Owner Review Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 trekking poles Lori
Here is my first attempt at a review. :) If I don't stop nitpicking it I just won't post it at all...
GOSSAMER GEAR LIGHTREK 4 TREKKING POLES
By Lori Pontious
July 14, 2010
NAME: Lori Pontious
LOCATION: Fresno County
HEIGHT: 5' 7" (1.7 m)
WEIGHT: 165 lb (75 kg)
I backpacked, camped and fished all over the lower 48 states with my family as a kid, and then life happened. I restarted these activities about four years ago - I dayhike or backpack in California coastal ranges or the Sierra Nevada, 2-6 times a month. I am between light and ultralight. I have a hammock system and own a Tarptent. I am a side sleeper and typically use a NeoAir on the ground. My base weight depends upon season and where I go.
Manufacturer: Gossamer Gear
Manufacturer URL: www.gossamergear.com
Year of purchase: 2009
Pole materials: Carbon Fiber, imitation cork (EVA Kork-o-lon) handles
Listed Weight: 3.4 oz each (96 g)
Measured Weight: 3.4 oz each (96 g)
Length, collapsed: 33 inches (83 cm)
Length, max: 52 inches (132 cm
MSRP: US $160.00
The Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 trekking poles (hereinafter the Lightreks or poles) were a purchase I made after much consideration of various brands and types of locks. I already had other Gossamer Gear merchandise, and already had a favorable opinion of the company as a result. I ordered in early spring of 2009 and quickly received the poles in the mail.
When the poles arrived in the sturdy cardboard tube, I was impressed by the weight difference between my prior aluminum set of poles and the Lightreks. I got the poles in matte black; the other color choice was Khyber camo. The spiral wrap to reinforce the carbon fiber is noticeable on the bottom section of each pole. The 6 inch (15.2 cm) grips fit comfortably in my hands, though they are larger in diameter than those on my previous poles. Along with the poles came a small bag of what appeared to be spare bits - gaskets, I think. The poles collapse to 33 inches (84 cm). They can be extended and locked all the way out, to 52 inches (132 cm), to the point that the rubber cylinder that expands to form the lock is nearly at the edge of the top section; while I would not expect them to support weight at this length it can be handy for extending my reach to push or lift some small item from a precarious place. Also in the packing tube were the baskets, which I put on with some force required to get them in place against the lip on the pole tip.
The twist locks are unlike others I have examined. Upon initial examination I was somewhat disbelieving -- could it really be as simple as a rubber tube on a screw? Apparently it can be. The rubber cylinder screws down against the pole end and expands to lock the sections in place.
The logo of Gossamer Gear was painted on the top section, which came in handy as people would ask me about the poles, pick them up, and exclaim in surprise then ask where I got them and carefully copy down the company name. There are small orange Spectra loops at the bases of the handle - I initially thought for the usual wide wrist straps but really for a loop of cord so I won't have to worry about dropping and losing the pole.
My initial concerns were durability and the lack of straps. I've heard many stories of carbon fiber poles shattering or splintering. Also, the proper use of Nordic trekking poles practically mandates straps of adequate width for supporting the wrists, and this was how I used my previous pair of poles. (Note: Later in the year straps were made available for Lightrek 4 poles; I considered retrofitting but did not do so, more on this later.)
I hike mainly in the Sierra Nevada, sometimes on the California Coast or in lower elevation parks and wilderness areas within the interior ranges of California, such as Henry Coe State Park or Pinnacles National Monument. I have been doing a lot of trail hiking but in some areas (Ventana Wilderness is a good example) the trail conditions vary greatly and I may be facing a wade through vegetation or a climb over (or crawl under) a downed tree. I frequently carry a bear canister due to the habituated bear problems in the Sierra, especially in National Parks. I have been participating in our local search and rescue team and this takes me off trail, sometimes crawling through deadfall, avalanche chutes, or dense manzanita and buck brush. My leisure backpacking outings take me from low to mid elevation trailheads over high passes (10,000 feet and higher), through forested, subalpine and alpine terrain. If I use a piece of gear it gets a workout - I am not intentionally rough on things, but I try to find things that will survive my klutzy tendencies.
Since their purchase the Lightreks have gone out with me nearly every time I hiked. I am part of a large hiking group and frequently dayhike and backpack with friends from that group. My usual activity level results in between 8-25 miles/week (12.88 - 40.25 km/week), either dayhiking or backpacking, with the exception of December 2009, when I was ill for most of the month.
