You could say this is more of a roundup than a review (see, I just said it). How about we just take a look at 4 different sets of poles and see how they stack up against each other? When I opened the gear closet and everything piled out on top of me I grabbed the first four sets of poles that I could, and this is what I came up with:
- Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 (LT4) Regular – 8.8 oz with straps
- Titanium Goat Adjustable Goat Poles (AGP) 7.6 oz without straps
- Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork ~ 17.8 oz with straps
- REI Peak UL Carbon Fiber Women’s ~ 13.2 oz with straps
The above weights are per pair as weighed on my scale. Speaking of weight we clearly have 2 classes of weights here, lightweight and “ultralight”. It’s really amazing to experience the effortless handling of the ultralight poles. Admittedly these poles won’t stand up to abuse as well as their heavier counterparts, however they’re sure to tempt hikers who tend to take decent care of their gear and are willing to sacrifice a little durability for a solid weight savings.
The above photos show (from the left) the Peak UL, Alpine Carbon, AGP, and LT4. The Gossamer Gear and Ti Goat’s are two section designs and so their collapsed length is somewhat longer than the three-section poles. All of these poles extend to lengths suitable for use in pitching a tent/tarp. The lengths I measured were pretty close to manufacturer specs.
- LT4: 33.8″ – 55″
- AGP: 30.5″ – 49.5″
- Alpine Carbon: 24.5″ – 51.2″
- Peak UL: 23.5″ – 49″
The locking system is a point worth talking about. The Black Diamond system utilizes a cam lever with adjustable tension (aka “Flicklock”) provided by a phillips head screw. Owners will want to set the tension while at home instead of on the trail where a screwdriver is not likely to be around. Once set, they retain the tension setting very well and the mechanism itself provides a quick, secure, and hassle-free method of locking the poles. The twist lock on the other hand can range from just ok to miserably stubborn. Unfortunately for the Komperdell-made REI poles the latter is often the case. I’ve experienced fits of rage punctuated by cursing while trying unsuccessfully to get these poles to lock. On other occasions they lock effortlessly. It’s mind boggling and frustrating since the poles are actually well made. I’m happy to report that I’ve had much better success with the Gossamer Gear and Ti Goat poles locking systems. It could be that the locking mechanism on these is a little less complicated than the REI/Komperdell/etc… poles. There have been a few rare moments when they act up but this is easily solved by making an adjustment to the rubber lock mechanism which is exposed by separating the two pole sections. It’s very easy to do and, again, has rarely been an issue in my experience.
The grips of all these poles differ slightly as well. The simple foam cigar grip on the Ti Goats may be anonymous enough to work for just about anyone, but if you need an ergonomic grip to feel comfortable it could be a deal breaker. The REI poles feature molded rubber grips while the Gossamer Gear and Black Diamond’s both sport molded cork grips. Straps are optional on both the Ti Goat and Gossamer Gear poles. Grips are a personal thing and I find that the Black Diamond grips suit my big ol bear paws, although the simple design of the Ti Goat’s also works just fine for me and the weight difference between those two is noticeable.
The tips and baskets are fairly standard. All utilize carbide tips. The LT4 and Alpine Carbon poles have identical baskets. The AGP and Peak UL have slightly larger baskets. That orange o-ring on the LT4 is there to prevent dirt from getting into the joint when the pole is inverted for use in pitching a tent or tarp… nice attention to detail by Gossamer Gear.
The Bottom Line
All of these poles have different things going for them. The Peak UL poles are the most affordable and offered in a slightly longer/heavier mens’ version and shorter/lighter Youth version. The money you save on these will go into your swear jar the first time the locks act up. The Alpine Carbon poles rock a bomb proof locking system but with the added weight penalty. Finally the Gossamer Gear and Ti Goat poles provide an ultralight solution at a higher cost with the primary difference being the grip styles. One footnote on these last two poles – they are both compatible with the ultralight Tenkara fishing rod (they can replace the bottom section of the rod) which is an interesting twist if you happen to do some fishing while backpacking. At the end of the day there’s not always a definitive answer but one thing is certain – the right trekking poles can speed up your pace and make your hike more enjoyable. Hike It Like It.