Hiking poles

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    Scott Smith
    BPL Member


    Locale: Idaho Panhandle

    Looking at the of the line CF hiking poles….However, worried about durability.

    so, I know that aluminum takes a lot of abuse, however, there’s the weight penalty.

    the BD and Leki CF poles looks like they are pretty sturdy..

    I hike both on and off trail…and have been known to use my poles to my poles to save my ass, a few times; e.g. miss that step..lunge forward , then plant my pole for the save.


    I weigh 170lbs and carry @ 35 lbs.


    all of your input is greatly appreciated!





    M B
    BPL Member


    Everybody’s got their favorites.   Carbon fiber are prone to breakage.  And two-piece designs.


    I’ve used the Fizan aluminum poles for a couple of thousand miles. They are a three-piece design so they collapse small, particularly for flying….. Extend tall enough for my tarp…. And a reasonable compromise between lightweight and durability. I broke a couple…. By falling on them wrong, at an angle with the tip jammed.   bought several sets ,mix and matched pieces etc.

    Not concerned about cost, if there was a better pole for my needs I would buy it.  But so far there’s not one ive seen.  My Pole’s weigh 12 oz for pr.  Saving 3 oz isn’t worth going to a less durable Pole.



    Philip Tschersich
    BPL Member


    Locale: Kodiak Alaska

    Black Diamond Vapor Carbon 1. Yes, it’s a fixed-length ski pole, so you will need to know your sweet spot length (I’m 5’11” and the 115 cm is perfect for my off trail use). Super light, decent durability. If you want adjustability, try the Vapor Carbon 2. I swap out the ski tips with BD’s trekking pole tips. All you need is boiling water and a hot glue gun.

    My favorite trekking pole is the aluminum version of the VC1, called the Expedition 1. I’m not sure if BD makes them anymore, but they are only slightly heavier and are seemingly indestructible (I have snapped the VC1 poles). Their trekking “Distance” collection (FLZ) are too flimsy for most of my trips.

    A small sampling of my trekking pole collection (i.e., the most used ones in the closet by the door in my mud room):

    Todd T
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    I wouldn’t say carbon fiber is prone to breakage, but aluminum is certainly tougher.  I’ve used both, never broken either, though I loaned some CFs to a friend who broke one by slipping and falling on the pole.

    To me, swing weight is more important than overall weight.  In other words, you want the weight of the poles distributed as high as possible so they swing easier.  Fixed-length poles are usually best in this respect, but don’t buy those until you’re sure you know the length that works best for you.

    I also think the straps are very important, so avoid anything oddball, sculpted, or left/right-specific.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Virgo Supercluster

    I like aluminum, personally…but I split a pair of poles with my partner and we each carry one; that being the case, I have no reason to cut ounces – and possibly some durability – by swapping to carbon.

    Sam Farrington
    BPL Member


    Locale: Chocorua NH, USA

    You don’t say the weight limits you are looking for.  Using one trekking pole, my weight is 7.5 oz.  For me, a second pole is excess baggage; but this is not so for those who need a second one.  Were a second pole needed, I’d go much lighter to keep the weight around 7.5 oz.

    Found a Yukon Charlie ‘carbon’, a lower priced brand, 2 poles for $50, that showed metal for the bottom two sections, where breakage is more likely, due to the pole getting jammed in rocks, and similar breakage issues that are more prevalent in the lower parts of the pole.  This was a deal maker.  The top section was all carbon.  Don’t know if there is carbon under the metal lower sections because would have to damage the poles to find out.

    Also prefer telescoping sections, because with the flick-locks especially, the pole is much easier to collapse and store behind webbing retainers on the sides of the pack.  Ditto for day packs as well as trekking ones.  The separating fold up poles like Black Diamonds are deal breakers because they are clumsy to stash.  The telescoping poles also allow exact length adjustment, great for mids and similar designs, or just propping up an awning.

    But the grips on the Charlies were junky foam, so had to be replaced with a much better extended grip from a European ski trekking pole.  This requires a huge pot to heat water and remove the old and new grips intact from their poles.  Read about it on BPL, but it was a challenging process.  The long stiff foam grip was a must to be able to choke the pole.  This is the kind of grip:

    The lower sections are not visible because the pole is folded up.  But the European grip has a long ribbed extension that is easy to grip when choking.

    Also used to have a closet full of poles, but the Charlie with the new grip is all I use now.   The second Charlie and the second European pole were saved to make a replacement if the first pole ever fails.  Note the preference for a flexible tip covering the carbide tip, as don’t want to scar up the rocks so prevalent in the ‘Granite’ state.  And with a little practice, the flexible tips work better.

