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Review: Cascade Mountain Tech Quick Lock Trekking Poles | Shockingly awesome performance for $30

My testing ground for the Cascade Mountain Tech Poles: the Kings Canyon High Basin Route. Here, the rarely visited Col Creek, a tributary of Woods Creek.

My testing ground for the Cascade Mountain Tech Poles: the Kings Canyon High Basin Route. Here, the rarely visited Col Creek, a tributary of Woods Creek.

Update, November 11 2015:  Also read my long-term review.

Two months ago at the local Costco I bought Cascade Mountain Tech Quick Lock Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles. They are also available from Amazon (go here) with Prime shipping.

At a minimum, I thought they would be useful for visiting family and friends. At best, I hoped I could use them on insignificant trips in order to save my 5-year-old Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Poles (read my long-term review) for more important outings.

For $30, however, I got way more. After a few hard training hikes with them (3k vertical feet of gain with a 50-lb backpack of bricks), I felt they were ready for a bigger stage: a thru-hike of the Kings Canyon High Basin Route, during which I hiked over 200 miles (including 100 miles off-trail) and climbed a whopping 70,000 vertical feet through California’s High Sierra.

Here is my review:

14.1 oz without straps or baskets, making them about 2 oz lighter than the BD Carbon Cork Poles and about the same weight as the REI Carbon Power Lock Poles

14.1 oz without straps or baskets, making them about 2 oz lighter than the BD Carbon Cork Poles and about the same weight as the REI Carbon Power Lock Poles

Lightweight

After removing the straps and baskets, the CMT poles weigh in at just 14.1 oz. Compared to other popular collapsible poles, they are 2 oz lighter than the BD Alpine Carbon Cork Poles (16.1 oz without straps and baskets), and weigh about the same as the REI Carbon Power Lock Poles (15.7 oz with straps and baskets).

The CMT locking mechanism is not as refined as others I've seen, but it works. Also, notice the scratching on the lower shaft -- I worked these poles hard, and they are holding up well.

The CMT locking mechanism is not as refined as others I’ve seen, but it works. Also, notice the scratching on the lower shaft — I worked these poles hard, and they are holding up well.

Reliable locking mechanism

While the CMT’s lever locks are less refined than Black Diamond’s FlickLock or those on the Carbon Power Lock Poles, they work. They never slipped; they never needed occasional readjustment; and after about two hard weeks of use, they work as well today as when new.

In addition to the Quick Lock Poles, CMT offers a Twist Lock version. I would avoid these: the design is inherently less reliable, and the CMT poles I bought in 2012 have proven to be no exception.

Durable components

I’m hard on poles. I’m not a heavy person (155-160 lbs), but I was carrying a heavy pack (35 lbs at the start, including 11 days of food + bear canister + supplies) and I travel extensively off-trail: giant talus, loose scree, occasional thick brush, and lots of uneven ground.

The pole shafts had ample opportunities to break: on many occasions I jammed them accidentally between rocks, used them to catch awkward stumbles, and dropped them clumsily on the ground — yet they did not break or fail. The grips and locking mechanisms exhibit no signs of advanced wear.

Stiff carbon fiber shafts

Versus my BD Alpine Carbon Cork Poles, the CMT poles vibrate more upon impact. I suspect this is attributable to inferior (but sufficient) shaft strength and to inferior (but, again, sufficient) locking mechanisms. The vibration is only a minor annoyance and it’s probably comparable to that of other poles. Moreover, I found that it can be reduced by tightening the locking system.

Foam is the second best grip material, behind cork but ahead of plastic and rubber. The extension grips are key -- I use them regularly on steep climbs and sidehills.

Foam is the second best grip material, behind cork but ahead of plastic and rubber. The extension grips are key — I use them regularly on steep climbs and sidehills.

Foam grips + extensions

The CMT pole grips are made of high-density foam, which is far superior to plastic and rubber but not as desirable as (much more expensive) cork. I’m perfectly content with this spec. Furthermore, I’m delighted that the CMT poles have foam extension grips, which I use regularly when hiking steeply uphill or when side-hilling. If poles do not have this feature, it’s a deal-breaker for me.

Note that on CMT’s website, the Quick Lock poles are also available with cork grips, for the same price. But buyer beware — assuming it’s the same cork as on my CMT twist poles from 2012, it does not feel or look like real cork, and at least one backpacker had a negative experience with them.

54 inch (135 cm) max length

With an adjustable length of 40-54 inches (100-135 cm), the CMT poles can be sized correctly for nearly all adults. In combination with the included snow baskets (a $7-10 value), they could also be used for snowshoeing, and perhaps for skiing too depending on the type of skiing and the user height.

