This summer I used the Cascade Mountain Tech Quick Lock Trekking Poles (short-term review) on two significant outings, in addition to some local day-hikes: a 10-day thru-hike of the Kings Canyon High Basin Route, and an 8-day yo-yo of Wyoming’s Wind River Range, including a northbound thru-hike of the Wind River High Route.
The cumulative use amounted to 400+ miles, with nearly 200 miles of burly off-trail travel and 125,000 vertical feet of gain. For the average backpacker, I suspect this is equivalent to 2-3 months of continuous use, or several backpacking seasons.
Based on my experience in July in Kings Canyon, I concluded that only three other poles (or pole types) are worth considering:
- Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Poles, for the extreme user who will justify the expense through extensive use;
- Black Diamond Ultra Mountain Carbon Trekking Poles, or other foldable models, for ultra runners needing more compactness; and,
- Gossamer Gear LT3C Poles, or DIY fixed-length poles, for gram weenies who never or rarely fly to their backpacking destinations.
Otherwise, however, buy the Cascade Mountain Tech Quick Lock Poles, from your local Costco or from Amazon with Prime shipping for a few dollars more. Models from more well known outdoor brands and retailers are not worth the added cost. In most cases, you will pay much more and get much less.
My recommendation did not change after the Winds trip, despite the revelation of two design flaws, which I’d like to share in this long-term review. Thankfully, both are easily and inexpensively resolved.
The durability of the CMT pole tips is sub-par, even accounting for the intensity of my use. Mine wore down into rounded metal nubs, and their lack of bite was an annoyance on hard-packed dirt trails and a liability on frozen snowfields and glacial ice.
The problem is the tip cap, which consists of a carbide spike embedded into a metal socket. I believe that the metal is too soft, or the spike is too short, or both. Gravel, sand, and other abrasive materials erode away the metal socket, and eventually the carbide tip falls out. The erosion of the socket accelerates from there.
Tip replacement is normal, and I’ve done it many times. For best results, twist off the old tips with pliers after heating them in boiling water. Clean the shafts and install the new tips. So that they stay put, tap the pole a few times on a hard surface (e.g. concrete, granite rock) before using.
To prevent the shafts from slipping and to reduce shaft vibration, I keep the locks tightly closed. However, this puts significant pressure on the plastic ferrule, and I noticed that three (out out four) had developed hairline fractures. This is a design flaw: for an extra few pennies, CMT could have avoided this problem entirely by using a metal ferrule.
If a plastic ferrule were to shatter in the field, the pole would be useless. Both locks must be functional, and there is no good field repair; the shafts can be glued together, but this obviously has drawbacks.
At the hardware store, buy these two items:
- Nylon lock nuts: #10 size for 32 threads/inch screws (“Fine”)
- Flat washers: #10
The cost will be $2-3 and a few extra grams of pole weight.
Because the nylon lock nuts are difficult to turn without a 3/8-inch wrench or impact driver attachment, I recommend a home repair. Do not wait until a plastic ferrule shatters completely in the field.
In a similar vein, you may want to replace only the plastic ferrules with visible hairline fractures. Because the ferrules are much easier to turn than the nylon lock nuts, you can more easily micro-adjust the tension on the locking mechanism. With the lock nuts, you mostly set it and forget it.
If you own these poles, I’m interested in knowing if you have encountered these or other issues. Please share.
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