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Trekking pole newbie questions what makes 1 better than another, solid/adjustable,why? Recommendations
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Eric Falk
(zerolimit) - F
Trekking pole newbie questions what makes 1 better than another, solid/adjustable,why? Recommendations on 06/25/2007 19:36:30 MDT Print View

Thanks for the help. Looking to buy a set of trekking poles but have never used a set and am completely clueless about them. Couldn't find much in the past if anyone has a link or would appreciate any info. you can give me. What separates one pole from another, quality,weight? What are the things to look for when buying them? What is better one piece or adjustable and why? What brand or poles would you recommend, why? Would be doing all types of hiking with them I guess and as of now would not be using them to stake a tent, have a freestanding one. Don't think I'm overly concerned with weight or price. Thanks again, Eric

Edited by zerolimit on 06/25/2007 19:39:10 MDT.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
Eric, poles; elliptical, flicklock, $72/pair on 06/25/2007 20:22:04 MDT Print View

Eric, heres my opinion; I own three pairs of poles.. I kept buying new ones to go lighter; poles are still one of the heaviest items in my pack. If I could do it all over again I would buy elliptic-cross-section fliclock-adjuster poles by Black Diamond.

The eliptical cross-section gives the highest fore-aft stiffness on the market, and the flicklocks are SO much easier and faster to adjust, don't loosen (like the screw type), dont ice up or freeze in position, are easy to ajust with gloves on, etc etc..

Another nice thing is; they are so strong you can usually just take one if stability is what you are after; thats what I do.
Also, with most modern poles, the lower section locks in place at full length, and after that you only have to adjust the upper flicklock (or screwlock in my case) when you transition from going up hill (shorter) to going down hill (longer).

I recommend the the following poles which I'll be buying next! About $72...

PS, many people recommend fixed length carbon poles to save weight; I like collapsable poles I can fit entirely inside my pack.

More choices here

Edited by Brett1234 on 06/25/2007 20:26:56 MDT.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Eric, poles; elliptical, flicklock, $72/pair on 06/25/2007 20:25:02 MDT Print View

I prefer collapsible ones too. Fixed-length ones are much harder to travel/fly with.

Pamela Wyant
(RiverRunner) - F - M
Re: Trekking pole newbie questions what makes 1 better than another, solid/adjustable,why? Recommendations on 06/25/2007 20:45:00 MDT Print View

I'll second Black Diamond poles. The FlickLock adjustment system is great. I've been using a set about a year and a half now (the Enduro CF) and haven't had them slip yet. Great poles.

Oh, and I like adjustable too - that way I can stow them on the sides of my pack when traveling to and from the trailhead. This is especially nice when you are traveling in someone else's car so you don't end up leaving your poles behind accidentally. They're also just easier to fool with than having fixed length, at least IMHO.


Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Trekking pole newbie questions what makes 1 better than another, solid/adjustable,why? Recommendations on 06/25/2007 21:27:40 MDT Print View

Hi Eric,

I'm the trekking pole editor here at BackpackingLight. I'm glad to see you giving poles a whirl- once I tried them, I never went back.

First of all, you might want to read this:

It will answer a lot of your questions.

For a first time user, you may want to look at adjustable poles, simply because it takes experience to find your ideal length.

Here's a great forum discussion on the issue:

Now, I disagree somewhat with the idea of Black Diamond Flicklocks from others. The locking system is fantastic, no doubt, and the poles are plendy durable. We have a review of their lightest Enduro CF poles coming out very soon and the poles were great. However, they weigh over 8 ounces a piece which is pretty average. Remember with poles that you're lifting them and placing them thousands of times a day...lighter poles are definitely noticable. It's sort of like switching from leather boots to running shoes.

On the other hand, a couple of models from Komperdell are around 6 ounces and the Titanium Goat Adjustable Goats are just over 3 oz. Alpkit also has a light carbon pole at a great price.

So, I'd look hard at weight. You'll enjoy the experience more. I'd also look hard at carbon fiber because they dampen trail vibrations and are much stiffer for the weight.

If you like the Flicklock of the Black Diamond, the Komperdell C2 Carbon Tour uses a similar mechanism. However, I've typically found the twist locks found on most poles to be fine. You just clean them occasionally.

FYI- the REI poles are all made by Komperdell.

If you're going for it, though, and want to use poles full time, fixed is my favorite. So light and quick to place and with nothing to fail, slip, or rattle. Gossamer Gear Lightreks are a great place to start looking for these. If you go this route, definitely borrow a friends poles for a while to find you ideal length.

