Since breaking my leg last year, I’ve had to be a lot more mindful in regards to the toll hiking takes on my body. Intense stretches of downhill are enough to lay me up for days afterward, and an awkward fall can lead to serious reinjury. That’s why I purchased a pair of hiking poles as I was planning my reunion with the outdoors — I knew that I’d need them. After looking at the options available and talking to some friends with similar leg issues (thanks, Brandon!), I chose Cascade Mountain Tech’s Carbon-Fiber Quick Lock Trekking Poles.
They’ve been with me to six countries already, and I think I can safely say that I never would’ve finished my trek from Shatili to Omalo in Georgia without them. For this post, I’ve written a Cascade Mountain Tech Trekking Poles review that breaks down the important things to look for when buying trekking poles for yourself, and how my poles stack up.
When shopping for trekking poles, there are a number of important factors to consider, including: which material is used for the poles and grips, whether or not the poles are collapsible and — if so — which type of locking mechanism they should have, the tips you will need, as well as the price. The poles I ended up choosing had the following features:
- Carbon-fiber construction
- Cork grips
- Collapsible poles with quick-lock mechanisms
- All of this for less than $50 USD
Extremely lightweight, carbon-fiber poles are the choice for ultra-light trekkers and anyone looking to keep pack weight to a minimum. That said, they are generally more expensive and more prone to shattering than aluminum poles.
Aluminum is the durable and economical choice, making a sacrifice in the area of weight. While aluminum poles might bend under strain, they are unlikely to break like carbon-fiber poles, making them a better choice for people hiking in rugged, accident-prone terrain.
The Cascade Mountain Tech Trekking Poles that I purchased were carbon-fiber, as I wanted the lighter option and wasn’t too concerned with them shattering. While putting them through their paces on my Tusheti trek, I had several instances where I had to use the poles to anchor my weight while navigating some tricky terrain. I also had to use them to hack hand and footholds into the snow. In both situations they were solid and are still in great shape!
Collapsible (Adjustable) Poles
Collapsible poles are highly adjustable, allowing hikers to modify the pole to best fit their height or the type of terrain they’re facing. For example, while going uphill, the pole can be shortened, then lengthened again for the descent. This adaptability is a great benefit but comes at the expense of added weight, more parts which might need replacement, and potential weak points in the pole.
Fixed (Non-adjustable) Poles
Fixed poles don’t have any mechanism for adjusting the length, making them a little lighter and more durable than adjustable poles. While the weight of the pole is decreased, the inability to be broken down makes the poles cumbersome to carry around, especially if you’re going to be traveling with them.
Folding poles provide a great combination of packability and weight, folding in on themselves like tent poles. They pack down small and are very light, making them a good option for people with limited pack space and a desire to keep pack weight to a minimum.
My poles are collapsible, allowing a great amount of customization when it comes to the length. This has come in handy when I’ve been ascending and descending, as well as when I loaned a pole to a hiking buddy. The quick lock mechanisms (which I’ll discuss below) clamp down with enough pressure to keep the poles from collapsing and haven’t shown any signs of wear.
Quick Lock (lever)
Poles with this feature use a clamping mechanism to secure the pole in place. These are perhaps the most adjustable, though some may find the lever-based lock to not be as secure as other designs.
Poles with a push-button lock have one or more presets to allow users to adjust the pole for length. The button is depressed, pole length adjusted, and the button allowed to pop back out — locking the poles to the desired setting.
Similar in adjustability to the quick-lock mechanism, poles with the twist lock are highly versatile, though the process of securing the poles at the desired length is not quite as, well, quick as it is with a quick-lock!
My Cascade Mountain Tech poles have the quick-lock feature, and I’ve been happy with it so far. For perhaps the first two outings, I had to periodically check the tightness of the locks to make sure they weren’t loosening, but since then I haven’t had to adjust them once. There have been several occasions where I’ve had to put my full body weight on the poles, and not once did the locks fail.
Cork is the best material for resisting sweat, and conforms to the shape of the user’s hands to ensure a comfortable hiking experience.
Foam, instead of resisting sweat like cork, absorbs it — a great feature for someone with relatively dry hands, but a slightly disturbing one for someone with hands as sweaty as mine. That said, it is the squishiest of the three materials, and there’s something to be said for squishiness.
Rubber is less common, but it does one thing well, and that’s provide insulation from the cold. If that’s not a requirement, however, cork and foam handles are a better choice.
My poles have cork handles, as I tend to sweat a lot (thanks, Dad!) and I like the comfort of the cork grips. Plus, I think they look a little cooler than the foam ones.
One thing I was worried about before buying my poles was whether or not they’d hamper my agility on the trail. I didn’t want to be one of those noobs who buys gear and ends up acting the fool because they overcomplicated things.
If anything, the poles have increased my confidence in tackling tricky terrain, providing up to two additional points of balance. This a) alleviates the shock my bum knee has to take while going downhill and b) has saved me on numerous occasions while navigating patches of snow, shale screes, and river crossings.
That said, sometimes poles just aren’t practical — like when going through thick brush or scrambling up rocks. That’s where the collapsible poles come in handy. I can break them down in seconds, stow them with my pack, and navigate the terrain with my hands free.
That collapsability helps a lot when transporting the poles from place to place. While they’re a little too long to fit inside my bag, they lash easily to the side of it, or can be placed inside with the tops poking out like wee antenna. They’ve gone with me on planes (checked), trains, automobiles… even on a motorcycle!
The price is really where these poles shine. Many high-quality trekking poles can cost upwards of one or two hundred dollars, but the Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon-Fiber Quick Lock Trekking Poles cost a mere $45 (August 2018) on Amazon. With replacement parts available on the Cascade Mountain Tech website, these are poles which should stay with you for a long time.
To wrap it up, Cascade Mountain Tech has knocked it out of the park with these poles. I love the cork handles, the quick-lock mechanism, and the different tips which come with the poles I bought. The premium design at an affordable price makes these a must for serious hikers and trekkers, and a piece of gear I’ll recommend to anyone who asks.
How about you? What piece of gear is indispensable for your adventures? Let me know your recommendations in the comments below!
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