even worse they can bend and shatter.
- Aluminium poles on the other hand are very durable and though they are flexible, they do not shatter under pressure. Most of the quality tents have aluminium poles as they can be repaired easily.
- Steel poles are the heaviest amongst all the poles as they are made to carry heavy or large framed tents and are not easily transportable. Though they do rust, they last longer than any other poles. They are inflexible and do not bend for any kind of pressure.
- Polyester tent fabric is not only light but they are mildew resistant. They do not shrink or cringe when wet because they cannot absorb water. Also the long term usage of this fabric is very much determined by the kind of coating that is done. However they are not good with temperature changes and UV rays. They also cause condensation.
- Poly cottons are very durable, thanks to the cotton and polyester blend. They do not tear easily as polyester weaves help them to maintain flexibility and even if there is a hole it would not stretch. Hence it is easier to fix and can last longer.
- Cotton is one of the most durable fabrics on earth and the same holds true for camping tents. They have an amazing ability to withstand UV rays and they can hold heavy winds pretty well. The only issue with cotton is that, it is prone to mildew as it can retain lot of moisture and dry slowly.
INFLUENCE OF WEATHER AND LEVEL OF PROTECTION
- Fiberglass poles are not suited for very cold weathers as they can become stiff and break easily. They do provide good strength to the small tents but longer outdoor use can make them flake and chafe. They are somewhat okay to use in lighter seasons.
- Aluminium poles do rust but because of their anodized covering on the exterior they are safe from corrosion. They have a reputation of standing strong under any weather conditions.
- Steel poles due their inflexibility can stand any rough weather. But they do get rusted if not cared for properly.
- Polyesters are not good in high temperatures and they do not take the UV rays well. Since they do not absorb water they can be condensed.
- Poly cottons on the other hand can withstand temperatures and UV rays better than polyesters. Since moisture is absorbed by them, there is no condensation.
- Cotton though a versatile fabric is prone to mildew. But they maintain and thrive well under cold or high temperature. In rains they do drip initially but once the weaves swell and fill the gap, they usually do not leak.
WATER PROOFING/HYDRO STATIC HEAD RATING
- Tent poles in fiberglass and aluminium do not corrode to moisture, but steel does corrode if not cared at regular intervals.
- Tent covers such as polyester and poly cottons are coated on the inner surface with waterproofing chemicals. The pressure needed to push the water through the layer and fabric is called Hydro static head rating. And this depends on the quality of coating that has been applied.
- Cotton is generally not coated with any water proofing material. It is used in its natural form. Cotton tents become water proofed once the cotton weaves swell and fill the gaps in order to avoid any water leakage.
REPAIR AND MAINTENANCE
Fiberglass poles are easy to repair but they do not guarantee durability. And they are also not good for family tents if kids are involved in handling the tent. As they easily break and shatter, kids could get hurt.
- Aluminium poles though costly can be easily maintained with minimal care. They are flexible and care must be taken to not bend them with force. Any hard blow from the mallet can disfigure the pole.
- Steel poles are certainly stronger than aluminium but they do rust. Hence regular cleaning is very important.
- In case of tent fabrics, cotton needs regular maintenance and repair if there are any holes whereas poly cottons require minimum care and can be fixed easily as if there are holes they would not stretch because of polyester.
- Polyesters are not suitable for high temperatures but can be maintained well with minimal care.
Fiberglass poles are way cheaper than the other varieties. Aluminium poles are expensive because of their “tensile strength” and lighter weight. Steel poles are comparatively cheaper than aluminium poles.
Polyesters are cheaper than cotton and poly cottons. Cotton can be expensive as it is not coated with any chemical layers. Poly cottons are also expensive as they have lot of good qualities compared to the other two fabrics.
THE MUCH PREFERRED ONES
Aluminium poles are much preferred over fiberglass and steel poles for durability, safety and for seamless finish. In case of family tents fiberglass poles are not considered safe and kid friendly. Other than that with any semi permanent or huge tents steel poles are opted for. Though steel and fiberglass poles are relatively cost effective, aluminium poles prove to be an investment for the stability that it has.
Poly cottons are revered for their extended ability to regulate temperatures, with stand heavy usage and for being an effective water proofed tent covers as opposed to polyester which cannot with stand such temperatures. Cotton is popular as well but needs high maintenance in comparison with other fabrics.
- Fiberglass poles are very flexible; can they be stored easily in small space without breakage?
Yes, they can be stored easily as they are provided with bungee cords; one can store them in a small place.
- Is there a risk of bent aluminium poles in windy weather?
Aluminium poles do bend, but they are very flexible and can easily come back to the original shape. If they are hit using a mallet etc they can be disfigured.
- Which tent fabric has low maintenance?
Poly cotton has a low maintenance profile compared to other fabrics. As it can adjust to many temperatures and weather conditions.
- Is poly cotton water proofed?
Poly cottons become waterproofed after couple usages in the rain. As the cotton weaves fill the gap, once they swell up taking moisture in.
THE FINAL WORDS
- The aluminium poles are best for usages under harsh weather and they can be easily transported as they are light weighted.
- Though steel is cheap and stable under harsh weather it is too heavy to transport and can easily rust if not cared for.
- Fiberglass is the cheapest but it offers no stability and can break easily, it is not suited for regular usages or large family tents.
- Cotton is suited for heavy and large tents as the fabric itself is very heavy. It can withstand most of the weather conditions but requires regular maintenance. It is most suited for large sized family tents.
- Polyester is lighter than cotton but fails under high temperatures. It is suited only for light weather and small tents.
- Poly cotton seems to fair well in most of the areas such as harsh weather, durability and maintenance and of course it is not for someone who is looking for a low cost tent or lighter tent.