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Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles Review Summary and Gear Guide Overview
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Cat Jasins
(CatJasins) - MLife
Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles Review Summary and Gear Guide Overview on 09/13/2006 04:00:18 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles Review Summary and Gear Guide Overview

Edward Ripley-Duggan
(edwardripleyduggan) - F
CF Trekking poles--breakage characteristics on 09/13/2006 07:12:59 MDT Print View

Of the CF poles in your review, I have only used the MSR Overland Carbon. The field results I had with these were not entirely satisfying, even a little disturbing. At least one of these points may apply to CF poles in general, especially those of smaller diameter.

I experienced separation of the lower shaft portion of one pole in a sudden and unexpected fashion. The break occurred unexpectedly, While the pole was slightly loaded with my weight, the tip was not trapped or bent. My best guess (and I've discussed this with others more knowledgeable about CF) is that the pole section that failed had been pre-stressed at some earlier point, perhaps by the tip catching while I was walking, resulting in a momentary bend. This can cause a loss of integrity to the structure of a pole section, without any visible sign. CF fibres separate at the effected area, creating a potential future cleavage point. When failure ultimately occurs, it does so in catastrophic mode i.e. it is total and immediate, as well as complete. There's no previous evidence of failure, no progressive defect, just a sudden break.

This is a highly undesirable characteristic, clearly, as the result could be a serious fall. For example, if the pole is being used to hop down a small ledge, a sudden pole breakage could easily result in trauma. In this instance, no harm was done, but my confidence in the poles was shaken. MSR were very good about replacing them, but I ultimately decided to sell them.

Lay-up (the way that the layers of CF are embedded in resin) is probably extremely important to overall durability, and poor lay-up may result in compromised strength. This field is really beyond my purview. I will remark that I've used CF kayak paddles for several years with no problems (and they are a delight), but these are, of course, far more massive. In my opinion, the cost/durabilty ratio of CF poles vs. standard aluminum is something to be considered carefully.

A further problem with CF sectional poles is that it is difficult to achieve a truly positive lock with narrow-diameter poles. I experienced a fair amount of annoying slipping with the MSR locks, and also had one lock section separate irretrievable within the pole. Slip is much more than with an aluminum pole. This may be avoided by better engineering (I have a BD CF/Aluminum composite pole that uses the flicklock mechanism, and that works well).

A final point to be considered is the weight of the hiker plus pack. I'm about 215 pounds, and with a pack fully laden with water for a dry camp, I could be as much as 235 to 240 pounds. Since one of the functions of a pole (the main one, in my region, where slick, steep trails are the norm) is to help recover balance after a slip, this load may be suddenly and forcefully transferred to the poles. Will they take it?


Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: CF Trekking poles--breakage characteristics on 09/13/2006 09:35:32 MDT Print View

Hi Ted,

Thanks very much for your comments and observations. Sudden shaft failure could certainly be a concern since we rely on our poles in dicy situations. It could be that CF is a more vulnerable material; as they become more common we'll have some emperical data to work with. My biggest concern is whether a hard strike to the shaft might set up a future failure point, but with two seasons on carbon poles mine have not shown any such tendencies.

I should add that aluminum is also subject to sudden catastrophic failure, as I've discovered bicycling. Different alloys, of course, have different characteristics and vulnerabilities, and differences in carbon are likely to as well.

With regard to joint locks, I've spent one season each with the LEKI carbons and Komperdell carbons, and find the LEKI locks simply don't slip once set, but the Komperdell's will. Whether this is entirely due to the lock design or might also be also affected by differences in the shaft material and finish I cannot say.

Detlef Koerner
(Hamburger) - M
Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles on 09/15/2006 01:57:05 MDT Print View

I am hiking since 5 years with the Finnish make EXCEL colapsable poles "Blackfeather" having done 1800 miles on the AT and various short term hikes in Europe. I had no failure or damage other than worn out tips which could easily be replaced.
Otherwise no damage or breaks. They are outragiously heavy at 485 grams, but that was amongst the best 5 years ago and need replacement by lighter ones.
Thanks for the good test and report that will shurly help me deciding on the next ones.

Bernard Shaw
( - F

Locale: Upstate New York
Sincere appreciation on 09/17/2006 07:31:50 MDT Print View

You have done us a service by looking into the merits and problems with using these poles. Thank you, used carefully they can be wonderful. You are right to show us that like anything that has a catastrophic failure potential use with caution, like carbon fiber bicycle frames, kayak paddles, etc. But with eyes open they can be great.

John Davis
(JNDavis) - F

Locale: Isle of Man
Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles Review Summary and Gear Guide Overview on 10/03/2006 11:38:53 MDT Print View

Never knew I was using Nordic Walking technique! Perhaps I use it because the only skiing course I've ever been on was a cross-country ski course.