I hammock with a caternary cut tarp and have used the Lightreks to set up the tarp in a more open awning style; the twist lock mechanism and the poles themselves have stood up to some taut pitches of the tarp in this fashion, and also to the tarp pitched as a ground shelter. In one instance, over the Fourth of July weekend in 2009, this led to marmots chewing on the handles. Gossamer Gear replaced them for free, which was above and beyond -- I fully expected to pay for new handles. Since this incident I have taken to dunking the handles in streams, to wash off accumulated sweat (salt) that animals might want to chew at, in hopes of avoiding another handle replacement.
Upon receiving the poles with new handles I discovered that one of the twist locks began to fail - turn and turn, no lock. With a previous set of poles this was a big problem; once the twist lock failed, I could not find a way to fix it or to find someone at the manufacturer to call or email about the issue. With Gossamer Gear, my email was returned on the same day, and after some discussion of the symptoms, a new lower pole section was mailed to me. I was also informed that if the pole fails to lock, one can pull the sections apart and roll the rubber stopper down the screw on the end of the lower section to facilitate the locking of the pole. This worked consistently while the new pole section was in the mail and allowed me to take the poles dayhiking on schedule.
In late 2009 I acquired an ultralight tent that can be set up with trekking poles, and have used the Lightreks on backpacking outings in January, March, April and May 2010 for trips of 1-3 nights with this tent. Again, the poles held up to a nice taut pitch very well without slippage.
These poles have been put in the trunk or the floorboard of my car, under or alongside full packs and bags. Perhaps I should have put them in the travel tube. They held up to this treatment anyway -- I did pay attention and try to put them to the side of heavy objects rather than under them, but the travel tube remained in the closet unused, since I would run out the door with pack and poles and forget the tube existed. Infrequently I strapped the poles on the pack for a hands-and-feet scramble. On occasion after piling into the bed of a pickup for a ride I have intentionally weighted them down with my pack to avoid losing them.
I've probably put a cumulative total of 150+ miles on the Lightreks, with countless "saves" when a rock or stick rolled out from under my foot, plus the creek crossings and precarious deadfall-dodgings they have helped me through. I have discovered that a gust of wind can practically snatch them away and that a really deep and fast creek makes them difficult to plant firmly -- they do indeed float. To avoid the unpleasantness of losing one mid-hike, I fashioned closed end loops of some hollow core line left over from a guyline project and threaded them through the Spectra loops at the base of the handle, so I can keep them attached to my wrist even if they fall out of my hands.
I found out, soon after starting to use the Lightreks, that I did not miss the wrist straps in the slightest. I am able to move the poles around in my hands rather than stop to shorten or lengthen them, grabbing at the bottom of the handles going uphill or palming the top on a steep downhill. I frequently forget that they are there and use them as if I were truly four-legged. Rather than constantly applying a "death grip" as I swing them, I am able to lightly hold them and place pressure on the handle as the carbide tip strikes the ground so the weight transfers to the pole.
In talking to other hikers about trekking poles, I was surprised to learn, months after I first began to use the Lightreks, that carbon fiber poles have a reputation for a lot of vibration. My only prior experience with poles was with aluminum, and I had no idea that carbon fiber trekking poles were supposed to vibrate. I don't believe the Lightreks vibrate any more than the aluminum poles I used before.
When I began to volunteer with Search and Rescue, the Lightreks went out with me initially. Since this is rough cross country work and not trail hiking, I was concerned again for the durability of the poles, even though they have taken my weight many times before. The poles have gone out on four trainings so far and survived with scratches but no fractures or breaks. They held up through an unexpected traverse/climb up a near-vertical slope covered with a deep bed of dry pine needles; I had them collapsed completely and planted them hard with each swing of the arm, using them to haul my 200 pounds (90.7 kilograms) of combined body and pack weight straight up the slope, praying every moment that I wouldn't lose footing and slide down the half mile (0.8 km) of slope I was trying to climb, bouncing off pine trees like a pinball. (I made it to the top unscathed.)
I am switching to a single metal pole for SAR work after the Lightreks aided me in my vertical climb, because I do not want to continue to overstress the carbon fiber and beat up my favorite poles unnecessarily. I value them too much for leisure backpacking and have a cheaper metal pole to abuse. But it made it clear to me that these are some pretty tough poles.
I have worn most of the painted on logo off the top section on both poles. I love these poles. I don't expect them to last forever and I do expect that I will replace them with another pair of Lightreks some day. Between the customer service and the performance of the poles themselves, I have been quite a happy Lightrek 4 user.
Grippy cork handles
Excellent customer service/support
Long extension and adjustability = good shelter support poles
Locking mechanism holds under pressure
So light you just might lose them in a high wind or swift stream, if you aren't careful.
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