Request for Trekking Pole Advice: Durability
May 30, 2023 at 1:12 pm #3782175
I’m a generally satisfied owner of Gossamer Gear LT5s. I tend to use pole straps extensively for power, in a cross-country skiing style pole grip. I also use sun gloves. I do find that because I do this, there is some level of indifference to fancy pole handles for me, as I barely grip the pole handles — just enough to lift them — and often don sun gloves that attenuates any rubbing aside. On the other hand, the smooth fabric used in the GG LT5 pole straps are perfect for me, abrasive straps, not so much.
I do like the ability to adjust them when changing grade and when pitching my tarp. Though, I am pretty handy with knots, so I suppose in principle I could use a non-adjustable pole for pitching. I haven’t tried.
However, it seems like they may be fragile equipment for this year’s heavy Sierra snow, when descending rocky passes that may have residual snow. I was thinking of rounding out my equipment by seeking a more durable option.
A common go-to is the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork. That would be fine, though I don’t find cork grips a feature I have any affinity for. Nevertheless, could consider buying a pair of these.
I also was thinking the Fizan Compact 3 lightweight poles, in aluminum, might be a good choice. But, they are very insubstantial aluminum, and perhaps not different enough than my GG LT5s.
A lesser-known pole, the lightest non-ultralight aluminum model I could find, is the Leki Makalu Lite. There appear to at least a few other closely-related Leki products in aluminum. It weighs about the same as the Alpine Carbon Cork, but being in aluminum, I presume the robustness would be higher.
And, here’s where you vend your opinion. Perhaps you could share your opinions and experience with me?May 30, 2023 at 1:56 pm #3782177Bill in RoswellBPL Member
@roadscrape88-2Locale: Roswell, GA, USA
I use my poles in a similar manner as you, thanks to some Brits I met on the AT. Of all the straps, the Leki straps are by far the softest, easily adapting to your hand shape, and quick drying. Leki and Black Diamond have lifetime warranty on aluminum poles, but not on carbon. I have Leki poles in both materials, mainly for strap comfort vs BD poles. Leki also makes poles with Nordic style gloves that quick release.May 30, 2023 at 2:12 pm #3782178
Thanks for the tip on strap material. That’s good to know. And although the lower cost surely in a factor in the manufacturers’ more generous warranty, so too are reduced failure rates, almost certainly.May 30, 2023 at 3:35 pm #3782184
I’ve used the BD carbon fiber for decades. Started with the synthetic handle version and used them till the straps wore out and finally one of the flic locks broke. Got the newer cork handle versions that came with newer style straps and flic locks, both much improved and still use those. They both have a million scratches but never broke a pole section. I’ve used several pair of Leki aluminum prior and a super lightweight pair of BD aluminum but none were as comfortable. Our terrain is steep and rocky so we always use the poles for upward propulsion and to diminish impact of descending. For off trail they make excellent feelers for venomous reptiles which we come across often. I don’t grip them hard either but use the straps correctly to push down on, very comfortable. After more than 20 years in difficult, rough terrain I’d buy another pair of BD carbon poles if anything happened to mine. I use BD Craig half finger gloves.May 30, 2023 at 3:48 pm #3782186Dustin VBPL Member
If durability is paramount, see if you can make fixed-length poles work, either one-piece or foldable.
The Fizan poles seemed very stiff due to the larger diameter, but found I had to tighten them so much to avoid slipping that it was tough to loosen them to adjust. I used BD aluminum Distance poles, but one of the cords snapped, possibly due to an accumulation of twisting from use. Currently I’m using some DIY poles made from used ski poles. I didn’t like the grips or straps, so I cut them off and just wrapped a long section with bicycle handlebar tape. The DIY poles are much stronger and it turns out they’re lighter than anything else I have.May 30, 2023 at 3:50 pm #3782187Bruce TolleyBPL Member
@btolleyLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
Leki Makulu aluminum. I would warn you away from the Leki poles. I bent Makulu aluminum poles circa 2005 and swapped them on warranty at REI. A couple years later I showed in Canada for a hike without my poles, and bought what was available: Makulu Compact. I think your lites might be re-branding of the Compact. The pole slims down to a very small diameter and is easily bent.
