REI Peak UL Carbon Compact Trekking Poles
By Raymond Estrella
February 05, 2009
Orange County, California, USA
6' 3" (1.91 m)
200 lb (90.70 kg)
I have been backpacking for over 30 years, all over California, and in many of the western states and Minnesota. I hike year-round, and average 500+ miles (800+ km) per year. I have made a move to lightweight gear, and smaller volume packs. I start early and hike hard so as to enjoy the afternoons exploring. I usually take a freestanding tent and enjoy hot meals at night. If not hiking solo I am usually with my wife Jenn or brother-in-law Dave.
Manufacturer: Komperdell for Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI)
Web address: www.rei.com
Product: Peak UL Carbon Compact Trekking Poles
Year of manufacture: 2008
Weight listed: 11.2 oz (318 g)
Actual weight: 12 oz (340 g)
Minimum length: 24 in (61 cm) verified accurate
Maximum length: 49 in (125 cm) verified accurate
The REI Peak UL Carbon Compact Trekking Poles (hereafter referred to as Peak ULs or the poles) are according to REI, "Made for those up to 5'10'' who pursue minimalist backpacking and adventure racing". Well I am 6' 3" and have found these to be just perfect for me.
At the top of the Peak ULs are some pretty comfortable contoured and ergonomically shaped grips. The grips are made of black ultralight EVA foam. They feel as though they would tear easily, but that has not proven to be a concern. Near the top of the grips are black adjustable padded neoprene wrist straps. They are adjustable for length by means of a pull out plug. When the plug is pulled out of the grip the strap can be pulled out, increasing the size of the loop. The inside of the straps have black terry cloth inserts to help with sweat absorption.
To the right is a picture of the grip with the locking plug partially removed.
The shafts are dark grey, almost black. They are actually a clear epoxy coat over the dark carbon fiber cloth. The shafts are marked with metric units on both the upper and lower sections. They have not worn off at all during adjustments. There are some scratches on the lower sections that did go through the markings from banging the poles into rocks. The shafts are adjusted by turning the sections opposite each other, top; clockwise, lower; counter-clockwise, to loosen. Then after sliding sections to the desired length, repeat the process in reverse to tighten. Doing so causes an expanding nut, called DuoLocks by REI, inside the shaft to push against the sides of the shaft, locking it into place. The stops work very well. I could go days without having a pole slip, necessitating a readjustment. With my old poles I would do it a couple of times per day.
Because the shafts are made of carbon fiber they absorb quite a lot of shock by damping vibration caused by striking the ground. I noticed the difference from my two pairs of aluminum poles.
At the end of the Peak UL poles are the tungsten carbide tips that are meant to grab onto hard surfaces to keep the poles from skipping out. They have little teeth as can be seen to the left that really bite into rock.
The poles come with two "vario trekking disks", what I call sand bails. I use them. They help quite a bit in deep sand and very moist soil. They add .2 oz (5.6 g) to the over-all weight. They also came with two plastic tip protectors, which I immediately lost. Here is a shot of Dave and I on the Pacific Crest Trail. Dave has some older Peak UL Compact poles.
These are just some of the trips that I used the Peak UL Compact poles on.
Dave and I went to Fish Creek trailhead and took the Pacific Crest Trail 15 miles (24 km) to the top of a ridge north of the Whitewater River and back. (This met the stopping point of the first hike above.)The temps ranged from 57 to 86 F (14 to 30 C).
Jenn and I went to Limber Pine Bench in the San Gorgonio Wilderness for an overnighter. The trails were fine, dirt and rock, until just above 8500 ft (2590 m) where we started hitting lingering snow. Temps were from 67 F to 40 F (20 to 4 C) with enough wind to keep the mosquitoes away. We had 3680 ft (1122 m) of elevation gain in 6 miles (9.6 km) and a total of 12 miles for the trip (19.2 km).
I used them on a 41-mile (67 km) extreme dayhike on the Pacific Crest Trail through the north-east end of the San Bernardino National Forest and into the Angeles National Forest. This hike had 8600 ft (2621 m) of gain on terrain that ran the gamut of sand, packed dirt, shale, loose rock and even some snow. Temps ran from a chilly 45 F to almost 80 F (7 to 27 C) in weather that went from wet mist (in clouds) to bright, hot sunshine.
I used them on a trip to Round Valley in San Jacinto State Park for an over-night trip with lots of boulder climbing for the children (three nine-year olds). We hiked six miles (10 km) with 300 ft (100 m) of elevation gain and loss. The temperatures ranged from a low of 55 F to a high of 80 F (13 to 27 C).
Next was a two-day trip with Jenn taking the South Fork Trail to a camp site at Lodgepole in the San Bernardino National Forest. This 11 mile round trip hike had 3400 ft (1036 m) of gain and loss. It got up to 83 F and only down to 59 F (28 to 15 C).
