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Thread: Tent POLES breaking

  1. #1
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    Question Tent POLES breaking

    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?

  2. #2
    Lucky motorradmike's Avatar
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    Wow! It can't be you, I have nothing but good to say about aluminum poles. I've owned 3 tents, 2 from Sierra designs, with no trouble. My kids have bent (slightly) some sections but they still work fine.

    Are your pole sections marked "Easton"?

    This isn't helping is it.

    Mike

  3. #3
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    I've never found markings on any tent pole I've owned. The sources I've checked indicate that most high performance aluminum poles are made by DAC or Easton, so I'm confident my poles are made by one or the other.

  4. #4
    Unfunded content provider tommcgee's Avatar
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    The MSR tent I bought last year included a sleeve to repair a broken pole. Of course, they're high quality poles in the first place. Cheaper tents aren't likely to come with extras like this, are they? So far, I haven't had trouble with poles breaking on my Eureka or MSR tent.
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  5. #5
    Seattle-area Rounder OfficerImpersonator's Avatar
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    This is why we need to avoid buying cheap crap from LL Bean, Wally Mart, etc.

    Quality brand name gear costs more because it's quality brand name gear. If you buy a cheap tent, but have to replace it every year, how cheap is the price of ownership over a five year period?

    I spent $700 on my Mountain Hardware tent, but it will last me for the rest of my life.

    Agree with what was posted above - if the tent pole doesn't say "Easton" on it, it's likely junk.

    And any outdoor store (REI, Cabela's, Sportsman's Warehouse, etc.) will sell tent pole repair kits - essentially an aluminum sleeve you wrap around the break and crimp into place. Everyone should have one in their tent stuff sack just in case.
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  6. #6
    Hogaan! testinglogin's Avatar
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    Just as another data point - I've had no problem with my Coleman "Exponent" (their "adventure" line) tent poles, which are aluminum... and I don't think I'm especially easy on them. Sorry to hear about your problems!

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    Cheap tent?

    One of the problems with being too detailed is that people don't read half of it.

    So let me repeat two details in my original post:

    (1) This is not a cheap tent. It's a $350 Mountain Hardwear Hammerhead. And OfficerImpersonator, did you not notice my tent is the same manufacturer as yours? I too hoped my Hammerhead 3 would last a lifetime. So far, three of these "quality poles" broke in one year. These poles are not "junk," but are probably the same aluminum composition as your Mountain Hardwear.

    (2) Two of you mention repair sleeves. In my original post, I stated I have and did use the repair sleeve to get me across the country from Gillette to Winston-Salem. The whole time I'm thinking "What if a second pole breaks?" The second pole broke while the tent was set up drying in my living room. Tell me why I should trust these poles across the country again.

    I have always been for buying quality tents. LL Bean (my previous tent) is a quality outdoor supplier, and you should not put them in the same category as "Wally Mart." During my two weeks of camping this year, I saw two tent failures near me during thunderstorms. My Hammerhead was perfect and dry.

    My point, guys, is this is a quality tent and I don't know why it's breaking.

  8. #8
    RIDEOREGON
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    I know this isn't the answer you want to hear, but I have to wonder what you are doing with these tents. In 30+ years of backpacking, camping, and mountaineering (including a lot of abusive conditions on long-distance treks), I've never had a pole fail. How is it that your poles are just breaking for no reason at all simply being set up? That would be like having a tie sitting on a tie rack generating lipstick stains spontaneously. I guess it could happen, but my wife would wonder.

    If this were my situation, I'd start by assuming it was me and work through my techniques step by step.

    I'm not saying new aluminum technology hasn't somehow weakened things to this point. And I'm not saying you are doing anything wrong. But I'm not hearing about a rash of these problems; no discernable internet chatter about it. And so the fact that these failures are not even under load would have me engaged in self-criticism first. If this were happening to me. Which it's not.

  9. #9
    Rob Mayes
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    Quote Originally Posted by jdmetzger View Post
    Just as another data point - I've had no problem with my Coleman "Exponent" (their "adventure" line) tent poles, which are aluminum... and I don't think I'm especially easy on them. Sorry to hear about your problems!

    I also have a Coleman I purchased at a sporting store and love it. We have camped twice and no issues at all. I think the poles are composite with aluminum slip joints. Costs me $49.95 for a 2 person. Worked in Gillette (with Storm) and the badlands on the way home.


  10. #10
    Registered User amiles's Avatar
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    Please don't be insulted by this, but, are you sure that those poles aren't fiberglass?

