Carbon fiber trekking poles at Costco for $27 are perfect for casual and/or cash-strapped backpackers

The entire Cascade Mountain Tech kit shown costs just $27! This is a screaming deal for carbon fiber shafts, carbide tips, faux cork grips, two types of baskets, and two types of pole tips.

Yesterday Amanda found a great deal on trekking poles, at Costco of all places. We’ve been slowly assembling her backpacking kit since she will be joining me on a 3-day trip in Rocky Mountain National Park and a 7-day trip in Yosemite National Park later this Summer and Fall. Poles were still on the list and I wasn’t excited about the prospect of spending $100-150 at an outdoor retail store for a worthy pair of poles.

In my experience, “worthy” poles should:

  • Weigh 6-10 oz each, which is light enough that I can match each foot strike with a pole plant, but not so light that they are too delicate for tough use;
  • Feature cork or foam grips, which are much nicer to handle than plastic or rubber grips; and,
  • Have replaceable carbide tips, which will extend their lifespan beyond about 2,000 miles.

If I only could own one pair of poles, I would also insist that they be collapsible and adjustable, since fixed-length poles (which are stiffer and lighter, and which I prefer to for my most intense trips) are not travel-friendly. There are two types of pole-locking systems — lever-style and twist-style — and I much prefer lever-style because they are more reliable and more durable.

Like most backpackers, Amanda averages about five trips per year, ranging from one night to one week. It’s a hobby, not a passion or a lifestyle. And since we moved into a new home last weekend and have been bleeding cash ever since (almost entirely on unexciting items like a mop and squeeze bucket, wasp spray, hangers, a shower curtain rod, and trash bags), we’re especially wary of big-ticket purchases right now.

For $27, these poles are almost certainly the best value on the market. Made by Cascade Mountain Tech, a company I have never heard of and that apparently makes only one product, the poles feature carbon fiber shafts, faux cork grips, and carbide tips. They weigh just 7 oz each without the straps and baskets.

At least on my initial inspection, their only drawback seems to be the twist-style locks. Normally this feature would be a deal-breaker, but I figure that Amanda would have to catastrophically destroy four sets of these poles before she’s rivaling the $150 price of my poles, the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork. The locks also have an “anti-shock” spring, which thankfully can be locked out — this feature makes the poles feel squishy, not secure, and eventually it will squeak.

Product specs

  • Carbon fiber shafts
  • Faux cork grips
  • Foam grip extensions
  • Interchangeable carbide tips
  • 3-section adjustable/collapsible
  • Minimum length: 27 in / 69 cm
  • Maximum length: 54 in / 137 cm
  • Twist-style locks
  • Lockable “anti-shock” spring
  • Includes two types of rubber tips
  • Includes two types of baskets
  • Made in China
  • Costco price: $26.99

Weight per pole

  • Pole with carbide tip: 7 oz
  • Strap: 0.5 oz
  • Mud basket: 0.6 oz
  • Snow baskets: 0.7 oz
  • Rubber tip: 0.4 oz
  • Angled rubber tip: 1.1 oz

Photos

Costco’s 3-product camping section: a lantern, a sleeping bag, and a pair of trekking poles

Without the straps and baskets, which is my recommended configuration, the poles weight just 13.9 oz, or just under 7 oz each.

In comparison, my favorite poles, the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork, weigh just over 16 oz (or 8 oz each), without baskets or straps. Truthfully, I’d actually prefer that the Cacade Mountain Tech poles weigh this much, since the weight-savings probably are a function of twist-style locks (which are inferior to the lever-style locks) and perhaps due to thinner carbon fiber pole shafts (which will make them less durable).

The twist-style locks on these poles will inevitably be a headache: they will slip, especially when cold and/or wet; they will lock up due to grit; and catastrophic breakages (which do happen) are difficult to fix in the field. To avoid confusion, this photo includes two middle sections (upper right and lower left). The upper lock connects the lower and middle section; the lower lock, home to the “anti-shock” spring, connects the middle and upper sections.

