by Marty Coatney | 2005-05-03 03:00:00-06
Marty and the EMS Women's Ridge Lite poles near Mt. Thielsen along the Pacific Crest Trail.
The EMS Ridge Lite trekking poles are compact three-section aluminum poles that are marketed towards women but are an excellent choice for anyone with smaller hands who doesn't need poles longer than 125 centimeters. They are lightweight, comfortable, and flexible enough to absorb all but the most extreme trail vibrations while still being stiff enough to provide confident hiking in any terrain. At just $79, the Ridge Lite poles are an amazing value.
• Trekking Pole Type
• Shaft Material
• Weight (without baskets)
• Pole Length
• Model Year
Close-up of EVA foam extended grip and tungsten carbide tip without trekking basket.
The EMS Women's Ridge Lite poles are marketed as a women's trekking pole. This means that the overall length is shorter and that the grips are smaller in comparison to their men's poles. I found the phrase "trekking poles for women" found on the front of the hangtag very misleading. I am 5'9" inches tall with hands on the smaller side of average for a man and found these poles were a perfect fit for me.
The main grips are approximately 4 inches long and are made from firm yet comfortable EVA foam. Lower on the pole are ridged foam extensions that measure about 3.5 inches long. These extensions are for use on ascents to effectively shorten the pole without having to adjust the poles themselves. I found that I rarely used the extended grips except when climbing the steepest of trails. When I did use the grip extension it caused the pole to feel somewhat awkward and off balance. While not an ideal design they did serve their purpose.
The EMS Women's Ridge Lite poles have three sections and adjust by twisting each section to expand a plastic plug inside the section above. This system allows the poles to adjust from a compact 22 inches to just over 49 inches. In the field, both my wife and I had the poles collapse a few centimeters over the course of our hiking. Even with extreme tightening of the shaft, the sections loosened up periodically and needed to be checked. They never had a full or dangerous collapse and I never was worried that they would. I would just notice a slight height difference between the two poles and stop to readjust every several hours.
The tungsten carbide tips of the EMS poles worked very well in all conditions. They provided secure grip on terrain ranging from wet, seaweed covered boulders to compact snow and ice above tree line. While I used them for the most part without baskets, they come with trekking baskets and snow baskets are available for purchase through EMS or Komperdell. When hiking on the beach the trekking baskets worked well in keeping the poles from getting jammed too deep into rock crevasses but were flexible enough to keep from cracking.
|Shelter (pole length needed)||Usable with this shelter?|
|Six Moon Designs Europa (41 in/104 cm)||Yes|
|Golite Trig 2 (48 in/123 cm)||Yes|
|MSR Missing Link (54 in/137 cm)||No|
At 22 inches (56 cm), these poles compact to the shortest length of any poles we reviewed. At this length, they were very easy to stow and disappeared when not in use. Their maximum length of 49 inches (124 cm) was just long enough for one 6'2" reviewer to find them usable. If you are an especially tall hiker or use a shelter that requires a longer extension, you will want to find a longer pole (see chart below).
The weight I measured on the EMS Ridge Lite poles is actually lighter than the manufacturer's claim. The center of gravity of these poles (when fully extended) lies near where the middle and top sections join. These two facts add together to create a pole that feels relatively light while on the trail. Even after many miles on the trail they caused very little arm fatigue. They were easy to reliably place among rocks and other trail debris without feeling like it was an effort or that I was fighting with the weight of the poles.
The EMS Women's Ridge Lite poles were able to support nearly my full body weight when I injured my knee on the Pacific Crest Trail. Yet they are flexible enough that those times that I got the poles stuck in rocks while hiking that I was able to catch my mistake before I did any damage to the poles.
While on a coast trip my wife relied heavily on the poles to support her over wet, slippery rocks. They became indispensable parts of her body, acting as outriggers. In her words: "The poles gave me the confidence to finish the trip."
These aluminum alloy poles could be jarring in rocky conditions, but not more than other aluminum trekking poles. Placing the poles more carefully while I was hiking in those situations mitigated this problem. On compact trails the vibration was not noticeable at all. The EMS poles caused no discomfort in my hands, fore arms, or upper body. I was able to get into a flowing stride without conscious thought of where I was placing the poles.
Fitting at section juncture that came loose while adjusting poles.
After my wife took a fall when using the EMS Ridge Lite poles, they would no longer compact down. EMS replaced the damaged pieces no questions asked.
During "normal" use along the Pacific Crest Trail these poles held up as expected. Along smooth trail where there were few large rocks the poles received minimal dings and scratches. No more than could be expected for any trekking pole. The carbide tips show little wear even after extended use in rocky territory. My only complaint is that the plastic cover protecting the juncture of two shaft sections continued to come loose and slide down the pole. Specifically, this happened whenever I tried to adjust the length of the pole.
Where these poles really impressed me was during a wet, late Fall hike along the Coast of the Olympic Peninsula. My wife used the EMS Ridge Lite poles to traverse some of the toughest, slipperiest hiking that I have had the pleasure of partaking in. They were jammed into rock crevasses, used to pole-vault tide pools, and all around abused so that we could safely cross the rocky shore. The poles showed very little damage beyond scratches in the paint.
When my wife slipped and fell, landing on one of the poles while it was jammed into the rocks, the pole bent into an S-shape that kept it from compressing down to its shortest length. Other poles would have been damaged similarly in the same situation. When I sent the poles back to EMS they responded very promptly and replaced the bent pieces free of charge with extra parts they had in the warehouse. If they had not had the parts, they promised me replacement value of the single pole. The whole process took less than two weeks from the time I emailed the service department until I received the poles back in working order again. GREAT customer service at EMS.
The EMS Women's Ridge Lite poles are made in Austria by Komperdell, exclusively for EMS. (Compare them to the Komperdell Titanal Series.) At $79.00 they are an excellent value! Their durability, weight, and trail worthiness make them comparable with other, more expensive trekking poles. They are solid, reliable trekking poles from a company that stands behind its products and does what it can to make customers happy. I highly recommend the EMS Women's Ridge Lite poles to anyone wanting to try trekking poles without spending a lot of money.
"EMS Women's Ridge Lite Trekking Poles REVIEW," by Marty Coatney. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/ems_womens_ridge_lite_trekking_poles_review.html, 2005-05-03 03:00:00-06.