Should I Buy a Steel Pop-up Tent or an Aluminum Pop-up Tent?

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Your heavy-duty pop up tent should be able to withstand strong gusts of wind, pouring rain, harsh sunlight, and extremely harmful UV-rays. And the tent poles you choose determine how weatherproof your pop-up is. A typical custom printed 10×10 aluminum frame pop up tent ranges from $800 to $2,500 while a steel pop up tent costs somewhere between $350 to $750. The variation across prices speaks volumes about how well both materials fare in giving a tent its robustness, agility, and durability.

Both steel and aluminum have their own merits and demerits, and you can decide what poles would better suit your requirement after you considering the following factors:

  1. Resilience
  2. Rust resistance
  3. Type of usage
  4. Investment
  5. Post-purchase service

Comparing the Resilience

Steel frames are bulky, since it is heavier and denser than aluminum. To bring down the weight, steel tents usually have thin walls that are not as robust as their aluminum counterparts. On the other hand, aluminum weighs lesser than steel by around 30 percent – not only do aluminum tents have a larger leg diameter, but their thickness is also usually twice that of steel legs.

And this means that a thicker frame can be constructed without making the aluminum frame pop up tent heavier.

What about Rust?

Rust preventive coatings are basically vaccinations for your tent. While aluminum is anodized, steel gets powder-coated.

Anodizing is an electrochemical process that forms a natural oxide layer on the outer surface of aluminum. It is extremely hard and corrosion proof. Since this entire process is an innate quality of the metal, the oxidized layer doesn’t get chipped or flake away. Because of this, aluminum frames are not susceptible to rust.

On the contrary, powder-coating on steel is a secondary process that is achieved with heat and electrostatic charge. It can chip off easily, making a steel pop up tent vulnerable to rusting and cracking.

How often will you use your tent?

If you plan to use your tent for recreational activities, then there’s no point in investing in a heavy-duty pop up tent. But if you organize an event frequently, a steel gazebo might not be the right choice for you. Aluminum tents are designed for frequent usage, and can perfectly handle everyday wear and tear.


Steel pop up tents are ideally suited for lighter, recreational events with a less frequency of use (around 4-5 times a year). The aluminum pop-ups are built keeping the quality and durability in mind, so that you can use them monthly or even weekly. Also, aluminum is lightweight, hence more of it is used for creating the frame; increasing the strength and durability of the structure.

You can see where this is going.

Tent prices increase with the amount of metal used in construction of the body. And if you include the cost of custom printing, aluminum pop-up tents are at least 6 times more expensive than the steel tents. That being said, do you want to bear a one-time cost for a robust structure, or you do want to buy a new tent every 2 years? Getting an aluminum frame pop up tent might seem expensive in the beginning, but if you think long term, it is more of an investment.

Post-purchase service

Because of their strength and durability, aluminum tents carry longer warranties of 5-year, 7-year, 10-year, or even lifetime. A steel pop up tent, on the other hand, usually carries a maximum of 2 or 3-year warranty, so take your pick.

COST Economical; made with cheaper material. Costly; since more metal is required to produce the body.
AVAILABILITY Available across sports and goods stores. Available across sports and goods stores.
WEIGHT 3 times as heavy as aluminum, hence less material is used while manufacturing to keep the frame from being too bulky. Very light, compact, and nearly 30% lighter than steel. This means more material is used to build the frame and body of a tent.
RESILINCE Low Very high; heavy-duty
RUST-PROTECTION Powder coated; prone to chipping or peeling off causing rusting. Anodized; does not flake away; rust-proof.
RETURN ON INVESTMENT Due to a short life, you might need more than one steel tent in your lifetime, raising the overall investment. Longer warranties; some even last a lifetime since the tents are durable and robust.
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