    My tent appears to be the same as RJM2096's, inexpensive and has held up well. Perhaps another 5 or 10 years or so, perhaps not. If I get ten years that comes to about $5.00 per year.

    With all the things that can befall a tent I would be leery to buy a very expensive one and expect it to last my lifetime.

  11. #11
    Lucky motorradmike's Avatar
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    Hi Tatonka:

    I just got home and checked my poles. Each section of each pole is marked as shown in the picture. If yours aren't then my bet is that somebody has found a cheap knockoff that isn't the same. We call a lot of things "aluminum" but there are a lot of alloys and a lot of hardening and tempering processes that can be used(and screwed up). Note the "7075" number. This indicates an alloy which has great resistance to deforming permanently when bent.

    These poles are tough and don't need to be babied. My tent gets pounded. I use it for winter camping in -40 and drop it into a canoe in the summer. It's 7 years old. Only one of the four poles has a wave in it because I lent the tent, the others look new.

    Your poles are substandard and Mountain Hardwear should step up and give you your money back. More poles aren't the solution. More repair sleeves aren't the solution(I've never even heard of a repair sleeve and I wouldn't bother taking one!).

    One last thing. Your tent probably won't last a lifetime, UV kills them. You can replace the fly but after a while the UV gets the tent too.

    A less than tolerant viewpoint from Mike Marr!

    Good luck, I hope this helps.

    Mike
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  12. #12
    Coffee is 99% water CoffeeGuy's Avatar
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    Wow

    Quote Originally Posted by m_marr View Post
    More repair sleeves aren't the solution(I've never even heard of a repair sleeve and I wouldn't bother taking one!).Mike
    +1

    And you don't need to spend $700 or more to expect that your tent poles won't break. Quality doesn't start at any specific price point, although it seems you know that already...

    Mine

    I would be more than a little angry if my tent poles failed from normal use (hasn't happened yet in 19 yrs of camping- knocking on wood)

    Good luck...

  13. #13
    Polarbear Polarbear's Avatar
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    More success with cheapies;

    I've heard more success camping stories recently, of those buying 50$ tents and doing just fine. Go figure. My Chinese Eureka Timberline, just bent a pole in Gillette, during the BIG stormy night there. I have blamed it on cheap aluminum and learned one lesson. Seems the pole story told here, however is exceptional and clearly really good tents, with less than quality aluminum poles. Mine was certainly an offshore tent with crap for aluminum poles. Shame on Eureka! The better poles( with better, pricier tents) are aircraft grade for obvious reasons and should never fail in a tent scenario. Somebody in your case has cut corners, with two tents now! Highly unprobable, but you are living proof of bad luck tenting. Logic would dictate that a bad batch of poles made it to the retail end and you found a couple of them. Me, I like to buy middle priced, good tents and made a bad buy recently and have learned a lesson. I will study carefully, my next tent and where its made! Eureka? I do have another of the same brand, for years now and its been exceptionally good. Not all bad. Randy"Polarbear"

  14. #14
    It is what it is. Bud's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by m_marr View Post
    Hi Tatonka:

    I just got home and checked my poles. Each section of each pole is marked as shown in the picture. If yours aren't then my bet is that somebody has found a cheap knockoff that isn't the same. We call a lot of things "aluminum" but there are a lot of alloys and a lot of hardening and tempering processes that can be used(and screwed up). Note the "7075" number. This indicates an alloy which has great resistance to deforming permanently when bent.

    These poles are tough and don't need to be babied. My tent gets pounded. I use it for winter camping in -40 and drop it into a canoe in the summer. It's 7 years old. Only one of the four poles has a wave in it because I lent the tent, the others look new.

    Your poles are substandard and Mountain Hardwear should step up and give you your money back. More poles aren't the solution. More repair sleeves aren't the solution(I've never even heard of a repair sleeve and I wouldn't bother taking one!).

    One last thing. Your tent probably won't last a lifetime, UV kills them. You can replace the fly but after a while the UV gets the tent too.

    A less than tolerant viewpoint from Mike Marr!

    Good luck, I hope this helps.

    Mike

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    I used to post here, but now I don't.

  15. #15
    TDI Guru jasontdi's Avatar
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    It can boil down to proper tie-down too. Equal tension and not over doing it. I had no problems with my REI 2dome in Gillette. I Tied down a LOT and was getting poked fun at by some around me. all the fly loops as well. It was me laughing out loud and yelling batten down the hatches at those around me up a 3am in the 60mph wind/rain going tink, tink, tink, tink pounding in more stakes then the 4 they put in that sandy soil.
    Jason
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