If you use a shelter that requires trekking poles to pitch, you may appreciate the 54-inch maximum length. Only multi-person mid-shaped shelters demand taller poles.

Buying recommendations

The Cascade Mountain Tech Quick Lock Trekking Poles own the “value” price-point — there is nothing better, not even close, at this cost. But I’ll go further: there are only three instances in which you might consider buying any other trekking poles:

1. You are an extreme user and can justify $160 for the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Poles, which are stiffer and which have better grips and locks. There is no other collapsible pole worth buying, IMHO.

2. You value compactness (e.g. you are an ultra runner), in which case folding poles  such as the Black Diamond Ultra Mountain Carbon Trekking Poles will be worthwhile. When fully collapsed, the CMT poles are still 23 inches long, versus 14-16 for folding poles.

3. You value weight and you don’t plan to travel often with your poles, in which case fixed-length poles like the Gossamer Gear LT3C Poles are the way to go.


Disclosures. Personal funds were used to purchase these poles. This post contains affiliate links, whereby I receive a small commission for resulting sales that help to support this content.

42 Responses to Review: Cascade Mountain Tech Quick Lock Trekking Poles | Shockingly awesome performance for $30

  1. Andrew July 22, 2015 at 8:11 am #

    Thorough review – thank you 🙂

  2. Ian Justice July 22, 2015 at 8:22 am #

    Andrew, I am using Karrimor carbon poles for the last 7 months with the snow baskets on for desert use. They are going ok and hold up well over rocks and the abuse my 10 year old son puts them through looking for snakes.

    Regards,

    Ian

  3. Albert July 22, 2015 at 8:57 am #

    I purchased these at Costco too. The price was too good to pass up and for the price of one set of reasonable conventional poles, I can outfit the whole family with poles. Plus they look great and have that expensive look with carbon fiber construction, foam subhandle and flip locks. Plus they are plenty stiff enough when used at shorter lengths – for kids/teens or folks under your height. Taller hikers extending out the length of the poles will experience some deflection and vibration. That’s true for a lot of poles out there. Gee, this reads like an Amazon product review. Two thumbs up!

    • Carlos August 5, 2015 at 3:59 pm #

      How much were they

  4. Vadim Fedorovsky July 22, 2015 at 9:50 am #

    I use these poles for both skiing and hiking.

    I have nothing bad to say about them.

    They rock!

    Thanks to you, Andrew, for the original tip to buy them!

    -Vadim

  5. Paul July 22, 2015 at 10:22 am #

    Andrew, are the straps really not worth the weight? I assume you don’t feel any fatigue from having to grip the poles as you pull up. Is that correct? Otherwise, I would imagine the added ounce or so of weight is well worth it. I have never tried using poles without straps, but I think they help me. Obviously, I’ll reconsider if they work well for you without straps. It was your recommendation that got me interested in using straps to begin with.

    Also, thanks for the review in general. I’ll have to look for these at Costco.

    • Andrew Skurka July 22, 2015 at 10:27 am #

      My dislike for straps is not related to weight. Instead, it’s that straps get in the way whenever I want to take my hands off my grips (or put them back on): to take a photo, go pee, grab my water bottle, choke down for a steep climb or a side-hill. Also, when off-trail I often hold both poles in one hand: on talus, loose scree, when bushwhacking.

      I would also add that straps offer little performance gain when hiking. When skiing, that’s an entirely different story, as a strong push-off with your arms can propel you forward dramatically. But when hiking I find that I hold my poles pretty lightly, and rarely use them to push hard forward.

      • Paul July 28, 2015 at 9:02 am #

        Thanks, Andrew. Makes sense. I actually tried not using my straps on my latest hike, and it ocurred to me that I really don’t need them. I think it was a psychological carryover from skiing, as you mentioned. Thanks again.

  6. Rusty July 22, 2015 at 1:50 pm #

    Wish Costco would carry CMT poles in their Mid-Atlantic stores. 🙁 Will have to pickup a pair when I get out west.

    • Andrew Skurka July 23, 2015 at 2:57 pm #

      They are available from the manufacturer (free shipping, but $50 I think, at which price they are still a great deal if you need poles) and also from Amazon.

  7. Rick July 22, 2015 at 7:03 pm #

    Nice review! I am using the same for the last year and the tip just broke off last weekend 🙁
    I got about 400 miles out of them. I am now moving on to my new pair hoping to get more out of them…

    • Andrew Skurka July 22, 2015 at 7:16 pm #

      The carbide tip, or the lower shaft? Your fault or its fault?

  8. Martin July 23, 2015 at 12:45 am #

    Anyone tried the Cork version?
    http://www.cascademountaintech.com/Quick-Lock-Trekking-Poles-with-Cork-Grip-p/glcgtp.htm

    If you cant the the poles at Costco and need to buy online the price is the same.

