Gear Review: Helinox Passport FL120 Trekking Poles

Helinox Passport FL 120 trekking poles.
Helinox Passport FL 120 trekking poles.

Trekking Poles
Helinox Passport FL120
$140, 11 oz. (120cm)
Sizes: 115-130cm

Yes, you read the weight listed above correctly: A pair of these adjustable trekking poles weighs just 11 ounces, which is several ounces below the weight of most hiking poles and the lightest model I’ve reviewed at this blog. With that tantalizing statistic in mind, I put them through the ringer on several hikes, including a 20-mile, 4,500-vertical-foot, trail run-hike in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains that included several hundred feet of third-class scrambling up 10,651-foot Snowyside Peak. I found several reasons to like them a lot, despite some shortcomings. Read on.

I also used them on a three-day backpacking trip with my teenage son in the Sawtooths; a 10-mile dayhike Idaho’s Boise National Forest; and four days of backpacking and dayhiking in California’s Death Valley National Park. A friend used them when we dayhiked the 32-mile, 10,000-vertical-foot Pemi Loop in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, and my 79-year-old mom used them on a 4.6-mile hike on the rocky trails of the Blue Hills Reservation outside Boston.


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Helinox Passport FL 120 trekking poles.
Helinox Passport FL 120 poles.

Manufactured by DAC, whose high-quality tent poles are used in many backcountry tent, these twist-lock, adjustable, three-section poles are made of DAC’s proprietary TH72M aluminum alloy, which has a high strength-to-weight ratio. They are light enough for trail running and strong enough for climbing steep, off-trail mountain terrain. Like other, very lightweight poles, you may feel a slight vibration in the Passports when planting them, but not to a degree that I ever found bothersome or even very noticeable, even in the most rugged terrain. They’re also manufactured with DAC’s Green Anodizing process, which involves no nitric or phosphoric acid and uses recycled water.

They have an adjustment range of 95cm/37.5 inches to 120cm/47 inches, adequate length for all but tall hikers. I’m 5’ 8” and set poles generally at 115cm on gentle terrain, 110cm going steeply uphill, and 120cm going downhill, so I max out the length on these poles. Their collapsed length is 53cm/21 inches—not as short as folding poles, but compact enough to tuck away under compression straps on a daypack or backpack. The soft, foam grip feels good on bare hands for many hours, and extends about halfway down the shaft of the top section, useful when briefly climbing steeply uphill—negating the need to make a quick adjustment just for a moment—and for carrying in your hands on flats.


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Helinox Passport FL 120 grips.
Helinox Passport FL 120 grips.

I found the twist-lock mechanism easy to loosen or tighten securely with a quarter-turn, and they never collapsed unwanted when I was using them. The lightweight and comfortable wrist straps wrap unobtrusively around my hands and adjust easily by tugging on one of the straps. The Passport poles come with optional rubber caps for the carbide tips when hiking over predominantly rocky terrain, and a stuff sack to protect them from scratches in transit and storage.

Helinox Passport FL 120 tips.
Helinox Passport FL 120 tips.

Tall and heavy hikers may want longer, sturdier poles. But if you’re looking for ultralight trekking poles that are strong and adjustable, for hiking, ultralight backpacking, running mountain trails, or travel, and you stand no more than roughly average height, the Helinox Passport FL120s are what you’re looking for. The series also includes fixed-length, folding, Passport TL poles.

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See my other reviews of trekking poles and all of my reviews of backpacking gear and hiking gear.

I almost never hike without poles. Read why in my “10 Tricks For Making Hiking and Backpacking Easier.”

NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.

—Michael Lanza


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