Masters X-Light Trekking Poles REVIEW

Product performance review of the Masters X-Light Trekking Poles, lightweight poles for backpacking.

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by Don Wilson | 2005-04-26 03:00:00-06

Overview

Masters X-Light Trekking Poles - 1
Don testing the Masters X-Light Trekking Poles just outside Saguaro National Park, Arizona.

The Masters X-Light trekking poles are lightweight, very well built poles with some excellent features. The Masters Super Blocking System used to adjust and lock the poles is a standout and is the most reliable and secure pole locking mechanism I have used. The X-Light poles are constructed of strong and durable 7075 aluminum alloy that looked as good after three months of use as the day I received them. I took the poles on the PCT and CDT last summer, and also put a lot of tough miles on them in the mountains of southern Arizona. After putting over 200 miles on the Masters poles, I was pleased to find that I did not really miss a shock absorption system. I did find that the poles felt heavier in use than their weight would suggest due to a heavier swing weight; extra strength and weight built into the lower section of the pole adds more weight to this area. Also, I found the grips a bit uncomfortable when I put my palms on top of the grip. But these are minor complaints, given the other excellent qualities of the poles. I plan to put a lot more miles on the X-Lights in the future.

In Brief

  • Lightweight (8.8 ounces per pole)
  • Durable, high quality construction
  • Excellent, reliable extension locks
  • Highly collapsible, down to only 24.5 inches
  • No shock absorption system
  • Grips uncomfortable in some types of use

Specifications

• Trekking Pole Type

Collapsible, three-section trekking poles

• Shaft Material

7075 tempered aluminum alloy

• Tips

Carbide flextip

• Grips

Grip materialGrip SizeStrap included?
EVA foam with extension and plastic cap mediumyes

• Weight (without baskets)

Weight per pole (oz)Weight per pole (g)
Backpacking Light measured8.8250
Manufacturer claim8.8250

• Pole Length

inchescentimeters
Minimum length 24.5 62.6
Maximum length 52.5 133.4

• Model Year

2004

• MSRP

$115.00

• Manufacturer's Contact Information

Masters Ski and Trekking Poles, US distributor Alpina Sports Corporation

Usable Features and Ease of Use

Shelter (pole length needed)Usable with this shelter?
Six Moon Designs Europa 2 (104 cm)Yes
Golite Trig 2 (123 cm)Yes
Tarptent Squall (adjustable height)Yes
MSR Missing Link (137 cm) Yes

There are two significant usability features in the X-Light poles. The first is the Masters Super Blocking System (SBS). This high quality locking system makes the Masters X-Light easy to adjust and lock when adjusting pole length. The Masters poles were the best I have used at reliable, secure locking. Masters claims that their SBS clamps down tighter, with equal torque, than any other trekking pole mechanism on the market. Although I cannot confirm this claim, the X-Light poles were extremely secure. Another nice feature is the collapsibility of the X-Lights. They collapse down to 24.5 inches, making them easy to store and carry when not in use. I had no problems using my X-Lights with my Tarptent Squall, and the overall stiffness of the X-Lights will make them usable with any shelter that they fit.

Weight/Swing Weight

Masters X-Light Trekking Poles - 3
The Masters X-Light Trekking Poles collapse down to 24.5 inches, much shorter than some other trekking poles. Here, the Masters X-Light (top) is shown with a fully collapsed Leki Makalu Air Ergo pole.

The Masters X-Light poles weigh 8.8 ounces per pole, exactly the manufacturer's specification. I found the poles easy to use and swing, and similar in weight characteristics to poles from major manufacturers. Since I am tall and use my poles at almost full extension (about 52 inches/132 cm), the swing weight suffers (as a pole is collapsed, the center of gravity of the pole moves toward the handle, making the swing weight less). The Masters X-Light concentrates a much of its weight in the lower sections, increasing durability, but also increasing swing weight. I found the swing weight nearly identical to my Leki Makalu Air Ergo poles, which weigh 10 percent more, but have a center of gravity closer to the handle.

Lateral Stiffness/Stability

The Masters X-Light poles have a medium lateral stiffness when compared to other poles. I used the poles on many off-trail steep, rocky descents where I put a lot of weight on my poles and relied on them to keep weight off my knees and help me stay balanced on the loose rock. I had no problems with excessive flexibility that might surprise a hiker when using the poles in extreme situations.

Trail Vibration

Masters X-Light Trekking Poles - 2
The handle on the Masters X-Light is less comfortable than some other poles when you put some fingers or your palm on top of it when going downhill, especially on very steep grades. A more rounded edge would improve comfort in these situations.

For the past several years I've used poles with shock absorption almost exclusively. Since the Masters X-Lights do not have shock absorption, I was concerned that I would find them uncomfortable on downhills, especially when I was moving fast. Although there are some situations where I prefer shock absorption, I got used to the X-Lights quickly and did not find trail vibration or lack of shock absorption to be a significant problem.

Durability

The Masters X-Light poles excel in this category. Over the course of the summer, I used and abused these poles on lots of rocky trails. The trails near my home in Arizona are particularly tough on poles and the Masters X-Lights held up exceptionally well. The 7075 aluminum alloy is tough as nails. Although some paint wore off around the tips, the anodized finish was very tough - the poles didn't suffer a single scratch or dent despite my abuse.

Value

The Masters X-Light poles are well made, lightweight, and good looking to boot but priced a bit high at $115.

Recommendations for Improvement

My only complaint with the Masters X-Light poles is the design of the cap on the grip. I like to put my palms or fingers on top of the grip in some situations, and the relatively sharp edges on the top of the grip make this less comfortable than it should be. A little more rounded grip top could easily improve this, with little or no sacrifice to the usability of the grip.


Citation

"Masters X-Light Trekking Poles REVIEW," by Don Wilson. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/masters_x_light_trekking_poles_review.html, 2005-04-26 03:00:00-06.

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