Trekking and Running Poles
REI Flash Folding Trekking Poles
$149, 14 oz. (115cm)
Sizes: 105, 115, 125, and 135cm
rei.com

When I brought these poles and another pair that are collapsible (not folding)—and virtually the same weight—on a 12-mile trail run-hike in the Foothills, swapping poles with a partner, it quickly became clear that we both preferred these poles. A middleweight in this category, the REI Flash Foldingpoles fill a desirable niche as the most affordable among the handful of the most packable, folding models. Beyond a good price, though, they bring other strengths that prove them very functional on the trail.

REI Flash Folding Trekking Poles.
REI Flash Folding Trekking Poles.

Using these three-section, non-adjustable, folding poles on dayhikes and runs on local trails, I liked how light they felt whether swinging them while hiking up or downhill, or holding them mid-shaft while running short sections of flatter trail. Plus, the shafts have a visibly wider diameter than the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z or Distance Carbon FLZ poles, conceivably making them more durable, although carbon poles only snap or shear under unusual stresses.

At 14 ounces per pair, thanks to the 100 percent carbon shafts, they aren’t quite ultralight—although that depends on where you draw the line for ultralight poles, they are four ounces heavier than the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z and the Gossamer Gear LT5. Still, they fall on the lighter of the scale among poles I consider “lightweight” (weighing 14 to 16 ounces per pair).

They deploy quickly with a depressible pin that locks the shaft sections into place with a solid, secure sound, and they remain quite rigid in use, enough for carrying a full backpack. Packing down to 37-46cm/14.5-18 ins. when folded (varying with size; the 115cm poles measure 39.4cm/15.5 inches folded), they are not quite as compact as four other folding models among my picks for the best trekking poles. Still, they are far more packable than any collapsible poles and attach easily and unobtrusively to the outside of a small daypack or a running vest.

The ergonomic, extended, EVA foam grips and the adjustable wrist straps are slightly wider than found on the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z, and the grips extend farther down the shaft. But the REI Flash are also four ounces heavier than the Distance Carbon Z.


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REI Flash Folding Trekking Poles folded.
REI Flash Folding Trekking Poles folded.

Tungsten carbide tips bite into packed-dirt and similarly loose trail surfaces, but like any carbide tip, can skitter a bit on rock such as Southwest slickrock or the rocky trails of the Northeast. Unlike the BD Distance Carbon series poles, the Flash do not come with an interchangeable tip that grips better on rock; the soft caps that come with these poles are intended only for storage and travel and would likely get chewed up quickly (or pop off and get lost) if used on rocky trails.

The very low-profile trekking baskets minimize weight but still provide functionality, keeping the poles on top of mud.

As with carbon poles of comparable weight, these poles will be less durable than heavier models. Nonetheless, they are tough enough for lightweight or ultralight backpacking and strenuous dayhikes on rocky trails. (If you’re carrying more than 35 to 40 pounds, you might as well get sturdier, heavier poles. See other models in my review of “The Best Trekking Poles.”)

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The Verdict

The REI Flash Folding trekking and running poles are the most affordable lightweight, folding, highly packable poles out there, making them an appealing choice for lightweight and ultralight backpackers, dayhikers, and trail runners.

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Want an even more-affordable pair of carbon poles that weigh only an ounce more, but are not nearly as packable as the REI Flash Folding poles? See the collapsible REI Flash Carbon Trekking Poles ($139, 15 oz.).

See my picks for “The Best Trekking Poles” and my stories “How to Choose Trekking Poles” and “10 Best Expert Tips for Hiking With Trekking Poles,” and all of my reviews of backpacking gear, ultralight backpacking gear, and hiking gear.

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See also why I almost never hike without poles in my “10 Tricks For Making Hiking and Backpacking Easier,” and my “8 Pro Tips for Preventing Blisters When Hiking.”

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 my gear reviews at The Big Outside.

—Michael Lanza

 

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