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


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.


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

    Thorough review – thank you 🙂

  2. Ian Justice on 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.



  3. Albert on 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 on August 5, 2015 at 3:59 pm

      How much were they

  4. Vadim Fedorovsky on 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!


  5. Paul on 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 on 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 on 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.

      • Clay Webb on March 26, 2020 at 5:18 pm

        I’d add to this that straps serve little purpose in hiking and can actually be dangerous, as informed by a previous Warden for the West Coast Trail a vast majority of medical evacuations were due to dislocated shoulders from people falling (with heavy pack on) while the strap was around their wrist. Hiker goes down, pole stays up and shoulder dislocation results.

  6. Rusty on 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 on 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 on 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 on July 22, 2015 at 7:16 pm

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

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

    Anyone tried the Cork version?

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

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

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

      • russo on 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 on July 23, 2015 at 10:35 am

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

      • steve on 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 on July 23, 2015 at 2:46 pm

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

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

            Good to know, thanks for sharing.

    • Paul on 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 on 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 on 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 on 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 on 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 on 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 on 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 on 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 on 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 on 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 on 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 on November 21, 2015 at 9:35 pm

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

      • Andrew Skurka on 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 on 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 on 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 on 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 on 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 on 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:

  19. Boyan on 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 on February 21, 2017 at 6:05 am

    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?
    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 on 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.

  21. Gement on November 20, 2017 at 12:08 pm

    Thanks for the great recommendation. I got the aluminum flip lock with cork grips, currently $23 on Amazon (to $44 for the ones reviewed here). They are an ounce more per pole than the $120 Black Diamonds of nearly identical specs, and I’ve been using them daily for a month with great performance.

  22. Joe on December 26, 2017 at 3:22 pm

    Andrew, late coming in, and off-topic, but…if you only had one arm would you use a trekking pole?

    BTW, the poles under discussion are still available at Amazon through your link. $45.

    • Andrew Skurka on December 26, 2017 at 6:24 pm

      If I were hiking on-trail, yes. Off-trail, I’d debate it more, because the terrain frequently encourages the carrying of both poles in one hand so that one hand remains free (e.g. to grab a boulder, hang onto brush).

  23. 1armJoe on January 15, 2018 at 2:30 pm

    Wow! What a difference a pole makes!

    As I mentioned, I am short an arm.

    In my daily 5-10 mile hikes, mostly on rough, rocky western Colorado trails, but lots of off-trail as well, the pole has endeared itself.

    Only 2 weeks in, but I love it.

    While I only get one push for every two steps, I find that the pole induces a “glide” into the other step as well.

    I’m hiking faster, for sure. Shoulder is a bit sore, but it’s a good sore.

    And when climbing, I can favor whichever knee is barking that day, or on really steep climbs, plant for every step.

    Also, the security afforded on sketchy downhills is comforting.

    Live and learn.

  24. Donna Hallal on July 31, 2018 at 8:51 pm

    Late posting but thanks for the recommendation! Had read your review and saved the info. We finally bought these poles for hiking White Mountain trails…used them past weekend and they were awesome!!

  25. Eric B. on July 23, 2019 at 11:59 am

    YEP, a surprisingly good outdoor gear purchase for a low price from COSTCO.
    I’ve used these poles for daily training hikes, 3 season backpacks and, with the included snow baskets, back country ski camping in Nevada.

    1. I cut away the foam grips below the handles (and wrapped several layers of GORILLA duct tape on the shafts just under the handles for emergency use).
    2. The lower CF shaft is vulnerable to rock nicks which weaken the CF strength so GORRILA tape to the rescue again with one layer around the lower shaft.

    I keep waiting for these inexpensive poles to break or the section clamps to give out but 3 years on and they are still going strong!

    • Eric B. on July 23, 2019 at 12:02 pm

      BTW, as a former XC ski racer and patroller I would not dream of removing the straps. I rely on them constantly for both climbing and descending.

  26. Eric B. on March 26, 2020 at 6:16 pm

    Re. STRAPS:
    Au contraire, mon frère Andrew, properly used (as XC skiers do) Hiking pole straps let you relax your grip on the handles and push on the straps.

    BTW, there ARE left and right hand straps. The bottom strap coming out of the handle is there your thumb’s large muscle rests.

