To understand one of the main advantages of the Helinox line of trekking poles, we first have to look to DAC, producer of tent poles known for their excellent strength to weight ratio. DAC developed their TH72M aluminum alloy to address the problem of thin-walled tubing failing due to a combination of the stresses applied during use, as well as corrosion causing aluminum to crack at the granular level. Imagine aluminum being comprised of tightly packed grains, like sand. Over time, small cracks develop between each grain, weakening the overall structure to the point of failure. The simple solution was to make the tubing wall thicker, but this adds weight without increasing strength. DAC’s TH72M is much less susceptible to this, so they can continue to offer thinner, yet stronger, tubing. Which is why you’ll find it in the best tent poles, stakes, and trekking poles.
Enough of the science class though. Big Agnes is the exclusive US distributor of Helinox trekking poles, and their Featherlite Lever Button poles make excellent use of this exotic alloy, along with some other great design elements. We’ll start at ground level, and work our way up. As delivered, they had rubber feet covering the carbide tips that offer aggressive bite on uneven surfaces. Just above that was a light trekking basket. The lower section has no markings on it, as it’s designed to be extended fully until it locks into place via the secure Lever Button System – just pull until it clicks. Collapsing is as easy as pressing the two buttons that fall naturally under the thumb and forefinger. Moving up to the middle section, we find it clearly marked for extension from 105 cm to 135 cm. At the junction between the middle and upper section, there is a dual cam lever lock (strong clamping force with minimal effort) that runs parallel to the shaft, rather around it. This simple lock can be easily opened then securely closed with bare hands or gloves. Roughly two thirds of the upper shaft is covered by a foam grip that has an ergo handle area, as well as grooves in the lower half. This provides a comfortable grip in warm or cold weather, as well as a bit of extra traction when wet. Topping it off is a strap that is adjusted in either direction by pulling, and has a soft liner where it might contact skin.
Completely folded, the Featherlite poles are just under two feet in length. Setting them to the correct height is an operation that takes just a few seconds, thanks to the locking mechanisms. Once set, we were ready to hit the trail. At 13.5 ounces for the pair, they’re quite light, considering how durable they feel in hand. On an all day hike, they’re not going to be weighing you down. When it came to adjust the length for climbs or descents, praise was pretty unanimous for ease of adjustment. And like any good pole set, their weight went mostly unnoticed when strapped to a pack.
At the end of our testing, the only gripe was the grip. The foam grip itself is minimalist, yet functional, but not everyone found it to the most comfortable grip out of the poles we’ve used. That’s not to say there is anything wrong with the design, it’s simply a matter of personal preference. Other than that, we found them to be of excellent design and craftsmanship, and the proprietary alloy should provide an extended service life.
For more information on Helinox trekking poles, including the Causeway and folding Passport, visit bigagnes.com