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.
- 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