Field test and review
Who would have guessed that there are hiking poles for every occasion? Aren’t poles just poles and all you need to do is grab a pair and start walking? Well the guys at Helinox certainly set me straight on that point.
- There are super compact once for ease of packing in your kit when hiking or travelling to your next adventure destination.
- There are lightweight telescopic poles that are perfectly suited to day hikes with a light pack.
- There are heavy duty telescopic poles to be used when you know the trail will be tough. These also come with a lever lock mechanism if that is your preference.
Now for when the going gets really tough and the load you are carrying gets really heavy that’s when you need the serious contenders with a larger diameter. True trekking poles poles will tackle any trail and will take a lot more pressure and knocks than the lighter weight variety.
Personally I have the Helinox TL Series poles which I absolutely love (you can read the review on these here). They are perfect for day hikes but what I really needed was something more substantial when I was loaded up on a multi-day outing. So the search began.
My problem was that I loved the lightness of my TL Series so much that I was really reluctant to invest in a new pair that would potentially be heavier, due to the increased strength. Thankfully I didn’t need to search too far and I was sent a pair of Helinox FL135 Hiking Poles to field test.
My first impression when they arrived was ‘nooo, these things are huge’. The total collapsed length of the three section pole measured in at 590mm. That’s over half a meter. Where on earth am I supposed to store these when I am hiking but they are not in use. By Comparison, my TL Series pack down to a tiny 350mm (for the 1150mm poles).
As I had both sets out I thought I would compare the other vital measurement, the weight. On the scales the TL weighs in at 156 grams per pole, the FL135 weighed 188 grams per pole (without the rubber boot). OK, that’s not so bad, only 32 grams heavier per pole. Considering the diameter of these poles it is surprising how little they weighed. The exclusive DAC TH72M alloy which is claimed to be the world’s best, lightest AND strongest alloy, was certainly doing the trick.
How well they pack
Well that’s enough with scales and ruler. It is time to get them onto or into my pack and see how easily I will be able to transport them when not in use.
My day pack is quite small, at only 11 litres, so there was no way these would fit inside my pack purely due to collapsed length. I was not overly concerned with this as day hikes is not what these poles are intended for. So onto the outside of my pack they went, luckily my pack has fittings to accommodate strapping poles to.
As you would expect, my overnight pack is considerably larger, at 55 litres, so I was provided the option of placing them inside my pack or strapping them to the exterior. Obviously for ease of access strapping them to the outside makes a lot more sense. All good quality overnight packs will have provision to allow you to mount your hiking poles externally, generally the mounts can be located on the rear of the pack. As my Aarn Featherlite did.
Generally, when my pack is fully loaded it is really difficult to get the pack to stand up by itself without rolling onto its front or back. This can be problematic when you are first loading your gear at home but even more of a pain when you are on the trail and are trying to stop your pack from rolling in the dirt or damp, muddy terrain. The reason I am digressing here is that I was ecstatic, to say the least, that due to the longer length of these poles the tips sat just above the base of my pack. What this meant was that when I let my pack go it stayed standing up. Now to all you seasoned hikers out there this might not seem worth mentioning but for anyone new to overnight hikes it is a real benefit when your pack stays where you place it.
OK, field test time
This is the part I love as I get to go hiking. Yay!
Now if you are going to field test something there is no point going for a gentle stroll. So I decided to take these poles to Victoria’s High Country to complete the Bluff Circuit, Mount Cobbler Plateau and The Crinoline (all of which you will find on my site). These are all serious multi-day hikes with varied terrain including steep spurs and rock scrambling.
The FL135 poles performed extremely well. They accepted everything that the terrain and myself could throw at them delivering high compression under a heavy load. They flexed well when caught between rocks or gnarly tree roots and held up to the strain of being torn loose during steep descents. The Solidly mounted tungsten carbide tips gripped the rocks with ease and never once did I feel they would lose their grip.
The light weight of the poles, combined with quality foam moulded grips (which keep your hand surprisingly warm) and padded wicking wrist straps helped lessen the impacts of the hard slog up Helicopter Spur. The surprisingly long grips were a real blessing also it allowed me to quickly and easily reposition my hands during ascents, descents or while strolling across the plateau.
One concern I sometimes hear in relation to the twist lock mechanism is that they will give under load. The locks grip tight, with minimal effort, and have failed to let me down ever. So long as you remember to do them up of course.
From my experiences to date, the build quality seems excellent all around. They are comfortable, very light weight (for their size), extremely durable, and completely adjustable in all the right places. Even the hand strap is easy to adjust on the move without needing to mess around with annoying buckles. In my opinion you can’t go wrong with the FL135 as an overnight or trekking pole.
Helinox poles come in different variations, mostly coming down to locking mechanisms: lever locks, cam locks, and twist locks. The FL135 that I have field tested here comes with the twist locks and I am pleased they did as they provide easy locking and the greatest amount of adjust-ability. (great when you lend them to a fellow hiker or your kids.
Buy direct from Helinox for $172 per pair
Light & tough
- Helinox FL135 walking poles are ideally suited to the taller walker or for arduous conditions.
- The dual twist lock mechanisms allow for easy length adjustment. The FL135 suits persons up to 200 cm tall (6’8″).
- The larger diameter of the FL135 means less flexing under heavy loads. This makes the poles suitable for those carrying larger packs or traversing difficult terrain. FL135 walking poles are also well suited to general walking.
|Friction (twist) lock
|Friction (twist) lock
|Length is use:
|80 cm – 120 cm
|90 cm – 135 cm
|Weight per pole:
|Suited to walkers:
|90 cm to 180 cm
|160 cm to 200 cm high
|TH72M alloy by DAC
|TH72M alloy by DAC
My reviews are based on my own on-trail field tests and I provide an unbiased account of the gear I use. Often, reviewers won’t take gear into the field but search online for existing reviews and collate them to form a conclusion. If you’re a retailer or manufacturer, I’d love to field-test your gear. If you are keen to hear how your gear performs, please get in touch.