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Benefits of ultralight trekking poles?
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Rafi Harzahav
(rhz10) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
Benefits of ultralight trekking poles? on 08/30/2011 14:58:44 MDT Print View


I currently have a pair of Traverse REI trekking poles (19 oz/pair) which work well for me and double as tent poles for my Lightheart Gear solo.

I recently saw another pair of poles sold by Big Agnes (Helonix, 12 oz/pair). While I'm intrigued by the weight savings, I wonder how much one would actually note the difference while on the trail. Is seven oz saved in holding the poles in your hands the same as seven oz saved on your back?



John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Benefits of ultralight trekking poles? on 08/30/2011 15:30:39 MDT Print View


Consider this, with every step you are repeatedly lifting another 3.5 ounces with each hand / arm. So in approximately every ten steps while carrying the heavier poles you have lifted 2 extra pounds, one per arm, that you did not have to lift.

There are lighter poles out there, for example...

I used these poles in the above link as an example only and I do not have any experience with them or opinions on them either positive or negative.

IMHO the lighter the poles the better just as long as you are comfortable with how light their purchase makes your wallet. I personally use the WalMart / Outdoor Products flicklock trekking poles. As I remember the weight of each pole is approximately 8.5 to 9 ounces but the price was $12.88 each plus sales tax.

Life is full of trade offs and balancing acts. ;-)

Party On,


Edited by Newton on 08/30/2011 15:32:32 MDT.

Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Light poles on 08/30/2011 15:38:15 MDT Print View

Look at the Gossamer Gear poles if you're willing to share your money. I have a pair and do love them. I think an ounce in your hands is worth 6 in the pack. Try a friend's carbon poles first if you can.

Kendall Clement
(socalpacker) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
RE: "Benefits of ultralight trekking poles?" on 08/30/2011 15:40:45 MDT Print View

I like my BPL Stix, which weigh about 4 ounces and change each, and I barely notice any weight at all. IMHO the lighter the weight the better off you are.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Another Trade-off on 08/30/2011 15:41:51 MDT Print View

Also consider that lighter poles are usually more fragile than heavy poles.

My wife doesn't rely on her poles much and is perfectly fine with ultralight carbon fiber poles.

Me, I rip them to shreds. I really put my weight on mine, especially on ascents and descents.

If you don't abuse your poles, go light.

Cheap poles tend to be heavy and fragile. I know I've heard lots of stories about department store cheapo poles kinking from average use.

Poles made by respected manufacturers hold up better per ounce, but the ultralight poles made by even the most respected manufacturers are not meant to be abused.

Rodney OndaRock
(RodneyOndaRock) - F

Locale: Southern California
break even point on 08/30/2011 15:43:16 MDT Print View

A friend upgraded to the lightest poles on the market made of carbon fiber. 10 miles in on a 30 miles trip, they snap.

To get the REI return refund, he had to carry the useless gear for the whole weekend.

So advice to consider that extreme UL can also translate into fragile gear. Test new gear on a day trip near home, before committing a few days with unproven gear.

PS: the reviews were high, but for my friends style of usage, they failed him.

Scott S
(sschloss1) - F

Locale: New England
Leki carbon fiber on 08/30/2011 15:49:48 MDT Print View

The leki carbon fiber poles are not the lightest (mine are around 12 oz. I think), but they come with a 1-year full-replacement guarantee that even covers shaft breakage. that's why I bought them. They weren't the lightest or cheapest, but I liked knowing that I would at least get 1 year out of them.

Brendan S
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
Re: Benefits of ultralight trekking poles? on 08/30/2011 16:00:28 MDT Print View

I think pole weight is pretty noticeable. I have GG LT4s as well as some MYOG ones I made out of golf club shafts that weigh about an ounce less per pole than the GG poles. If I trade poles with my wife on the trail I definitely notice the difference. This could be due to the location of the weight (probably the expanders on the GG poles) but it is noticeable in the swing. I love both sets and it's not at all enough of a difference to be bothersome, but I'd think 4-5 oz per pole savings would be beneficial. As for durability, I definitely don't baby either pair and have never had any breakage. The situations where they'd break (fall on one, get it stuck in a rock) would probably break any other poles anyway.

Rafi Harzahav
(rhz10) - F

Locale: SF Bay Area
More info on 08/30/2011 16:12:34 MDT Print View

Thanks for all the responses. I really want to stick with adjustable poles. Durability is extremely important as well since the poles double as tents poles. A broken pole therefore negatively impacts my shelter. For that reason, I'm not really considering carbon fiber poles. The Helinox poles are aluminum.

thanks again.

