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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

Thursday, June 8, 2017

GEAR REVIEW: Gossamer Gear LT-5 Trekking Poles

By Will Rietveld

I have always loved my Gossamer Gear LT-4 two-piece carbon fiber poles. Combined with an ultralight backpack, they maximize agility in rough terrain. But one drawback is their inconvenient length when collapsed and tied to a pack – they extend higher than the pack and catch on things, which is not nice when I am scrambling.

The new LT-5 trekking pole overcomes that problem because it has three sections and collapses down to 23.5 inches, so it doesn’t extend beyond the top of a backpack. This review reports my experience with the LT-5 Trekking Poles over a two month testing period and 21 days of actual use.

The new Gossamer Gear LT-5 carbon fiber trekking pole has three sections and collapses down to 23.5 inches. (Gossamer Gear photo)

 Specifications and Features

Manufacturer
Gossamer Gear (www.gossamergear.com)
Model
LT-5 Trekking Pole
Sections
3
Materials
Carbon fiber shaft, EVA grip
Weight
5.2 oz/pole with wrist strap and trekking basket; manufacturer specification 5.3 oz/pole
Features
Carbon fiber shaft, EVA "Kork-o-lon" grip, basket mount with trekking basket and carbide tip, nylon wrist strap, rubber tip cover
MSRP
$195/pair

Description

The beauty of the LT-5 (and LT-4) is their lightness. While the LT-4 can be stripped down to a minimum weight of 4.1 ounces/pole, the LT-5 can get down to 4.5 ounces/pole. That’s without the wrist strap, trekking basket, and rubber tip. So, for an additional 0.4 ounce/pole you get a three-section pole, with a good locking mechanism, and it collapses down to a short length for better portability.

The anatomical EVA "Kork-o-lon" grip is made exclusively for Gossamer Gear and has provided excellent performance and durability over the years, while saving weight.


Three carbon fiber sections adjust from 23.5 to 51 inches (60 to 130 cm). The locking mechanism is a twist type with a small profile. Only the center section has length markings.

 
The tip takes Leki type threaded baskets. Also shown in this photo are the included trekking basket, rubber tip, and padded wrist strap that I removed to reduce the weight/pole from 5.2 down to 4.5 ounces.

Field Testing



I tested the LT-5 trekking poles on 13 outings totaling 21 days. Outings included day hiking, car camping, and backpacking in a variety of terrains. This photo was taken in the backcountry of Capitol Reef National Park in southern Utah.

The collapsibility of the LT-5 is a big plus for carrying them on a backpack to free my hands. The pack is the Gossamer Gear Murmur; location is remote backcountry of Canyonlands National ParkUtah.


The stiffness of the LT-5 is about the same as the LT-4. The tip section does not have the spiral wrap feature of the LT-4.

It is difficult to assess the LT-5s durability at this stage. They are definitely sturdy. My experience with the LT-4 is they hold up well with normal use, but breakage occurs when I lose my footing and take a fall. I have broken two tips on my LT-4s, and both times involved a fall when the tips were caught between rocks. Some good advice is to carry your poles while walking through sliderock.

I personally don’t like to use baskets, and value lightweight over features. The poles without baskets do not provide much support in soft snow or mud, but trekking baskets do not add much improvement.

I initially tested the poles with the rubber tips provided, and found they slipped more than the bare carbide tips. I was surprised with that finding since I expected them to grip better. So I removed them.

One technical point is adding a basket and rubber tip to a carbon trekking pole makes its swing weight less favorable. Swing weight is how the pole feels in a stride; the more weight on the tip, the more effort it takes to swing it. I would say that the swing weight of the LT-4 is a bit better than the LT-5 because it has two sections and one locking mechanism versus two twist locks on the LT-5, but the difference is not great.

I personally prefer to use trekking poles without straps because that keeps them simple to grab and go, and when I take a fall I want to release the poles so I don’t break them.

The twist-type locking mechanisms work well, but they need to be tightened snugly. During my testing I had 3 occasions when the locks slipped, and it turned out they were not tightened enough. My solution is to tighten each section, then grab the tip and handle and twist the whole pole to make sure it is tight, being careful to avoid overtightening. 

If you are disagreeing with me at this point, I am not surprised. Hikers express a full range of preferences in gear and techniques and I understand that. The nice thing about these trekking poles is they come with the extra features and so you can configure them however you like.

The only potential issue I had with the LT-5 is very fine sand on the lower section makes it difficult to collapse that section. The photo shows some fine scratches in the carbon from sand abrasion. I only had the problem while backpacking in Canyonlands National Park, and I also had to stop frequently and dump the sand out of my shoes. Under those conditions it would be a good idea to wipe the shaft with a cloth before collapsing it.

Assessment

Presumably, the Gossamer Gear LT-5 is the lightest three-section carbon fiber trekking pole to be found. I really like its collapsibility and portability, and the grips are wonderful.

The biggest improvements over the LT-4 are 1) their collapsibility to a shorter length, and 2) a much better locking mechanism. Those improvements come with a small weight penalty, 0.4 ounce/pole compared to the LT-4, but they are worth the weight.

The twist locks on the LT-5 are an older technology, but they are lightweight and work well, at least so far. I like the LT-4 in spite of their finicky locking mechanism, but it is tiresome to have to pull the sections apart and adjust the mechanism before it will lock again.

Those improvements shift my recommendation to the LT-5. It’s more refined while still being very lightweight. It has performed very well so far, but time will ultimately tell us how reliable it is.

The price is another thing; I thought the LT-4 was expensive when it was $150/pair; now they are $206/pair with straps, and the LT-5 is $195/pair. So both are expensive trekking poles.   

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