No review of trekking poles would be complete without the current offerings from Mountainsmith. Priced from just under $40 for the pair, their Rhyolite 6061 poles were declared the “Best Value Ever!” in the 2011 Backpacker Gear Guide.
It appears that the key to earning such an award is to produce a trekking pole with simple features and robust performance, at a price point lower than expected for its level of quality. For instance, the quick-twist locking mechanism is neither the fastest nor the strongest, but it’s simple to manufacture and easy to use. Molded rubber grips may not be as light and sexy as a combination of a hard plastic frame with soft rubber, but they’re comfortable and perfectly functional. The use of common, but economical 6061 aluminum (a favorite of bicycle manufacturers) means that at 24 ounces, they’re nearly twice the weight of some of the most expensive models from other brands, but also about 1/3 the price. Including removable baskets and rubber tips at this price is a nice touch as well. But the big surprise is that they managed to build in an anti-shock system with a lockout. That’s an option that can run an additional $15-20 per pair with other brands.
For about $10 more, you can get the Pyrite 7075, which offers the same basic features and quality, but is constructed of 7075 aluminum. While most folks aren’t going to notice any difference between the two alloys, the dual density rubber grips are a welcome addition. There’s a 3 ounce weight penalty as well.
At the top of the Mountainsmith line, but still under $70, is their Carbonlite Pro. A mix of aluminum and carbon fiber keeps the weight down to 18 ounces, while still retaining the anti-shock feature found in the other models. Grips get an upgrade to cork with neoprene straps, which is a great combination for hot and cold weather, as well as wet or sweaty hands.
Of interest to photographers, Mountainsmith introduced their $29 Trekker FX monopod this year. It’s a 7075 pole with an EVA grip that contains a hidden 1/4 x 20 tripod screw. Simply unscrew the top and attach your favorite camera. Mountainsmith recommends a weight limit of 3 lbs, so while you can probably leave your pocket-sized camera attached, if you’ve got a big DSLR, it might be best to only attach it when shooting.
Find them and more at www.mountainsmith.com