So, I like the introduction and have learned from it. However, the section on when not to use trekking poles omits some important considerations. These are:

1) Scrambling: Pretty obvious, and something I cannot resist even when far out into the wilderness.

2) One shoulder backpacking: Essential in the humid climates where my walking occurs.

3) Micronavigation: O-style, with a thumb on the last known location, means you can check the map every few minutes or seconds. Map in hand for anything up to 10 hours while negotiating Munros in a thick hill fog, is a brilliant way to develop map memory and other navigation skills. Map cases just don't cut it when used with trekking poles because there is too great a temptation to bat on, instead of checking the route. And if you get really good at O-style navigation, you can get home safely from the Ring of Tarff even when you have inadvertently smashed your compass by sleeping on it.

So, for me, the poles need to be collapsible, and the shorter, the better.

james solomon
(dralahiker) - F

Locale: Southeast USA
Re: Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles Review Summary and Gear Guide Overview on 10/28/2006 11:52:44 MDT Print View

My post is a bit on the tardy side, but I'm just now catching up. I did want to share my experience with the Alpkit CF poles, compared to my other set, Leki Makalu Ti poles (no anti-shock).

I bought the Alpkit poles as a quality, low price ($65 when I ordered them) loaner/backup set.

Both sets of poles weight about the same, roughly 14 oz.. The difference is in the balance. The Alpkit CFs have less weight on the lower end, and thus less pendulum effect. In actual experience, I notice little difference. Note that I use the Scottish method (for lack of a better term, since I learned of the method from a Scotsman's website) of placing my weight on the strap and not actually grasping the handle except under specific situations.

The Leki and Alpkit pole sections use a very similar twistlock method, and I find both to be entirely secure, even with a full pack and most of my weight on one pole (total ~220 lb.).

I actually like the neoprene backed wrist strap of the Alpkit straps better than the cloth lined Leki straps. As I place most of the weight on the straps, comfort is a big factor for me. I could wear fingerless gloves, but I'd rather leave those to cycling.

The foam grips of both pole sets are similar, though the Leki has a less "grainly" feel to it. With the humidity/sweat factor in the southeast, I've found foam the best grip material for me in comparison to the cork type grips I used previously.

Like the BPL tester, I've caught the tip of the Alpkit between rocks. An upward pull on the strap resulted in the pole grip slidding off, but it was simple to slide it back on. I really don't consider it a big problem, and I'd rather keep it easy to replace the grip than to glue it on permanently. I imagine that snow use could cause a problem, in which case you may want to glue the grip on.

As for when to use either set of poles, if I'm going to a rocky, boulder filled area with lots of technical scrambling, I prefer the peace of mind and reliability of the Leki Ti. I fear a nick on the CFs could cause failure at a critical time. Fortunately, Alpkit sells individual pole sections, so replacement of a damaged section is easy. In light of that consideration, the Leki Ti's are now my loaner poles!

I'm very happy with both sets of poles. Even at the higher $95 price, the Alpkit poles are a great value. I happened to get the Lekis for $90 due to a storewide Thanksgiving-weekend-only sale price. I'm not sold on ligher poles being as durable - only time will tell.

Samuel David Sinclair
(samsamsam) - F
I have the "Kohla EVO Lightning Alu Poles" bought. And they are lighter than indicated. Namely 6.56 oz (186g). on 03/10/2011 13:31:08 MST Print View

I have the "Kohla EVO Lightning Alu Poles" bought. And they are lighter than indicated. Namely 6.56 oz (186g). 80-140cm long. More information at

The poles are just as stable as my Leki 300g poles. Unfortunately, not as stable as my Erbö ​​300g, the already 30 years old.
The lock system is the best thing there is on the market. Easy to open and close and it keeps my 90 kg. Only it bend itself strong, when I put 45 kg on one pol. If, however, always bend back to the origin. This locking system is also used in the Erbö ​​poles. The new Erbö ​​poles are very cheap.
The Leki pol inside closure will not last as well and it is difficult to close and open.

The strap is also very good and the grip is great. The handle is made of very solid EVA, which I like very much.

I'm writing this because everyone thinks the best is Leki or BD. They have only the best marketing and distribution. But in my opinion the old Erbö ​​(the new I don't know) and the current Kohla are better.
Unfortunately, Kohla has no real marketing. They sell more over mouth to mouth probaganda and retail stores in Austria.

A link to Erbö​​:

Erbö has carbon and aluminum poles. Kohla has only Alu poles.
The company Kohla Tyrol since 1932. And produced in Tyrol, Austria.
http://www.kohla.atlightest 2-piece aluminum-pole in the world

Edited by samsamsam on 03/10/2011 13:37:41 MST.