Adjustable. Light. Comfortable. Renewable. Back Saving.
Sometimes a product doesn’t point any one direct place to start with a review. Upon first look, the Traverse PowerLock Trekking poles by REI are a decent eye catcher with their cork grips, external locking mechanism, and reasonably entry level price point. Being adjustable from 70-140cm, they’re a great fit for someone of nearly any height (unless you happen to be a NBA starting forward?). They’re quick to adjust with the easy to use external locking mechanism, no twisting poles with the internal pressure cam that has a tendency to loosen up or get over loosened with time. Upon a closer look, if the Traverse’s locking mechanism can be easily adjusted with a standard or phillips screwdriver.
After using the REI Traverse on the trail today for nearly 7 miles, I’ve discovered a few things to take note of. First is to make sure the locking cam is adjusted before leaving the house to get to the trail. A quick tightening was in store, and then they got locked into position at 120cm. I adjusted both to the easy to read 120cm mark on the middle tube. On the bottom tube, there is a clearly marked and labeled mark on where to lock the bottom section. Once adjusted, the trekking poles seemed to hold perfectly in place without slipping.
The cork grip is a welcome addition to the Traverse. While today’s 7 miles didn’t adjust the cork to the hand that was holding it, I can see the advantage to cork over foam or rubber. Being that cork is completely a renewable, sustainable, and replenishable resource helps make these more environmentally friendly than some of the other styles offered. Also to note is that cork is biodegradable, so if any of the hand grip comes apart it’s not as harmful to the environment as it’s foam or rubber counterpart.
The arm straps have one side that is covered in neoprene to help cushion your arm from the webbing. I found them to be comfortable, though wouldn’t have minded having a little more padding in them. To adjust them, you pull the adjustable side of the strap away from the grip, pulling out a rubber wedge with it. After adjusting the adjustable side of the strap, you press the wedge back into place to hold it all at the proper adjustment. I didn’t have any problems with them loosening in the 7 mile hike today, I’ll keep an eye on it for the long term testing report!
At the bottom of the trekking poles you find a typical carbide tip to assist you on ice or slippery rocks, my test today didn’t include either, but I did find that they held well when I tested them against rocks off the beaten path. There is also a small trekking disc included which I found extremely helpful today when I came across some mud in the path, the discs kept the pole from sinking deep into the mud and helped provide stability whenever I started slipping in the mud. Also included are trekking baskets in case you are in even softer conditions, they easily twist lock on or off the trekking poles.
Now for the fun part, the longer term testing. My goal is to put 100 miles on them in the next 3 months to give a better update on how well they last, the up’s and down’s of their features. Stay tuned!
Month 1 Update: After 1 month of using the REI Powerlock Trekking poles, they’re holding up great! They currently have 25 miles hiked using them, there have been no slipping of the Powerlock Cam (adjustable portions of the poles), and the paint is holding up well. The wrist straps aren’t the most comfortable, though they do adequately do the job they were intended to do. The cork grips continue to hold up perfectly fine, and currently show no signs of wear.