    • Andrew Skurka July 23, 2015 at 5:42 am #

      Avoid the cork grips if they have “twist” locks.

      • russo July 23, 2015 at 8:53 am #

        why do twist locks get such a bad rep? i’ve been using and putting full weight on mine for 2 seasons, zero slip. wonder how much of this rep is due to people not tightening them…

      • minusfive July 23, 2015 at 10:35 am #

        Those seem like they’re the same Quick Lock ones, only difference being the cork grips.

      • steve March 25, 2016 at 10:16 pm #

        I just got them from costco today. Took them on a 15 mile hike up eagle creek in the columbia river gorge. Great poles. Mine have “cork” and the flip locks. So maybe they changed them this year. I’m getting ready for a PCT through hike and I am hoping that these will be able to handle it. We shall see. I’ll put several hundred miles on them this summer to see how they do. Thanks for the great review.

    • JK July 23, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

      Foam and cork the same price? Why would anyone choose foam over cork, btw?

      • Andrew Skurka July 23, 2015 at 2:56 pm #

        Assuming it’s the same stuff on my 2012 poles, it’s not high-quality cork. Feels kind of plastic-y. But I don’t have long-term experience with it — my wife has used those poles for only about a week. Maybe someone can chime in.

        • JohnR July 25, 2015 at 6:55 pm #

          My son hiked JMT from Happy Isles to Devil’s Postpile. You are correct, it’s not real cork, it ground completely off one and peeled on the other.

          • Andrew Skurka July 26, 2015 at 7:08 am #

            Good to know, thanks for sharing.

    • Paul July 24, 2015 at 9:57 am #

      The link to the CMT cork version that Martin supplied appears to have lever locks. A nice option at the same price point. Doug, thanks for the first hand experience.

  9. Doug K July 23, 2015 at 2:10 pm #

    I have the cork grip version with twist locks, been very happy with them over the last four trips, each 3-4 days.. Boy Scouts have abused them including throwing across a snowmelt torrent to bounce off rocks on the other side, but they have held up without problems.

    • Andrew Skurka July 23, 2015 at 2:46 pm #

      My CMT poles with twist locks from 2012 had a glue problem: the male twisting mechanism would pull out of the female pole shaft. A half-hour, a knife to shave off the old glue, and some Aqua Seal solved that.

      But I still don’t trust them, as their are inherent problems with this design. Most notably, to be secure, the inner expansion nut must be forcefully expanded via twisting. But if the nut is over-twisted then the threads start wearing out. That’s a very fine line to run when you collapse and extend the poles dozens or maybe even hundreds of times in a year. Also, the expansion nuts are made of plastic, which is subject to temperature issues — they require more tension at colder temperatures.

  10. JohnR July 25, 2015 at 7:07 pm #

    SF Bay Area readers, there is a large quantity of these trekking poles available at the Rohnert Park Costco, just north of Petaluma. They are at a closeout price of $22.47. I picked up two pairs, one for my son. That is a great deal, thanks so much for the review.

  11. JohnR July 26, 2015 at 10:26 am #

    Andrew: I would imagine a good portion of your High sierra Loop hike was over a hard, rocky surface? Yet, the carbide tips look to be in remarkably good shape. My thought was to leave the accompanying rubber boots on to extend the life of the tips, but perhaps that is not necessary?

    • Andrew Skurka July 26, 2015 at 12:02 pm #

      In my experience, it’s never the carbide tip that wears out. It’s the material around the tip, either plastic or aluminum, that fails first — it slowly erodes away due to abrasion with ground materials, e.g. dirt, sand, rock.

      Given that new tips cost less than $10 via Amazon and that they go about 1000 miles before needing replacement, I’m not worried about wearing them out.

      • Dick Burner August 11, 2015 at 3:10 pm #

        I would assume you are speaking of the universal carbide tips sold on Amazon from companies such as Easton, Leki, or Black Diamond? My question to those whohave replaced their tips: How difficult of a process is this? On my CM poles, the carbide tips appear to be on there permanent. I have read that you can use a heat gun, or run a pair of pliers down the shaft in a rapid motion and they will pry the old tips off. Any recommendations on tip replacement is appreciated.

        • Andrew Skurka August 11, 2015 at 3:13 pm #

          Some tips come off easier than others. My surefire solution is to heat up the tips in boiling water, which melts any glue and softens the plastic.

  12. Gerry Brucia July 26, 2015 at 11:09 am #

    If you want good cork grips, perhaps you can buy the replacement GG cork grips and attach them to the CMT poles.

