Gear Review: REI Carbon Composite Trekking Poles

​These trekking poles have changed my life. I have an extremely bad right knee and left ankle, injuries leftover from intense ballet training, and have struggled in the past with hiking and backpacking trips that have significant elevation change. I'm usually able to make it up... but getting down is another story!

I know that being in better shape has helped me tackle more challenging treks, but these poles have also helped immensely. As a disclaimer, I received these trekking poles as a gift, and they're my first pair, so my main points of comparison come from testing out friends' poles on the trail.

PRO'S

1. Reduced Joint Impact

The main reason I use my trekking poles is to reduce the impact on my joints. As I mentioned previously, I have a weak ankle and a downright dismal knee which occasionally give me quite a bit of trouble on the trail, especially going downhill. Luckily, that's where these trekking poles come into play. A 1999 study in The Journal of Sports Medicine found that compressive force on the knees can be reduced by up to 25% with the use of trekking poles!

2. Stability in Surprise Weather

I know I can't be the only one that's gone out for an early/late season backpacking trip or hike and been surprised by snow. When that happens, I'm always glad to have these poles with me. The trekking poles come with a basket to attach to the end that help prevent the pole from sliding too deep that I sometimes slide on in snow. They're pretty light and aren't too much of a pain to throw into your pack.

The trekking poles also come in handy when you need to poke around in the snow to see how deep it is, or check general stability of the trail ahead.

3. Speed

While walking uphill or on flat ground, the trekking poles can give you the extra oomph needed to get to personal record setting speed. This is a win some/lose some situation, though, because you will expend extra energy using your arms to help propel you forward. If you're on a backpacking trip, this means that you're likely to gain speed... and likely to need to pack extra food to make up for the extra calories burned.

4. Weight

With a carbon construction, these bad boys clock in at just 14.8 oz. for the pair. I barely notice I'm holding them, and I've never felt tired from using them. Another bonus - I never hesitate to take them with me. Some friends of mine with heavier models only take one pole at a time, or leave them behind if not strictly necessary to cut down on backpacking weight. These poles are so lightweight that even if I'm not using them, they barely add anything extra to my pack weight.

5. Wrist Straps

When I first got my trekking poles it definitely took me a little while to get used to using them. However, these wrist straps helped me get into the groove much faster than I expected. The wrist straps allow the pole to hang from your wrist, meaning that you don't need to grip very hard and the pole naturally swings forward with your arms as you move. They're so comfortable!

6. Foam Grips

I don't know about you, but when I hike hard I sweat hard. These foam grips absorb the moisture, whereas cork & rubber grips (the other most common) resist moisture and get slippery. I also found that the foam grips are the softest and most comfortable for me. They also happen to be the lightest - bonus points!

CON'S

1. Trail Damage

I've read many places that trekking poles can cause trail damage. From what I've experienced, trekking poles are just as damaging as many other items we take into the backcountry, and their potential destruction completely depends on the person weilding them.

Can you accidentally tear apart bushes or cause trail erosion with your trekking poles? Yes. But can you also do that with your feet? YES!

Like everything else you bring into the wild, be cautious, be aware, and be considerate.

2. Lazy Uphill Posture

You know how when you're walking uphill with a big pack on your bag you can be tempted to lean forward? Well, say hello to the biggest enablers out there! It's so easy to lean on these poles as you go uphill until you're practically horizontal. But don't be tempted! Walking like that is worse in the long run because it requires more energy and shifts the weight of your body and pack away from your legs and into your arms. I definitely find myself guilty of this sometimes, and am create better hiking habits.

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