Some folks like to adjust poles during a hike but most usually only use the adjustments to collapse the poles to carry them. I find that I pick a length and stick with it. Again, experience will show you which style you'll use.

Best of luck!

Pamela Wyant
(RiverRunner) - F - M
Re: Re: Trekking pole newbie questions what makes 1 better than another, solid/adjustable,why? Recommendations on 06/25/2007 21:39:25 MDT Print View

Not to diss Doug, but to share a personal experience, I had a set of Komperdell adjustables & found they sometimes slipped. A friend who was hiking the AT had a set of Leki's and experienced three bad slips & decided to change over to Black Diamonds & has been happy with them.

I'm all for light weight, but so far, the absolute reliability of the Black Diamonds is worth the extra 3-4 ounces.

YMMV of course, and I have not tried light weight fixed poles (a bamboo hiking staff and a couple of stout branches are the only fixed length staffs I've used.)


Lawton Grinter

Locale: Rocky Mountains
trekking poles. on 06/25/2007 21:49:42 MDT Print View

like doug, once i tried them, i knew i'd never go back.

why use them? easier on the knees downhill, help pull yourself uphill, safety on snow and stream crossings or any loose ground, more protection against missteps and sprained ankles, and hold up the front of my tarptent. i'd never do a hike without them. i hate climbing hills without poles! and even on flat ground, they just help me get into a good walking rhythm.

recommendations? i've always used adjustable poles - all from komperdell. the internal locking mechanisms sometimes get a little finnicky, but you learn how to deal with it if it messes up. i had one break inside, but that was after lots and lots of trail miles, and rei replaced them right away (trekking poles are one of the few items i always make sure to buy at REI!). they make two and three section poles - i always have three sections, as they collapse more for travel or stowing on your pack. the two section ones would be fine i suppose and would have less to go wrong, i suppose.

i just got carbon fiber ones, and am very happy with the weight and stiffness. others will disagree, but i removed the wriststraps off my poles. i find that i don't need them, and they tend to just get in the way when reaching for the camera or a water bottle. i never thought i'd take the straps off, but after a few weeks on the pct, i just found myself never using them, so i cut them off. never looked back. but don't get rid of them until you try it out a lot with them on! the only real time i would want them is on a sketchy snow slope or sometime, where if i dropped it, i might not get it back easily... but if it's that steep, i usually would have an ice axe out, not poles.

i can see the appeal of a fixed length pole, once you decide the length that works for you. it's usually somewhere around where your arm is at a 90 degree angle when holding them. perhaps longer going downhill, or whatever. i tend to put them where i like them and leave them. the fixed length pole might not be a good fit for a shelter though, unless it's the right height, or you angle the pole (a la tarptent contrail).

ignore the (now dying?) hype about shock absorbers, imho. an unnecessary gadget.

viva trekking poles!

Neil Bender
(nebender) - F
Re: Trekking pole newbie questions what makes 1 better than another, solid/adjustable,why? Recommendations on 06/26/2007 14:44:09 MDT Print View

The BD Flikloks are the most bomber mechanism on adjustable poles, but if you collapse their pole and leave the cam loose, it can unscrew under vibration and fall off. So for stowing I lock the BD poles in the collapsed positions as well.

Weight may not be an issue on some terrain, as the poles are swung more than lifted, and the weight is only momentarily held up. You'll feel heavier poles more on uphills than flats or downhills.

One pet peeve I have with many conventional pole makers (BD & Komperdell) is that they don't thread the straps correctly for a left and right hand so the webbing is twist free and lays flat all around each palm and wrist. After I re-thread the wrong one I mark the left with yellow tape and the right with red tape. I use the same convention on gloves, mittens, etc. so that when I'm in bad lighting conditions I just automatically know what goes where.

I agree with others that shock absorption mechanisms are not necessary. Further, I've found carbon poles to be quieter but no better at not transmitting shock. Carbon is very stiff, and for poles, unlike a bicycle frame, there isn't really any high frequency vibration for the carbon to damp. I haven't had any failures with either pole material, but I tend to use poles very deliberately, changing the way I use them with terrain, adjusting lengths for long stretches of constant terrain, and stowing when the poles catch or tie up my hands for scrambling or other conflicts.

