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Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Pole Review

What happens when you take the highly rated fixed length Lightrek 3 poles and add adjustability and optional straps? Are extra weight, flexibility, durability, and slipping concerns, or does Gossamer Gear nail it with the Lightrek 4 poles?

Hightly Recommended

Overall Rating: Highly Recommended

At 3.5 ounces per pole (regular length), the Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 poles are among the lightest adjustable trekking poles on the market. Based on the highly rated Lightrek 3 poles, the Lightrek 4 poles retain the stiffness and vibration damping of the fixed length models and adjust with simple and effective expanders that add just 0.7 ounce per pole. Optional straps are available as well, and add just 0.6 ounces per pole. The Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 poles take the excellent performance of the Lightrek 3 and add adjustability, easy storage and travel, and available straps without the weight penalty you see in other brands.

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by Doug Johnson |

Introduction

Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Pole Review - 1
The Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Poles in action.

The fixed length Gossamer Gear Lightrek 3 Pole is a staff favorite and received our Highly Recommended rating. The new Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 poles bring an adjustable model to the Lightrek line. Like the Lightrek 3 poles, the Lightrek 4 poles have oversized carbon shafts, multi-position Kork-o-Lon grips, carbide tips that accept Leki baskets, and a good balance of stiffness and vibration damping. This model brings adjustability, optional wrist straps, and also a new spiral-wound lower section for added durability.

What’s Good

  • Among the lightest adjustable trekking poles on the market - just 7 ounces a pair.
  • Similar stiffness to the Lightrek 3 poles.
  • Excellent vibration damping and a comfortable amount of shock absorbing flex.
  • Molded EVA “Kork-o-Lon” grips are comfortable and offer multiple hand positions.
  • Available straps and camera mount.
  • Use common Leki-style screw-on baskets.

What’s Not So Good

  • Not quite the lightest adjustable poles (the Titanium Goat Adjustable Goat poles are claimed to weigh 0.1 ounce less).
  • $160 without straps and $175 with straps is pretty expensive (but comparable to other carbon trekking poles).
  • Not as stiff as some other trekking poles.

Specifications

Year/Model Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Poles
Style Adjustable length
Shaft Material Carbon fiber
Tips Carbide Flex Tip
Grips Molded EVA foam; Nordic strap optional
Grip Size Medium-large
Weight Per Pole - Strapless (without baskets) Regular length (tested): 3.5 oz (99 g) measured weight; manufacturer’s specification: regular- 3.4 oz (96 g), short 3.3 oz. (94 g)
Weight Per Pole - with Nordic Straps (without baskets) Regular length (tested): 4.1 oz (116 g) measured weight; manufacturer’s specification: regular- 4.1 oz (116 g), short 4.0 oz. (113 g)
Pole Length - Regular (tested) Adjustable: 35.5-55 in (90-140 cm); completely closed: 33 in (84 cm)
Pole Length - Short (not tested) Adjustable: 33-49 in (85-125 cm); completely closed: 30 in (76 cm)
Baskets Included? Yes - two-inch baskets weighing 0.3 oz (8 g) each
Basket Type Leki-style screw on
MSRP $160 - no straps, $175 - with Nordic Straps
Options Available camera mount for Nordic Strap model, limited availability Khyber Camo color

Performance

The Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 poles are the company’s first adjustable trekking poles. They weigh 3.5 ounces per pole for the regular length, which is adjustable from 90-140 cm (tested) and weigh 0.1 ounces less for the short model, which adjusts from 85-125 cm. The regular is 84 cm fully closed, while the short is 76 cm.

When compared to the lightest poles from other companies, the Lightrek 4 poles are among the lightest on the market:

  • Titanium Goat Adjustable Goat (no straps): 3.4 oz
  • Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 (no straps): 3.5 oz
  • Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 (Nordic straps): 4.1 oz
  • Leki Carbonlite AERGON: 6.4 oz
  • Komperdell C2 Carbon Tour Men/REI Peak UL: 6.5 oz
  • Komperdell Carbon Duolock Men: 6.7 oz
  • Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork: 8.0 oz
  • MSR Overland Carbon Poles: 8.5 oz
  • Life Link Guide 57”: 9.0 oz

The strapless Lightrek 4 poles are a virtual tie with the Titanium Goat poles, while the Nordic Strap version is 2.3 to 4.9 ounces lighter per pole than the lightest strapped poles from other manufacturers. The light weight makes swings almost as easy as the fixed length Lightrek 3 and the reduced weight leads to reduced soreness after long days of hiking. The poles feel extremely light in your hand or on your pack.

Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Pole Review - 2
The Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 is available in no-strap (left) and Nordic strap (right) versions. Black is the standard color (left) while Khyber Camo (right) has limited availability.

While the Lightrek 3 poles taper from 1.4 to 1.0 cm, the Lightrek 4 poles have straight 1.4-cm upper sections with lowers that taper from 1.3 to 1.0 cm. The result is that the Lightrek 4 is slightly thicker in the middle of the pole, but looks very similar to the Lightrek 3 poles.

Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Pole Review - 3
New logos painted on the poles are a classy and more durable replacement for the old stickers.

The standard color of the poles is black carbon fiber. There is also limited availability of poles in a Khyber Camo pattern. A difference from the earlier poles is a new spiral carbon wrap on the lower part of the poles. This extra carbon fiber adds durability to a part of the pole that is susceptible to damage. A new painted logo is an aesthetic improvement over the previous stickers used by Gossamer Gear.

Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Pole Review - 4
The Lightrek 4 poles feature carbide Leki-style tips and extra spiral-wound carbon on the lowers for durability.

The Lightrek 4 poles have carbide tips that accept Leki-style screw on baskets. The poles come with small two-inch trekking baskets which are highly recommended when hiking in rocks or long boardwalks. The poles are compatible with a variety of widely-available Leki baskets; I used the large Leki snow baskets on many occasions with no issues.

Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Pole Review - 5
The excellent EVA “Kork-o-Lon” grips remain unchanged from the Lightrek 3, although a Nordic strap version is also available (left).

The Lightrek 4 poles are available in no-strap and Nordic Strap versions. The multi-position EVA “Kork-o-Lon” grips are used in both versions and have three usable hand positions, adding comfort during extended uphills or steep downhills. They have a nice cork-like feel and don’t get slippery in wet or snowy conditions.

The no-strap version makes moving between positions on the grip easy and the light weight of the poles results in few dropped poles on the trail. I’ve used strapless Kork-o-Lon grips on four different sets of poles and I’ve rarely missed having straps. Further, not having straps means that it’s easy to let the poles go when they become wedged between boardwalk slats or boulders. For times when you can’t afford to drop a pole, such as high angle snow crossings, small loops at the base of the grips allow wrist loops to be attached to the poles.

Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Pole Review - 6
The multi-position Kork-o-Lon grips allow you to change position based on comfort or conditions.

The Lightrek 4 poles are also available in a Nordic Strap version. This option adds 0.6 ounces and $15 to the poles. The straps attach to the top of the grips with a grommet in the straps and are removable with a screw. The straps are simple nylon straps with a plastic adjustor. Lacking padding, the Nordic straps are not among the most comfortable straps on the market and have to be adjusted carefully to keep the plastic adjustors from rubbing your hands and to control extra strap length. Overall, the straps are simple and light and the comfort is reasonable. I used the straps for many miles both with and without gloves without issues.

While I’ve come to prefer a non-strap grip, straps are preferred by many hikers. They eliminate dropped poles, allow for a very loose grip, add a feeling of security, and allow extra extension when cross country skiing or using a Nordic Walking technique.

Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Pole Review - 7
The simple and adjustable Nordic straps are an option on the Lightrek 4 poles, adding 0.6 ounces and $15 to the poles. The available camera mount (right) weighs 0.3 ounces and turns a Nordic strap Lightrek 4 into a functional monopod.

The Nordic Strap version also has a monopod accessory that will be available soon. By removing a strap screw and replacing it with the 0.3 ounce accessory, it is possible to turn a pole into a functional monopod. Using the monopod, I was able to take smoother videos and crisper photos- well worth the tiny weight penalty.

The Gossamer Gear poles use a simple rubber expansion adjustor to adjust their length. By turning the lower section clockwise, the screw tightens into the rubber spacer, compressing it and locking the pole. Reinforced carbon fiber at the base of the upper section prevents damage from splitting. The system is simple and effective. At first I was concerned about potential slipping and durability, which is why I had five different hikers besides myself take these poles into the field, including Franco Darioli and Petras Surna, both avid Backpacking Light members. During hundreds of trail miles on the two sets of poles, none of us experienced durability issues or slipping, which I found very impressive.

Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Pole Review - 8
The Lightrek 4 poles use a simple but functional expansion adjustor.

