by Doug and Amy Johnson | 2005-04-26 03:00:00-06
We tested two pairs of Gossamer Gear Lightrek poles in a wide variety of settings and by having many fellow hikers try them out. All were amazed by their comfort and amazingly light weight.
At just over 2 ounces per pole, the Gossamer Gear Lightrek poles virtually disappear in your hands. These are the lightest trekking poles on the market, weighing just a fraction of what the lightest collapsible models weigh. The Lightrek poles are also extremely simple - small, comfortable grips without straps, one-section carbon fiber shafts, and Leki-style carbide tips with a trekking basket. They are quite flexible, especially in the longer lengths, and can't be abused. However, they are stiff enough for on-trail hiking and do an excellent job of absorbing trail vibration. If you're looking for the lightest, most efficient poles, these cannot be beat.
• Trekking Pole Type
|Fixed length, non-collapsible|
• Shaft Material
• Weight (without baskets)
• Pole Length
|Fixed - 105 cm to 135 cm (41-53 in) lengths available in 5 cm (2 in) increments|
• Model Year
The Gossamer Gear Lightrek poles are extremely simple - they consist of straight carbon shafts, EVA foam grips, and Leki-style tips (with trekking baskets). No compression/locking system, no wrist straps, no angled grips, no ice axe attachments - and none of the weight that goes with them. As you have already noticed, the weight of the Gossamer Gear poles is their greatest asset. The question, is if the compromises made in features are worth it.
First, these are not collapsible poles. While some people adjust their poles often, we rarely readjust poles for climbing, descending, or traversing, instead leaving the poles at the best overall length. When using collapsible poles, we do compress them occasionally when they need to be stashed (for brushy conditions, using an ice axe or umbrella, etc.) and in these instances, we missed the Lightrek's lack of compactability. On the other hand, we did not miss locking mechanisms that may slip or the added weight of collapsible poles. In the end, we found that a fixed length was wonderful in its simplicity and we rarely missed the collapsible option.
With a little bit of creativity, the Gossamer Gear Lightrek poles worked fine with every shelter we had on hand. Shown here with the Bozeman Mountain Works Stealth 0 LITE and the GoLite Trig 2.
|Shelter (pole length needed)||Usable with this shelter?|
|Six Moon Designs Europa 2 (41 in/104 cm)||depends on shaft length,about 100-110 cm|
|Golite Trig 2 (48 in/123 cm)||depends on shaft length, about 120-130 cm|
|MSR Missing Link (54 in/137 cm)||depends on shaft length, about 130-140 cm|
Trekking poles are also often used to support shelters and, depending on pole length, the Lightrek poles can work with a variety of shelters as well. Both the 110 and 125-centimeter poles worked in our floorless Tarptent Squall, a Gossamer Gear Spinnshelter, and various tarp configurations. The 125-centimeter length poles were fine as tent poles for a Six Moon Designs Europa 2 and a Golite Trig 2. When a shelter required a different length, we could get creative by adding a small wrap of duct tape around the shaft and using a clove hitch or elevating the pole a bit with a rock or stick placed underneath. We usually found that setting the poles at an angle effectively lowered the pole height and digging a small hole also worked. However, there are definitely times that you will find the fixed height limiting; we would not be able to use the 110 or 125 length poles with an MSR Missing Link and all lengths are too flexible to use with Teepee-style shelters.
The grips are on the small side - perfect for Amy's small hands but still comfortable for Doug's bigger hands (shown).
The grips of the Lightrek poles are small. They were a perfect fit for Amy's small hands, and were small but still comfortable for Doug's medium-large hands. The grips are built of EVA foam with a comfortable flair at the bottom that can be used to effectively shorten the poles for climbing.
These poles, wisely, come without straps. Because of their flexibility, Glen Van Peski at Gossamer Gear designed these poles to pop out of your hands in a fall rather than breaking. It was a good decision - despite many falls when using the Lightrek poles, we never had one break during a fall. The lack of straps also caused occasional dropped poles on the trail. If a little extra security is desired, loops for attachment straps are included.
The pole tips are similar to Leki models. They offer consistent traction on the trail and were very dependable. The screw-on basket attachment system is a favorite for security and easy basket changes. The Lightrek poles come with trekking baskets but Leki baskets are widely available for snow use as well. Gossamer Gear recommends using the trekking baskets in rocky conditions to keep the fragile shafts from breaking due to leverage when placed in a hole. Good advice that we didn't follow (see Durability below).
