|Why are our tent poles "custom"? Because we cut them to length? No, cutting tubing to length and gluing
some ferrules in is only a part of how we add value for you.
First lets start with what "off the shelf" tubing is, as this is the tubing used by some people in the industry.
Typically Ebay start ups, but a few larger outfits use it as well. While there is nothing inherently wrong with
this tubing, it has a narrow window of optimal use, because of it's properties.. There are many suppliers of
carbon fiber tube that produce "off the shelf tubing". These are typically 60" or 72" tubes in a couple of
different wall thicknesses, and two different "styles". The two different styles are typically called
unidirectional, and fabric tubes. Both of these come with what is called a "cello wrap" finish. This finish is
the rough textured surface left by the cello wrap that is used to hold pressure on the prepreg(epoxy
impregnated fabric) that is wrapped over a mandrel to form the carbon fiber tube. With the two styles of
tubing you get two different properties in the common tubes that are offered. In the case of unidirectional
tube, the outer layer is a layup of unidirectional fibers. This provides for a stiffer tube, which is desirable in a
tent pole, but this style also reduces "hoop strength" and flex. Hoop strength is a very desirable trait for a tent
pole or trekking pole, especially those that employ inner adjusters, or situations that will expose the tube to
lateral forces, like wind loads. These are the more affordable of the two styles available. The other style of
commonly available tube has a fabric outer layer. This is not only aesthetically pleasing, this adds hoop
strength and lateral flex to the tube, but reduces stiffness. This is a double edged sword for a tent pole. The
fabric tubes are typically 15% more in price as well, because of the fabric weave outer layer. Many of these
qualities are the function of the individual carbon fiber strands running 0, 90, or off axis to the center of the
tube. Off the shelf tubing is built for the mass market, it is not engineered for specific uses, which is why the
two styles are geared for stiffness or flex, but not both. You need both in a tent pole. Off the shelf tubing can
leave you with a number of issues, including higher prices($10,000 minimums for custom/wholsale
products from many manufactures), as well as little to no weight savings at many heights and applications.
And while a lack of sex appeal because of the lack of a "money layer" may seem trivial, it also leaves you
with a sub-optimal combination of performance features as well.
So how is our tubing "custom", versus off the shelf? First, it is engineered and purpose built to our
specifications, for us, not the mass market. It is purpose engineered to provide the balance of features
needed to produce the best tent pole. We do not use 60" or 72" long off the shelf tubes. And when we did
use 72" long tubes in the past, they were to our specs. We have many different lengths(none of them over
38") in 15 different diameters, built to our specifications, because there is no "One size fits all" solution
when it comes to carbon fiber tent and tarp poles. This very specific manufacturing is done for a number of
different reasons, with just one of them being better shipping rates that we get to pass on to you. The main
reason we do this is for efficiency of manufacturing by our tubing supplier, which reduces waste(cost again)
in the initial layup. This also allows us to more affordably run better "off axis" layups for better torsional
strength. Our wall thicknesses fall in between those typically offered by most manufactures, and our layups
are different as well. This combination of custom wall thickness and specific layup, helps us get the
stiffness of unidirectional tubing, with the aesthetics, hoop strength, and forgiveness of fabric tubing. Above
and beyond this, we go one step further and have all of our tubing centerless ground to a smooth surface.
While on the surface this is aesthetically pleasing, there is much more to it than just looking good, and
adding cost. By grinding the rough cello wrapped surface out of the OD of the tube, we get uniformity, and
ultimately we get weight reduction, while maintaining strength. Consistency of surface is strength. It is the
combination of these manufacturing techniques, and our quantity purchasing(we build well over 1000 tent
poles a year) that allow us to provide the best possible tent poles, built from the best possible materials, at
the best prices.
Above and beyond the tubes: Besides having truly custom tubing, we also have our own machine shop. We
have 3 lathes, and 2 mills. One of those mills is a full 3 axis CNC bed mill, and one of those lathes is CNC
as well. The CNC Hardinge lathe turns out all of our custom aluminum spikes, brass buttons, adjuster
inserts, and a number of other misc parts for us and our customers. This is another way in which we keep
our prices down, while also being able to offer all the bells, as well as the whistles.