I have been very happy with BD Carbon Fiber poles. Of course any pole can break.
When descending on snow, IMO the hiking pole should be used mostly for balance, and when traversing a slope you put your weight on the upslope arm/pole. If you think you need something sturdier for self belay, self arrest on the snow, look at the Camp Corsa ice axe.
In reference to adjustability, on a fixed length pole, to change from ascending to descending you can get in the habit moving your hand up and down the pole.May 30, 2023 at 6:05 pm #3782193
You might like the Locus Gear CP3 poles. They are not much heaver than the GG poles but a step up in stiffness. Still less than the BC Alpine Carbon Corks for strength but they feel like a pretty good compromise.May 30, 2023 at 6:27 pm #3782197Bill in RoswellBPL Member
@roadscrape88-2Locale: Roswell, GA, USA
One thing about Leki and BD customer service – they will mail parts or poles to your next mail drop for long trail hikers. I know several AT hikers that experienced that, and buddy I was hiking with in NH. I use my hiking poles for my shelter, so durability is essential to me.May 30, 2023 at 6:32 pm #3782198W I S N E R !Spectator
Many seasons of wear on the BD Alpine Carbon Cork and they haven’t let me down. And I’m 225#. I don’t think I’ve adjusted the tension on the flicklocks since I purchased them.May 30, 2023 at 7:56 pm #3782207
Re, Locus Gear CP3: interesting proposal. I would have thought those too similar to the GG LT5 to be too interesting for this application, is there anything about them that you think strengthens them up? I suppose the main problem is possibly getting into a crevice obscured by snow and getting wedged in a gap between rocks. Well, that and a fall flexing them. I would have thought at a similar overall weight class that the carbon fiber construction would be about as likely to crack.May 30, 2023 at 8:33 pm #3782208Philip TschersichBPL Member
@philip-akLocale: Kodiak Alaska
Trekking poles are the number one backcountry item I have broken over the years, but I hike almost exclusively off trail so I might be putting more force on them than most people. Honestly, my favorite poles of all time are the lowly, fixed length Black Diamond Adventure 1. It’s a very stiff very lightweight aluminum pole with a comfy grip and excellent strap. Sadly it is no longer made. There are a lot of stiff and lightweight downhill skiing carbon poles out there. Consider looking into a pair of those. They’re often cheaper because they’re selling into a much larger market.
Long ago I used to think that I needed an adjustable length, but after breaking so many adjustable poles and switching to fixed length for most of my applications, now I only use collapsible poles for packrafting.
I do use trekking pole supported shelters. For a taller ‘mid I just join 2 poles together, and for my TT @eon LI, a single 115 cm pole is perfect.May 31, 2023 at 8:16 am #3782231Matthew / BPLModerator
Another happy BD Alpine Carbon Cork user here. I don’t have a through hike on them but I’ve been using the same pair since 2015 and they have been jammed against rocks here in AZ and the Sierras hundreds of times. I recently gave them a very carefully cleaning and inspection and can’t find anything that concerns me regarding durability or reliability.
I sometimes dayhike with a single Komperdell Carbon Vario (the longer one that MLD used to sell) that I purchased from someone on BPL without a strap and I love its light weight. I use it more like a hiking staff. They don’t make the same exact model any more. I suppose I should trust it because MLD vouched for its adequacy for use in a mid without a jack but it narrows down just above the tip in a way that looks like a stress riser. I’m not willing to use it on trips above treelike where it is going to support my shelter. That’s why I carry the BD Alpine Carbon Corks…May 31, 2023 at 10:13 am #3782248
Re. the CP3 poles, I’ve broken a lot of poles including many GG poles and CP3 poles. I haven’t done any measurements but the CP3 poles seem moderately stronger. You can still break them for sure but it usually takes a serious mishap like leveraging them on talus between rocks.
