Alison using Komperdell C3 Duolock Women’s trekking poles on her way down from a glacier in Tierra del Fuego.
In the last month, my wife and I had a chance to field-test the new Komperdell Carbon Duolock trekking poles on a trip to Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. (These poles are sold under the REI brand as Peak UL Trekking and Peak UL Compact Trekking.) I used the two-section Komperdell Carbon Tour Duolock poles and my wife the three-section Komperdell C3 Duolock Women’s poles. These sectional poles are carbon fiber with single pole weights under 6 ounces (170 g). Needless to say, they have generated a lot of interest!
Over the course of two weeks we used the Komperdell Carbon Duolock poles on easy trails, rocky trails, muddy trails, icy trails, snow covered trails, no trail, bogs, talus fields, crossing raging glacier fed streams, glacier travel, and probably a few other situations that don’t come to mind. I will briefly report on our experience with them so far (this is not a full review) as well as informally compare the Komperdells with the top rated poles in our Trekking Poles Review Summary, the Life-Link Guide Ultra Lights (and the similar but longer Life-Link Carbon Race Poles). The Life-Link poles are a hybrid construction with an aluminum upper and carbon fiber lower.
Initial Performance Assessment
As far as we know, the Komperdell Carbon Duolock poles are the lightest adjustable poles out there. The Komperdell C3 Duolock Women’s poles are similar in length to the Life-Link Guide Ultra Light poles and are 2.2 ounces lighter per pole. The Komperdell Carbon Tour Duolock poles are similar in length to the Life-Link Carbon Race poles and are 3.3 ounces lighter per pole. For the lightest piece of gear that does the job, the Komperdell Carbon Duolock poles are suitable for trail use and not too punishing off-trail travel.
But if you want section locks with maximum reliability, or want poles for snow and cold weather use, then the Life-Link poles may be your better bet. The Life-Link poles have more comfortable grips, better baskets, and less vibration. It is too early to make a comparison on long-term strength and durability between the two poles. The Life-Links have a long-term reliability record that the Komperdell Carbon Duolock poles, only months old, do not.
Advantages of Komperdell Carbon Duolock
- Lighter than the comparable Life-Link models by 25-40%
- Lighter swing weight
- For their weight the poles are extremely stiff
- All three Komperdell Carbon Duolock models are longer yet lighter than the Life-Link Guide Ultra Light (the longer Life-Link Carbon Race will accommodate taller hikers and a wider range of shelters)
- The C3 Duolock Men’s and Women’s poles (three-section) are more compact than the Life-Link poles.
Advantages of Life-Link Guide Ultra Lights
- Oval section locks work more reliably
- A clear advantage for snow/cold weather use (convert to avalanche probe, friction zone grip for easy adjustment with mittens, optional self arrest handle)
- Somewhat less vibration
- Smooth grips are more comfortable and have a durable plastic cap
- Better and easier to remove baskets (more compact tapered design, snags less)
- Less expensive
Pole Comparison Table
|Sections||Maximum Length in (cm)||Minimum Length in (cm)||Maximum Length/Weight||MSRP|
|Life-Link Guide Ultra Light||7.8||221||2||48 (122)||30 (76)||0.55||$99.95|
|Life-Link Carbon Race||8.8||250||2||58 (146)||39 (100)||0.58||$109.95|
|*Komperdell C3 Duolock Men’s||6.3||178||3||55 (140)||27 (68)||0.79||$129.00|
|*Komperdell C3 Duolock Women’s||5.6||159||3||49 (125)||24 (60)||0.79||$129.00|
|Komperdell Carbon Tour Duolock||5.5||155||2||53 (135)||37 (95)||0.87||Euro 99.95 (US $131)|
* REI Peak UL Trekking and Peak UL Compact Trekking are identical poles respectively
** Weights are for single poles without baskets as measured by Backpacking Light
What we liked about Komperdell Carbon Duolock trekking poles
Alan cruising easy trails in a Patagonia lenga forest.
They are light and have the lightest swing weight of any sectional poles we’ve tested. Since our packs were a bit heavier than usual with "Patagonia capable" gear, we really appreciated the light weight when we had to stow the poles (e.g. climbing or navigating a boulder field). Even the two-section Carbon Tour Duolock poles compacted enough to fit into our luggage for international travel. The poles were also some of the stiffest we’ve tested and were solid enough to support us in all situations we encountered (neither of us had a huge pole slip or fall on our trip to really test the poles). From some very quick load testing, the Komperdells are about as stiff as the Life-Link poles, possibly a bit stiffer.
The Komperdell Carbon Tour Duolock poles have g’reptile grip tape (very grippy tape used on mountain bike handlebars, golf clubs, batting gloves, NASCAR steering wheels, etc.) on the shaft below the main grips so you can quickly choke up on the poles.
The gems of the Komperdell carbon fiber line are the 5.5-ounce, two-section Carbon Tour Duolock poles. At 135 centimeters/53 inches (137 cm/54 in for shelter use), they are long enough for tall hikers and will work with most pole-supported shelters.
What we didn’t like about Komperdell Carbon Duolock trekking poles
Komperdell touts their new Duolock section locks, but after two weeks on the trail we found them no better, (or worse,) than many section locks. Occasionally the section locks would spin and spin and not lock. This usually happened after stowing the poles and lengthening them for use again. It took a bit of fiddling, usually breaking apart the section and adjusting the expansion-nut inside, to get the offending lock to work. Once tightened, the poles did not slip any more or less than any other poles we’ve used. (Note: there is no perfect section lock and all have their weak points but I would give a slight nod to the Life-Link section locks over the Komperdell locks since they lock down and unlock every time).
The Komperdell serrated grips are not as comfortable as the smooth surfaced Life-Link grips. The serration on the back of the Komperdell grips irritated my hands. Even so, I had no blisters or serious discomfort. Komperdell says that the grips have a built in 8° positive angle but this was not noticeable in use.
The Komperdell poles make creaking and cracking noises when I flex them hard. Under similar stress, the Life-Link poles are silent. This may not have any relevance for trail use and I haven’t tested these over the course of a year like I have the Life-Link poles. I certainly have no evidence at this point as to which is the stronger pole and I’m not going to break either pair to find out.
Finally, what’s up with the gimmicky compasses at the top of the pole grips? My wife at first liked the idea of the compasses, but found them too small and imprecise to be of any real use. When used upside down as a shelter support, the plastic of the compass scratched and became opaque rendering the compass useless, if they were indeed useful to begin with. The two-section Carbon Tour Duolock poles are blessedly free of compasses.
The Komperdell trail baskets are a bit large, not tapered, and prone to snagging. Once installed they are almost impossible to remove without a pair of pliers and even then it’s difficult. The Carbon Tour Duolock poles came with enormous powder baskets, possibly because they are intended to be used as ski racing poles. Fortunately we don’t use pole baskets for much of the year and simply removed them for our testing.