Rating: 2 / 5
Backpacking experience: 30+ years
I ordered these 7.75oz per pole all carbon trekking poles on a Monday and they arrived from the UK on the following Monday. They arrived without baskets which came separately 1 week later.
I was immediately impressed by the low weight for a 3 section pole and by their swing weighting. The weight of the pole is distributed so that the bulk of the weight is in the handle and upper section with little in the lower two sections. They feel well balanced in the hand and on the trail. Little effort is required to use them uphill and downhill. These poles adjust in a similar fashion to the Leki poles with a twisting motion that requires about 5 twists to fully secure the section to prevent slippage. I note the previous reviewer had this problem, and I too find that unless I tighten the twist collar very tight (more than with any other pole I have used) the collar will give under heavy weighting. But if adequately tightened, it will not give. I have vaulted over several streams with them and they have not loosened after learning this secret.
The grips come in either black foam or cork in a size that fits my size large hand fairly well. The hand strap feels comfortable although it is difficult to get it to adjust and hold the adjustment because of the design of the adjustment system. A small delrin tab at one end of the strap notches into a matching hole in the handle and the pressure of the tab against the nylon strap is supposed to hold the strap's sizing. It does not hold this adjustment very well. Several times I had to re-adjust the size of the opening because it had slipped. The grips are ergonomically designed but do not have a cant to handle the natural hand position that Leki and several others to.( I think it only fair to comment that with such a light weight it is toss up as to whether this would necessary.)
The tips of the poles are tungsten with a star shaped pattern unlike the concave cup shape of most other pole tips. I have found that this star pattern grips exceptionally well on almost any surface. Cudos for this design feature. The only drawback to the design of the tips is that replacement of the tip requires disassembling the poles and replacing the entire 3rd section. Although this is fairly easy to do it is certainly different and a bit more of a hassle than replacing the tips of other poles.
These poles are certainly compact for a full length pole. The pole can be extended to almost 59 inches and shrinks down to 26 inches. This is an emminently packable set of poles.
Flexibility is superb! I find that these poles are fairly stiff yet flex just enough to absorb the vibration of a hard plant onto granite. They actually have less bend when weighted than my super Lekis. I never once felt fatigue from vibration even though I have used them on mostly hard rock hikes in the Sierras and San Gabriels.
Now for the Bad Stuff:
Quality control was not working when they shipped me my poles. I am going to assume that out of the many poles they have shipped, mine just slipped through the cracks somehow. I have put about 120 miles on them and in that time, first the left hand grip came completely off when I planted the pole tip into some soft earth. And then later in the same hike the black foam separated from the plastic sheath on the other pole that slides down onto the top of the carbon pole and forms the pommel. I spent a very uncomfortable further 25 miles minding the plant of one pole while constantly pushing the foam grip of the other back up onto the plastic sleeve.
( I have attached a photo of poles to show this deffect.)
Alpkit has been quick to respond and has offered to send me two replacement top sections for my return of the defective parts. I will amend this review when I have performed this replacement task and I will provide a further ammendment when I have used these poles for another 100 miles or so.
Great, lightweight poles that handle trail vibration well and which do not tire you out. Stiff with a great tip that bites well under any condition. Quality Control makes these a problematic purchase since there are no resellers in the US. But they appear to want to correct any problem forthwith. We'll See!
July 18,2007 Update:
Just received the new upper sections from Kevin at Alpkit. Asked him to send the cork ones and not the foam ones. Easy to swap out -- took all of 10 minutes. Now I will test them weekend after next in the Sierras and hope they hold up.
One further comment about these poles. I note that in the BPL review of these poles in 2006, Doug Johnson stated that because of this sort of problem that I had with mine which he also had, that Alpkit was replacing the two piece grip structure with a single piece grip. Obviously, Alpkit decided not to. Seems to be an endemic problem.
UPDATE: September 10, 2007
Took these repaired sticks out for a 30 miles spin in the Emigrant Wilderness over 4 days. They performed reasonably with the new top sections. I had them send me the cork version instead of the foam ones as replacement and the cork absorbed sweat well and held up to a very, very rocky trail. Normally I wear gloves when I hike and this time I did not. What I noticed most was that the stitching on the soft neoprene lining of the straps irritated my hands a lot. I examined the stitching carefully and discovered that the manner in which AlpKit stitched this was so that the stitch appears smooth on the outside of the strap. I assume for cosmetic purposes. but the inside surface that contacts my skin had all the tieoffs and rough thread ends. This makes for a prickly surface against which your skins rubs continuously. Quite uncomfortable.
I also noticed that the star shaped points have experienced more wear than I would have expected,especially compared to Leki tips. I found that slightly angled plants on granite rock surfaces frequently slipped off the surface of the rock. This would not have occurred with Leki tips and did not occur earlier with the Alpkit tips.
What I thought was a superior design element earlier, I now view as an flawed design for long term durability.
Consequently, I am downgrading my review to a 2.
UPDATE May 2008:
I am updating my review of these poles because further comment is necessary. I recently replaced the tips of the poles with Leki tips because the Alpkit original tips have shown severe wear and deconstruction, including a complete wearing away of the basket retainer ring on one pole. (See photos below.) I have put about 375 miles on these poles and the star shaped "carbide" tips have worn almost smooth. They regularly slip when planted and have actually come loose from the plastic in which they are embedded. One of the poles has gotten very difficult to adjust between the top section and the second section. I have taken them apart several times to make sure there is no dust or dirt lodged in the mechanism. (There wasn't)So, I am at a loss to understand the problem.
Aside from being exceptionally light and very strong for Carbon Fiber poles, these poles have little to recommend themselves. My rating of 2 stands. I would not recommend anyone purchasing these poles unless they wish toimmediately replace the tips with Leki ones which are far more durable.