  27. Todd Root on May 22, 2020 at 12:45 pm

    Love these poles! I am also a big fan of the lower grip extension, in fact I extended them even further down with this, in 30mm diameter/black. (I set my heat gun on low, so installation took a while – about 45 minutes per pole – but the carbon fiber seems okay.) They came out really nice looking, pics available upon request.

  28. Eric B. on May 22, 2020 at 1:27 pm

    Interesting comment on extending pole grip area Todd.
    I removed my “grip extensions” as extra weight and a feature I never use.

    During hunting season I add a high impact plastic disc on each pole just below the cork grip. They are called “Quick siX” and are for quickly mating the poles into X’d shooting sticks so I can rest my rifle’s forend between the handles for a steady shot at longer distances. It works very well, especially since i can easily adjust the poles for proper height.

    Andrew, you might want to give Quick siX a look for your hunting outings. A little practice with them is recommended. Position the discs so the pole straps hang on the outside of the X when shooting.

  29. Sven on February 8, 2021 at 11:34 am

    People who ski understand the function of straps more readily than non-skiers. They’re kinda necessary and extremely helpful and desirable for both hiking and particularly skiing. But as somebody above noted, they CAN cause horrible accidents. Removing the wrists from the straps MUST be done occasionally, particularly when crossing talus. Problem: hiker stumbles to ground while pole tip is lodged in a crevice; pole remains upright (with wrist attached). Very bad. Somewhat similarly, skiers are advised to remove pole straps if subject to potential avalanche.

  30. Dave on October 31, 2022 at 4:27 pm

    Which poles is this review and recommendation (below) for? Are they aluminum or carbon fiber? What is your Amazon link? Or Costco?

    This article says:
    “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.”

    • Andrew Skurka on October 31, 2022 at 6:15 pm

      I still see these poles every spring at my local Costco.

      On Amazon they are these, At $52 they are still an unbeatable “best value” pole. When Costco has them, they are a little less.

      I’ve not used the aluminum model.

  31. Fred Kelly on July 23, 2023 at 2:29 pm

    This is an old thread, but I really got a bunch of great info from it – so thanks to Andrew and all who have commented & sharing your info/experiences over the years! Thank you!

    Also, as mentioned, Andrew has another old article with great user experience comments, focused on trekking pole tip replacement:

    I’ve used many brands of trekking poles since 1997. I am still using my Leki Makalu Ultralightweight alum poles that I got in the 2001 era (I use them for technical or Colorado 14er missions). I have GG LT5’s and Leki Black Series FX Carbon Z poles as I continue to section hike the AT (I’m ~ 2/3 done).

    But – as I survey today’s avail options in 2023, I really don’t know a better solution than to get the Cascade Mtn Carbon Fiber 3K trekking poles, and then swap the the tips out, and update the qty 4 locking device hardware (replace the plastic/brass nuts with 5mm M5 X 0.8 nylon lock nuts and #10 flat washers; the#10 flat washers better fit/fill the recess than 5mm flat washers ).

    If you get the mentioned Cascade Mtn Carbon 3K poles, make the mods that Andrew recommended back in 2015 (8 years ago), you will still end up with a really solid pair of lightweight trekking poles (that can extend up to ~57″ for the Plex Solo or Altaplex), for ~$78.33 vs $205 for the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork poles that everyone agrees is the ultimate (the Black Diamond’s only extend to ~52″ (or maybe 53″). $58.84 for the Casc Mtn 3K Carbon poles + $14.93 for the Leki Univ Flex Tips from Amazon + $4.56 nylon lock nuts + #10 flate washers from Lowes = $78.33.

    As you consider your options for trekking poles, consider your needs in the following areas:

    1. What material do you want/need? Alum or Carbon Fiber or “mixed” (Leki now has mixed sets). I have never “failed” a Carbon Fiber pole, but I have only been using them for ~5 years or my 26 years of serious backpacking, and for 14er work (Colorado Grand Slam or Nolan’s 14), I have always used aluminum. I think that is my split/decision point. If it’s off trail/rough/boldering/scree – I’m going w Alum. If I’m section hiking on the AT, and don’t have to have a 52″ + pole for a tent, I’m going with the ultra lightweight carbon fiber GG LT5’s ($195). YMMV

    2. how long do you need the poles to extend to for your tent? The Altaplex needs 56 to 60″, and the Plex Solo requires at least 52″. Many poles only extend to 51″.

