I’ve been using ultralight (sub 8 oz) carbon fiber hiking poles this year from Gossamer Gear and Backpackinglight.com. Hiking with them is a fantastic experience. They’re incredibly lightweight and easy to reposition with a flick of the wrist, greatly reducing arm fatigue.
However, I’ve snapped 4 strapless ultralight carbon fiber poles since March (or one every 30 trail hours) and I’m beginning to wonder if I’m too rough with them or if they’re better suited for a different kind of terrain than we have in New England.
I’ve met people with broken ultralight carbon poles on the trail this year, so I know that I’m not alone on this. And the manufacturers have been most gracious, replacing my broken ones with new ones. But it’s a real bummer to break a trekking pole half way through a multi-day trip.
The locus of the breaks is highly consistent. On fixed length, ultralight carbon fiber poles, the tips break off just above the basket threading. The break is more of a crush than a sheer. On adjustable, ultralight carbon fiber poles, the break occurs on the upper sleeve when I catch the bottom half on an obstacle like a tree root. What’s disconcerting is that they shear with the slightest lateral pressure and have no give to them at all.
In all fairness, I also break aluminum adjustable poles, but at a much slower rate of 1 per year. Rather than shearing, they bend on me, when I bear down on them very hard to brace a fall on wet rock or ice.
Non-ultralight, adjustable carbon fiber poles have been around for a while (my wife owns a pair from REI), but the weight difference between them and regular aluminum poles is insignificant and they suffer from all of the normal slippage problems, so I’ve always given them the pass. The big difference between them and ultralight carbon fiber poles is thickness and the fact that the ultralight manufacturers, including The Titanium Goat (her new pair), have universally eliminated the adjustable slippage problem.
So I have some questions for you:
- How prevalent is the breakage of ultralight carbon fiber poles?
- Are ultralight carbon fiber poles more suitable for some types of terrain than others?
- Are there changes to my hiking style that I need to make to get my ultralight carbon fiber poles last longer?
I haven’t seen this issue raised on the discussion boards that I lurk on like backpackinglight.com and I am hoping that I could get some feedback from you. If I’m not using the poles the way they should be used, I’d like to know.
Disclosure: Gossamer Gear provided SectionHiker.com with a complementary pair of carbon fiber hiking poles. Author purchased carbon fiber hiking poles from Backpackinglight.com using their own funds. Note: Backpackinglight.com no longer sells this product.