My first set of trekking poles was a pair of $26 ($13/ea) Outdoor Product Flick-Lock poles from the local Wal-Mart. I was not sure if I even wanted/needed poles at that time, which is why I went with some less expensive poles, but I wanted to give them a try. After the first hike I did using poles though, I realized that I liked them. So, I put another few hundred miles on them and they eventually got to the point at which the locks would not hold up anymore. So, I knew that I needed to get another pair…
By this time I knew that I wanted to go with some better quality poles, which also meant more money. I had looked at a few different poles, namely some Leki’s and some Black Diamonds. Both were well spoken of and I had no doubts about them, however, I had also come across the Gossamer Gear LT4 trekking poles… To be honest, this was the direction that I wanted to head in, but at $165 I knew it would be harder to pull off. So, I ended up going with a pair of Leki’s for a bit less money from REI. But, just like the trail itself…the LT4’s wouldn’t quit pulling at me…and despite how nice and worthy the Leki’s were, I knew that I would eventually have to get the LT4’s…
But, why you ask?
Well, the first and easiest answer is simple. The LT4’s are light, lighter than almost any other “trekking” pole on the market today.
But, what does this matter you ask? I know that they are not part of my pack weight, but weight still matters.
When I stop and think about how many times I will actually lift each one of those poles while hauling myself up, down, around, through or over a mountain, a valley, or a river, through snow, mud and rock fields, those numbers can add up quickly. My pair of Leki’s weigh 18.6 oz, whereas my pair of LT4’s weigh 9.1 oz (both weights include supplied baskets). This makes my LT4’s slightly less than half the weight of the Leki’s. Now, multiply that weight by all those times they are lifted on any given hike, and for me, it’s easy to see a difference.
Concerning weight, in general, I have cut my pack weight waaaay down from what it once was, as well as the weight of my trekking poles. After doing so, I can tell that I am not nearly as exhausted once I arrive at camp for the night as I once was, even on 20+ mile days. The fact of the matter is, gravity pulls on every little bit of weight, and our bodies have to work against this. The less that I exert myself at working against gravity, the longer I can carry on and the better I feel at the end of the day.
So, how are these poles so much lighter than many of the other poles?
One reason that these poles are so light is because they are made from a lighter-weight material, carbon fiber, rather than the more widely used material of choice, aluminum. I will admit though, some feel like using this material is a disadvantage when it comes to overall durability.
It is my understanding that these carbon fiber poles are as strong as aluminum poles (if not stronger) when it comes to applying weight vertically, however, if enough horizontal weight is applied, they can break or shatter, rendering them useless. On the other hand, an aluminum pole will bend if horizontal weight is applied, and there is a chance that the pole can be re-bent into position and still used for a bit longer. Either way, I will agree that this is worth noting when using any pole in rocky areas where the poles are more likely to get lodged between objects while hiking. As well, the LT4’s also feature a spiral wrap on the bottom portion of the poles which also adds a bit of strength and overall durability “where it is needed most.”
In my experience, when I first received the LT4’s, I will admit, I was a bit concerned about using them because they are super light. (They have been known to lift up off the ground in a breeze, and they will also float on water…) It did actually take me about 30 miles of use before I felt a bit more confident in them and got comfortable enough to use them as I did my el’cheapo Wal-Mart poles mentioned above. And what actually did it for me was when I got all excited and carried away and started running down a mountain (not far from where I was in the picture directly below) and slipped and fell… Needless to say, I slid down a section of that mountain on my butt. I let go of one of my poles, which turned out fine. The other pole I held onto for dear life… When we (the pole and I) came to a stop, the tip was buried in the ground and the handle was wedged between a rock. All of the abuse it suffered was vertical abuse and it was still in tact, however, I had to get it un-wedged. In the end, it fared fine, and this is when I knew that these poles were a-ok for me!
Saying all of this, I would probably not recommend these poles to someone who is new to backpacking and has never used a trekking pole. I would instead suggest to take the route I did… Go with some inexpensive poles first to see if you even like using them, and then to learn how to use them first. At this point, I would suggest considering how you use the poles. Essentially, are you rough on the poles and have already bent/broke a few? If so, I would not suggest these poles for you. If you are like me and are not so hard on them and have not broken any, I would definitely say get yourself a pair and see what happens!