Mark Hudson
(vesteroid) - MLife

Locale: Eastern Sierras
.. on 08/30/2011 16:14:07 MDT Print View

I say stick with your current poles.

I just dont see the weight difference vs the performance difference. I have a pair of leki clip locking carbon poles. I can and have put my entire weight on these over and over again.

THey have never once failed. I have gotten the stuck in rocks, used them as braces for me to jump a stream, and basically abused them. They havent mised a beat. After all the threads on here I have read about the damage most of the UL poles have seen, I dont see the few ozs being worth having non functional poles on your hike, or poles you have to place safely each step.

Jake Palmer
(jakep_82) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: break even point on 08/30/2011 16:28:03 MDT Print View

"A friend upgraded to the lightest poles on the market made of carbon fiber. 10 miles in on a 30 miles trip, they snap.

To get the REI return refund, he had to carry the useless gear for the whole weekend."

REI doesn't sell the lightest carbon fiber trekking poles. I believe that title belongs to the Gossamer Gear LT3C poles at 2.8 ounces per pole in 120cm length. I would also say carrying them out would fall under LNT and not just to get the refund.

That said I've seen too many stories about carbon fiber poles breaking to consider them for my style of hiking. I'm certain I would break them on a steep, rocky descent. I'm considering the Fizan poles that were recently reviewed here on BPL, but for now my old 18oz/pair Black Diamond poles are working fine.

Edited by jakep_82 on 08/30/2011 16:30:55 MDT.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Benefits of ultralight trekking poles? on 08/30/2011 17:14:42 MDT Print View

How do you use your poles?

Are you using the wrist strap to give you a mechanical advantage by pushing off with them and using your arm muscles to help you go up and down steps/obstacles?

If so, I would advise against the lighter poles.

I just don't see the skinny carbon poles being able to repeated support my full weight the way that I use them.

In my opinion, using the poles without the wrist strap is missing out on the advantage of using hiking poles....spending a lot of energy clenching strapless handles also seems like a lot of unnecessary work too.

If you are employing a "two finger" swing while holding your poles, you honestly are not using a lot of energy to hold those heavier poles, so I don't think that the lower weight is giving you a huge advantage.

In my case, I am following the techniques from this DVD:

Anyway, my point is, once you know how you are using your poles, you can determine if the skinnier carbon poles will match your style of hiking and how you use the poles.

For me, I am conservative and like to think that I can use my hiking poles like crutches if something bad happened to me.

Skinny poles would not work for me in that case.

Hope this helps.


Stephen Adams
(stevemkedcom) - MLife

Locale: Northwest
Gossamer Gear LT3C poles on 08/30/2011 17:19:01 MDT Print View

I have put 500 miles in the last couple years on my Gossamer Gear LT3C poles with out breaking them. Just came back from 45 miles on the West Coast trail and thought for sure I would snap one by getting them stuck between the boards on the miles of board walks on that trail. But didn't. Must admit they are pricey but compared to other things in my life that cost $150.00 they are worth every penny.

Ross Bleakney
(rossbleakney) - MLife

Locale: Cascades
Re: Gossamer Gear LT3C poles on 08/30/2011 18:11:28 MDT Print View

I've broken carbon fiber poles and aluminum poles. In all cases, it was because of misuse. I can put all of my weight on GG poles (and often do) and it is no problem. The biggest difference in durability is when you step on it, wedge it, or otherwise put pressure on the middle of the pole. Metal poles can take a lot of force before they bend. Once they bend, they can still be used for a while (long enough to get you through a trip). The same can't be said about carbon fiber. Like I said, though, I've seen plenty of metal poles that are bent (and ultimately broken). That is why I use the tougher, heavier metal poles in the winter (when I'm likely to fall on them). It is also why Black Diamond makes different types of metal poles (some are really tough, some aren't).

I also use the poles to support my tent. On my last trip, I stupidly stepped on my pole and broke it. Fortunately, my tent can be supported with one pole. Even without that, though, I would have been OK. There were plenty of sticks and trees around. I probably could have also splinted my pole, as well. One thing to consider (if you don't want to worry about it) is to simply carry a 2 ounce pole for the tent (a spare pole, if you will). Tarp Tent sells these: ( Your overall weight will be much lower than it is now. As everyone said, you will really notice the difference in the pole weight (unlike back weight). The biggest negative is the price.

As to the original question, swing weight is also a factor, but that gets complicated. Of the poles mentioned, the swing weight is roughly equivalent to the total weight (since all the poles are the same top to bottom).