47 Responses to Carbon fiber trekking poles at Costco for $27 are perfect for casual and/or cash-strapped backpackers

  1. Mike Clelland August 6, 2012 at 9:41 am #

    Quick question – Are these made in China?

  2. Andrew Skurka August 6, 2012 at 9:44 am #

    Yes, which explains some of the price, since most poles are made in eastern Europe where labor will be more expensive and environmental controls are tighter.

  3. david longley August 6, 2012 at 11:26 am #

    Thanks for the heads-up, Andrew. My son left mine stuck in the ground in Grayson Highlands a coupla years ago while we were hiking from Fox Creek to Damascus. These look like they’d be a great replacement. Re-posted at the All Who Wander podcast facebook page. Thanks again!

  4. Christy August 6, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    Great find! I’ve been looking for some spare poles to loan out but won’t break my heart if they are damaged. I hope Canada Costco stocks them as well.

  5. Michael August 6, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

    I’ve bought 4 pairs of these hiking poles. Excellent value. No I haven’t gone through that many pairs, just shared them with loved ones! :)

  6. Kirk August 6, 2012 at 9:04 pm #

    My 16yr old son (6’3″ 185lbs) used these to do the Grand Canyon Double Crossing this summer and they held up well. The twist lock can disengage if you adjust it too much in the wrong direction but it’s easy to reconnect. It just takes a little experience to figure out.

  7. Noah August 8, 2012 at 10:18 am #

    I actually got a pair of these from a damaged goods redistributor place for about $17. I wanted to see if trekking poles were for me or not and not break the bank. I really like them so far, but one of the twist lock mechanisms has come unglued from the upper shaft, so durability wise, they are not the greatest. But I’d recommend them for the casual backpacker or someone wanting to give poles a try.

  8. Eric August 9, 2012 at 1:03 pm #

    Do these have any expressed warranty? I have some Leki poles & had a problem with one, the lifetime warranty proved to be tremendously well-supported, they overnighted me a replacement part no questions asked. Just curious what kind of warranty these have. Thanks for the heads up on what looks like a great value!

    • Chris Zeller January 15, 2013 at 4:14 pm #

      Probably not but Costco will always take them back. Their return policy is excellent.

  9. lu August 9, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    i can’t afford these. i’m that pathetic…

  10. Kyle August 9, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    I will say this, Costco also has a GREAT return warranty. Essentially, no questions asked. So, if they were to break, you can easily return/exchange.

  11. Dana August 14, 2012 at 11:14 pm #

    This makes me wish I had a Costco membership!!! I could really use these…love the price point.

  12. Daryl Davis September 21, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

    On a similar note, I just picked up a Paradox brand, 2.5-layer rainsuit (jacket and pants) at Costco for $49.99. The set, in size Men’s Large, comes in at 1 lb., 8.5 oz. on my postal scale. Weight is minus the useless packing bag they come in–it’s the devil to get the suit out and impossible, as far as I can tell, to get it back in.

    I’m making my first attempt at Mt. Whitney next week, and needed a shell jacket and pants.

  13. TSellers November 16, 2012 at 8:28 pm #

    You are right about those twist locks being the deal breaker. The problem is they will probably fail at a time when you’d be willing to pay much more to have them work for the duration of the trip. But there is one other potentially hazardous consequence to remember, the user may have the feeling that the lock is supporting his weight until he loads it way more than normal for balance while doing a stream crossing, and it collapses, as I have seen happen many times. Usually the person just rebalances, but falling into cold running water, even if shallow, is at least an unpleasant experience and at worst a deadly one.

  14. Daniel December 20, 2012 at 9:57 am #

    This is a newb question as I have never used trekking poles, but is it possible to replace twist locks with lever locks on poles if the diameter of the pole is the same as the lock?

    • Andrew Skurka December 20, 2012 at 11:07 am #

      If you are something of a Mr. Fix-It, I’m sure you could do this. In fact, you might be able to find a better way to do it by visiting your local hardware store. I don’t imagine that I’ll be taking on this project soon, however — just not worth it considering how the poles will be used by Amanda (relatively infrequently, and lightly).

