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I'm considering starting to use a bivvy bag/tarp combination for solo backpacking in the UK (read: no trees where I'll be walking!) Most people seem to use trekking pole(s) for rigging these up which is great if you already carry one, but I don't use a trekking pole for walking. It seems like a lot of extra weight/expense to carry one just to rig a tarp. But what are good alternatives? There is a british army-issue aluminium basha pole but they are not that light.

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Many ultra light tents which use trekking poles as part of the framing offer the alternative of using carbon fiber poles (1-2oz), carbon fiber and fiberglass (1.8oz), or aluminium (4oz).

I used one carbon fiber pole over a long period of time for the awning of my LightHeart Solo tent (they only sell aluminium now). In one of my first outings, the carbon fiber pole broke. My friend walked on the guy line and the pole broke. After ordering the spare one I never had any problems with it. Anyhow, I find that they can be a bit brittle if not handled properly.

For the tent frame, I would use carbon fiber trekking poles which are very, very light (less than 3oz). I typically did not use trekking poles much prior to this. I had good experience with these poles. I've heard of people who complain that they may break easily depending on how hard you can be on your trekking poles.

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I usually use trekking poles when walking and have been for over 20 years as it helps prevent knee injury so I would use them with a tarp. Since you want to use a dedicated pole for a tarp which is lightweight, you could have a look at this one http://www.backpackinglight.co.uk/shelter-accessories/WA114.html from a UK website dedicated to lightweight gear.

I have no experience of this product but details on the pole are:

  • Expanding aluminium pole designed for any tarp or tent which requires support from 128cm - 152cm.

  • Pole Dia: 19mm

  • Weight: 285gm
  • Minimum pack length: 37cm
  • Cost about £25
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There are some really light weight Easton poles, check http://www.trekking-lite-store.com/Zelte/Zelt-Zubehoer/Easton-Front-Pole::133.html around 50grs (this is really light!). There is also a sturdyer version available at 120grs. I have successfully used my old leki hiking poles which weigh in at 280gr a piece, (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DpzJAHbsbow&list=UUzaxH-olcpIse8R6HDxaNmQ&index=1 for a pretty windy night) but I do not normally carry trekking poles, as I want to have my hands free. I was considering to do some poles myself from bamboo, but coming across the above easton poles, I had to realize I will never be able to make poles that light. Have not had a chance to test the easton poles yet, but will do so soon. Hiking poles are somwhat of an "overkill" if you do not carry them anyway, as they have to be able to cope with quite some bending forces. A properly pitched tarp will only exert compression forces to the pole, so there is no need for the sturdyness of a hiking pole

  • Hiking poles are only meant to resist compression by the way, though to an higher extent. Any hiking pole would bend easily if stressed by its side. – Dakatine Dec 16 '14 at 22:44

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