Carbon fiber trekking poles are becoming quite common. We have reviewed an astonishing variety in the past year from large and small companies. Fixed length, 2-segment, and 3-segment poles with all manner of grips, straps, and locking systems have been examined. One thing many of the poles have in common though is their fairly high price. A notable exception can be found with the Alpkit Carbonlite Trekking Pole Review written by Doug Johnson last fall. Alpkit has since refined the pole, making several changes which I believe have made a value-leading trekking pole better yet.
- Very stiff, deflecting 1.75 inches in our stiffness tests, among the least in their class.
- For their stiffness and overall length they're quite light at 6.9 ounces per pole.
- Secure locking system that remains easy to adjust.
- Comfortable straps that do not cause undue sweat on the wrists.
What’s Not So Good
- Somewhat less durable than aluminum poles where side impacts are concerned.
|2007 Alpkit Carbonlite Trekking Poles|
|Tungsten/Carbide Flex Tip|
|EVA foam with straps; cork grips with straps also available|
|6.7 oz (190 g) measured weight for poles with EVA foam grip; 6.9 oz (196 g) measured weight for poles with cork foam grip; manufacturer’s specification (not clear if it's with baskets) per their website 216g (7.6 oz) (EVA handle)), 220g ( 7.8 oz) (cork handle)|
|26.6-53.9 in (65.5-137 cm)|
Baskets Included? - Yes
|2.2 inch baskets weighing 0.35 oz (10 g)|
|£40 (approx. $80)|
A solid locking system is vital for any trekking pole. I used these poles on a variety of terrain including steep root and rock infested ground, and steep hard pack with plenty of loose rock and soil. Having a pole collapse under these conditions would be irritating to say the least, but the poles performed quite well and only gave way once. I fell down while pushing hard on the pole - the pole tip lost purchase and slipped under the relentless heavy pressure. They have remained solid even after I accidentally broke a plastic prong on a locking segment off. I cannot be completely certain when this actually happened, though I believe it was on a hard fall where a pole landed underneath me and on top of a rough rock step (not the same fall described above). However, it is possible that it happened due to one too many rough airline luggage handling sessions. Even if the damage occurred during the most recent mishap, the pole still has seen nearly 100 miles of use in assorted terrain without any incidents.
The ridges make twisting this lock easy whether the pole is wet or dry and you are gloved or un-gloved.
The way the locking prongs should appear (top). While I cannot say exactly when these tines were broken off (bottom) I can say that it does not seem to have impaired the pole's ability to remain locked.
The Alpkit Carbonlite Trekking Poles weigh 7.0 ounces per pole (EVA foam handle). With the balance point in the top segment this gives the poles a very comfortable swing weight. I also found the poles easy to carry completely collapsed. At 26.5 inches long when collapsed these aren't the shortest poles to carry, but I never found it an issue except when trying to stuff them into my suitcase for overseas travel. At full extension the poles are 54 inches long which ought to be adequate for even very tall hikers.
|Compatibility with trekking pole shelters||Usable with this shelter?|
|Gossamer Gear/Tarptent Squall Classic (42 in/107 cm)||Yes|
|Tarptent Virga 2 / Squall 2 and Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo / Europa (45 in/114 cm)||Yes|
|Golite Trig 2 (48 in/123 cm)||Yes|
|MSR Missing Link (54 in/137 cm)||Maybe|
The poles are stiff and do a wonderful job of absorbing vibrations when you cross rock or slam a pole down onto hard ground. I never really noticed any vibration of the shafts during walking. Even when I would place my entire weight on the pole I felt very little deflection. This was confirmed when I performed the stiffness test described in this article. When I put a 25 pound load on the center section of a 115 centimeter pole it deflected 1.75 inches. This is far from the smallest deflection measured, but for this class of pole it is quite good.
A Gossamer Gear Mariposa is loaded with 25 pounds of water and positioned at the center of a 115cm long pole. Deflection was then measured and found to be 1.75 inches.
Going hand-in-hand with pole stiffness as far as comfort is concerned is the grip and it's strap. I tested the Carbonlite poles with EVA foam and cork grips. I was expecting I'd notice some differences in overall feel of the grips especially when my hands grew sweaty which they had ample opportunity to do when hiking in the summer heat in Maryland. To my surprise I found each type of grip just as comfortable. They both have performed quite well and remain easy on the hands even when you are drenched in sweat. Furthermore, I found the straps to be comfortable even under the hottest conditions. Sometimes straps can cause uncomfortable sweat and warmth underneath. I did not have any issues of this sort with these straps.
I found the EVA foam and cork equally comfortable. While the cork grip poles are slightly heavier I would have no qualms about using them. I still suspect, though I have no proof, that the cork grips will feel better over the very long-term when hiking in hot and humid weather.
The Carbonlite poles come with 2.2 inch press-fit baskets that are certainly more than adequate for non-snow use. The tungsten tip grips the ground just as you would expect it to do. You can attach other types of baskets to the poles such as those from Life-Link and Black Diamond.
Equipped with 2.2-inch baskets and tungsten tips these poles have no trouble gaining good purchase against the ground.
With the exception of the broken lock prong I mentioned above the Carbonlite poles have proven to be quite durable. I've not taken any special care with the poles. In fact when I took the hard fall on the hard rock steps and landed on top of the pole I felt sure it would deform somewhat. Nothing happened.
These are not the lightest carbon fiber trekking poles we have tested. They are, however, among the least expensive trekking poles we have used. Combined with the poles apparent durability and Alpkit's clear attention to detail (incorporating many improvements into this generation of poles) and you have a set of trekking poles that fill a valuable market niche.
Recommendations for Improvement
I believe these trekking poles are quite well designed. Alpkit has incorporated many improvements into this second-generation of their Carbonlite poles. I have managed to break a bit off the lock that, but that is hardly a design failing. If anything it is a testament to how stout the locking mechanism is since that still works. I do wish the minimum length of the poles was a bit shorter since this would make transporting them in smaller luggage a bit easier, but this is a minor complaint since they do fit if you are persistent and careful.