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  1. #1
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    Default Carbon Fiber vs aluminum pole

    I'm leaning towards buying a TT Rainbow and would prefer to get the carbon fiber pole to save weight. This tent would be used for an AT thru hike. Any opinions regarding thru hike durability of TT carbon fiber poles vs aluminum?

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    Garlic
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    Not sure about the poles TT sells, but I hiked the AT in 2008 with my first set of carbon fiber poles and I still have them. They also survived the AZT, PNT and CT. I think they were a good purchase.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

  3. #3
    Garlic
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    Sorry, I missed your question about comparison. I also hiked the PCT and CDT with aluminum poles I bought in 2004 and I also still have them. Maybe I'm easy on poles--I don't recall ever stressing one to the point where I was worried about it.

  4. #4

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    FWIW - There are a wide range of quality and pricing of trekking poles that one has to wade through for any kind of evaluation, closely followed by the issue of availability which seems to have reached into most every nook and cranny of outdoor equipment these days. That said, I have both aluminum and carbon fiber poles that I will use during the year, each having pros and cons.

    I have broken and bent both aluminum and carbon fiber poles over time under similar circumstances. Both types of poles work well when used as designed with downward pressure loads. Both types of poles have some resistance to lateral pressure (side to side loads) and both will succumb to high lateral loads, aluminum typically bends, carbon fiber will break. Carbon fiber cannot be repaired when it breaks, but 50% of the time aluminum poles can be bent back into shape, though the bend crease will create a weakness in the pole integrity and lessens lateral load stability significantly. If the bend is at or beyond 90-degrees, it will likely break when bending back into shape.

    Weight differential between carbon fiber and aluminum can be relatively minor depending on the quality of the poles and if an anti-shock system is used, which adds about 3 - 5 ounces. For example, at the $139.00 price point Black Diamond Ergo Cork poles weigh in at 1 pound 2 ounces (18 oz) versus REI Flash Carbon poles at 12.9 oz, a net weight savings of 5-ounces. At the lower end price point of around $30.00 it is difficult to get weight information from sources like Walmart, but a quick look through a few retailers show the weight to be around 22 ounces or so. Keeping an eye on sales you may be able to find better quality, lighter poles at lower pricing.

    At temperatures below 20-degrees and long exposure, some carbon fiber poles can shatter and may be less resistant to lateral loading, the only time I have had a carbon fiber pole break is in cold weather. During freezing weather and/or in snow conditions I use aluminum poles as they tend to perform a bit better with the lateral loads that can develop. I am not sure if there is a great difference between carbon fiber and aluminum poles when used as tent supports, however in these kinds of decisions I typically employ an old adage "if there's a doubt, there is no doubt" and would go with a pair of aluminum poles at the additional few ounces of weight. Those with some experience with pole supported tents over long periods of use in cold weather may be able to shed some further light on this.

    Good luck on your thru!

  5. #5

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    My personal pole of choice, no problems on AT sections or other long day hikes
    https://cascademountaintech.com/coll...oles-cork-grip

  6. #6
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    Guess you are speaking of tent poles?
    I have a MSR Hubba Hubba NX using Aluminium poles.
    Everything works perfectly fine as long as you are careful with this stuff.
    But in real hiking life, you may suffer from any mood or stage of exhaustion and so it happened that I kind of snapped the main pole. Luckily, the defect was such that I could still use the pole, if handling it with extra care, and I could finish the hike and self-repair the pole back home.
    If this had been Carbon poles, most likely the defect would have ended the hike.
    I'd go for Aluminium poles anytime, plus carry a repair sleeve.

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    I like Fizan Compact trekking poles. They are just as light or lighter than most carbon poles, made of the strongest Al alloy, fully adjustable, packs very small. The are light not by being flimsy, but by having a simple, light, streamline, yet very effective locking mechanism, handles, and straps. I started with BD Alpine Ergo Cork which have all the bells and whistles, but I came to appreciate simple and light.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Leo L. View Post
    ...in real hiking life, you may suffer from any mood or stage of exhaustion and so it happened ...
    Great quote. True words, applies to many things.

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    I've used both carbon fiber and aluminum poles. Aluminum poles are the more durable option. Carbon fiber poles are prone to catastrophic failure - they are not able to withstand perpendicular impacts. I had a brand new carbon fiber pole fail on me after a relatively minor blow.

  10. #10
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    Did the great Divide Mountain Bike Route with my kids for 1000 miles this summer. Carbon fiber poles all around on 2x double rainbows. No issues, even with the kids setting them up. Comes with an aluminum splint in case you do break one. There is no reason to fear the carbon fiber version. If it fails, it will be very early on due to manufacturing defect.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by gravityman View Post
    Comes with an aluminum splint in case you do break one.
    I did not know that, good to know, thanks. I was thinking of doing that as a tent "first aid kit"

  12. #12
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    Carbon fiber pole reliability has increased a lot the past few years compared to the original and highly suspect ones made with the splintery, pultruded material.

    However, you might find that they're only a few ounces lighter than aluminum ones and not dramatically lighter as many people assume.

  13. #13
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    I used a pair of REI carbon poles for my thru, I broke them 3 times, REI replaced them, but I had to go without for the time it took for the replacement to be sent. My tent uses 1 pole, so breaking one was still OK

    Quote Originally Posted by Traveler View Post
    Carbon fiber cannot be repaired when it breaks,
    Well maybe but there is always exceptions. Once I was able to get it working. The pole broke near the lower joint, I was able to reposition the top and bottom joint to make the pole work by shortening the bottom and lengthen the top. I used it that way till another break forced a REI return/exchange.

    Also to note is back then REI's carbon poles were lighter and thinner then they are today. That above point that allowed me to continue seems like the weakest point and has a better then average chance of breaking there allowing that repositioning trick. I still have and use those poles today and really love them.

    One thing I leaned is don't use the wrist straps and if one starts falling past a certain point let go of the pole. It seems like holding on too long is what can really stress a pole.

    For cold weather if one is prone to carry the poles mid shaft in one's hand at times, AL can suck heat out of one's hand, even gloved, while carbon is much more comfortable to hold. Though when one is hot it can work to one's advantage.

  14. #14
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    Arch pole for the tent.

    I just got a Double Rainbow Li for Christmas, and it comes with the carbon fiber pole. I can't speak of its durability, as I've only set it up once.
    Henry generally doesn't sell products that aren't durable. He could have switched to 20 denier silnylon years ago to achieve lighter weight tents, but has kept using 30 D silnylon because he has to stand behind his products. When you have a small business, keeping customers happy is paramount. A little bad press (especially in nowadays with the internet forums and such) can sink a cottage industry.
    As someone else already noted, the cf arch pole comes with an aluminum sleeve to use as a repair "splint" if something should happen to crack or break the carbon pole.
    If a tree limb or a person falls on your tent, the aluminum, fiberglass, or carbon fiber poles will all likely fail.

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