The 3-section adjustable, collapsible aluminum trekking pole is overwhelmingly the most popular style on the market today. However, most of these poles weigh half a pound or more. Sure, it is possible to find a lighter pole that lacks the ability to collapse, adjust, or both. However, what about the hiker that wants all of these features without a big weight penalty?
Enter Fizan, an Italian company that has been making aluminum poles since 1947. Fizan have simplified and refined the standard trekking pole design to create the Compact - what they say is the world’s lightest three-section adjustable, collapsible pole. At a claimed 158 grams (5.6 oz) per pole, they might be right.
So, is this the trekking pole for the ultralight backpacker who wants to have their cake and eat it too?
We first came across the Fizan Compact poles at ISPO 2011. Unassuming in design yet surprisingly light, we made sure not to leave the show without a pair for real world testing.
DescriptionSpecifications and Features
|Year / Model||2011 Compact|
|Style||Three-section, collapsible, adjustable trekking poles|
|Shaft Material||Aluminum alloy 7001|
|Grips and Straps||EVA grip with neoprene strap|
|Adjustable Length||58-132 cm (22.8-52 in)|
|Weight Per Pole||Manufacturer: 158 g (5.6 oz)
Measured: 167.5 g (5.9 oz, including 5-g (0.2-oz) basket and 12-g (0.5-oz) strap
|Features||Compact adjustable, collapsible aluminum poles; Flexy Locking System;
press-fit style removable 50-mm basket; adjustable, removable padded
neoprene strap; EVA grip; available in green, black, or orange.
|MSRP||~80 USD, shipped from the UK. Otherwise, 55£ in UK or 60€ in Europe.|
Fizan Compact are three-section, adjustable and collapsible trekking poles that weight 158 grams (5.6 oz) per pole, according to the manufacturer. Pole height is adjustable from 58 to 132 centimeters (22.8-52 in). This means that they can extend long enough for nearly all hikers and compact short enough to easily stow away on or in a backpack. The poles are made of lightweight 7001 aluminum alloy. The Flexy Locking System is an internal barrel adjuster comprised of a delrin expander and aluminum pin. Each pole has an EVA grip, neoprene strap, 50-mm removable basket and carbide tip.
One pole pulled apart to illustrate the three sections. The lower shaft has no markings except the words “Superlight” and “Stop”, with a line denoting the maximum height. The middle shaft has markings every 5 cm, from 100 to 130 cm, plus the “Stop” line at 132 cm. Note the lack of plastic grip for adjusting the pole height, which is often found on other three-section poles.
The aluminum walls of the poles are drawn super thin to shave weight (left). The Flexy Lock System is simple and lightweight. The two delrin expanders are nearly identical, except the red one is slightly larger to match the larger diameter of the upper shaft (right).
The basic grips are symmetrical and made of EVA foam. The neoprene straps are lightly padded, adjustable, and removable. The grips and straps are very similar to those found on several other trekking poles on the market.
The Compact look like many other three-section collapsible poles and only hint at their ultralight status with two small markings: “Superlight” on the lower shaft and “158 grams” on the upper shaft.
Kristin using the Compact poles on a light and fast day hike near Chamonix, France.
Kristin and I tested the Fizan poles on numerous hikes throughout the Italian and French Alps during the first half of 2011. We used the poles on and off trail, over dirt, rock fields, streams, and snow.
The poles easily adjusted with a twist of the shafts, just like any conventional pole with a twist-lock mechanism. With the upper shaft in the right hand, twist the lower shaft away from you, disengaging the expanders. Adjust the pole position to the new desired height, and twist the lower shaft towards you to lock. Despite the minimalistic and uber-simple adjusting system, the Compact poles never slipped once. I can’t say this of all barrel adjuster poles that I have used. For example, I have owned two generations of the Komperdell Carbon Duo Lock poles and both pairs slipped occasionally. Fizan says that their internal expanders have a holding power of 220 pounds (100 kg).
The poles never slipped, even when I was rock hopping with a loaded backpack in the Alps.
The remaining features are reliable if unexceptional. The foam grips and neoprene straps are similar to those found on many other poles. Using these was familiar and comfortable. The poles are identical. Some people find asymmetrical grips to be more comfortable, but I prefer the ease of use of symmetrical grips - I do not have to take the time to figure out which pole goes in which hand. Additionally, Kristin and I like symmetrical grips as we often hike with only one pole each and can therefore share one pair of poles. The 50-mm press-fit basket is easy to remove, or exchange for an additionally available 85-mm trekking or larger powder basket. The carbide tips grip well and are long lasting. A plastic tip covering is provided, which helps protect your gear when you pack the poles away. These plastic tips provide better traction on rocks, but can wear through relatively quickly when used for hiking.
