Tents Buyer's Guide
by Rachel Maidment
When choosing our tent range for the season we always debate which poled tents we should show and why. But the basic principle remains, we love poled tents and will never leave them out because we feel strongly that they still have an important and deserved place within all types of camping. So, in our first ever blog post we are going to cover the topic of poled tents. All we know about them, what we love/don’t love about them and ultimately why we think they should still have a place in this summer’s pitch.
Tunnel tents, which most inflatable family tents base their design on, were of course originally supported by poles. Long established brands such as Outwell, Khyam and Sunncamp did these really well, bringing innovations such as wind stabilisers and the original poled pop up tent.
As the availability of materials within the industry has grown, so has the range of poled tents on offer, from lightweight alloy trekking tents (Terra Nova producing one which weighs under 1kg), to one of our bestselling steel poled family tents of all time the Outwell Montana 6.
Types of Poled tents:
I know what you’re thinking, a poled tent is a tent with poles right? Well, you are right of course but the material which the poles are made out of will dramatically affect its flexibility, weight and sturdiness. So certain types of poles lend themselves to certain types of tents. We’ve outlined the main ones below.
Steel Poles – These tend to be used in big family tents. They are strong so can support a lot of flysheet thus creating lots of inside space. They are sturdy, so would generally be considered a good choice if you were thinking of camping on the coast where its windy. Downsides are that they are heavy, although the weight can be distributed into separate bags for poles and flysheet. The main complaint we hear about Steel pole tents is that they can be cumbersome to put up for a short stay.
Fibreglass Poles – Can be used for anything from Family tents to small festival tents. They are great performers, tend to be a little more budget friendly and are lighter and smaller than steel pole tents. Because they are flexible they can create flexible living spaces – a great example of this is one of my all-time favourite tents the Zempire Mothership. A few issues we have seen with fibreglass poles over the years: Splitting poles, which can easily rip through tents and cause a nasty splinter and the elastic breaking within the pole set and having to work out which pole went where in the chain of 12 poles that look exactly the same but are all slightly different!?!
Alloy Poles – Mainly used for Trekking tents, very sturdy and very lightweight. Vango, Robens, Terra Nova & Wild Country are our top picks for these little beauties. Tiny in pack size, easy to put up after a long day’s trek and of course super lightweight. Alloy poles are beginning to be used in larger tents too to keep weight down. A downside of tents is that they tend to be on the pricey side.
So now we’ve taken you through the different types of poled tents we thought we’d do an overall Pros and Cons list for those of you who don’t have time to read all the technical bits above.
Price:Cheaper than inflatable tents so can get more space and features for your money.
Fixing and maintenance: Duct tape is the hero product here, allowing you to make a quick fix of most poles on site to last you the night. Once back and you can have proper look, most poles can be replaced relatively inexpensively. Something to note here is that most manufacturers don’t cover poles under warranty.
Pitching: You may not be able to pitch a larger Tent alone and the physical effort required is more than an inflatable tent. However, after the poles are inflated/vs poles being put into a sleeve, and clipped in, the rest of the pitching time is relatively similar. Putting the tent down sometimes takes longer than its inflatable counterpart. Of course, with a poled tent you also have to remember which poles go where and in which order, which may cause an argument!
Performance: I often read heated discussions on camping forums relating to this subject - the performance of poled tents in adverse weather conditions in comparison with their inflatable counterparts. Some campers suggest that although the steel pole is strong in winds, if the conditions prove too much they will break leaving you with not much choice but to pack up, where as an inflatable pole may bend inwards, but will rarely break. There is no doubt that fibreglass poles are not amazing in winds but can be repaired easily to get you through the night if they do break, and innovations such as the Vango TBS (Tension Band System) can help stabilise these poles.
In short, they are overall good performers, but in reality, you shouldn’t really be taking the chance in really strong winds in any tent, it’s just not worth it and means risk to yourself and family as well as possible expensive repairs to a tent which will not be covered under the manufacturer’s warranty.
So, now you know all there is to know about poled tents why not come along and see some for yourself at our retail store in St Albans or one of many shows we display at throughout the year. A list of these events can be seen following our Facebook page or looking at our show calendar.
If you can’t get along to us, you can of course give us a call or email and a member of staff will be happy to help and advise you.