Saltwater is notoriously hard on aluminum, corroding it from the inside out. Plus, these days, 95 percent of poles are made in Korea out of lighter-weight aluminum, which makes them more vulnerable to damage. While aluminum poles still have the best strength-to-weight ratio, be careful in how you care for them: When you take the tent apart, don't do what I do. Avoid letting the pole pieces snap together because that dings up the ends. More dings mean more fracture points. More fracture points mean more misery the next time you try to put everything together. If you have patience, unfold the elasticized pieces one at a time—think of it as a loving meditation on your Home Sweet Home. To fix your current poles, try a company called TentPole Technologies (polesforyou.com). The technicians will replace various parts for about $5-$7 per section, plus $10 in labor, plus shipping.
If you plan to return to the salty Keys, it's time for a new tent. Easton Mountain Products' brand-new 910-gram Kilo ($400; eastonmountainproducts.com) is just the shelter. Brand-new Ion carbon poles (which are 56 percent lighter than aluminum poles) support the ultralight ripstop nylon two-person tent. The poles use a new AirLockT connector system, which eliminates the need for a shock cord. Instead, the Ion has an insert that activates a monofilament tether that not only keeps the sections in the correct sequence; it also strengthens every connection point. Added bonus: The modular design makes field maintenance a lot easier. Then again, you won't need much maintenance—it would take and act of God to erode carbon.