Then Dave and I did a tough two-day 11 mi (18 km) trip to the top of Mt San Jacinto by way of the Marion Mountain Trail. I spent the night in Little Round Valley, elevation 9850 ft (3000 m). This rough hike gains over 4400 ft (1341 m) of elevation in 5.5 miles (9 km) in temps that topped 80 F (27 C). The next weekend I took Jenn to the same place, but made a three-day trip out of it, stopping the first day at Little Round Valley where we made a base camp. Temps ranged from 54 to 81 F (12 to 27 C).
Next Dave and I went to do another section of the PCT in the Angeles Forest from Three Points to Little Jimmy campground. It was a 20 mile (32 km) hike with 7000 ft (2135 m) of elevation gain. It was just up-and-down all day in some very hot temps. I forgot my watch but it had to be high 80s F (31 C) or above.
I used them for two days in Yosemite National Park for a very hot and hard 44 miles (71 km) in temps up to 84 F (29 C) with 7790 ft (2374 m) of gain carrying a 36 lb (16.3 kg) pack.
Five days later was a 79 mile (127 km) 3-1/2 day monster hike from Sonora Pass down through the Emigrant Wilderness to Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park. This hike saw 15200 ft (4633 m) of elevation gain with temperatures that ranged from 83 to 43 F (28 to 6 C).
Dave and I went up to the peak of San Gorgonio via the Dollar lake trail as Dave has never been that way. It had rained the day before and they were calling for below-freezing temps so we figured we may see snow or ice. It was 35 F (1.7 C) when we started at an altitude of 6880 ft (2097 m). At the summit it was 31 F (-0.6 C) and the wind chill was registering at 17 F (-8 C). We went 23.2 miles (37 km).
Jenn and I went to the Ortega Candy Store trailhead and did the Bear Canyon/Bear Ridge loop in the San Mateo Wilderness. 6.8 miles (11 km) in temps to about 80 F (27 C) on up and down trails that were either sandy or rocky. We had 1100 ft (335 m) of elevation gain and loss.
Dave and I went 27 miles (43 km) on the PCT from Green Valley to Vasquez Rocks. This hike saw 5000 ft (1524 m) of gain as we went over three passes in temperatures that started at 43 F and climbed to 70 F (6 to 21 C). The terrain was dirt, scree or rock.
I have probably another 50 miles (80 km) of other trips also with them last year. Here is a pic at the Summit Hut at Mt San Jacinto.
As can be seen by my reviews I have been using the regular model REI Peak UL poles for a long time. While on a solo trip I went to look at a favorite camping spot in San Jacinto State park called Upper Chinquapin. (I was camped at Lower Chinquapin at the time.) While going to it I found that a huge pine had fallen during the winter and taken a few smaller trees down with it. The deadfall was very big but I decided to climb over it. While coming down the other side I tripped and fell onto my left side pretty hard. I heard a crack and lay there still for a minute to figure out what it was as my left arm was pinned under me. After ascertaining that no bones were broken I got up to find that my trekking pole had snapped just above the lock. (There is so much deadfall that as of January 2009 the park still has that site closed to all camping.)
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
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On my way home I stopped at REI to see what they could do. They said that where the break was they could not repair it. They did say they would give me most of my original purchase price in a store credit. I took the credit and went straight to the trekking poles where I selected a new pair of Compact ULs.
I went with the compact size this time as I found that I never needed my old poles to go longer than 125 cm (49 in). As this is the longest setting of the compacts I could use them and save a couple ounces (60 g) of weight. Yippee!
Just like my other Peaks these have worked very well. With over 400 miles (644 km) of use this past year they are still like new. The only wear is the tip which is getting a bit smooth.
The carbon fiber shafts are pretty strong. As much of my spring and early summer hiking was on extremely over-grown trails. I used the poles to push brush and branches out of my way quite a lot. They held up very well. I believe that the carbon fiber shafts take much of the shock out of striking the ground while using them.
The carbide tips, when new are very sharp. They stuck to just about everything. The exception was some highly polished rock in Yosemite that they wanted to skip off. The tips are replaceable in the event of breakage or wear. I will get a new set next summer.
The grips are very comfortable and the straps have been improved since my first pair. The grips stay "grippy" even with the prodigious sweating that I do while hiking hard. Only a couple times did they actually get slick. They are not affected by DEET either. Some times I can't rinse off my hands after applying the bug juice, but I have not seen any deterioration of the EVA foam.
But quite easily the best thing about the Peak UL poles is the weight. They are so light I do not mind holding them all day long. I often swing them up in front of me to clear spider webs as I hike and the weight is low enough to not bother my wrist.
My wife liked the light weight of them so much that she wanted to confiscate them for herself. So I gave her a pair for her birthday. Watch for her review later this year…
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Read more gear reviews by Ray Estrella