The Komperdell Featherlight Carbon trekking pole is stiff! Here it supports a 20 pound pack with ease on Mt. Baldy in Arizona.
If you are hesitant about making the move to a fixed length carbon pole, the Komperdell Featherlight Carbon trekking poles are just the ticket. They have all the features and performance of a "regular" trekking pole - stiff, contoured grip, tapered shaft, wrist strap and carbide tip - except the weight (4.3 oz for 120 cm length). And, at about $100, they are among the least expensive carbon poles. One catch - plan on leaving the baskets on once you install them.
- Among the lightest poles available at 4.3 ounces per pole
- Unnoticeable flex under full body weight
- Molded EVA grips are very comfortable
- Perform and look like "real" poles with tapered shaft, contoured grip, wrist strap, and carbide flextip
- Reasonably priced at about $100
What’s Not So Good
- Carbon shafts are more easily damaged from sharp object side impact
- I was unable to remove the press-fit baskets once installed
- Fixed length poles are trickier to use as shelter supports
- There are lighter poles
|2006 Komperdell Featherlight Carbon poles|
|Carbon fiber, 16 mm (0.63 in) diameter|
|Carbide Alpine flextips|
|Molded EVA foam with wrist straps|
Weight Per Pole
|4.25 oz (120 g, pre-production pole) measured weight 120 cm (47 in) length; 4.6 oz (135 g, production pole with leather wrist strap) measured weight 135 cm (53 in); manufacturer’s specification: 4.3 oz (122 g) for 120 cm length|
|Fixed: 43-53 in (110-135 cm) in 5 cm increments, 47 in (120 cm) length tested. Komperdell measures pole length from end to end - from the flex tip to the top of the grip.|
|Yes - diameter: 2 3/8 in (6 cm), weight: 0.2 oz (7 g)|
|Press fit / Komperdell|
The Komperdell Featherlight poles look like "regular" fixed-length poles with their 16 millimeter shafts and substantial wrist straps; but weigh half what you might expect.
The Komperdell Featherlight Carbon poles are beauties. Each pole weighs an ounce to an ounce and a half more than the lightest trekking poles (Gossamer Gear Lightrek, Titanium Goat Goat poles, Bozeman Mountain Works Stix Pro) but the complete package of the Komperdell poles is well worth the nearly unnoticeable-in-the-hand extra weight. The Featherlight poles are more finished than the Titanium Goat poles (contoured grips with straps and better tips), they are much cheaper than the Bozeman Mountain Works Stix poles, and they are stiffer than the Gossamer Gear Lightrek poles. These one-piece carbon fiber poles look and perform like regular weight poles with their 16 millimeter top diameter, handle to tip taper, and super stiffness. Marketed as alpine ski poles, they make wonderful trekking poles.
The concern with carbon fiber poles is their strength, especially their vulnerability to sharp side impacts. I used the Featherlight poles on bushwhacking trips where I returned bloodied, bruised and with torn clothing but the Featherlight poles emerged with merely a few scratches. The toughest test was a class 3 scramble ascending 3000 feet in 2 miles up Siphon draw in the Superstition Wilderness of Arizona. Since the poles are fixed length, I used them when I would normally have stowed collapsible poles. The Featherlight poles earned my confidence when I pushed my full weight onto them with almost no discernable give. When I absolutely needed both hands, I carried both poles in one hand; the fixed length was cumbersome, but the light weight made it easy to maneuver them around rocks and brush. The poles took some hard bangs against rocks but have showed no signs of structural damage.
The molded foam EVA grips are superb. The trigger finger and bottom ridges protrude far enough that your hand rests easily in place without depending on the wrist strap in either a full grip position or in the hill climbing position with just thumb and forefinger resting on the bottom ridge.
