All things being equal, fixed-length trekking poles will be lighter, stronger, and less expensive than telescoping or foldable models like the Cascade Mountain Tech Quick Lock Poles or Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Poles.
Yet there is currently only one off-the-shelf fixed-length pole that is suitable for backpacking: the Black Diamond Vapor Carbon 1 Pole. For a pole to be “suitable,” I would insist that it have carbon fiber or aluminum shafts, cork or foam grips with extensions, and a high-quality replaceable carbide tip.
In spring 2018, Ultimate Direction will enter this market niche as well, with the new FK Pole. It will retail for $125 and weigh a feathery 4 oz (for 115 cm). Seven sizes will be available, in 5-cm increments between 100 and 130 cm.
The carbon fiber shaft is 20 mm in diameter at its top, compared to 15.4 mm for the Carbon 1 and 13 mm for the Carbon Z. As a result, the FK Pole is exceptionally strong and stiff. The lower 30 cm are wrapped with Aramid fabric (i.e. unbranded Kevlar) for abrasion-resistance.
The one-piece foam grip includes a lower extension, which I consider a must-have. When hiking on steep trails with big steps and when off-trail, I frequently choke down on the pole shafts. The straps can be removed and reinstalled, though not quickly.
Mud baskets and snow baskets will be included.
The only part of the FK Pole that I question is the tip. It’s replaceable and made of carbide, but until field use proves otherwise I’m skeptical of non-Black Diamond or non-Leki tips after my CMT tips eroded to useless nubs after less than two-hundred miles.