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Komperdell Slippage on 06/26/2007 15:26:45 MDT Print View

I'm going to have to agree with Pamela on the slipping of the Kompderdell twist locks. My carbon C3's usually slip a few times a day, and I just tighten them up - no big deal. However, they have since stopped working all together. They won't even tighten. One was fincky for a while and then the other. The odd time I can get them to tighten, but I have retired them for now. I've been meaning to take them apart and see what the problem but haven't gotten around to it. They are very strong, rigid and I may even buy the same ones, but thought I would let you know...and after reading Dougs comment about cleaning them, maybe that's all they need.

Lawton Grinter

Locale: Rocky Mountains
komperdell on 06/26/2007 15:44:26 MDT Print View

i have had a few problems here and there with the twist locks. a couple things to keep it mind:

avoid really over-tightening them - remember it's just some plastic in there doing the holding. just tight enough to hold.

if they don't seem to catch, i just pull them apart, manually widen the lock a bit, put them back together, and they usually engage.

i have had them slip in the snow, but that's usually when they are all wet, and then the basket punches through and grabs.

another reason to forgo the straps (if you don't need/like them otherwise) is if the pole tip gets caught in a crack, it's easier to relieve that strain by just letting go. i've had a few experiences in talus and snow where it was good to quickly let the pole go when it really got snagged when moving fast (to keep from bending or even breaking it).

Ernie Elkins

Locale: North Carolina
Komperdell Problems on 06/26/2007 18:35:12 MDT Print View

I've also had some trouble with the twist-lock mechanism failing on my Komperdell poles. It's not been an excessive (once every other day or so) and it's never put me in any danger, but I'm still a bit uneasy with them for that reason. I'm also unhappy with the anti-shock mechanisms (which I seldom bother to use) -- they have an annoying tendency to click on accidentally. I knew when I bought them that I didn't really want or need A/S, but I bought them anyway because the price was right. When I do replace them, though, I'll definitely not buy A/S poles again. I'll probably go with carbon fiber, as well, because I've found my metal poles to be too noisy for my liking.

Edited by EarthDweller on 06/26/2007 19:18:35 MDT.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Komperdell Problems - REI Problems on 06/26/2007 19:01:23 MDT Print View

My REI Peak UL Carbon Compact poles are made by Komperdell -- and I too have problems with getting the twist locks to engage. While taking apart the pole sections and adjusting the white plastic nuts will do the trick, it is definitely an annoyance, especially since this happens quite frequently.

Just about the only saving grace is that once the sections lock up, they do stay locked -- no "stealth contraction". They do have strong holding power -- better than my old pair of REI Traverse poles.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Komperdell alternative at REI on 06/26/2007 19:46:01 MDT Print View

I was down at REI this AM and noticed that Leki has a carbon fiber trekking pole in the Makalu line. It weighs 13 oz/pair on REI's spring scale and is ~24" long collapsed, which makes it ideal for stowing when bushwhacking or travelling.
I used Leki Makalus for years and their only downside in my experience was weight(heavy). So these new carbon fiber ones might be worth considering, given REI's return policy.

Derek Hakim
(YonderMountain) - F

Locale: North Woods
Poles on 06/26/2007 20:00:32 MDT Print View

I use Leki Makalu UL Titanium poles. They are adjustable, and while they are not the lightest poles around, they are light enough, and really durable. I nearly bent the bottom of mine into a 90 degree angle when I tripped BAD and pretty much put all of my weight onto the pole in the wrong way, and it easily bent back in place and works just as it did before.

These were my first pair of poles and I am glad I got adjustable poles, because like everyone else mentioned, it takes time to know what length you are most comfortable with.

One thing that no one has mentioned is Leki's lifetime warranty. This is the main reason I went with Leki. I don't know what other companies have to offer as far as warranties, but I have heard TONS of great things about Leki's customer service. If your pole breaks, or anything on the pole breaks, Leki will replace it free of charge. I haven't had this experience personally, but I spoke with easily 15-20 people on the Appalachian Trail who told me how great Leki customer service was and how they really did uphold their lifetime warranty.

Also, while they may be lighter, I have heard that carbon fiber poles are more likely to break. I don't have any experience with this though.

Michael Davis
(mad777) - F

Locale: South Florida
Re: Trekking pole newbie questions what makes 1 better than another, solid/adjustable,why? Recommendations on 06/26/2007 20:10:16 MDT Print View

IMHO, go with trekking poles. To me, it's a world of difference! I'm less tired at the end of the day, my joints experience less shock going downhill, my balance and confidence are better, stream crossings are much safer.

