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Reviews > Trekking Poles > Poles > Mountainsmith Carbonlite ProTrekking > Test Report by Derek Hansen

Mountainsmith Carbonlite Pro Trekking Poles

Test Series by Derek Hansen

Mountainsmith Carbonlite Pro Trekking Poles

Photo courtesy mountainsmith.com

TESTER INFORMATION

Me
NameDerek Hansen
Age32
GenderMale
Height5' 10" (1.78 m)
Weight165 lb (75 kg)
Email Address derek·dot·hansen·at·mac (without cheese)·dot·com
City, State, CountryFlagstaff, Arizona, USA

BACKPACKING BACKGROUND

I began serious backpacking in 2005 after becoming a Scoutmaster for a local Boy Scout troop in Virginia. Our new troop started off base camping and now we integrate hiking and backpacking into all our trips. I’m out backpacking at least once every month throughout the year, plus a few personal adventures in-between with family or friends. I am a lightweight backpacker, with a weekend weight of 15 lb (7 kg) and use a hammock year-round.


PRODUCT INFORMATION

Manufacturer Mountainsmith
Year of Manufacture 2008
Country of Origin China
Manufacturer’s Website Mountainsmith.com
MSRP US$99.00
Listed Weight 1 lb 2 oz (0.51 kg)
Measured Weight 1 lb 5.4 oz (0.61 kg) both poles with tips and baskets; 1 lb 3.5 oz (0.54 kg) both poles with no tips or baskets
Manufacturer Recommendations Ideal for long days on the trail. Comfortable cork grips, anti-shock absorption system, removable baskets, rubber boot tips as well as carbide tips provide exceptional traction
Listed Dimensions Compact | Extended: 26 in (66 cm) | 54 in (137 cm)
Measured Dimensions Compact | Extended: 27.5 in (70 cm) | 58.5 in (149 cm)
Color Black with silver highlights; cork grips
Material Three section carbon and 6061 aluminum poles; cork grips; neoprene wrist straps; carbide tips; rubber tip covers


INITIAL REPORT

4 Mar 2009

PRODUCT DESCRIPTION

Poles with tape measure

The Mountainsmith Carbonlite Pro Trekking Poles are extendible poles made of carbon-wrapped aluminum. Each pole has three sections and between each section is a plastic stopper. Each pole has an anti-shock mechanism that acts as a kind of spring inside the pole.

The black poles have a silver design painted on the outside with the Mountainsmith logo on the side. The rubberized plastic basket screws onto the bottom of the pole and a rubber cover conceals the carbide tips on the end of the pole. The grips are made of cork and have nylon webbing straps that connect to neoprene wrist straps. Each wrist strap is adjustable with a unique stopper that can embed into the cork handle.

The lower pole section has the word “STOP” printed to indicate how far the section can be extended. The middle section has measurement ticks with inch (2.5 cm) marks from 47 to 57 (119 to 145 cm) indicating approximately how tall the pole will be once extended.

SET UP

Strap

The poles came wrapped in plastic in good condition. The rubber baskets were attached to the neoprene wrist straps and had to be removed so I could place them on the ends of the poles. The wrist straps have a unique adjustment system where the nylon webbing is fed into the cork handle and has a plastic stopper to hold the adjustment into place. Tension on the webbing keeps the stopper in place. Adjustment is a little finicky and requires pulling on the right webbing strap in order to get a fit.

Baskets

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

I was impressed by how tall the poles extended. By placing each section at its maximum safe distance (just before the “STOP” and “LIMIT” markers) extends the pole to over 58 in (147 cm). While this height is too high for my hiking, it will be great for holding up my tarp shelter.

The poles are adjusted by twisting the lower sections counterclockwise to loosen; clockwise to tighten. The middle section has arrow graphics with the words “LOCK” and “UNLOCK” to indicate which direction to turn the section. However, the top section (where the grip is located) has the words “OPEN” and “CLOSE” printed just above the plastic stopper. The “OPEN” indicator points clockwise and the “CLOSE” indicator points counterclockwise. This doesn’t make much sense to me because to either open or close the pole you need to loosen the section, which would both be in the counterclockwise direction. I will investigate this further during my test.