The Compact poles have an extremely solid feel to them, despite the light swing weight. We did not worry about the poles buckling under our weight. The poles did not vibrate or rattle when used on rocks. During our testing period, nothing wore out, came lose, or needed repair. The poles are well crafted, sturdy and reliable.
We measured the poles' stiffness with the standard BPL method: we placed a pole across a 110-cm (43.3-in) gap between two chairs, hung a 25-pound (11.34-kg) shopping bag in the middle, and measured the deflection from horizontal. The Compact pole bent 5.1 centimeters (2 in), which would give them a mid-stiffness rating. This pole deflected around 2 cm (0.8 in) more than a conventional aluminum pole, which typically weighs a few ounces more. However, the Compacts bent 2.5 cm (2 in) less than Black Diamond’s new Ultra Distance pole, which are lighter, collapsible, and non-adjustable. The Compacts are roughly as stiff as Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4, which weigh 2.2 ounces (62 grams) less..
The Fizan Compacts are the lightest in their class (three-section adjustable, collapsible poles). The nearest competitor is the Exped Alpine Lite, which is made of aluminum and is 24 grams (0.9 oz) heavier. The other poles in this field are all made of carbon fiber, a material which is prone to slippage and suffers catastrophic failure. This may a factor that has led to the discontinuation of several carbon fiber poles, such as Komperdell C3 Duo Lock (aka REI Peak UL Carbon), Brasher Provolution, and a few models from Leki. Carbon fiber does dampen fatigue-causing vibration.Comparison Chart: 3-Section, Adjustable, Collapsible Poles
|Pole Make & Model||Pole Weight g (oz)||Length (cm)||Cost|
|Alpkit Carbonlite||200 (7.1)||60-131||$96***|
|Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork||246 (8.7)||62.5-130||$140|
|Exped Alpine Lite||182 (6.5)||56-125||$110|
|Fizan Compact||158 (5.6)||58-132||~$80**|
|Komperdell C3 Carbon Duolock*||173 (6.1)||68-145||$150|
|Leki Carbonlite Aergon Speedlock||180 (6.3)||67-135||$180|
|Trekmates Carbon Ultralite Walking Stick||220 (7.8)||69-135||$113***|
**While not distributed in the US, they can be shipped from the UK for $80. The poles cost about 60€ in Europe and 55£ in the UK.
***Sold in UK, prices based on exchange rate as of 6/16/2011. Price does not include shipping to the US.
There are a few other trekking pole models to consider that are even lighter than the Fizan Compact poles. However, to save weight they lose the ability to either adjust or collapse.Adjustable But Not Collapsible
|Pole Make & Model||Pole Weight w/out straps, g (oz)||Length (cm)||Cost|
|Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4||99 (3.5)||90-140||$160|
|Titanium Goat Adjustable||96 (3.4)||76-130||$130|
Collapsible But Not Adjustable
|Pole Make & Model||Pole Weight g (oz)||Fixed Length (cm)||Cost|
|Black Diamond Ultra Distance||138 (4.9)||100, 110, 120, or 130||$150|
|CAMP Xenon 4||142 (5.0)||120 or 135||$70|
For more information, please see these related BPL articles:
- Titanium Goat Poles (non adjustable versions, 2006)
- Alpkit Carbonlite (2007)
- Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 (2010)
- Black Diamond Ultra Distance (2011)
Look for an upcoming review of the CAMP Xenon 4 poles, as first reported at Winter Outdoor Retailer 2011.
The Fizan Compact are great all-around trekking poles. Throughout months of use, we did not have any issues with them. They are sturdy, reliable, and comfortable. They do not slip. Height adjustment is easy and consistent. They perform as well as, or better than, any other similarly designed poles, yet the Compact poles are lighter. Finally, the low price makes these poles an excellent value. Even without US distribution, the poles can be delivered to the US from UK-based companies for $80, including shipping and taxes. The poles are distributed in the UK, throughout continental Europe and Asia, Australia, and New Zealand.
The Compact poles are ideal for the backpacker who wants all of the basic features - adjustable and collapsible pole, removable basket, removable adjustable padded strap, comfortable grip, and sturdy construction - yet in a lightweight and low-cost package. However, not all hikers want this full set of features, and for them a few lighter options are available.Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and it is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review this product under the terms of this agreement.