      • Leigh D June 25, 2014 at 3:10 pm #

        Hello — I am just reading this review about a year and a half from the original posting! I just purchased a set of these poles from Costco (May 2014), and they now have the quick lock feature. However, in response to your original question, a tip that I picked up regarding twist lock is to put just a bit of that gritty non-slip floor tape stuff at the joint. That will tighten it up!

  15. Chris Zeller January 15, 2013 at 4:12 pm #

    Thanks for doing this review Andrew!

    After buying the Black Diamond carbon poles for myself last christmas I discovered these same poles at Costco. I find them to be excellent as well so I bought them for my wife and 2 kids. They worked out so well I bought them for my swiss in-laws as well and brought them to them this summer. They worked great all summer and are 99% as good as my Alpine Carbon corks. The swist locks do however require a bit of adjustment from time to time.

    • Chris Zeller January 15, 2013 at 4:16 pm #

      BTW: check out the new metal flicklocks on this year’s carbon corks. They are excellent.

      They just need some way to link 2 poles together ala their avalanche probe poles for use as a center pole in my shangra-la tent.

  16. Tad Englund February 12, 2013 at 3:49 pm #

    I wish these pole didn’t have the hokey black foam under the grips- they could have saved more weight and cost. That type of thing just gets in the way for me.

    • Andrew Skurka February 14, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

      I actually really like this feature, especially on steep slopes or when side hilling. The weight savings is negligible — they are not worth removing.

  17. Rich Perlman February 14, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

    Tad said:
    “I wish these pole didn’t have the hokey black foam under the grips- they could have saved more weight and cost. That type of thing just gets in the way for me.
    ####

    Why not just remove it? I did that to the grippy pad on my Komperdell Carbon C3s.

  18. Pam Schaffer March 21, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

    I just picked up a pair of these at Costco today. My sister and I were discussing poles earlier in the day and l just so happen to stop by Costco and thought this might be a good purchase since I am a casual hiker. Hiked the HOLLYWOOD sign a couple of weeks ago. Would have liked them on that one!!! Thanks for the positive comments. Can’t wait to try them out!!

  19. Bret Heath April 6, 2013 at 9:34 pm #

    Found the Cascade’s at Coscto and could not pass up the price to weight ratio. Bought a pair for my wife and I, figuring if they didn’t last I’m only out $30 pair. I used my pair hard for two years and finally broke a lower section by banging against my boot to remove caked on snow (ala ski pole style), don’t to that with these poles! Never had a problem with the twist lock, keep clean and tighten well. Made a nasty river crossing with these and, while they vibrated like crazy, they got me safely across.They have been up Mt Baker and Mt Rainier, bushwacking multiple days through the Cascades and on many day trips. The down side is carbon shatters rather than bends. The up side is they are so light I don’t mind including them with a heavy load and they are more durable than expected. Tie them together with a big rubber band and you have a great set of shooting sticks. Well…off to buy another pair.

    • Doug Stanton June 15, 2013 at 6:00 pm #

      I bought a pair and cannot figure out the anti shock part. One pole works and the other is locked. No directions on how to release the lock and I’ve taken them apart but see no obvious way to lock or unlock the shock absorbing feature. Any help would be appreciated.

  20. Rich June 19, 2013 at 11:58 am #

    Hi,
    Thanks for the tip. I’ve just picked up a pair at Costco. I’m wondering how you removed the straps. It looks like the entire strap-lock mechanism will come out if you push both circular tabs on the sides. But, I can’t get it to easily come out and I don’t want to break that mechanism. Ideally, I’d like to be able to add the straps back for winter trips (e.g. snowshoe).
    Rich

    • Andrew Skurka June 22, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

      I cut them off. I do not think there is another way to do it.

  21. Stephen Beyer June 27, 2013 at 2:39 pm #

    You said ” The locks also have an “anti-shock” spring, which thankfully can be locked out “. How do you lock that feature out?

  22. Eli Humphrey July 13, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

    You can remove the straps easily. The pin is tapered to one side,(the side that appears to be hollow) push it back through the handle with a small nail or paper clip.