Opinions are mixed on whether a wrist strap is needed on poles as light as these. The first time I used Gossamer Gear Lightrek poles I was very surprised to find I didn't miss straps since I normally rest my wrist heavily on the strap during downhill scrambles. (With the Gossamer Gear poles I just put my hands on top of the grips on steep downhills.) Still, I appreciate the extra grip positions and support offered by the Komperdell Featherlight straps. The straps on the prototype poles I tested quickly frayed and looked unattractive on an otherwise beautiful pole. Komperdell is using very nice looking leather straps on their production poles. For those who don't use a wrist strap or want to save about half an ounce per pole, cut the straps off without fear - the molded grips are perfect for strapless hiking.
The Komperdell Featherlight poles are incredibly stiff. There is a very slight flex on steep downhills with my full weight on the poles, but much less flex than on three-piece Leki Ultralite Titanium poles I have. The stiffness gives lots of confidence in these carbon fiber poles. The flex is much less than on some other carbon fiber poles as demonstrated in the photo above where a water-loaded 20 pound pack hangs from the middle of a Featherlight pole. For a more quantitative measure, I repeated Will Rietveld's stiffness test by suspending a pole between two chairs and pulling downward at the center with a digital fish scale. The Featherlight poles bent less than 1 inch with a lateral force of 25 pounds applied as compared to 2 inches for the Life Link AT Superlight carbon poles that Will tested.
|Komperdell will use a leather wrist strap on their production Featherlight poles.|
The baskets are different not only from other brands' baskets, but also from the usual Komperdell basket; they are press-fit rather than twist-on. The small baskets retain the wider diameter (2 3/8 inch) of previous Komperdell baskets (as compared to the small Leki and Black Diamond baskets). The Komperdell baskets are very flexible. I found it impossible to remove the baskets once they were installed. The basket and basket holder assembly can be removed together by bracing the basket holder between your feet and pulling up on the pole. (I easily pushed the basket and assembly back on the pole after removal and it continues to remain in place after severe use.) Komperdell has not responded to my questions about the basket design.
Fixed length trekking poles, although not as easy to use as collapsible poles, can be used for shelter support. Even if they are not the exact right length, small adjustments can be made by propping a pole on a rock or slanting it to mimic a shorter pole. Slanting a pole has the advantage of allowing an instant shelter tune up after sag has set in by moving the bottom of the pole to effectively lengthen it. For tarps or tents requiring a short rear pole, a strip of duct tape around the pole at the correct height will hold a girth hitch in place. Of course there may be some shelters where your fixed length pole will not be a workable tent pole. I used the Featherlight poles very successfully to support a Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape shelter.
Compatibility With Trekking Pole Shelters
|Shelter type and pole length required||Usable with this shelter?|
|Gossamer Gear/Tarptent Squall Classic (42 in/107 cm)||Depends on length|
|Tarptent Virga 2 / Squall 2 and Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo / Europa (45 in/114 cm)||Depends on length|
|GoLite Trig 2 (48 in/123 cm)||Depends on length|
|MSR Missing Link (54 in/137 cm)||Only with extra support|
|Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape (45 in/114 cm)||Taller poles work well; pitches taller than the manufacturer recommendation|
Komperdell measures pole length from tip to the top of the handle. Before you order, determine the correct pole length by noting the length your adjustable poles are normally set to. The strap and grip of the Featherlight poles allow quite a bit of height variability from your hand on top of the grip, to just hanging on to the bottom ridge of the grip, to a position below the grip by lengthening the strap to the max. The poles are wide enough to get a fairly good grip on just the shaft.
|Once the press fit Komperdell basket is attached, it can't be removed except by pushing the basket and holder assembly off the pole (left). The carbide tip gripped well (right).|
The Komperdell Featherlight Carbon poles are the lightest fixed-length carbon poles with contoured grips and straps - and at a great price. (The Life-Link AT Superlight poles are a bit less stiff, a bit more expensive and weigh a couple of ounces more per pole.)
Recommendations for Improvement
The Komperdell Featherlight Carbon poles are a polished package providing a great balance of stiffness, light weight, and features. The single visual flaw was the comfortable but sloppy looking pre-production wrist strap; Komperdell has moved to a very sharp looking leather strap for the production poles. My only suggestion is to change the press fit basket system to allow the baskets to be removed.