Spring

I loosened one pole to remove the middle section and examined the spring. The mechanism is made of a few plastic rings that compress when tightened to ensure the section stays in place once adjusted. Only the middle section has the “anti-shock” spring.

Tip

The rubber tip fits tightly over the carbide tip and I hope that it will stay on while hiking. The carbide tip extends about 0.125 in (3.2 mm) off the end and has rigid “teeth” on the bottom.

The molded cork handle is very stiff and has a slight “waxy” feel to the touch. My hand fits fairly well over the moulded finger placements, but it isn’t a “perfect” fit, per se. I really like the feel of the neoprene wrist strap. The material is very comfortable and I can adjust the strap to my desired snugness.

REMARKS

The poles feel very strong and sturdy and I am confident they will perform well. I really like the wrist grip and I am pleased with how long the poles extend while still feeling sturdy. I am not really impressed with the weight of the poles, despite the “Carbonlite” title.

This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be appended to this report in about two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for more information.

I would like to thank Mountainsmith and BackpackGearTest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test this product.


FIELD REPORT

18 May 2009

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

March 27-28 - Arizona Trail, Coconino National Forest. I took my daughter on a section hike of the Arizona Trail, but we only hiked about two miles (3 km) before it got too dark. That night we experienced a low of 19 F (-7 C) and a high of 50 F (10 C) the next day one this four-mile (6 km) trip.

April 17-18 - Arizona Trail, Coconino National Forest. My desire whetted after hiking the Arizona Trail with my daughter, I wanted to hike a longer section solo. With just a short overnight allowed, I completed a 12-mile (19 km) section that took me past Walnut Canyon and into the Flagstaff Lake country. The overnight low was 34 F (1 C), and the high the next day was sunny and 70 F (21 C).

April 24-25 - T-Six Mountain, Coconino National Forest. Having taken my daughter hiking, I had to take my son next (to be fair). For this trip, we chose to go explore some Forest Service roads near Sedona, Arizona. We hiked a short distance and made our camp in a sheltered ponderosa pine enclave. The low was 38 F (3 C) with a high of 58 F (14 C).

May 15-16 - Upper Pumphouse Wash, Coconino National Forest. I took my oldest sons (6-year-old and 3-year-old) on a Father and Sons outing with some friends. Although the event was in the national forest, we were able to literally “car camp” and drive on forest roads very near where we wanted to camp. I packed most everything for the three of us in my pack, except our food and my son’s bulky sleeping bags. The overnight low was 36 F (2 C), and the high the next day was 78 F (26 C). We did some day hiking in the canyon on Saturday.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Carbonlite poles have been an interesting pair of companions during this testing period. I am very happy with how long the poles extend, which has allowed me to set up my tarp shelters with ease. I’ve kept the rubber tips and baskets on the poles on all my trips so far. I have used the poles in all but my last adventure in May, and in that experience, my two sons used the poles for our day hike.

Trekking pole as tent pole

After a day of hiking, I continued to use a Carbonlite pole to pitch my tarp shelter.

While hiking with my daughter, I used the poles as we navigated the Arizona (AZ) Trail. I like how the wrist straps fit around my hands, and while wearing thin glove liners, I didn’t notice any pressure points. The grips fit well and are large but comfortable. That night, I used one of the poles to pitch a modified A-frame with my tarp.

On my solo section hike on the AZ Trail, I packed my normal gear list and slept in a hammock. In a deal with my wife, I promised to hike quickly the next day to meet her at the end of the trail section so I could take care of the kids. I was hiking briskly and using the trekking poles to launch me forward on the flat terrain, balance me as I descended into the canyon, and give me traction hiking back up. At times, I stored the poles on my backpacking using the Stow-on-the-Go attachments. The twisting mechanism works okay to shorten/lengthen the poles, but it was sometimes difficult to loosen if the twist was too tight. On one pole, one of the section plastic caps has loosened and twists easily.

