We first started using walking poles on a multi-day trek around the Torres Del Paine Mountains in Patagonia in 2006. Since then they have been a regular part of our walking equipment and are used most times we are out. They provide particular benefits on long day walks, multi-day walks with heavier bags and on rough ground. I find that walking poles are invaluable when carrying our son, as they provide extra stability; you can guarantee that the moment you need good balance is the moment your child will move in the carrier!
Walking poles give you a significant advantage, both providing stability, reducing the chance of a fall, and also reducing the load on your lower body by 30-50%. This is a really large reduction in the load on your legs, meaning you can go further more comfortably using poles than not.
Over the past 10 years we have both had three pairs of poles. We started with long, but very effective two section poles. These were pretty much all we could buy in Chile at the time, and were strong and easy to use with good handles, but a pain to transport.
About 5 years ago we went on another trekking trip, based around Tierra del Fuego at the base of South America. We decided to upgrade poles to compact 3 and 4 section poles to make packing easier. We decided to get budget poles, which was a major mistake. By the end of the trip we were down to 2 functioning poles, carrying an assortment of broken bits, having slowly sacrificed every single spare part, and spare section we could from the different pairs to keep sets working. We learnt our lesson: going too cheap really doesn’t pay in any way.
Last year we saw that Alpkit had their carbon poles, the Carbonlite Ultra (£45 per pair) back in stock. We have a range of Alpkit equipment, from their head torches and lanterns to their sleeping bags and have always found the quality and customer service to be outstanding, matching that of significantly more costly brands. We decided to treat ourselves to an upgrade! Here are our thoughts on them.
First the Carbonlite Ultra is really a very light pole – 136g per pole. This is amongst the lightest poles available anywhere. The light weight is great, as one of the main causes of fatigue when using poles is wrist tiredness caused by the swing weight of the poles. The lighter the better in terms of minimising this.
The pole design itself is simple, based on the well proven ‘twist lock’ tightening mechanism between each of the three sections. Its length ranges from 63cm fully collapsed to 134cm at maximum length. We typically use them at about 105cm length, with the bottom section fully extended to minimise swing weight.
Despite the light weight they are still very strong, with a 35kg strap bearing capacity. The handle is made out of compact EVA foam, so is very light and pretty soft on your hands. It is also relatively slim in diameter, which is great for us as it matches our hand size well – too large a handle is tiring for your grip muscles.
We have now used these extensively and they are showing few signs of wear. The worst of the wear is some scratching on the sections where a bit of grit got into the joints – regular maintenance would help reduce this. We have tripped and caught ourselves on these poles, got them stuck between rocks and bashed them against boulders, but they have remained solid and strong – a testament to their good build quality despite their light weight.
Overall, these poles are not the cheapest on the market, but for the combination of low weight, compact collapsed size and handle comfort we highly recommend these walking poles to everyone.
Disclaimer: This review is our own thoughts on gear that we have purchased ourselves.