This pole has it all; carbon fiber, antishock joints, 3 collapsible sections, comfortable straps and many basket options. And it has a price tag – $179 – that reflects its top of the line features. Does this combination of top end features result in top end performance? I hiked over 800 miles with these poles this year to find out. Somebody’s got to do it. Ken Knight also completed a review of a similar pole, the Komperdell C3 Duolock, which lacks the antishock features of the Airshock but is otherwise identical.
- The only collapsible, antishock carbon fiber poles on the market
- Very comfortable grips and straps
- Antishock feature makes for soft, easy downhills
- Collapses down to a compact size (28 inches – 71 cm)
What’s Not So Good
- All those features add weight (6.8 ounces per pole compared to 6.1 for the non-Airshock Komperdell C3 Duolock Men)
- All those features are expensive ($179 per pair)
|2006 Komperdell C3 Airshock Men|
|Tungsten/Carbide Flex Tip|
|EVA Foam with wide neoprene strap|
Weight per pole
|28 to 55 inches (72 to 140 cm) Usable from 39 inches to 55 inches (100 to 140 cm)|
Though heavier than many other carbon fiber poles at 6.8 ounces per pole, this pole includes the full complement of trekking pole features. I am a fan of antishock poles and I like the flexibility of collapsing poles, so I was anxious to see how these features would perform on a sub 7 ounce pole. I used the C3 Airshocks on my 600 mile PCT section hike this summer, and also on many of my spring training hikes. I took them on many rocky miles through the Arizona and California deserts, across hundreds of raging streams in the Sierras, and across dozens of slick snow and ice fields. I was used to hiking with aluminum poles and right away I loved the lightweight feel of these poles.
During the course of my PCT section hike I put a lot of stress on the carbon fiber on slippery descents and steep snowfields. On many occasions I rapidly put my full weight onto the poles to keep from falling on snow or ice. The poles saved me every time, even on one or two occasions when I was concerned that the stress might snap the carbon fiber. I found the carbon fiber stiff enough to transfer force well on steep uphill climbs.
You will have to fork out an extra $30 to purchase the C3 Airshock over the C3 Duolock. For that $30, you will get antishock technology, which will add 0.7 ounces to each pole. The antishock mechanism resides in the upper pole joint and uses Komperdell’s Airshock system which Komperdell states that the Airshock system provides variable resistance. As the air spring compresses, it becomes stiffer, giving a softer feel initially and a firmer spring as you approach the limits of its travel. The Airshock system also allows you to lock the spring and use the poles without the antishock feature- a simple turn on the upper shaft locks the spring mechanism for times when a fixed pole is needed. The total travel in the antishock system is approximately 0.67 inches (1.7 cm).
For me, the real payoff of antishock poles is on steep, rocky downhills, especially when I am moving quickly. In these conditions, the cushioning eases stress on my arms and legs, and allows me to move more quickly and with greater comfort. On uphill sections, when using the poles to help propel you up each step, it is sometimes worthwhile to lock each pole. Here stress is less of a factor and the efficiency of a locked pole may be preferred. I found that I did this only on long steep climbs. I recommend you try out both antishock and regular poles to decide for yourself. Borrow some from your friends, or visit a local outfitter where poles can frequently be rented.
The locking mechanism is easy to use and it reliably locked with enough strength to virtually eliminate slips, which can be annoying and even dangerous at the wrong moment. In about 50 days of hiking on these poles I had a few slips but when I got in the habit of tightening the mechanism more securely, I eliminated these completely.
I had no trouble tightening the locking mechanism, even when they were dirty or wet. I found them to be one of the more reliable mechanisms I have used (but in Ken Knight’s review of the C3 Duolock, he had some trouble tightening the mechanism in the wetter climate of Michigan).
Compatibility With Trekking Pole Shelters
|Shelter type and pole length required||Usable with this shelter?|
|Gossamer Gear/Tarptent Squall Classic (42 in/107 cm)||Yes|
|Tarptent Virga 2 / Squall 2 and Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo / Europa (45 in/114 cm)||Yes|
|Golite Trig 2 (48 in/123 cm)||Yes|
|MSR Missing Link (54 in/137 cm)||Yes|
When fully collapsed, the C3 Airshock Men measure only 28 inches (72 centimeters) long and extend to a full 55 inches (140 centimeters). This makes them easy to transport or attach to the outside of you pack and they will work with most any shelter that requires trekking poles. The C3 Airshock also comes in a Women’s version, with a slightly smaller grip and shorter length (25 to 49 inches – 64 to 125 cm). The Women version is also a little lighter at 6.5 ounces. For many hikers, male or female, the shorter pole is long enough – same price though.
The C3 Airshock Men collapses down to 28 inches (71 cm) for easy transport and carry when not in use.
The grips are molded EVA foam. They are comfortable in hot or cold weather and stood up well to being used as a tent pole. The grips on my poles still look brand new. The strap is adjustable and is over 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) wide at its widest point. These straps are very supportive and comfortable, although they don’t breathe well, so they can get uncomfortable in hot weather. A lighter strap could probably do the job nearly as well.
The wide straps (1.5 inches – 3.8 cm) are comfortable and easily adjustable.
The summer basket that comes with the C3 poles is wider than most other trekking pole baskets (2.25 inches diameter – 5.7 cm). At first, I didn’t like these baskets, feeling it was wasted extra weight. However, after a summer of hiking I’ve grown to like them- a wider basket is ideal in the muddy and snowy conditions I encountered for much of the summer. I found that I was driving my poles through the snow less frequently than other hikers, saving me untold precious calories while crossing slick snowfields. Of course, on a dry firm surface, these larger baskets would have little benefit over a smaller and lighter basket.
The wide basket (2.25 inches – 5.7 cm) is a benefit in soft sand, mud or snow.
After so much use and stress, I was pleased with the overall durability and quality of these poles. The combination of useful features, light weight and reliable performance makes them a great choice – especially on a long hike in diverse conditions. I used them every night to hold up my Tarptent. I fell and slipped on them and used them to jump across an endless procession of scary, icy streams. And they look as good now as they day I received them. But you better be comfortable with the $179 price tag.
The combination of carbon fiber, 3 collapsible sections, and antishock technology
Recommendations for Improvement
Although the straps are comfortable, a lighter and simpler strap could save a few grams and be just as functional. And getting rid of the bright logo on the strap wouldn’t hurt either.