I’ve tried using the anti-shock mechanism on this hike, but I really didn’t notice it helped me much until I went down hills. I could feel a slight spring in the pole, but I really had to press hard to get any flex from this system.

One thing that frustrated me about the poles is that the baskets easily loosen. I noticed this a few times while hiking, but primarily when I would lengthen or shorten the poles when I stored them on my pack. I had to twist on the basket twice along the trail and I wondered if it was grazing my pant leg and rubbing loose while I hiked. After hiking around a bend, I noticed the basket AND the rubber tip on one pole were gone. I backtracked the trail for a while trying to find them, but realized they were lost to me. It was a frustrating experience.

Pole with origami tent

The Carbonlite worked great with this origami tent too. I could raise the pole up high enough to get ample ventilation around the tent.

When I camped with my son, I again used one pole to hold up my origami shelter. The poles work great as a multi-use item. And when I took my two oldest sons on an overnight Father and Sons trip, I loaned them the trekking poles to give them some extra stability as we hiked into the Pumphouse Wash and canyon. The poles easily contracted to a size that fit my young sons and they had a blast using them to tromp through the pine duff.

Boys using the Carbonlite

The Carbonlite poles shortened well-enough for my sons to use them as we hiked in the Pumphouse canyon.

StickPic Photo

This self portrait was taken with a (modified) StickPic #5 attached to a Carbonlite pole.

I pushed the Carbonlite a little further by purchasing a StickPic, so I could take better self portraits using the trekking pole as an arm extender. The Carbonlite is not listed (yet) as a supported pole by StickPic, but they did send me a sizer to see which StickPic would work best. According to the sizer, the Carbonlite fits a #5 StickPic, but I had to sand the StickPic a little in order to get it to fit. The Carbonlite also fits a #3 StickPic, but I had to wrap some tape around the tip in order to get a snug fit. Suffice it to say, I was very pleased with Rod and the StickPic team who worked very hard with me to find the right fit for these poles. The problem is that the Carbonlite has a different taper on the pole tips than most other poles.

CUSTOMER SERVICE

After I lost the basket and rubber tip to one of the poles, I searched for replacement parts. I couldn’t find anything on the Mountainsmith website and finally wrote an email to their customer service. I wrote asking where I could purchase replacement parts and they replied:

We need your address and we can send another set out to you.

That email was sent April 27, but I am still awaiting any package or information about purchasing the spare parts.

FIELD USE SUMMARY

The Carbonlite poles have worked fairly well. I like how long the poles extend and how I can use them in multiple ways in the field. I have to be careful how I tighten the twist-lock because it has been hard to loosen at times. I am disappointed in how easily the basket and rubber tip came off one of the poles and I was curious to find that the manufacturer did not list any replacement parts on their website.


LONG TERM REPORT

14 Jul 2009

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Besides numerous day hikes, I took the Carbonlite poles on the following backpacking trips:

19-20 June: Anderson Mesa, Arizona Trail, Flagstaff, Arizona. High: 66 F (19 C) Low: 39 F (4 C). Short 4-mile (6.4 km) overnight trip with my kids.

30 June: Upper Pumphouse Wash, Flagstaff, Arizona. Pack weight: 15 lb (7 kg). My plans changed en-route, so my desire of a mid-week overnighter turned into a long day hike. The weather was wonderful and the wash is amazing.

3-4 July: Kalalau Trail, Na Pali Coast, Kaua'i, Hawai'i. Pack weight: 10 lb (5 kg). My wife joined me for an amazing backpacking trip on the famed Kalalau Trial on Kaua'i. We both packed light since we didn’t need sleeping bags, a bear canister, extra clothing, or lots of water. We shared the Carbonlite poles to save pack space and weight.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

Using the poles on a day hike

Using the poles on a day hike with family. Seen here, I am attaching my camera to the pole using a StickPic adapter.

