Ultralight Trekking Poles
Gossamer Gear LT5 Trekking Poles
$195, 10 oz./pair (without baskets)
One size, adjustable
You could see the defining characteristic of these ultralight poles even wearing a blindfold: Just pick them up and hold them in your hand. The LT5 adjustable poles feel like feathers. In fact, the pair weighs about as much as a lightweight down jacket and less than five ounces of water, and might weigh less than your rain shell. That’s really light. But these poles nonetheless offer a basic, minimalist performance that stands up to hard use, as I discovered on a six-day, 74-mile backpacking trip through the Grand Canyon—including a rough, 15-mile, nearly 12-hour day traversing most of the rugged Escalante Route—and a seven-day, 96-mile traverse of the Wind River High Route, two-thirds of which is off-trail.
Three-section, twist-lock, adjustable poles with straps, the LT5 possess all of the basic performance qualities that hikers, backpackers, climbers, ultra-runners, and others look for in poles—but at two-thirds of the weight of the strongest competitors.
The compromises for radically lower weight are few. The twist-lock mechanism doesn’t lock as securely as a lever mechanisms—but rarely slipped in use, even when I leaned hard or stumbled and caught myself on them while scrambling steep talus on the Escalante Route, or when I made a long descent on the South Kaibab Trail and the relentless and severely angled ascent of the Tanner Trail.
The strong and lightweight carbon shafts withstood more abuse than they’d receive on many well-maintained trails—such as the entire Teton Crest Trail, much of the Pacific Crest Trail, and many trails in national parks like Yosemite and Glacier—as I clambered up the third-class talus and loose scree of Papago Canyon and handed packs and poles down a 30-foot cliff we descended on the Grand Canyon’s Escalante Route.
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On the 96-mile Wind River High Route, I hiked with these poles over endless miles of steep talus and scree and pitched an ultralight tent using these poles every night—including one night when the tent and poles withstood several hours of gusts blowing over 40 mph and probably around 50 mph.
The LT5 poles extend to a maximum length of 130cm/51 inches, long enough for many tall hikers, and collapse to 60cm/23.5 inches, making them more packable than many three-section, twist-lock poles like the (more affordable but heavier) Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork poles, but of course not more packable than folding poles such as the (more affordable) MSR DynaLock Ascent poles.
The wrist straps are thinner than many to shave grams, making them a bit less comfortable than wider straps, which becomes noticeable on longer hiking days. The LT5 poles also come with removable trekking baskets.
While these poles aren’t the strongest for pitching ultralight backpacking tents that require trekking poles for setup, they perform reasonably well for that purpose, especially since you’ll usually seek a fairly protected campsite for an ultralight tent, anyway.
But when your goal is to travel as lightly as possible through the backcountry, poles that are strong and durable enough for normal use and weigh about two-thirds of many three-section, adjustable poles start looking awfully good—especially if, like many thru-hikers, you’re logging big-mileage days, when you notice the weight of the poles in your hands.
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For dedicated ultralighters and thru-hikers and many backpackers who prefer to hike lighter, the Gossamer Gear LT 5 offer the adjustability of trekking poles that weigh a half-pound more, with good strength and minor compromises.
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