Cool zippers, new waterproofing, etc... sometimes it's easy to get lost in all the hype (over-spending happens on features). Our guide focuses on the fundamental factors you should always keep in mind (thus, this short list is similar across all items). Then only at the end do we have some questions to get you thinking about other minor features.
One of life's certainties is the trade-off between price & quality. This creates an inherently unfair situation. If you save money today by buying something lower end, you'll end up replacing it more frequently, spending money & time each instance so that at the end, you probably haven't actually saved anything. On the other hand, if you decide to invest in something higher end, you'll need a lot more upfront money, and you need to be able to use the item frequently enough to make it worthwhile.
We developed our rental program to address this unfairness. We don't sell lower end items. But for our higher end items, we offer them for rent at up to 90% off retail price, generally well below the cost of buying even the cheaper option. That's a win-win!
It may seem like the price & quality trade-off is disappearing, because you can find a cheap version of almost anything for tens of dollars that still has good reviews (assuming the reviews are real). Remember 2 things:
- Many reviews are written after only a trial use, first use, or infrequent use: We've seen entire review videos of gear done at home, which is very different than actually being outdoors!
- The point of gear is to give you a good experience because you've already spent money to be on vacation from work! Don't let quality issues affect your relaxation
For gear specifically, the quality issues center around performance & durability.
- The poles weren't very durable: Adjustable poles especially have a lot of mechanical pieces that may break or get stuck, leaving you unable to adjust the pole length. Lower end poles may also use thinner aluminum which can bend more easily
Maybe you are the average person that goes 1-2 times per year, you don't mind the hassle of replacing gear that doesn't last, and you also don't care about the performance differences. Then use our borrow program & get free gear where available! Or for a little more, use our rental program.
Methodology notes on prices shown on this page
Weight & Size (Compactness) for Backpacking
If you're thru-hiking 20+ miles (32+km) per day, every advantage counts! In this case, size refers to compactness. You can carry more gear in the same size backpack if all of it is very compact, or for more weight savings, you can get a smaller size pack.
With poles there's an important material trade-off
- Carbon fiber is used when weight is important. But it shatters upon severe impact, becoming completly unusable
- Aluminum is used in most other cases. Upon severe impact, it may only bend, depending on the degree of the bend, it may still be usable
For many backpackers, the other major weight savings is that trekking poles can be used to set up an ultralight tarp tent. Another strategy to save weight (but also get less stability & balance benefits) is just to bring 1 pole! (This is often called a walking staff.) This basically is the same product: many trekking poles can be sold individually, at half the cost.
Set of 2
|Effect on other factors
||Less technical material (aluminum)
||More technical material (carbon fiber)
|Price difference not so extreme high end regular poles have more features for more technical environments (e.g., alpine uses)
Why we do/don't carry it
= we rent
= we sell
Standard for most outdoor uses
|There may be issues with durability
Minor features that may be important
Here, we give you a list of questions to start thinking about minor features. We hope our approach of savings these features for last gets you to more critically think about what you need & not get caught up in the hype of what's cool and over-spend your budget.
- What is the grip material? (Cork is the most moisture wicking & ergonomic; Foam is the softest; Rubber is the most insulating & best for winter)
- Do you want fixed length (doesn't collapse down) or adjustable length (does collapse down)?
- If adjustable length, what kind of collapsing mechanism? (Most people don't prefer twist mechanisms, and want a flip lock of some kind)
- Can you add powder baskets to convert these to snowshoe poles (or, in a tight pinch, skiing poles)?
- Does it have shock absorption technology?