However, adjusting the poles received mixed reviews. When adjusting the poles, it’s often difficult to get the initial friction between the expander and the inside of the shaft necessary to lock the poles. Despite cleaning the expanders, adding sand, etc., I never got them to consistently grab during adjustments. According to Franco Darioli, “we eventually found that by separating the two pieces, undoing the expansion screw and breathing on the rubber to give it some grip, it made it easier (or possible) to lock them into position again. It works, but is too fiddly to bother for minor adjustments.” After further experience with the poles, I finally settled into an adjustment system that works every time:

  1. Loosen the adjustors by turning the lower sections counter-clockwise.
  2. Back out the lower sections, turning the lower section clockwise until you feel the “grab.” Typically this happens immediately but if necessary and particularly in cold conditions, pull the sections nearly apart and exert a slight flex to the poles to create extra friction necessary for the “grab.”
  3. Slide the poles to the desired position, tightening the expander as you go to keep the friction strong.
  4. Tighten until snug and get hiking!

This may sound complicated, but it’s done very quickly, even in wet or snowy conditions. Once in place, the adjustment is solid and slip-free. Compared to the Black Diamond FlickLock system (which Franco typically uses), the Gossamer Gear system does take more time to adjust. However, with practice the difference in adjustment time is seconds and once locked, both systems have proven to be reliable. For most hikers, adjustments are only occasional and the Gossamer Gear system is a lighter, simpler solution.

A big advantage of adjustable poles is how easily they adapt to different shelter designs that require trekking poles. The Lightrek 4 poles work with a wide variety of trekking-pole-supported shelters. In addition, the two section poles compact easily to stow in a pack and come apart for transport. They include a tough cardboard tube for transportation, shipping, or storage.

Compatibility with trekking pole shelters Usable with this shelter?
Gossamer Gear/Tarptent Squall Classic (42 in/107 cm) Yes - short and regular
Tarptent Contrail / Squall 2 and Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo e / Refuge / Refuge X (45 in/114 cm) Yes - short and regular
GoLite Trig 2 (48 in/123 cm) Yes - short and regular
MSR Missing Link (54 in/137 cm) Yes - regular only

Early generation Gossamer Gear Lightrek poles were known for their excellent shock-absorbing flexibility but they were also less stiff than most other poles on the market. The Lightrek 3 fixed length poles addressed that with oversized and tapered shafts, increasing stiffness of the poles significantly. The Lightrek 4 adjustable poles share this increased stiffness.

Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Pole Review - 9
Using the standard Backpacking Light Pole Stiffness Test, a pack is loaded with 25 pounds of water and positioned at the center of pole, which was supported at a 110-cm length. Deflection was then measured and found to be 5.0 centimeters.

Using our 2008 Backpacking Light Pole Stiffness Test, the Lightrek 4 poles were supported in a fixed rig at a 110-cm length with a 25-pound load suspended from the center of one pole. Pole deflection is then measured using calipers. While the previous generation Lightrek 2 poles deflected over 9.0 cm and exceeded the maximum deflection of the testing system, the Lightrek 4 poles deflected a much more moderate 5.0 cm, slightly less than the Lightrek 3. While this deflection is still more than some other poles we’ve tested, they are comparable to most trekking poles on the market and also compared well to fixed length poles.

Pole make and model Amount of deflection (cm) Pole weight (no baskets) oz (g)
Komperdell Featherlight / Bozeman Mountain Works Stix 2.6 4.8 (136)
Komperdell Nature Stick Carbon 2.7 5.3 (151)
Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 5.0 3.5 (99)
Gossamer Gear Lightrek 3 5.1 2.8 (79)
Gossamer Gear Lightrek 2 (discontinued - included for comparison) >9.0 2.8 (79)

On the trail, the Lightrek 4 poles have a comfortable balance of stiffness and flexibility. They feel reasonably stiff when pushing off, adding efficiency during high mileage days and inspiring confidence during tricky descents. They are also comfortable on the trail, flexing somewhat when absorbing harsh impacts. This balance between rigidity and flexibility was perfectly functional.

The poles also proved to be durable. Despite being used by a variety of hikers over hundreds of miles, both sets of poles had zero durability issues. The Spiral Weave on the lower sections took care of scuffs and nicks I’d seen in previous Lightrek poles and despite serious usage ranging from backpacking to snowshoeing and off-trail scrambling, both sets are ready for many more seasons of use. My only durability concern came from the camo paint of the Khyber Camo model which scratched a bit, showing the black carbon below - purely a cosmetic issue.

The biggest downside of the Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 poles is the cost. At $160 for the no-strap version and $175 for the Nordic Strap version, these are expensive poles. However, they are still in the range of other poles in their class including the Titanium Goat Adjustable Goat ($130), Leki Carbonlite AERGON ($180), Komperdell C2 Carbon Tour Men/ REI Peak UL ($130), Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork ($140), and MSR Overland Carbon ($140). The light weight, feature set, and options of the Lightrek 4 poles make them a good overall value and a purchase that I would highly recommend.

