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Exped Alpinist Carbon Trekking Poles REVIEW

Product performance review of the Exped Alpinist Carbon Trekking Poles, lightweight poles for backpacking.

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by Doug Johnson | 2005-04-26 03:00:00-06

Overview

Exped Alpinist Carbon Poles - 1
The Exped Alpinist Carbon poles are stiff and strong enough for the largest, most aggressive hikers. (Stunt model Greg Johnson jumping off a small cliff.)

The Exped Alpinist Carbon poles are close to being the ultimate "big guy" poles. They are extremely stiff, very durable, have comfortable, large-size grips, extend to a full 58 inches (148 cm), and are still very lightweight at 8.7 ounces (247 g). However, they have a locking mechanism that slips. Despite roughening up the surface of the expanders, the poles still slip a bit during hard landings or when putting full body weight on them. In addition, the poles rattle on impact with hard surfaces such as rock or pavement. By adding a more secure locking system and eliminating the trail vibration, these $129 poles would be an excellent value.

In Brief

  • The longest extension of any pole we reviewed - 58 inches (148 cm)
  • Large carbon fiber shafts are extremely stiff - great for large or aggressive hikers
  • The locking mechanism slips, needing frequent readjustment
  • The poles rattle more than most poles in rocky, high-vibration impacts
  • Large grips are perfect for large hands

Specifications

• Trekking Pole Type

Collapsible, three sections

• Shaft Material

Full carbon fiber

• Tips

Carbide

• Grips

Grip materialGrip SizeStrap included?
EVA foam, plasticlargeYes - webbing, adjustable

• Weight (without baskets)

Weight per pole (oz)Weight per pole (g)
Backpacking Light measured8.7 247
Manufacturer claim9.1 260

• Pole Length

inchescentimeters
Minimum length 2666
Maximum length 58 148

• Model Year

2004

• MSRP

$129.00

Usable Features and Ease of Use

The Exped Alpinist Carbon poles have the longest extension 58 inches (148 cm) of any collapsible poles we reviewed, making them a prime choice for the tallest hikers. They also compact to a short 26 inches (66 cm), which barely extends above the top of a pack when stashed. The generous length of the Exped poles makes them compatible with virtually any trekking pole shelter including the MSR Missing Link and teepee-type shelters (see chart below).

Exped Alpinist Carbon Poles - 2
The Exped poles uses a Leki-style screw-on basket system which is secure and makes changing baskets simple.

Shelter (pole length needed)Usable with this shelter?
Six Moon Designs Europa 2 (41 in/104 cm)Yes
GoLlite Trig 2 (48 in/123 cm)Yes
MSR Missing Link (54 in/137 cm) Yes

The locking mechanism of the Exped Alpinist Carbon poles was consistently problematic during our tests. Whether it was the smaller than average expander or the smooth inside of the carbon shafts, the poles simply would not consistently lock when extended, causing the poles to slip during use. The frustrating part was that no amount of tightening would make the poles lock - the expander wouldn't grip and just kept spinning inside the shaft.

After roughing the hard plastic expanders on rocks several times, and later with sand paper and a metal file, I did manage to get the poles to the point where they lock solidly enough for normal hiking. However, hard landings and applying my full body weight still cause the poles to slip. Roughing up the inside of the shafts might eliminate this issue but I didn't spend much time with this approach.

The tips of the Exped Alpinist Carbon poles are durable carbide and consistently provide solid traction in ice and rocky conditions. They use a screw-on basket system that is similar to Leki; it is very secure and makes changing baskets simple and easy. I found that widely available Leki baskets worked well with the Exped poles.

Exped Alpinist Carbon Poles - 3
The grips of the Exped Alpinist Carbon poles are comfortable and large, especially suited to larger hands. The straps are simple, unpadded webbing and don't freeze up in icy conditions.

The grips are made of EVA foam with a plastic top. The transition between the foam and plastic parts is smooth and the plastic is comfortable when resting my palm on top of the pole. The grips are large, best suited to large hands. The strap is non-padded nylon. While they were not uncomfortable, they couldn't match the comfort of wider, padded straps of other trekking poles.

Weight/Swing Weight

At 8.7 ounces (247 g) per pole without a basket, the Exped Alpinist Carbon poles are not the lightest of the ultralight poles. However, these poles are among the lightest collapsible poles for their maximum length. The center of balance is in the upper third of the poles, leading to a lighter swing weight and making them feel lighter on the trail.

Lateral Stiffness/Stability

The Alpinist Carbon poles are the stiffest poles we tested and the stiffest I've ever used. The upper shafts are substantially wider than the MSR Overland Carbon poles (19 mm to MSR's 16 mm). When hiking buddies swapped several different poles during trips, the Exped poles were the favorites of taller, heavier hikers. These poles are solid.

Trail Vibration

While the carbon shafts do a good job of absorbing trail vibration, other vibrations and occasional slight rattling sounds came from inside the shafts. These sounds were presumably caused by the locking mechanism and less tight tolerances than on other poles. While the rattles were typically only present when impacting solid surfaces such as rock or concrete, they were somewhat annoying. This was a significant difference between the Exped Alpinist Carbon poles and the quiet, tight MSR Overland Carbon poles.

Durability

Exped Alpinist Carbon Poles - 4
The Exped Alpinist Carbon poles are beautifully made, however the locking mechanism is not completely secure.

After many miles on the trail, several falls, and even stepping on the poles, the Exped Alpinist Carbon poles showed virtually no wear. They are tough and durable. However, I am concerned about the locking mechanism. They still don't lock well after a long break-in period as well as roughening up the expanders; I'm concerned that this will not improve with use and may get worse.

Value

The Exped Alpinist Carbon poles are extremely stiff, extend to a full 58 inches (148 cm), and are still very lightweight. However, trekking poles require secure, consistent locking mechanisms and these poles just don't have them. In addition to the inadvertent compressing of the poles, they also rattle a bit in rocky terrain. They have the potential of being the best pole out there for bigger, more aggressive hikers but as they are, their $129.00 price tag is just not a good value.

Recommendations for Improvement

These poles could be much better with just a couple of improvements:

  • Fix the locking mechanism problem. They need to be more reliable and secure.
  • Create tighter tolerances to eliminate the slight rattling.
  • Add some padding to the straps to make them more comfortable to use without gloves.

Citation

"Exped Alpinist Carbon Trekking Poles REVIEW," by Doug Johnson. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/exped_alpinist_carbon_trekking_poles_review.html, 2005-04-26 03:00:00-06.

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