Other than this, Gossamer Gear also managed to cut weight by making these poles 2-piece poles. Many of the other poles are 3-piece poles, which require more hardware to make the poles work, which make the poles heavier. By going with only a top and bottom piece, these poles still have the ability to extend to lengths between 35 and 55 inches, while cutting back on weight. However, on the flip side, these poles will not pack down as short as those 3-piece poles. This would be something to consider if you fly a lot with your gear, or if you end up packing your poles away in your pack for long amounts of time while on the trail.
A few other things about the LT4 poles:
- They feature light-weight, EVA “Kork-O-Lon” foam grips, and in my experience, these are the most comfy grips I have used on any poles.
- They feature a small spectra core loop below handle for attaching a “keeper” cord.
- They come with small trekking baskets.
- They feature hardened carbide tips.
These poles are also offered in other sizes and with a few other options. One option I chose not to go with is the straps. There is a lot of argument out there about straps, their effectiveness and the “proper” way to use them. But for me, I am just fine without them, however, I am fine with the fact that others like them. In my opinion, I think that this is a personal decision that one has to make. I intentionally left the straps off in favor of the weight-savings. And if I had to order another pair, I would again opt for the pair without the straps.
Also, the adjustable LT4’s come with a little red ring that is on the lower section of each pole, and a spare is also shipped with them. The reason for the ring is to help to keep rain and debris from making its way into the top pole shaft when the pole is used upside-down to hold up a shelter. (Although, the poles go on the inside of my Hexamid, so this is not such an issue for these types of shelters.) When setting up the shelter with these poles upside down, GG recommends to simply slide the ring down to the junction of the upper and lower poles. This ring will simply deter most of the water from running inside the poles.
Gossamer Gear does suggest to keep the inside of the poles as clean and dry as possible so that the locking mechanism will work as it should. As I mentioned, my poles are inside my shelter, however, if they were not, I would simply take my poles apart, wipe them down and dry them off (if possible) each morning before I began my hike, especially if has been raining. As well, after each hike, when I get home, I do take the poles apart and wipe the shafts and the locking mechanism with a wet towel and clean off all of the dirt from the tip under a faucet. Afterwards, I store the poles separated until my next hike.
The last, and probably most important feature worth talking about is the locking mechanism itself. If the locking mechanism fails, then the pole is essentially worthless (unless you are really short). The locking mechanism was truly a mystery to me before I got the poles. I did not see too many write ups, pictures or videos that really showed the mechanism in much detail. And up to this point, I was used to the flick-lock styles. So, this was something that I was excited to be able to see for myself once I got the poles!
Essentially, the lower section of the poles has a nut installed in the top. There is a bolt that is bolted securely into the nut and there is a thick rubber washer that will screw up or down along the bolt. When this is inserted into the upper (grip) portion of the poles, the rubber washer will grip the inside walls. When twisting the poles the washer will move up or down. Once the washer has moved all the way to the bottom of the bolt another twist or so is all it takes to securely lock the pole at the desired length because the rubber washer will expand slightly when twisted against the end of the bolt. And that’s it. So far, these poles have held my 200 pounds up for 200 miles…
However, it seems like this locking mechanism is not perfect. There have been others that have complained about getting the poles to lock, and some that have not been able to get them unlocked (possibly due to water/dirt getting in them and locking up the mechanism). I will admit, on one occasion (actually my first hike) I was unable to get my pole to lock. I feel like this was in part due to the temperatures (16 F + wind chill). From what I understand, since the lock is rubber, it can get hard when it is really cold. In order to counter this, one needs to simply try to warm up the rubber washer. This can be done by rubbing it with your fingers, or against your pants so that it will soften back up and work as intended. In my case, after about a minute of messing with it, it finally did lock in place, and I experienced no other issues. Once the lock was locked in place, it worked perfectly. However, others have had more issues, and I may too with more use…only time will tell though. For now though, I am confident enough in it to be quite happy with them and trust them.
Since I got my LT4’s, these are all that I use. I will admit, around home I will grab the Leki’s to run outside and set-up a shelter (as seen in the video at the beginning) but if I am heading to the trail, there is no question as to which poles I will be bringing. I absolutely love these poles and look forward to wearing them out!
Thanks for reading!
Disclaimer: I am a Gossamer Gear Trail Ambassador, however, I purchased these poles with my own money, and before I was an Ambassador. I am under no obligation to review these poles for Gossamer Gear, however, I enjoy using them so much that I wanted to let everyone know about them!