What’s Unique

These are extremely light adjustable poles and significantly lighter than other poles on the market. They are available in no-strap and Nordic Strap versions, as well as regular and short lengths. They also have a great balance of stiffness and vibration reducing flex. They also float!

Recommendations for Improvement

The pole adjustment system could use some refinement to make adjustments quicker, but I’m not sure this could be done without a weight increase. Padding for the wrist strap would be nice in some situations, but again, this would add to the weight of the product. Overall, the Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 poles are a well thought out and highly refined product.

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 to the manufacturer under the terms of this agreement.


Citation

"Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Pole Review," by Doug Johnson. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/gossamer_gear_lightrek_4_trekking_pole_review.html, 2010-07-06 00:01:00-06.

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Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Pole Review
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Pole Review on 07/06/2010 13:02:28 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Pole Review

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Pole Review on 07/06/2010 14:25:13 MDT Print View

Good review, and I agree with everything. I will post photos of two more (very ergonomic) ways to hold the poles. It requires no straps and virtually no grip effort...

I love my Lightrek 4 poles :)

Frederick Maxfield
(fredmax56) - M

Locale: New England
Camo Poles on 07/06/2010 17:56:23 MDT Print View

I have found that the Khyber Camo Poles are no longer available. GG says that the painting was too difficult to produce. I should have grabbed a pair when they were available. I would love to get a pair if anyone has them.
Thanks,
Fred

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Pole Review on 07/06/2010 21:10:28 MDT Print View

Hi Doug
Good to see the review finally up.
To give a better perspective about my comments one needs to remember that Black Diamond is my pet pole brand so that does influence my take on them.
At 5'7" and 150 lbs they felt firm enough for me and did not try (or had to) be gentle with them.
That was noticeably different from the original one piece GG version, lighter but somewhat perceived to be flimsy by me.
As you noted the expansion adjustment is pretty minimalistic, that in my mind lends itself to easy maintenance.
So I am convinced that if I had them for a longer period I (we...) would have found a better technique . Your
version sounds very doable and somewhat similar to what we did ( the breath bit was to add friction)
And I like the strap. It works for me , so there...
(worked better than my fancy shaped BD strap )
I can see a pub
Franco
BTW, I don't grip my poles like that when I walk. I was steadying myself because I thought I spotted a Pilsner On Tap sign.

Edited by Franco on 07/06/2010 21:14:11 MDT.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
LT4 on 07/06/2010 21:57:54 MDT Print View

Funny stuff Franco.

The GG grips are truly fantastic. Great shape, as noted, and they also conduct very little cold. Quite noticeable compared to standard rubber grips.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
lighttek 4 on 07/07/2010 07:02:18 MDT Print View

thanks for the review! I currently own a pair of BD alpine carbon cork and am pretty happy w/ them- easy and secure adjustment, good overall stiffness and the straps work well for me, BUT I've been wanting to try something lighter (my BD carbon's weigh 9 oz/pole- the provided weight may be sans straps??) and these look like just the ticket :)

Andrew Macbeth
(amacbeth) - F
Re: Camo Poles on 07/07/2010 07:19:46 MDT Print View

Frederick, just a thought, if you can't find the Camo Poles to buy, I suspect you could paint your own camo pattern with a set of spray paint cans.

Juston Taul
(Junction)

Locale: Atlanta, GA
LT4 on 07/07/2010 08:57:29 MDT Print View

I had a pair of the LT4 poles. I agree with the review above. Overall an excellent pole, but the locking mechanism needs some work. One of my poles became dead weight when after a night of rain it would no longer lock. I had been using my LT4 poles for my tarp setup. Yes I had the rubber o-ring seal in place... not a water tight solution.

I will also add that I believe I was at the top range of weight that the poles would hold in a confident manner. I'm about 185 lbs and the flex was prominent.

When the poles were working properly, they were a dream. Like they weren't even there. Fix the locking mechanism and you've got a real winner. I would buy another pair pending a fix.

Monty Montana
(TarasBulba) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re: Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Pole Review on 07/07/2010 10:51:02 MDT Print View

Hey Doug, great review! Add to your list of compatible shelters the Gatewood Cape, which requires a 45" pole. When I need a higher pitch I've been using my 48" alpenstock, but since it weighs a whopping 15 oz I think I'm ready to try something lighter.

Frederick Maxfield
(fredmax56) - M

Locale: New England
Camo poles on 07/07/2010 17:30:00 MDT Print View

Thanks Adrew for the suggestion. I never thought to just paint my own. Sometimes the simplest solutions are the hardest to see.
Fred

Thomas Burns
(nerdboy52) - MLife

Locale: "Alas, poor Yogi.I knew him well."
Adjustment on 07/08/2010 05:21:06 MDT Print View

I had some trouble initially adjusting and tightening the poles. I eventually stumbled onto both the methods described by the review and by GG.