    3. do you need/want the “Z” poles (those with the newfangled locking mechanism that allows them to fold down small/short), that can fold up shorter and fit in your pack easier (big benefit, but the hardware required for that “Z” feature adds weight, and, those type poles generally won’t extend over 51″, making you get a pole jack if you use with the Plex Solo or Altaplex). Z poles from Black Diamond or Leki generally will fold down (in 3 pieces to ~ 15.75″ (nice for when you are hitching into town). I really didn’t understand “Z” type poles till 2021 since I had never used them till we got my wife a set. Poles that don’t have the Z function generally shorten up to a “pack length” of 26″ to 31″. The Cascade Mtn poles condense/shorten to 26″ (which is plenty short for me for 99.999% of my missions).

    4. How light a pole set do you want? Pole sets generally range (in weight) from 10.44 oz (for qty 2) to 18.6 oz. The GG LT-5’s are the icon for lightweight carbon poles at 10.44 oz/set, and have a reputation for being robust enough for the AT and similar “on trail” missions (might not be best option for Colorado 14er work off trail w/ scree/boulders). My old 2001 vintage Leki alum Makalu ultralights are 18 to 18.6 oz, and I really don’t notice that much difference when I use them vs the GG LT-5’s at 10.44 oz or the other sets in the 16 oz range (I do/can notice 8 extra oz of weight on my back or shoes though).

    5. Budget. As mentioned, the Cascasde Mtn Carbon 3K w mods will run you ~$78.33 in 2023 (a solid set for low/medium $’s). My Leki Black Series FX Carbon Z poles are $270 (great to have as a lighterweight folding set at 16.3 oz for the set. The GG LT-5’s are $195 and weigh 10.4 oz for the set. The Black Diamon Alpine Carbon Cork poles are ~$200 in 2023, and weigh 17.1 oz.

    If you consider all the above factors for the Cascade Mtn 3K Carbon Fiber poles (w the Skurka mods), are a pretty robust solution, fold down to 26″, weigh 16 oz for the set, and extend to ~57″. Except for Colorado off trail work, hard to beat.

    Like others that have commented within this thread, I had trouble getting my pole tips off (when I went to upgrade the Cascade Mtn 3K Carbon poles).

    The following video shows how some tips come off easy with the sliding crescent wrench method:

    As some of you have mentioned, mine didn’t come off as easy as that (I tried and tried to bang them off with the sliding crescent wrench with no initial success). I also tried the boiling water method as Andrew shared (I didn’t leave my carbon fiber poles in for more than 2 minutes – I’ve read others talk about leaving the poles in the boiling water for 10 minutes in effort to get the blue to release. I really had to “bang” the heck out of both pole tips with the crescent wrench prior to the tips finally coming off. It took me so long (and so many “passes” with the crescent wrench) that the carbon fiber “lower” section was scuffed up cosmetically. After banging on them for 10 minutes…., finally got both of the old tips off.

    The next time I have to remove tips, if they don’t come off easy as Andrew describes, and/or if they don’t bang off after one or two attempts with the crescent wrench – in the future, I will carefully cut them off (as this video shows: ). I would carefully cut them off to avoid the long/protracted battle to “knock them off” with the crescent wrench (possibly resulting in a scared lower section/shaft. In this case where the tips don’t seem to want to come loose, I would take my time (while cutting the old tips off), and make sure that I didn’t cut into the alum or carbon fiber (if you did that, and weakened the base structure of your poles, you have defeated the entire purpose/objective – so I would be very very very careful “cutting” them off – but that’s what I would do to avoid scuffing the lower section as I did. If you cut thru the tip, or almost all the way thru the tip, and don’t go all the way thru, and then you use a screw driver to twist/separate/split the tip when the remaining material is thin, I’m confident I/you could do that, and not ruin/compromise the pole lower section.

    So next set that I have to replace a “tip”, I would attempt (one or two cycles with) the crescent wrench method, and if no luck, then I’d try the boiling water w plyers and maybe another attempt w the crescent wrench, but if the tip(s) didn’t come off with that level of effort, I would very carefully use either use a die grinder with a cutting disk, or a dremel with a cut off wheel, or a manual/hand hack saw blade (being very very careful to not go thru the pole tip….,into the base trekking pole material).

    Thanks again to Andrew and all of you for sharing your knowledge/experiences – they helped me! Thank you

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