I find that a heavier pole is going to be stronger, but still has a risk of breaking and if you go so heavy/strong that the risk is much lower than it’s not as nice to use. I’ve used the BD Alpine Carbon Cork poles but they are about 8oz each (vs 4-5 oz) which I find quite noticable. My preference is a lighter pole even with a higher risk of breaking.May 31, 2023 at 2:03 pm #3782279
You can still break them for sure but it usually takes a serious mishap like leveraging them on talus between rocks.
I’ve used the BD Alpine Carbon Cork poles but they are about 8oz each (vs 4-5 oz) which I find quite noticeable. My preference is a lighter pole even with a higher risk of breaking
That’s a nice qualitative assessment, thanks.
Here’s what I think I’m going to do:
In the interest of (not-quite) Science, or at least documenting the path less taken, I found a pair of Leki Makalu Lites on a deep sale that I suspect won’t be lasting much longer — Memorial Day Residue perhaps — so I picked up a pair of those. They should be a nearly identical weight model for the BD Alpine Carbon Cork, but are in aluminum. Given my particular grip style that tends to render less useful fancier handles, I thought there may be some strength surplus in the shaft itself at the same weight. Plus, a lower price to get introduced to the weight class doesn’t hurt.
I regularly use poles to exercise while wearing a twenty pound vest, going up, and down, a path that’s about 680 feet ascent over 1.6 miles, one way. Some on sidewalk (with a rubber pole tip), some on easy trail. This is where the GG LT5 poles of mine have gotten a lot of use, but I’ll try out the Makalus for a while to see how I feel about them, and in all likelihood, will use them on my hike. Perhaps after that, I’ll write a follow-up post about my experience. I doubt it will say anything too interesting, the main phenomena I am wondering about is the less dampened vibrations emanating from striking the surfaces of the Sierra with aluminum. These tend to be somewhat mitigated by my cross-country style pole form since they have to be transmitted via the strap, but it might still prove to be annoying.
Currently I’m using some DIY poles made from used ski poles. I didn’t like the grips or straps, so I cut them off and just wrapped a long section with bicycle handlebar tape. The DIY poles are much stronger and it turns out they’re lighter than anything else I have.
There are a lot of stiff and lightweight downhill skiing carbon poles out there. Consider looking into a pair of those. They’re often cheaper because they’re selling into a much larger market.
There have been a couple of posts about ski poles. As it turns out, I’m a much longer-time skier than backpacker, and I happen to have a pair of slender aluminum K2 125cm poles I have been using without much thought for maybe twenty years. I weighed them: 224 grams apiece including a small mud-style basket, even without a particularly optimized grip and strap situation, making them about 20g lighter than the Makalu Lites or the BD Alpine Carbon Cork, per pole. Taking them to the Sierra this summer might have been appealing if I were going with my own car, but I will be going with a small group and getting into shuttles, trains, or whoknowswhat, and maybe this seemed a bit a limitation. On the other side, I was considering the downside risk of introducing inconvenience to my group should I bring an unusually tenuous piece of specialty gear and had it snap on the second day. Some of us are taking out a favor from our spouses with regard to young children to block out this longer excursion, so if there must be diversion, I’d prefer a more sympathetic circumstance.
But, this option, of a modified ski pole, does pique my interest, and now I have an easy way to give it a shot in the foothills of the Bay Area in the next winter and spring seasons.
Perhaps in a more average Sierra year where I have the right hiking situation, I will consider an intermediate pole, like the Locus Gear CP3.Jun 4, 2023 at 11:35 am #3782599Richard NBPL Member
Re the CP3s: the carbon seems relatively robust, but the grips and straps are not great. Fine if you’re a gloves wearer, but the edges of three bits of webbing all under the thumb/palm is annoying bare handed.