I’ve really enjoyed taking the poles with me on my day hikes with family. I have numerous trails just outside my home that offer miles of deep Ponderosa forest adventure. I’ve often shared one pole with a child or relative to show them how they help while hiking.

On my backpacking trip across the Anderson Mesa, I took my three oldest kids with me. We had hiked about 20 ft (6 m) when one pole slipped apart. I was holding one end and the other was stuck in a dirt crack. I noticed the connector was missing and my kids helped me search for about 10 minutes before we gave up. I was frustrated in losing the connector because the pole would not go back together. I was worried the piece was forever lost. Being only a few feet away from our car, I put one pole back in the vehicle and continued our hike.

The Anderson Mesa is very, very rocky. After about a mile into the trail, the tip of my other pole struck a lava rock and snapped off. I was shocked! Two pole failures in less than a mile! I searched in vain for the carbide tip and had to give up to make it to our camping spot before sunset.

The missing carbide tip

At camp, I took this photo, showing the fractured end and missing carbide tip.

One section came unglued.

One of the pole sections came un-glued, making it impossible to keep the pole together. A little super glue fixed the problem.

Back home, I looked inside the detached pole and found that the connector piece was jammed high inside the pole. Thankfully, I was able to get it out using the other end of the pole and using a slight twist. I was surprised the twist connector had come un-glued! I was relieved to know the piece wasn’t lost in the woods, but was surprised that this part failed. I remember adjusting and tightening each pole before we started hiking, but I don’t think I over-tightened it. I considered calling customer support, but since I still haven’t heard back about the replacement baskets and rubber tips, I decided I’d better glue this piece myself if I planned on getting any more use out of it before the test period expired.

My big adventure during this period was a backpacking trek on the archipelago of Hawai’i. My wife and I flew to the island of Kaua’i to hike the famed Kalalau Trial on the Na Pali coast. I had to pack the poles in checked luggage, of course, but they made the trip fine. I shared one pole with my wife and asked her thoughts as we hiked. It was a little humid on the trail, but not as much as we expected. Both my wife and I noticed that the cork handles worked great at keeping the moisture controlled on the grips.

The poles in use on the Kalalau Trail, Kauai

A. Sharing the poles with my son on a day hike on Elden Mountain. The poles adjusted nicely for both of us. B. The poles in use on the Kalalau Trial, Kaua'i. C. Lounging at our camp site on the Kalalau Trial. The Carbonlite poles can be seen in the lower left corner.

Without any instruction, my wife silently figured out the adjustable strap and was ready to go. The hike was absolutely amazing and the poles worked great, even though one pole was missing a tip.

FINAL SUMMARY

The poles have worked well, especially the cork grips, which are really comfortable and do a great job at managing moisture. I’ve never had to wipe my hands or the grips due to moisture.

I’m not a huge fan of the twist-lock sections. Besides a total failure of one section coming un-glued, I’ve also had the poles slide down if they weren’t tight enough, or for some other reason (moisture perhaps?). I’m also a little disappointed that the carbide tip broke off one pole. I wasn’t doing any vigorous hiking; the Anderson Mesa is almost completely flat, although it is very rocky. I guess I just caught the tip in the right place.

I’m also disappointed in the customer service. I’ve sent multiple messages about the replacement baskets and was given a reply and a promise to send a package, but as of today, I’ve received nothing, nor have I received any replies to my additional inquiries.

ROSES

  • Comfortable, moisture-controlling grips.
  • Tall, adjustable height (great for pitching tarps and sharing with my kids).
  • Comfortable, adjustable wrist straps.

THORNS

  • Manufacturing concerns (shaft pulling apart).
  • Unreliable customer support.

I would like to thank Mountainsmith and BackpackGearTest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test this product.



Read more reviews of Mountainsmith gear
Read more gear reviews by Derek Hansen

Reviews > Trekking Poles > Poles > Mountainsmith Carbonlite ProTrekking > Test Report by Derek Hansen



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