I have the Komperdell C3 Carbon with the twist lock. I've had other Komps with twist lock and the secret to them is to take them apart every night and learn how to adjust the mechanism back to "center." The C3's weigh 6 oz. each and are 3 piece collapsable. I need the 3 piece poles because I travel by air to backpacking trip a few times a year and the covenience is great! Plus, I do adjust the length for uphill/downhill.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Poles on 06/26/2007 20:54:21 MDT Print View

Hi Derek,
I've been using REI Peak Ultralite carbon fiber poles for 3+ years and put them through the wringer in all sorts of
conditions. They have performed admirably. The only damage sustained was having the cheesy compasses fall out of the grips. REI's solution? Give me brand new upper sections from the newer models. Go figure. I don't know if carbon fiber poles "break" easier than metal ones(in the lab?), but I have found carbon fiber ones to be plenty durable in the field, and they weigh so much less that I am willing to take that risk. The biggest complaint about the Peak seems to be locking mechanism slippage, and if that is an issue, there plenty of other good carbon fiber alternatives, now including Leki.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
poles: Carbon fiber and flicklock,$40 on 06/27/2007 00:01:28 MDT Print View

With a little searching you can get the best of two features, carbon fiber for lightness and flicklock (not screwdown). These are both found in Black Diamonds collapsable ski poles. They only collapse to 37", compared to about 25" for the hiking poles, but at 1/2 the cost; less if used.
For example, here

I've decided to return/sell my three other pairs and get one pair of elliptical flicklock Black Diamonds. Main reason is the twist-to-lock problems on my REIs and Leki Makalaus. I tried to save a few bucks with those cheaper poles, but now I have three unsatisfactory sets..

Also, for anyone considering fixed length poles, will you ALWAYS carry your poles in your hands? From trail head back to trail head? If you are like me you will stow them for the majority of the trail, and only use them on certain sections. Thus, collapsable, packable, poles are convenient. Ideally I'd like to be able to stow them completely inside my Golite Dawn or GG Meridian.

Edited by Brett1234 on 06/27/2007 00:13:54 MDT.

Victor Karpenko
(Viktor) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
Leki Makalu Service on 06/27/2007 00:26:48 MDT Print View

I too have had great service from them. I have the anti-shock poles. I crossed a deep stream and used them for stability. When I got home I noticed the anti-shock feature was frozen. I called them and they sent replacement parts without question.
What more could you ask for!

Steven Evans
(Steve_Evans) - MLife

Locale: Canada
Re: poles: Carbon fiber and flicklock,$40 on 06/27/2007 10:09:44 MDT Print View

Brett wrote:Also, for anyone considering fixed length poles, will you ALWAYS carry your poles in your hands? From trail head back to trail head? If you are like me you will stow them for the majority of the trail, and only use them on certain sections. Thus, collapsable, packable, poles are convenient.

Agreed. This is the main reason for me using the collapsable option. My poles only come out on the up/downhills, or if I am pulling a long day (ie. I am anticipating knee stress) . If it's just a few hours or so on flat sections, they usually stay strapped to my pack...and I find them easier for shelter adjustment.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
REI Carbon Fiber == Good on 06/27/2007 12:53:16 MDT Print View

I've got the REI carbon fiber poles, and I like them a lot. They can slip on you; the annoying time is when it's cold enough that you really don't want to take off a mitten but need to tighten or adjust the pole --- you need the friction of skin to get it really tight, and having a reasonably strong grip don't hurt either. If you accept that context, then mine are fine (I like 'em).

I'm glad I bought them at REI; my wife has a pair of slightly heavier REI poles which have "anti-shock" (which I personally don't find worth the weight or added complexity). Not too long after purchase one of these just wouldn't lock right; REI is wonderful about returns, just "go and pick another set off the rack".

I guess I'm with the majority here on liking an adjustable pole. It's not just about ease in travelling (on a plane, fitting in a car trunk, etc). If I have an ice axe, I want to be able to put the poles on my pack when I'm carrying the axe. One of my poles serves as a tent pole; you can make a fixed-length pole work that way, but I like to be able to adjust the pole length to put it just where I want it. And if I'm walking on the road or level trail for a fair distance but don't want to bother taking off my pack, they're a little easier to carry in one hand when collapsed. Though on a road side, I tend to keep them extended and carry them so that the pointy ends angle out into the road a bit --- that way when cars pass me, they tend to give me a little wider detour!
Finally, if I'm going pretty steeply uphill or downhill for a goodly distance, I find it worth adjusting my pole length accordingly.

Brian Lewis