Welcome! Ultralight backpacking is my passion, and keeping up on new technologies, gear, and techniques relevant to UL backpacking is what floats my boat. I'm always looking for the lightest, most functional gear to improve a lightweight or ultralight backpacking kit, and report my impressions and field testing results here. For hikers wanting to keep up on the latest and greatest ultralight backpacking gear, this is a good place to hang out. Also, there is a lot of information here (and on our informational website Southwest Ultralight Backpacking) on useful techniques and backcountry etiquette -- food for thought for hikers wanting to lighten their load and their impacts.

My goal for Ultralight Insights is to understand, test, and report on new technologies and gear of interest to lightweight and ultralight backpackers. It's a passion after all, so we just plain enjoy talking about it. I hope readers will add their own wisdom and comments, respond to my questions, ask their own questions, and correct me if I get something wrong. Happy hiking! Will

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Little Known Secret of the Gossamer Gear LT-4 Trekking Poles: Combine Two Poles to Create One Long Pole to Support a Pyramid-Type Shelter.

By Will Rietveld

Pyramid (Mid) shelters require a center support pole that is taller than most trekking poles. So, how do you come up with a tall pole without carrying extra weight? Common solutions are: 1) purchase a “pole jack” to extend the length of a trekking pole, 2) purchase a dedicated pole for that purpose, 3) lash two trekking poles together, or 4) use a ski or onsite tree branch. Most of these options require extra materials and time, and they are difficult to adjust to the exact height needed.

There’s an easier way, if you have a pair of Gossamer Gear LT-4 adjustable trekking poles. You can pull the tip section from one pole and connect it to the other pole, creating a long and adjustable tent pole.

Before I go any further, I want to acknowledge that this idea originated from Dan Durston, a Backpacking Light subscriber, who posted it on the BPL Gear forum. There have been frequent discussions on this topic, and I believe Dan’s idea is the best solution because you do not have to take any extra parts with you (well almost none), it’s fast, and it’s easily adjustable. Herein I report my experience with the method, including a few small embellishments.

The following sequence shows how it’s done.

Remove the circular plug from the top of one of the trekking poles. A thin/narrow screwdriver or knife blade works well. Also cut through the thin tape below the plug, to access the carbon fiber tube below.
Remove the tip end from the other pole and insert the end with the adjusting mechanism into the grip hole you created. Slide the pole down a ways to provide good overlap, then twist the section clockwise to tighten it. Place a plastic tip guard (these come with many conventional trekking poles, and are available at outdoor stores) over the tip of the inserted pole.

A plastic tip guard fits snugly over the pole section's sharp carbide tip; this end goes into the cone at the top of the Mid, so the tip guard is needed to protect the shelter.

After staking out the corners of your pyramid shelter, go inside and raise the shelter with the center pole; the end with the tip guard goes into the cone at the top of the shelter. With the pole’s adjustment loosened, press the bottom tip into the ground, then push up on the pole to tension the shelter while twisting the lower section to lock the pole.
In my opinion, this is an elegant solution for creating a tall center pole for supporting a pyramid shelter. The result is a quick, sturdy, height adjustable center pole to support your Mid, and you don't need to carry any extra weight (except for the plastic tip guard).

Some comments and suggestions:

  1. Be sure to save the cork plug and replace it after you re-assemble your trekking poles. This keeps debris and water out of the pole, which could impair the adjusting mechanism.
  2. Be sure there is good overlap in the pole sections for maximum strength.
  3. If you will be day hiking from camp, it's easy to collapse your shelter and use your trekking poles. It's quick and easy to assemble/disassemble the extended pole.
  4. I don't know if this technique works on other brands of adjustable trekking poles; if you find it works with other poles, post your experience in the comments section.


  1. I was unaware you kept a blog, Will. Thanks to the GG newsletter for pointing me this way. And thanks to Dan for giving you this good idea for an alternate 'mid pole solution.

  2. A more general solution that works for all poles was the Black Diamond Pole Link Converter I have: http://www.sunnysports.com/p-bkdolc/black-diamond-pole-link-converter It looks like it's no longer made It would be pretty easy to copy and make your own. But mostly I tie Spectra cord between 2 trees and hang my Golite Shangri-la 3 tent from it. The Golite is 6-sided (11-sided if you use the extra tie-outs) instead of 4-sided like the better-known Black Diamond Megamid series, and so sheds wind much better. I've gone through at least half a dozen 50-mph 4" hailstorms at 11,500' with it.

  3. Hey great suggestion - I do have a pair of Gossamer Gear LT-4 poles, so will definitely give this a try. Thanks!!

  4. Great blog,great idea. Perhaps one could modify a tent stake to act as a dual purpose stake and screwdriver.

  5. Before cutting into one's Gossamer Gear poles... personally, I grabbed a 3/4 inch nylon belt with a plastic lightweight belt buckle from strapworks for $3, cut it in half, poked holes at each end of the strap for the ends of one's Gossamer Gear poles, and added a couple of strips of velcro for lashing the poles together. 1/2 an ounce of extra weight and easy to adjust the center pole once one's tent is up by using the cam belt buckle.

  6. What is the maximum practical (sturdy) length (basket to basket) for this technique with LT4s?