Field Test – Montem Ultra Strong Cork Trekking Poles
As mentioned in other reviews, my first set of hiking poles was a cheap $30 pair I purchased on eBay. Since that purchase I have now gained a great deal more knowledge about the benefits and now own a range of poles, all for varying purposes. Some a light weight, some heavy duty, some pack down small for travel and some are larger to better suit my overnight pack. I now use hiking poles on all my day and overnight hikes for stability and the endurance benefits that they deliver. Some of this use has been mild (e.g. short days, on-trail) but a considerable portion has not, with hundreds of kilometres on talus, across snowfields, down remote canyons, and through heinous vegetation.
Recently I was sent a pair of Montem Ultra Strong Cork Trekking Poles to field test and I welcomed this opportunity with a lot of enthusiasm. These Ultra Strong poles blend cork handles and extra durable aluminium shafts with the compact style of telescoping poles and flick-locks for enhanced stability while walking. They are recommended by Montem for use in all applications. So how did they perform?
When I am looking at hiking poles, there are a few things that I always consider before making a purchase; weight, price, strength, durability, comfort, adjustability and pack down size.
So why does this matter? Heavy poles can be difficult to swing quickly and place where desired, and consume more energy than lighter poles. At 520g for the pair, these poles are certainly not the lightest on the market. The lightest pair that I own weight in at a mere 230g. That being said, the intended application can have an impact on this as lighter weight poles are not always as strong and durable, so you need to assess where you will be using the poles before allowing weight alone to be your deciding factor.
Thankfully, the weight of the Montem Ultra Strong Cork Trekking Poles is still manageable, and it’s not without just cause, as I’ll discuss.
These poles are not expensive. At around $90 they are around half the price of top end poles, so I would expect that it is not fair to compare technical factors of these poles at that level. For a pole with comparable build quality and specs (3-piece, telescoping, lever-style locks, cork grips + extensions, aluminium shafts), the price point of these poles is reasonably attractive and will be a great benefit for those, who are looking for a better-quality pole, with a limited budget.
Strength and Durability
I’m hard on poles. In fact, I am hard on all gear that I field test as that is the purpose of testing it. To push the gear to its limits so that I can help you to make a more informed choice. Personally, I weigh around 85kg and on an overnight hike I regularly push close to 100kg including my pack. I’m constantly off-trail and on uneven or rocky terrain, where more forceful use of poles is required. For these reasons, I want poles that are steady under load, no vibration or bending (flexing is ok) and that break only due to extreme abuse. I want locks that do not slip, wiggle, or corrode. And I want poles that will last years, not a season.
I have used these poles on day hikes and they performed well however, I believe that the real test is on an overnight or multi-day hike when they are under constant heavy loads, so I recently used the Montem Ultra Strong Cork Trekking Poles on a three-day hike along the Great Ocean Road. Along this trail I was exposed to gravel tracks, uneven terrain, coastal streams, salt water, steep hills, sand, and the occasional rocky section. Over the course of the three days I felt confident in their strength. Never once did the flick-lock system, on the three-section shaft, give way and the carbide tips have not shown a great deal of wear. I am also pleased with the durability of the hand straps as I have had poles in the past where the straps have failed within a few days. Given the load I place on the straps I am pleased that they still appear in as-new condition. As these poles have some metal on the flick-lock system, the tip and shafts I felt it was important to wash this down with fresh water at the end of each day to reduce the chance of corrosion from the salt air and water. A handy tip for all your gear really, take care of it and it will take care of you.
On most of my hikes I often spend between 8-10 hours a day on the trail. So, you can imagine how important comfort is when you will have your hands wrapped around the handle of your hiking pole for most of that time. While the weight is not directly on your hands, comfort is still vital. Plastic grips can be uncomfortable and slippery. Rubber grips are abrasive on bare hands. Foam grips are great, but not always very durable. Most hikers will agree that cork grips are the best: they are soft, durable, slightly absorbent, and they provide sufficient friction to help prevent blisters.
I found the cork grips of these poles to be well formed, correctly proportioned (for my hands anyway), soft to the touch and wicked moisture away well under often sweaty conditions. Some hiking poles have narrow diameter hand grips, some are wide, as a unisex pole I believe that the size of these grips will accommodate most people well.
When hiking steeply uphill or side-hilling I regularly choke up on my poles (grab the poles lower down the shaft) for improved balance and leverage, mostly. The foam extension grips below the primary cork grip on the Montem Ultra Strong Cork Trekking Poles offers a much more secure grip than a slick and narrow pole shaft and is a welcome inclusion. In fact, I would consider this feature a must-have for the type of hiking I do.
The hand straps are wide, soft to the touch, offer additional padding where the strap wraps over your wrist and wick moisture away well. While straps may not seem too important when you are checking out poles in-store, ask yourself if having that strap wrapped around your writs all day is going to cause abrasion or blisters at worse. I have experienced a few straps that required constant adjustment in order to reduce the discomfort and I am pleased to report that the Montem straps are amongst the most comfortable I have used.
They are adjustable. Yeah, most hikers would expect that, but not all poles are adjustable. Fixed-length poles are often lighter as they do not have overlapping shafts or locks. However, they do have their limitations. Fixed length poles are not easily interchangeable between hikers as you choose a pole based on your height. They are not able to be adjusted for uphill or downhill walking either which can be a pain at times. The Montem Ultra Strong Cork Trekking Poles has a three-section aluminium shaft that creates a flexible pole design. By simply unclipping the flick-lock system the lower two sections of the pole can be adjusted to suit the terrain (and the hiker of course). Each section is clearly labelled with measurements so that you can quickly return the poles to their desired length. This is handy if you are adjusting them over different terrain or sharing them with a fellow hiker. The hand strap comes with a quick adjust system, without technical buckles, that allows you to easily and quickly adjust the hand strap length, even while walking. My concern with two or three-section poles, with locking mechanisms, is that the mechanism would fail, sending me face-down onto the trail. The flick-lock system of these poles allows you to manually tighten the locks grip to ensure that they never slip. This is a quick and easy process and I felt confident, with 100kg bearing down on the poles, that they would never slip. And they never did. The flick-lock system was even easy enough o use while wearing gloves which is a great thing to test if you plan on hiking during the cooler months.
They are collapsible. As these are a three-section, adjustable pole, you would expect it to be collapsible. Simply unlock the flick-lock system and slide the poles right in. They pack down to 610mm for stowing. If you plan on stowing your poles inside your pack, just ensure that you measure your pack first as they may not fit inside all packs. They will be fine inside most overnight packs, if for some reason you want them in there, but may struggle to fit inside day packs of 20L or less. I always try to carry my poles on the outside of my pack so that they are quickly and easily accessible by myself or a fellow hiker.
As a well-priced, sturdy, value for money pole, I am happy to recommend the Montem Ultra Strong Cork Trekking Poles. In my opinion, these will be great for hikers who are looking for a heavy-duty, full-featured, comfortable and robust hiking pole without the hefty price tag. While they may not be as light as some, you will not regret this purchase.
- Shaft Construction: Aluminium 7075
- Grip Material: Cork
- Maximum Length: 1350mm
- Minimum Length: 610mm
- Weight Per Pair: 520g
- Gender: Unisex
Buy direct from Montem for USD89.97
Field Tested by
Darren Edwards > www.trailhiking.com.au