MSR Overland Carbon Trekking Poles REVIEW

Product performance review of the MSR Overland Carbon Trekking Poles, lightweight poles for backpacking.

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by Doug Johnson | 2005-05-03 03:00:00-06

Overview

MSR Overland Carbon Trekking Poles - 1
The MSR Overland Carbon poles have enough length and stiffness for even the tallest hikers

The MSR Overland Carbon trekking poles offer a lot for their $129.95 price. They compact to only 26 inches (66 cm) but extend to 57 inches (144 cm) which is long enough for very tall hikers. They are built with carbon fiber shafts which are stiff and comfortable but do vibrate a bit on the trail. Their stiffness and long length makes them excellent for even the heaviest and most aggressive hikers and climbers. The MSR poles are very durable, have a solid, non-slipping locking system, and are beautifully constructed. At 8.1 ounces (229 g) per pole, they are the lightest poles for their maximum length of all of the collapsible poles we reviewed. These poles are manufactured by Komperdell in Austria and are also sold under the name Komperdell Pure Carbon.

In Brief

  • Made in Austria by Komperdell
  • Only 8.1 ounces (229 g) - among the lightest 3-section poles
  • They extend to 57 inches (144 cm) - long enough for very tall hikers
  • The carbon shafts are stiff and comfortable but vibrate a bit when hiking
  • The grips, tips, and strap are well designed
  • Very secure locking system
  • Beautiful construction - very high quality
  • At $129.95, they aren't cheap but a great value for what you get

Specifications

• Trekking Pole Type

Collapsible, three sections

• Shaft Material

Full carbon fiber

• Tips

Carbide

• Grips

Grip material Grip Size Strap included?
EVA foam, plastic medium Yes - padded, adjustable

• Weight (without baskets)

  Weight per pole (oz) Weight per pole (g)
Backpacking Light measured 8.1 229
Manufacturer claim 8.5 241

• Pole Length

  inches centimeters
Minimum length 26 66
Maximum length 57 144

• Model Year

2004

• MSRP

$129.95

Usable Features and Ease of Use

The locking system of the MSR poles is excellent. They lock easily and I never had problems with them slipping during field testing. Plastic sleeves at section ends give larger grip areas to tighten the poles but are smooth, making it tough to tighten poles with cold hands in snowy conditions.

Shelter (pole length needed) Usable with this shelter?
Six Moon Designs Europa 2 (41 in/104 cm) Yes
Golite Trig 2 (48 in/123 cm) Yes
MSR Missing Link (54 in/137 cm) Yes

The MSR Overland Carbon poles compact down to 26 inches (66 cm) which is short enough to have just a little bit extending above a pack when they are lashed to the side. Their fully extended length of 57 inches (144 cm) is tall enough for hikers of nearly every height. During field tests, they proved to be long enough for hikers over 6'4" (193 cm). Their length and stiffness also make them excellent candidates to support nearly any shelter, including tall teepee-style tents (see below).

MSR Overland Carbon Trekking Poles - 2
The grip and strap are well designed and comfortable. The deep ridges on the back of the handle sometimes cause uncomfortable rubbing.

MSR Overland Carbon Trekking Poles - 3
The MSR Overland Poles use the common Komperdell attachment system which is secure but basket removal sometimes requires tools. The Komperdell snow baskets shown are not included with the poles but widely available.

The grips on the Overland Carbon poles are medium-sized, fitting my large hands well but still comfortably fitting my wife's smaller hands. They have a nice protrusion between the top two fingers that improved the grip. The strap is wide and well-padded, effectively wicking moisture on hot desert hikes. The strap also has a small elastic section at the center that gives a slight cushioning effect - nice touch. The transition between the EVA foam and the plastic upper section is smooth and the rounded upper section is comfortable when placing my palm on top of the pole. My only problem with the grips is the deep ridges on the back of the grip. While the ridges provide extra grip, they also rubbed my hands on a long summer hike, creating hot spots.

The carbide tips are stiff and predictable, offering excellent grip in rocky and icy terrain. The poles come with trekking baskets and snow and snowshoeing baskets are also available. Because these poles are manufactured by Komperdell, the basket attachment is the same one found on other Komperdell (and REI and EMS) poles with two plugs and a twist lock. While this style attachment is very secure and new baskets went on easily, it sometimes required pliers to twist them off (especially snow baskets) eliminating some flexibility on the trail.

Weight/Swing Weight

At 8.1 ounces (229 g), the MSR Overland Carbon poles are among the lightest three-section carbon fiber poles on the market. Their balance point is in the upper third of the pole, making them swing easily on the trail. At just over 7 inches per ounce of pole weight, these poles are the lightest for their maximum length of all the collapsible poles we reviewed.

Lateral Stiffness/Stability

These poles are really stiff. When I put them in the hands of my biggest hiking buddies, the universal response was that the MSR poles were very stiff and stable, even when extended to the maximum length setting. In our reviews, the MSR poles were only surpassed in stiffness by the Exped Alpinist Carbon poles.

Trail Vibration

The MSR Overland Carbon poles do a fantastic job of softening sharp trail impacts and are quite comfortable on the trail. However, the shafts vibrate a bit when hiking. While these carbon shafts vibrate less than most aluminum poles, they vibrate more than most other carbon fiber poles.

Durability

MSR Overland Carbon Trekking Poles - 4
The carbon shafts are tough, stiff, shock-absorbing, and beautiful.

After many long miles in a variety of conditions, these poles show very little wear. Even with stepping on them, hard landings in technical sections, and a couple of jarring falls, the MSR Overland Carbon poles still look great. I have no concerns about their durability and look forward to many future trips with them.

Value

At $129.95, the MSR Overland Carbon poles are not cheap. But they are beautifully constructed and very lightweight, especially considering that they extend to 57 inches (144 cm). These poles absorb shock while remaining very stiff. Their locking mechanism is among the most solid I've seen. All things considered, these poles are an excellent value - you really get what you pay for.

Recommendations for Improvement

The MSR Overland Carbon poles are excellent and a solid value. However, I offer the following recommendations for further improvements:

  • Switch to a Leki-style screw-on system of changing baskets - this would make basket changes in the field much easier.
  • For a pole at this price, included snow baskets would be nice.
  • Moderate or remove the ridges on the back of the grips to eliminate chaffing.
  • Add ridges to the sleeves at the end of pole sections to make them easier to adjust in cold or snowy conditions.

Citation

"MSR Overland Carbon Trekking Poles REVIEW," by Doug Johnson. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/msr_overland_carbon_trekking_poles_review.html, 2005-05-03 03:00:00-06.

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