From a performance-only perspective, Ultimate Direction’s FK poles are the best I’ve ever used. Designed with a wide, single-piece shaft—20 millimeters thick, versus the standard 16- or 18-millimeter diameter—the FK poles are the stiffest and strongest I have ever used, and my measured weight of 3.8 ounces per pole (in
The Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Quick Lock trekking poles are not best in class, but they’re an irresistible combination of price and utility. Each spring, I see them at my local Costco for $30 per pair, and on Amazon they’re never more than their $45 MSRP. At just under
Folding poles pack down really small—to 15 inches, say, versus about 25 inches for telescoping poles—making them ideal for air travel, mixed hikes and scrambles, and trail runs. But they come with trade-offs: The joints always wobble, and the design is usually heavier, resulting in a sacrifice to either weight
Adjustable-length poles will have twist- or lever-style locks. Avoid twist locks, period. Lever locks are more reliable (no slippage) and easier to adjust and troubleshoot.
A few years back, a friend and I were assembling a gear list to send to a couple of gentlemen joining us for an ascent of Mt. Whitney. He and I had both been up many a mountain, but the other two were inexperienced climbers, so we were taking pains
Consider models with foam, cork, or faux-cork grips. Choose rubber grips only if they will be used exclusively in winter. Always avoid plastic grips—they’re cheap but terrible.
Given current pole technology and availability, I would rule out any pole that weighs more than nine ounces each or 18 ounces for the pair. People with less arm strength (or scrawny runner arms like me) may want to set an even lower threshold. To keep weight to a minimum,
For many users—especially those on tight budgets—the Carbon Fiber Quick Lock poles offer enough functionality with a few justified trade-offs. I think most people will be happy with these poles and an extra $120 in their wallets.
The deal breaker is the price. Ultimately, I don’t feel that these poles are $70 nicer than the Alpine Carbon Corks, and in general I can’t recommend spending more than $200 on trekking poles when a very decent option is available for less than $45.
For hiking and general outdoor use, adjustable poles are worth the extra weight and expense. They can be used for more activities (hiking, snowshoeing, backcountry skiing) and perhaps by multiple members of the family. They can be adjusted to accommodate changes in terrain—shorter for uphills, longer for downhills, collapsed for
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