By Vedetta Barbe. Trekking Poles. Published at Tuesday, October 02nd, 2018 - 23:10:51 PM.
This summer, I tested eight pairs of poles representing a range of prices, features, and designs. I had used some of these models in years past, but I gave them all a fresh look while guiding and hiking in California and Colorado. My first pair of trekking poles cost $100 and were nothing fancy. Poles have improved over the past 16 years, and while I really liked some options that push $200, the poles I recommend for most people, Cascade Mountain Tech’s Carbon Fiber Quick Lock trekking poles, retail for just $45.
When evaluating poles, I start with the shafts. They need to be stiff, free of vibration on impact, and able to endure reasonable contact with rocks and vegetation without fracturing. Next, I look at the hand grips, which should be soft on the hands but still responsive, meaning not mushy. I also really like extension grips. Finally, the locks need to be secure and reliable and easy to use and repair. Only some of the poles I tested met those criteria.
And remember that lighter is not always better. For example, I’ve found that the ultralight (and ultra-thin) shafts of the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z poles are too fragile for backpacking. The RaidLight Vertical Carbon 3 poles lack versatile extension grips.
All things being equal, a trekking pole with a one-piece shaft will be both less expensive and lighter and stronger than a trekking pole with a multipiece shaft. For example, the single-piece Black Diamond Vapor Carbon 1 weighs 35 percent less and costs $20 less than the comparably strong Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork.
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