Light-but-tough aluminum poles are an essential ingredient in high-performance backpacking tents, but they have a hidden cost. To make aluminum strong enough, manufacturers have to super-heat it, which leaves a thick, ugly, dull gray coating. To remove the coating, they have historically had only one method: dip the poles in a tear gas-cocktail of phosphoric and nitric acid. The brew is toxic to the environment and to factory workers.
Enter DAC, a South Korean company that makes poles for many tent manufacturers in the outdoor industry. DAC has created a completely nontoxic alternative using a series of brushes that mechanically strip the gunk off the poles, leaving them bright and shiny. The greener poles are called DAC Featherlite NSL, and next spring they'll be available with select Big Agnes, Black Diamond, Kelty, MSR, Sierra Designs, and The North Face tents. DAC plans to switch entirely to the new process by 2010, and hopes to adapt the process for other aluminum gear, like carabiners.