The lack of lower grip section is also a negative if you’re used to that.Jun 4, 2023 at 4:23 pm #3782608Terran TerranBPL Member
I still have my Leki ti Air Ergo Makalu Ultralites. I’m easy on them now, but I’ve abused the heck out of them. Going down rock slides and running down switchbacks. I can’t compare them because I never had a reason to trade them out.Jun 4, 2023 at 5:20 pm #3782612
Thanks for the tips about the straps on the CP3. I appreciate the flexibility to not wear gloves, I’m not so routine about wearing them before high sun or even if I feel like using a bit of sunscreen instead once in a while.Jun 4, 2023 at 10:52 pm #3782636
I always remove the straps on my poles. They come right off before I ever use them.Jun 5, 2023 at 5:46 am #3782640Terran TerranBPL Member
It’s much easier to use your hands when you can let the pole hang from your wrist. Without straps, I’d leave them home and find a stick.Jun 5, 2023 at 7:13 am #3782641Todd TBPL Member
@texasbbLocale: Pacific Northwest
I always remove the straps on my poles. They come right off before I ever use them.
Do you remove the laces from your shoes and the shoulder straps from your pack too? (And to think I bought a tent from this guy.) :-)Jun 5, 2023 at 8:27 am #3782645Dustin VBPL Member
Since the terrain here has so many ups and downs, I found I stopped adjusting my poles and just shifting my grip up or down, to the point that the straps were just in the way, so I cut them off. It works for me to keep a little bit of a grip on the poles so that when I stumble, my arms are already engaged. Also, gripping the pole on alternate steps keeps my hands from swelling.Jun 5, 2023 at 1:00 pm #3782674
“I always remove the straps on my poles. They come right off before I ever use them.”
“Do you remove the laces from your shoes and the shoulder straps from your pack too? (And to think I bought a tent from this guy.) :-)”
The proper way to use the straps is to put your hands up through them and to push down on the straps with the palms. The pole’s just come up with your hands with almost no grip. Gripping takes more energy over the hike. This morning we did over 14000 steps in exceedingly steep terrain of these canyons so that’s about how many times a pole was planted. Been doing this for more than 25 years and we’ll do more later this week as usual. Many, many people use them in this terrain out here and I’ve never heard of anyone dislocating a shoulder or anything else except one time on the internet over ten years ago. Someone previously mentioned where they read an article and they stopped using straps because of that. Seriously? Driving a car to the trailhead is incredibly more dangerous in juxtaposition to pole straps as are many other things that are never done away with. I understand individual preferences but having a hard time with this logic.Jun 5, 2023 at 3:37 pm #3782686
Well, suffice to say…I do use my pole straps in the cross country style, but I think the matter of strap use has been discussed a lot of times. It does have some effect on how much one cares about the handle (I don’t very much). But maybe we don’t have to litigate the virtues or vices of it again here.Jun 5, 2023 at 4:54 pm #3782693jscottBPL Member
@bookLocale: Northern California
“The proper way to use the straps is to put your hands up through them and to push down on the straps with the palms. ”
Well, that’s the proper way to use Nordic ski poles. Nordic skiers propel themselves forward using their arms/back muscles more than their legs. And they have special straps to aid in this. Hikers don’t propel themselves with their arms. Hence, this Nordic technique is inappropriate for walking.
I understand that part of the issue is ‘gripping’ the poles. It’s easy enough to have a loose grasp on the poles and then move your hands freely over the handles, or even palm the tops on steep downhills. Straps can inhibit all of this free motion. But not necessarily! I used to cut off the straps on my poles but recently leave them on with a lot of loose play, unlike my Nordic poles, striding and skating, which are strapped on pretty tight. A loose strap still allows the hands to come up onto the top of the poles. But I don’t bear down with my palms or wrists on the straps. Why?Jun 5, 2023 at 5:17 pm #3782695
“Hikers don’t propel themselves with their arms.”
For steep climbing trails I do, both arms and legs. Sounds like you don’t. That’s okay.
“But I don’t bear down with my palms or wrists on the straps. Why?”
For both power and taking weight and stress off the knees and feet of course here. Very elementary. I keep my straps not overly tight but comfortable. It’s easy to palm the top knob when descending if necessary. Most of the time I just keep the weight on the straps for both ups and downs. The terrain is steep and rocky. Makes a huge difference for me here.
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