Thursday, May 28, 2009

Gossamer Gear Lightrek 3 Hiking Poles - initial review

I recently received a pair of Lightrek 3 trekking poles from Gossamer Gear. I put them to their first test last weekend in Michigan's Porcupines Wilderness State Park in the Upper Peninsula. Here's my initial impression after putting approximately 30+ miles of up-and-down terrain on them.

They are a color-test and are not identical; both are a dark blue. The coloring patterns are different, but only upon close inspection. Both have reinforced spiraling from the top of the plastic tip upward on the pole 10.25 inches. The handles are made of EVA Kork-o-Lon foam, which is a sturdy foam with just enough give to cushion tight squeezes.

But their weight is what makes them spectacular - without baskets, they are 2.7 oz per pole. And this is even 0.3 oz above the specs for the current models. They feel like nothing in your hands and do not generate shoulder or forearm fatigue, unlike other heavier models - ahem, my BD Spires, at 10.22 oz/pole (290 g). The LT3s are a full 2 oz lighter than their nearest competitor, Stix from BPL (mine are 4.75 oz per pole at 115 cm).

Previously, I had used straps with poles. With these poles, I extended the poles ahead of me when walking downhill, and put my weight on the straps. I did the same on uphills, and generally only held the poles with my first two fingers and my thumb.

With the LT3s, this was not possible. I experimented with numerous grip combinations over the three trekking days and multiple ups and downs. Like many poles, the grips have three nubs: one at the bottom, one at the top, and one about 2.5" below the top of the pole (not all of that length is usable) . The middle nub is 3" of usable length from the bottom nub. My grips included: placing one or two fingers above the middle grip, everything else below and thumb around; same as the first, but with thumbs on top of the handle; and placing all my fingers around between the middle and bottom grip, thumb around. The photo shows the last grip.

This last grip worked the best. I could squeeze the grip and my hands would not move up or down the pole. I could plant the pole in front of me on downhills, and the effective shortening of the pole allowed me to plant the pole high on uphills. I occasionally changed from this grip, but this was my main grip.

I underestimated the value of free hands when using poles with straps; now strapless, I realize the benefits of strapless poles. The LT3s are easy to deploy to my hands, easy to set down and pick up. I can place both poles under an arm, grab a camera, bottle, bag of food, etc. Also, I can easily drop the pole if it gets stuck in a rock, root or mud.

I also used the poles for the ridges poles for my tarp, a CatTarp 2 from OwareUSA. To facilitate setting up, I added a single round of duct tape to each pole. The guyline, a length of EZC from GossamerGear, was wrapped the tape once and then went to a stake. A triangular line tensioner from GossamerGear was also used on each guyline (ridges included). The top of the round is approximately 4.5" from the bottom of the foam grip.

The poles held up well when used as such. I put plenty of stress on the ridgelines, enough for a drum-tight sound to emanate from the guylines when they were plucked. I noticed no compression the poles underneath the duct tape. I did not experience high winds, however.

In future testing, I plan on using the LT3s as poles for my CatTarp and my poncho/tarp, hopefully in inclement conditions such that more stress will be put on the poles (guylines and tensioners, too).

1 comment:

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