Guys, what's the deal with these new lightweight aluminum tent poles? I've been through different brands of tents now, and continue to have pole breakage.
In the 1970's I had a Eureka tent with silver colored poles, and never a problem. In the 90's I bought a larger tent with similar-looking aluminum poles, dull silver in color. After handling them, your hands were blackened, but they never broke.
I moved up to a 3-person LL Bean tent with these newer aluminum poles. It was advertised as a tent strong enough to withstand snow accumulation. These newer style poles are shiny, skinny, and usually colored. They do not rub black on your hands. After several set-up's, the tent was sitting in my living room to dry for a couple of days. When I took the fly off, I found a pole had snapped. LL Bean replaced the pole. I went to Vermont in 06, and while it was set up for a couple of days another pole snapped. The tent sagged, I got wet. Considering the tent untrustworthy, I talked to LL Bean, and being the fine company they are, gave me full value of the tent toward another model they sold, the Mountain Hardware Hammerhead 3.
I love this tent! It is a great design, and the most expensive tent I've ever owned, at $350. It had similar looking poles to the LL Bean. Shiny and reddish brown. After maybe three set-up's, a pole snapped while set up. (This is key. It never snaps while you are bending it, always after it's been set up a couple of days.) I hoped this was a fluke. Mountain Hardware replaced the pole for free last year. This year, I went to Gillette from NC the long way, with tent setup's in Kentucky, Wisconsin, two nights in N Dakota, Wyoming, and three days in Gillette. Several thunderstorms at night on the trip, always dry inside. Tear-down in Gillette Sunday morning found a broken pole and more heartache. I used the pole repair sleeve to fix the pole, and made it home to Winston-Salem in three days. I set the tent up in my living room to dry, using the repair sleeve on the broken pole. In three days I took it down, and found one of the other poles had also snapped.
I handle the poles as if they were made of glass. I never let them smack together. I always thread them through the tent supports before bending the pole on set-ups. The tent is carried on my seat/luggage rack lengthwise by cinch straps and is the bottom item in a bag with Kermit chair, thermarest, down bag. The poles are rolled up inside the tent and cushioned by tent and fly while cinched down. I have spent so much time investigating every aspect of pole handling, and can't come up with any technique of mine that could conceivably harm the poles. For the love of God, I just want a tent I can depend on.
I'm sure LL Bean would let me trade on a different tent, but from my research almost all the poles are made by two companies. Those would no doubt break too. Anybody have experience with carbon fiber poles? I know they are expensive and have no idea how to find them for my tent, but am desperate for any answer. Is it me? Or is it the poles?