    So suggest deciding on the type, and weight of pole before shopping.  Some of the European ski trekking poles can be bought in outlets for less than $100 a pair.  And if you want all metal, no mods are required.  Would not recommend an all carbon, as carbon comes in different layups, and it is perhaps impossible to check without damaging the pole.  Not that some carbon layups aren’t very strong, but it’s hard to know what’s under the skin.  Check the prices on filament wound carbon tubes from the major suppliers.  Doubt manufacturers could profitably use the best carbon.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Alaska

    BD alpine cork poles. Been using the same pair for around 12 years. I hike year round in Alaska with them except cold days in winter for fear of breaking them. Then I just use my BD ski poles. Love my alpine poles. I cut my wrist straps off them years ago. My wife uses the same pair.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Western Colorado

    My Cascade Mountain Tech CF poles have been bombproof over the last 4 years and I use them for everything, including off-trail and shelter setup. The price is also low enough, less that $50 US, that if I do break one it won’t bother me too much to buy a replacement.

    Gary Dunckel
    BPL Member


    Locale: Boulder

    I am also a fan of Costco’s Cascade Mountain Tech CF poles. So much so that I usually use my Costco annual dividend (from all my gasoline purchases) to pick up yet another pair of the poles, if they had come out with another color. The weak link for these poles seems to be the plastic screws that you tighten with your fingers to secure the pole sections. Somebody here on BPL alerted me to this potential weakness (Dan Durston?), so I picked up some metal wing nuts at my hardware store to replace them if they fail (break). At this low Costco price of around $40, it’s hard to go wrong. But for my local open space wanderings, I keep a pair of Fizan poles in my truck, which I like a lot.

    Scott H
    BPL Member


    We have had three pair of trekking poles that my son and I use.  My first set were Leki aluminum poles that were sectioned with one adjustment for length.  They had partial cork plastic grips and were good solid poles.  I used them a lot beat them up and really liked them.

    Our second pair were a cheap pair of black diamond poles that are popular and aluminum and my son used those.  They seemed okay.

    My new ones that  I purchased this year are CNOC carbon fiber three section adjustable.  I like them they are light, they reduce shock from rocks etc.  The ones I purchased have full cork grips, I like those. I especially want two poles when I am doing a lot of elevation gain or loss.  I like these so far but am concerned that they will not be as durable as my Leki poles.  We will see.

    I also needed a set that was good to pitch our trekking pole tent as my Leki poles did not have enough adjustment.  The CNOC poles do.

    While I see a difference in weight, I actually like the shock reduction of carbon more than I care about the weight savings.  Most importantly when going up or down a steep climb I like having two trekking poles.


    Ross Bleakney
    BPL Member


    Locale: Cascades

    I like the handles and straps on the Gossamer Gear poles. I also like the poles themselves, as they are light and strong (or at least strong enough). If I wanted to use a fixed length pole, this would be it, without hesitation. My wife has a pair, and has used them for years.

    It gets a little trickier with the adjustable ones. Flick locks are just easier to use and more reliable. Unfortunately Gossamer Gear doesn’t sell those. If they did, then they would be ideal, in my opinion. So for now, I fiddle with the twist-locks on my LT4.

    I rarely travel by air, so I rarely use a three-piece pole. I own a pair for just that purpose, but the two piece LT4 is just better. It is lighter, stronger for the weight, and requires less fiddling. In an ideal world, Gossamer Gear would make a two-piece twist-lock pole (or someone else would, with similar strength/weight, handles and straps).

    This is a few years old, but this review is worth reading:



    Tipi Walter
    BPL Member


    Whatever you do don’t get natural cork handle hiking poles.  They will crack and split apart after hard use.

    Here’s my BD alpine carbon cork pole—my third such failure. (I bought 4 such poles many years ago for the wife and me).

    You can use cork sealer to help in longevity—a glue used by fishermen to save fishing pole cork.

    Tipi Walter
    BPL Member


    The thing with cork is that they are very difficult to repair.  Maybe impossible—as the head of the pole is riveted on and hard to remove.  I got some foam handlebar grips and cut the pole handle off flush to slide one down the pole grip etc—



    I have a pair of Gossamer Gear fixed-length LT3s and love them. You lose the ability to adjust length but gain strength.

    If these ever break, I would look for fixed-length CF poles again.

    Tipi Walter
    BPL Member


    As far as I can tell the Gossamer Gear LT3 has been discontinued and replaced by the LT5 in adjustable lengths.  Several people here recommend the single length pole with links to GG but none of the links show the LT3 because the company apparently stopped making it—like so many companies do with tents and sleeping pads and other gear—Make something everyone loves and then dump it out of the inventory.  Thermarest, Mt Hardwear and North Face are notorious for this. And now GG.