  13. Vecsus August 4, 2015 at 12:42 pm #

    Just got my set in the mail today – have not hiked with them yet but the quality is on par with the $120+ sets I’ve been looking at in stores. i very much appreciate the review. good to know that people are constantly scouting out the good deals.

  14. John C October 1, 2015 at 8:51 am #

    Yes amazing poles for the price. I used them up until a year ago when I became horribly addicted to Pacer Poles from England with the ergonomic handles after reading a glowing review on Section Hiker.

    • Ian November 21, 2015 at 9:35 pm #

      Hi Andrew and John C,
      What are each of your thoughts on the Pacerpoles?

      • Andrew Skurka November 22, 2015 at 8:10 am #

        I haven’t used them, and haven’t gone out of my way to try them because I’m skeptical that they wouldn’t be clumsy when off-trail or even on technical trails, when pole plants are much less consistent in terms of frequency and movement. For good trails, I can see it more, but a standard grip + wrist strap would have the same affect.

  15. Greg November 3, 2015 at 2:08 pm #

    Hey Andrew,

    Would you say these would be strong enough to be used as a mid shelter pole (something like a shorter version of a GoLite Hex mid, RIP GoLite…) in high winds of the type that one might see in a Sierra thunderstorm?

    Deciding between these and the Black Diamond versions for a PCT thru-hike (and future Sierra adventures) for cost reasons. If money were no object, I would get the Black Diamond, but I’m trying to cut costs on all my gear, and I’d like to use these if they’re sturdy enough to withstand any potential storms I might see in the Sierra.

    • Andrew Skurka November 3, 2015 at 3:00 pm #

      Yes, I think they’ll be okay.

      I need to update this post, but a few points of feedback based on more extensive use. First, replace the plastic washer nuts with some metal ones from the hardware store. When pressured hard, the plastic ones can crack and break apart. Second, expect to replace the tips fairly quickly. I don’t think they are true carbide — mine wore down much faster than they should have, and rounded out, which is very uncharacteristic of carbide.

  16. Chris January 7, 2016 at 3:09 pm #

    Andrew! Thanks for this review. I have to say it really helped me make my decision on pulling the trigger on these poles. I am pretty tough on gear and have already put 100 + miles on them, and they perform wonderfully. I would recommend these to anyone.

  17. Justin April 25, 2016 at 1:10 am #

    Thanks for the heads up on these. I was in my local Costco a few weeks back and spotted these and remembered your review of them and picked up a set. I fully put them to the test today doing a steep, muddy local hike here in Chilliwack, BC Canada. They worked fantastic, and saved my butt from wiping out on muddy descent sections several times, lol. I have really enjoyed this site and have taken away ALOT. Your ideas and Insight have completely changed how I hike and backpack for the better. Thanks Andrew!

  18. John Rosd June 3, 2016 at 11:44 pm #

    An update on the CM Trekking poles available at Costco. Today, my wife was kind enough to pick me up a new pair now available for the same great price of $29. Notable difference between the 2016 model and the older model is the addition of cork grips. Unlike the 2012 twist model with cork grips, these cork grips are only in about a 3″ section and do not over the entire top part of the handle. Time will tell if these cork grips hold up better than the 2012 model, which partial ground off during and extend hike with my son. The CM site labels these as “Cork Grips” but I wonder if they are true cork. I took them out tonight for quick six mile hike and they performed great. Will have to say I like the feel of the new grips, hopefully they will hold up through the long haul. You can see the new design CM poles at their website: http://www.cascademountaintech.com/mobile/Product.aspx?ProductCode=QLCGTP

  19. Boyan January 6, 2017 at 9:59 pm #

    For anyone ordering from Amazon – be sure to select the item being fulfilled by Amazon, NOT by Cascade Mtn Tech, who sent me the wrong item (cork handles) twice i a row. Now ordering directly from Amazon, hopefully third time is the charm.

    And a note to Andrew – the Capcha at the bottom of the screen expires too fast. I have yet to see an instance where I am not asked to re-enter it 🙂

  20. Kevin Colwin February 21, 2017 at 6:05 am #

    Andrew,
    If these poles are such a deal, but cork handles supplied are questionable, why not use replacement grips?
    Do you have an opinion regarding the Gossamer Gear replacement cork handles? http://gossamergear.com/lightrek-replacement-grips.html
    The diameter of the CMT pole would need to be 13mm/0.5″, or else the GG cork would rip squeezing it on the CMT pole.
    Your thoughts.

    • Andrew Skurka February 21, 2017 at 8:27 am #

      I wouldn’t consider the cork grips “questionable.” I think they’re okay, in light of the price. If the GG grips fit, they would be an improvement.

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