Ok, so you may think a trekking pole is just a trekking pole, right? Well think again….
There are many benefits to using a set of trekking poles, they can:
- Help to increase speed
- Provide extra stability
- Reduce fatigue, and
- In turn can increase the distance traveled in a day
- Provide an upper body work out too
But with a plethora of poles out there to select from, there really is more to choosing a trekking pole than meets the eye – in terms of the features to consider, the cost, build quality (the material it’s made from), comfort in the hand (grip) and perhaps the most important aspect of all – weight.
I have owned several sets of trekking poles over time, all made by different manufacturers and from differing materials – such as alloy, plastic and a mixture of the two, with differing locking systems – from clipping clasps to twist locks. But this is the first time I’ve had a pair of poles made from carbon fibre – the added benefit is that carbon fibre is strong, but also very light.
Lets cut to the chase and take a closer look at the Komperdell C3 Carbon Poles. They’re light. Indeed very light! Weighing in at just 420g for the pair. It’s really important to remember that when you commit to using a pair of poles, you will be carrying them – whether that’s in the hand to aid walking or strapped to your pack, you will be carrying them for the duration of a hike.
Carrying less weight matters, over time wrists and hands that grip the pole can get stiff or start to cramp. The lighter the pole the less you need grip it, and therefore the lighter the pole the less effort is used. Added grams saved on that cheap flight to the Alps matter too! I’ve used poles in the past that feel as though they weight twice the weight of these. Comparing like for like …. these carbon poles out-weigh – or under-weigh! – the alloy competition by a country mile!
Lets take a closer look at the Komperdell C3 Carbon’s features:
Size: They’re compact! At their smallest collapsed size they measure approx 55cm in length and can extend to 120cm, so even the tallest trekker can feel comfortable with them. Size matters – when strapped correctly to a 35litre day pack, they wont extend beyond the pack’s base and catch on rocks if stowed for a gully climb or scramble for example. Neither will they extend above the pack (and your head area) to catch on rocks or overhangs above you. Being short has its benefits – a small stow size matters when you want to keep your pack tidy and things that are strapped to it from projecting in all directions. You could also stuff these into a pack too and close the lid with ease.
Grip / comfort: When held in the hand the ‘expedition’ foam covering the contoured handle is comfortable, accommodating both smaller and large hands, allowing for a comfortable in hand feel. On hot days this is important, where sweaty palms may create blisters on a long trek – but having used these on several longer walks I’m confident that the padded grip is more than adequate to prevent rubbing and movement in hand. When wearing gloves too, the grips still allow ample contouring of the grip. An added webbing leash, that slips over the wrist and is pulled tighter is lined with a softer material, so rubbing around the wrist should not be a problem. The leash gives added security where the risk of dropping the pole is much reduced. The leash also allows for a more relaxed grip, so white-knuckle syndrome will not be an issue in terms of hold comfort.
Extending and collapsing the poles: The poles are fitted with a POWER LOCK II system – basically two small plastic clasps that allow the poles to extend when opened. These clip lever open allowing the pole to extend / collapse and clip shut to lock the pole’s length into position. Once the clasps are shut they fit closely to the pole, so won’t snag open, (if caught on a trouser leg for example). There is little chance of these failing to clasp the pole tightly either – and thus over time this will help prevent the pole shortening when impacted on the ground many 100’s of times during a hike – this is because you can twist the plastic clasp in its screw mount and it will adjust the tightness that the lock grips the pole. I never had any shortening of the pole during use. Applying weight to the pole – i.e. leaning on it, did not collapse the pole either. Certainly the Power Lock II system works well. The diameter of each of the poles sections are slim: at 16mm for the middle section and 14mm for the lower section. Flex is not an issue either, as the carbon feels strong – even with the slim pole diameters, they felt sturdy.
The tip: The tip of the pole is pointy – almost sharp! It is made from tungsten / carbide and a ridged plastic basket can be clipped over the end to prevent sinkage in snow or softer ground. Certainly these poles offer added security on uneven ground and though they cannot supplement the use of an ice axe on steep icy ground, they do dig into an icy surface where the transition from lower slopes to steeper ground does not quite require the use of an axe. You also get a plastic tip protector to slip over the end of the spikey tip, so when stowed in a pack or within hold luggage they wont pierce that £200+ Goretex jacket!
Build quality and guarantee: What’s not to like about a product that offers a three year guarantee? Komperdell promise to repair these poles (subject to the usual non abuse T&C’s) for a period of 3yrs. That’s important when perhaps over time plastic clips could become brittle, or the foam on the grip wears down. The build quality is excellent though and I’d have no problem with choosing carbon over alloy. The carbon material is light and strong, with little if no flex when placed on the ground, especially in descent where added weight is applied to the pole as you lunge down a hillside applying a lot of downward force to the pole upon uneven ground.
So in conclusion, these Komperdell poles are an excellent product with some nice features. The added orange flash stickers on the upper section make the poles easy to spot if you stop for a break and drop them down into some long grass … I have spent 15 minutes looking for a disguised lost pole in the past, but these would stand out a treat. Added to this the manufacturers have added the signatures of the world’s leading mountaineers to the middle section of the pole – an endorsement I assume, but a nice touch only visible when the middle section is extended.
These are comfortable, strong and offer everything a walking pole should … with the added bonus of a small size (when collapsed) and a weight that makes carrying them in a gripped hand for hours upon end a joy.
The price is a tad on the hefty side, but looking around the net, these can be purchased for around £70.00. Look at it as an investment, you’re certain to get your monies worth.
The technical bit:
- Size: packed size – 54 cm max. Length when extended – 120 cm max
- Weight: 210 grams (7.40 oz.) per pole
- Expedition foam grip
- padded strap for even higher comfort
- upper section: carbon, Ø 18 mm
- middle section: carbon, Ø 16 mm
- lower section: Titanal .HF, Ø 14 mm
- POWER LOCK II system
- Vario Trekking basket
- Tungsten / carbide flex tip with tip protector.
Price: £100 (RRP)
More: First Ascent