    BPL Member


    Locale: The West is (still) the Best

    Never have broke my carbon poles but every so often they’ll take a hit that has me wondering if they were shattered.  My aluminum ones don’t do that and at a cheaper price.

    Haven’t been impressed with cork handles disintegrating over a few months vs plastic disintegrating over a few years .. ..  and will have to seal the former with something.

    Steve Thompson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southwest

    The short story is carbon fiber is more fragile than aluminum.

    I’ve broken every set of carbon poles I’ve owned.  The REI branded komperdell poles lasted one or two days of off trail in the Sierra.  Burned through 4 sets.  They eventually refused to replace them and I bought the black diamond 3 section.  The middle section on these finally gave out at the clip that holds the lower section.  Fatigue from the constant stress.  Replaced these with mons peak after reading the reviews on this site.  Snapped the lower section on my first outing with them preventing a hard fall.  Replaced it and now on season two after the repair.

    Had 15 seasons on my aluminum Leki’s before switching to carbon.  Still, I prefer the swing of the lighter carbon to the more robust aluminum.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Virgo Supercluster

    I haven’t had a lot of failures on cork anything over the years; maybe I’m not using them as hard as others.  Still, it’s good to see the failures; I was about to pick up a second set of more robust aluminum poles for harder off-trail use (currently I use a women’s Micro Vario) and I was considering some cork-handled options.

    Daryl and Daryl
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest, USA, Earth


    Thanks for the review link.  Great info.

    James Marco
    BPL Member


    Locale: Finger Lakes

    I would venture to say that you do not need handles, nor, carbide tips. I use a single piece pole from a 10′ fishing pole. Usually these are panfish rods with no eyes and only a line minder to remove. I drill the top out to accept a 3/16 flathead bolt about 1″ long. I also use a matching finish washer. I drill out the bottom rubber with a 3/16″ bit and insert a 2″ round head bolt with the end sticking out about 3/4-1″. The steel grips everything better except sheer rockface. The tip can be replaced, though I usually worry more about the lower 12″. I use a diamond wrap with some 1/16″ braided nylon similar to a fishing rod, ‘cept it is 1/16″ thick. I add a good sized loop (about 12″ finished or about 26″ length) of 1″ nylon strapping for the top. I reinforce all the joints with 5minute epoxy, then coat the diamond wrap and tip with epoxy, also. My poles usually last about 5 years doing about 50nights per year out camping/hiking.

    If I need to lengthen the staff, I merely twist the top loop a few times (as needed.) If I wish to lengthen it I slip my hand over the top (helpful coming down over rocks.) The tip also digs into most ground soil very solidly, it has a rather wide bolister caused by the rod, almost like a small basket. It holds better on muddy ground than the sharp tip of commercial carbide tips, it doesn’t sink in as far. This little project takes about 10min after you have all the parts. Nor is it that complicated to do, though my poor explanation makes it seem so.
    I forgot to mention that I usually have parts for a couple kicking around. You can order the panfish rods at Cabalas or through your local dealer.

    Scott Smith
    BPL Member


    Locale: Idaho Panhandle

    Thanks all for the great comments !

    I’m going to try the Fizans …Love the weights…and, hopefully, there will be some durability that comes with them

    Steve H


    Love my BD Alpine Carbon Corks.  Handles holding up fine so far.  I do pitch w handles up though.

    Dustin V
    BPL Member


    I’ve used Fizans and I like them. They do seem durable. I’ve only had a little bit of slippage if I don’t really crank down on the adjustments.

    I did figure out that I set them at the same length every time, never reset them, and don’t use straps. This year, I’m experimenting with some chopped-down ski poles with bike handlebar tape grips. They turned out just as light, but much stiffer and stronger than the Fizans or the BD Z-poles I had used.

    BPL Member


    Locale: Virgo Supercluster

    Reading back through this thread to see if I can clean a few suggestions for a more ideal pole:

    My favorite trekking pole is the aluminum version of the VC1, called the Expedition 1. I’m not sure if BD makes them anymore, but they are only slightly heavier and are seemingly indestructible (I have snapped the VC1 poles).

    I can’t find them on the BD site, but they’re available online here and there.  NOS, methinks.  I may pick up a set for my local pursuits, but I’m pretty sure they would be too long for safe air travel.  I would *love* to find a robust telescoping pole without flick-locks; that would be close to my ideal arrangement.

    Scott Smith
    BPL Member


    Locale: Idaho Panhandle


    just came back from a week in the Sierras


    great trip…sans the new Finson poles.


    good news, they lasted ( almost) the entire trip


    bad news, on the way out, I slipped on some scree..started to fall back…planted my pole for a save…pole bent to @ a 45 degree angle..with tear in the aluminum

    in retrospect, perhaps not surprised. Jus disappointed

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