  23. Rick Wood August 21, 2013 at 3:38 pm #

    Hello everyone! My name is Rick Wood and I own Cascade Mountain Tech. We are a small company based out of Snoqualmie, Washington. I am so glad to see the nice reviews. I have a new set of poles that we just released with the new “Quick Lock” feature. No more twisting. We are selling them on the website for $39.99 per pair with snow baskets. They may be in Costco next year but not much cheaper than what we are selling them for on our website.

    Good Hiking!!

    Rick Wood

    • Jeff M December 18, 2013 at 12:21 pm #

      I see these are now $59.99 on your website. Bummer.

  24. Daniel September 6, 2013 at 6:49 am #

    Andrew, could you explain your preferred pole set-up? Meaning, why don’t you use the straps and the tips, etc…?

    Thanks

    • Andrew Skurka September 7, 2013 at 7:29 pm #

      I find that the straps get in the way (e.g. from me accessing my side pockets, taking a photo, putting both poles in one hand while going across talus) and that the baskets get caught on rocks and vegetation.

  25. Malcolm November 29, 2013 at 9:29 pm #

    http://www.cascademountaintech.com/product_p/1007.htm
    It is almost the same thing by the same company but with the flick locks!

    • Andrew Skurka November 29, 2013 at 10:40 pm #

      Besides their website, has anyone seen these in stores?

      • John C December 26, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

        Just bought a pair at the Sacramento Costco with what they call “Quick Locks” similar to the Black Diamond Flicklocks. No anti-shock springs or fake cork grips either, just EVA foam grips

      • EJ January 3, 2014 at 3:15 pm #

        Andrew the flick-lock versions are in SF Bay Area Costco stores – another reason for you to come to the BPL GGG Jan 26 ; )

  26. Charlie Day Hiker January 1, 2014 at 7:51 pm #

    The zen hiker might say- Nothing weighs nothing

  27. Andrew February 25, 2014 at 5:57 am #

    I bought some cheap Kelty poles for $35 about 2 years ago. Same features except aluminum instead of carbon fiber. They lasted me a while but they’re starting to go out on me. I just purchased the Alpine Carbon Cork poles for my AT thruhike this year. I’m excited for those.

    • Mitchell E. March 12, 2014 at 12:38 pm #

      Andrew, any updates on how there are holding up now that they’ve seen some use?

  28. Dug "Rawhide" Shelby April 23, 2014 at 2:34 pm #

    Just found your review after seeing these online. I have an adventure-based non-profit, and I sponsor & outfit people for hikes and other adventures. We’re taking 6 people to the UK to attempt the “3 Peaks Challenge” this coming October to benefit human trafficking victims (“3 Peaks” covers the three tallest mountains in England, Wales & Scotland, 27 miles, 10k in elevation in 24 hours). Since it’s our first year, I’m looking for great ways to save money where possible while still retaining quality. I purchased 8 pair of these (6 for team + 2 extra for in-field replacement if necessary). At this price, why not? The twist lock is not my favorite, but I did do the PCT with twisties, so why not. :). BTW, Andrew, I picked up my ice axe & bug head net from you off BPL for my PCT hike in 2011, still use them, they were awesome! (Belated) congrats on the new house! ~ Rawhide

  29. Eugene S. June 20, 2014 at 8:30 pm #

    What is the preferred method of connecting the trekking poles to a tarp shelter system? I’ve tried multiple ways, but, none of which are as convenient and efficient as I would like.

  30. Doug July 15, 2014 at 7:39 pm #

    Since this article was posted, the poles have been upgraded to lever style locks. Just used a pair for a hike on the PCT, where they performed great.

  31. steve July 25, 2014 at 8:43 pm #

    i lost the tip of my old pole deep in some sticky mud…
    so I tested these by pulling the tip off …
    and it came off easily and had no positive connection method…
    so i think i’d lose these tips even faster
    :(

    • Andrew Skurka July 25, 2014 at 9:48 pm #

      If you’d like, you can glue the poles into the tips. But I’d advise against it because at some point you may want to replace the tip (they eventually get worn out). I’ve lost just one pole tip before but have never used glue — the poles naturally jam into the tips when you start using them, and it takes a lot of force to pull them off after that.

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