After 5 or 6 uses, the rubber tighteners apparently "settled in," and I had no trouble tightening them.

I've used a lot of poles in the past few years, from my old wooden poles (yikes! they seem heavy now) to the fixed-length carbon-fiber poles available here to aluminum Lekis, etc., and IMO the LT4's are the best and the GG after-the-sale service is spectacularly cordial and effective.

Bravo, GG!

Stargazer

Juston Taul
(Junction)

Locale: Atlanta, GA
Re: Adjustment on 07/08/2010 08:31:23 MDT Print View

...the GG after-the-sale service is spectacularly cordial and effective.

+1 to that.

Those guys are great.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: Re: Adjustment on 07/08/2010 22:02:05 MDT Print View

I have a pair of Lt4's - although I use only one pole so I actually have one I've used and one unused. I love the poles. I've had no problems with the locking mechanism in a couple hundred miles of use. I also had a great experience with their customer service. I found a sort of a slice on one pole when they were first delivered, and sent them a photo of the affected pole. They sent me a new lower section, no problem. I don't use straps on mine, but I do have a lop of cord for my wrist so I can let go of the pole and have it dangle from my wrist when getting something out of a pocket or what have you.

Stuart Raike
(sraike) - M
Re: Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Pole Review on 07/10/2010 08:41:23 MDT Print View

I love my Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Poles. Having used many different styles of staffs and trekking poles in the past, I thought I might miss the wrist straps...NOT! At the end of a long trail day, you'll really appreciate the lightness of these poles.

Lawton Grinter
(disco) - M

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Pole Review on 07/10/2010 10:39:29 MDT Print View

I've been using my LT 4's for a year now and love them.

Michael Schwartz
(greenwalk) - MLife

Locale: PA & Ireland
Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 Trekking Pole Review on 07/23/2010 12:02:50 MDT Print View

I love the poles but the bottom section, just above the reinforced area, broke when I stabbed one pole into soft ground next to friend,s. Not cool as it happened on the 5th day into a 45-day hike with snowfields, etc to cross. I think it may be a defect. Waiting to hear from Gossamer Gear. Just a warning that these poles need extra care IMO, as I have other carbon poles too. Mike

JAMES CALL
(Conductor) - MLife

Locale: Sierra Nevada
A Lesson Learned on 11/19/2010 15:43:26 MST Print View

I used the Lightrek 4's for a little over 2100 miles on the PCT this last summer and absolutely love them! I had 3 problems with them. I broke both a lower and an upper section in snow, and had the glue fail in a replacement lower section leaving the tightening mechanism jammed in the upper section.
As far as breaking my poles. This is the lesson I finally learned. As soon as I encounter ANY snow, I make the decision to either carry the poles or put the baskets on. I don't use the poles in the snow with out baskets. Both times I broke my poles, I didn't have the baskets on. The first instance was during a fall, and the lower section broke. The second instance was when I postholed, the pole postholed, my momentum moved formard, the pole didn't and sheared off at the level of the snow. It all happened too fast for me to just let go of the pole.
You might ask why I don't just use the baskets all of the time? It's simply because these poles are so light that I can tell the difference of when the baskets are on or off! Having the baskets on changes the pole, in my perception, from an extension of my arm to pendulum. Instead of being part of me, my pace, my breathing-they become something mechanical that actually requires my thought and attention. It's kind of hard to explain, but I really hate using the baskets! Those who have hiked with me know how whiney and persnicketey I can be.
The third problem was simply that my adjustable pole turned into a take-down pole, and was fixed with a small strip of duct tape to keep the two sections together when the tip would lodge between rocks or stick in clayey soil. The adjuster kept the pole at the proper length.

The guys at GG are fantastic about resolving the issues with the poles, and with all the parts and pieces I had at the end of my hike this year, I could put together a complete set of functional poles.

Ryley Breiddal
(ryleyb) - F - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Replacement tips? on 12/18/2010 20:54:05 MST Print View

I'm not sure if many people run into this issue, but I regularly destroy the "carbide flex tip" on my Leki poles. On the PCT I think I replaced both tips maybe 3 times each.

How does that work for these Lightrek poles? I see lots of references to people replacing the whole lower section, but what about just the tip? Can you use just a standard Leki tip (http://www.leki.com/nordicWalking/nordicWalkingAccessory.php?aID=5

Any insight, especially from any long distance hikers would be much appreciated!