Komperdell C3 Carbon Power Lock
$150, 1 lb./pair
I know: Choosing trekking poles can feel a little like picking out the best straw from a dispenser in a restaurant—they all kind of look the same. But poles are not straws, of course; they differ, and finding a pair you like does depend on how you’ll use them. Taking the C3 Carbon Power Lock poles on a five-day, 80-mile backpacking trip in the North Cascades National Park Complex and a three-day, 40-mile hike in Utah’s Dark Canyon Wilderness (and my wife used them on a nine-day trek of the 105-mile Tour du Mont Blanc) convinced me that they compare favorably against more-expensive, top-performing, all-around trekking poles for dayhikers, backpackers, and climbers. Here’s why.
For starters, adjustable poles certainly differ in their length range. Adjustable from 105-140cm (41-55 inches), these have more length than most poles I’ve reviewed at this blog, good for tall hikers or anyone descending steep, off-trail terrain, when you want plenty of length. No matter how you use poles, you want them to be reliable, and the Power Lock 3.0 mechanism, with a lever that locks in place after adjusting the pole length, is intuitive to use and never slips.
With the two upper sections made of carbon and the lowest section made of Titanal, these three-section poles are strong and slightly lighter than many comparably sturdy poles out there—although they’re not ultralight poles. (Titanal is an aluminum alloy that adds stiffness to the poles and can flex and bend without yielding; it’s stronger than 7075 aluminum and resists abrasion, which is the reason to use it on lower sections of hiking and ski poles.) The short foam grip and wide, easily adjustable wrist strap—which accommodates thick gloves—remained comfortable for long days with thousands of feet of ascent and descent.
One strike against these poles: Their packed length of 68cm (27 inches) ranks them among the least-compact trekking poles; that matters if you’re trying to fit them in luggage, or collapsing them to attach to the outside of a daypack or small backpack, because they may stick out above the top of the pack, potentially snagging in thick vegetation or low, overhanging tree branches.
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Komperdell also offers a three-year, no-questions-asked guarantee to repair any damage to poles for free; that’s valuable, because while carbon poles are very strong, they can break surprisingly easily under unusual stresses. (I have broken a carbon pole from another brand.) That guarantee and the blend of attributes of the C3 Carbon Power Lock poles make them a good value for the price.
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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.