The Lightrek poles weigh an almost-unbelievable 2.2 ounces (62 g) per pole in the 110-centimeter length and just 0.1 ounces more in the 125-centimeter length. They are so light that you almost don't notice them in your hands. The difference between the weight of these poles and all the other poles we've used was simply astounding.
It's hard to explain just how light these poles are. When swapping from the Lightrek poles to the lightest three-section poles, the collapsible poles felt like tanks. These poles whip very lightly between placements and using them is virtually effortless. During a 48 hour, 75-mile hike with 9,800 feet of elevation gain last fall, the Lightrek poles were a huge factor in Doug's success; they supported and propelled his every step while adding little to his fatigue.
It doesn't take much to make the longer poles flex. However, they feel stable enough during normal trail use.
These poles are not very stiff. The stiffness and feeling of stability varies with pole length, conditions, and the person using the poles.
Amy weighs 115 pounds and used the 110-centimeter poles both for backpacking and snowshoeing. She found that the poles were reasonably stiff and not overly flexible. When applying body weight to these shorter poles, they give somewhat but always felt supportive.
Doug weighs 180 pounds and used the 125-centimeter length poles for backpacking, off-trail hiking, and snowshoeing. He also tends to have a rather aggressive style. Doug found the poles to be quite flexible, bending under his body weight and when descending. These are not the most confidence-inspiring poles at this length but they are certainly stiff enough for most conditions. The Gossamer Gear Lightrek poles are stiffer when applying power straight down than when dealing with side loads; they are precise and efficient when pushing off.
When hikers taller and heavier than Doug used the poles (of those that carry heavier, traditional backpacking loads), they found them to be a little too flexible to be usable. Such hikers who still want ultralight poles, may want to opt for the upcoming Gossamer Gear Lightrek Plus model, which will feature stiffer shafts.
The Gossamer Gear Lightrek poles are extremely comfortable on the trail. Their carbon shafts flex somewhat during sharp impacts and absorb small trail vibrations. This makes them wonderful for all-day comfort. The longer shafts tended to vibrate slightly after impacts with hard surfaces such as rock or concrete; this was not an issue with the shorter poles.
Two breaks out of six poles.
We experienced two breakages with our poles over hundreds of miles of trail use.
The first was caused by a pole placement in a hole between large talus boulders during a descent. When stepping forward, the leverage was too much and caused the pole to snap in the lower section (a similar placement with an aluminum pole two years ago caused an irreparable bend). It is important to note that if the trekking baskets had been used, as recommended by Gossamer Gear, this break would have been avoided. Lightrek poles carry no warranty but replacement shafts are available for $30; my replacement arrived in less than a week and a half from my initial e-mail.
The second break is a mystery. Amy was using the pole to clear packed-up snow from a snowshoe cleat and the lower pole just snapped. It wasn't cold enough to make the carbon fiber brittle so we have concluded that it was probably previously damaged. In this instance, Gossamer Gear replaced the shaft with no cost.
Despite the fact that one of these breaks was due to user error and the other due to freak causes, it is important to note that the Lightrek poles lack some durability. However, the poles were thoroughly abused over hundreds of miles, both on and off trail. When we did experience breakages, Gossamer Gear promptly replaced the shafts at a reasonable price.
At $95.95, the Gossamer Gear Lightrek poles offer serious performance for the ultralight hiker. They are simple, yes, and not the most stiff or durable poles, but they are insanely lightweight, very comfortable, and effortlessly apply power to the trail. If the trade-offs are worth it to you, the Gossamer Gear poles are an excellent value.
Want to free up a hand for scrambling, using an umbrella, or eating while using Lightrek poles? Attach the poles together at the tip end with a Velcro fastener or small strap and use both poles as one unit. Make sure that one pole is about 4 inches above the other so only one tip touches at a time and your hand only has to wrap around one grip and the pole shaft. Even with both poles in one hand it's still half the weight of most trekking poles!
While both of us love our Lightrek poles and rarely want to carry anything else, we do offer the following ideas for improvement:
*Editor's note: In Spring 2005, Gossamer Gear will also offer the Lightrek Plus model which will have thicker shafts and a more ergonomic grip made out of Kork-O-Lon, a different EVA material. Early tests of these thicker shafts show that they are stiffer and more durable than the Lightrek pole shafts at only a slight weight increase.
"Gossamer Gear Lightrek Trekking Poles REVIEW," by Doug and Amy Johnson. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/gossamer_gear_lightrek_trekking_poles_review.html, 2005-04-26 03:00:00-06.