Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Quick Lock Review
Cons: Synthetic cork grip, bulky quick lock levers
Manufacturer: Cascade Mountain Tech
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber trekking pole provides a remarkably good value. It has many of the same features as poles that cost twice or three times as much, like carbon fiber shafts and a variety of tip and basket attachments. However, at this price point, you'll sacrifice some comfort, packed size, and durability.
The upper part of the grip on the Cascade is not made of high-quality cork, despite what it looks like. As such, the grip feels synthetic, rubbery, and firm. The poles have a foam lower extension grip, with contoured grooves and a bump near the ridge that makes it easy to grip. We use this lower extension when hiking up steep hills or when traversing along the side of a steep incline, and with the grooves, it's easy to grip and doesn't slide around. The straps are thin and help save weight, but for a heavy-duty trekking pole, we'd love to see more comfortable padded wrist straps.
The Cascade Mountain is a unisex pole, not a women-specific one. Thus, it lacks the smaller handgrips, shorter wrist straps, and smaller dimensions (both weight and length) to fit smaller women's packs and hands. For taller women, this may not be an issue, and they may prefer a less expensive pole to one specifically designed and engineered to fit smaller women.
The Cascade poles weigh 16 ounces, which is relatively lightweight for strong, trekking-oriented poles. Other poles in our review are lighter, but the weight of these poles is about as light as we would want in a long-distance pole. To some degree, a heavier weight denotes increased durability due to thicker shafts and heavier locking mechanisms. Still, on long treks, the weight of heavy poles can add up, and the Cascades come down right in the sweet spot.
Locking and Adjustability
The quick lock adjustment lever is large, bulky, and sticks out past the pole's shaft. The lower of the two quick-lock adjusting levers is quite low along the shaft. This means that you could hit the side of your leg with the lever when hiking in shorts, or hit your leg when skiing with this pole. Many of the other pole's adjustment levers are higher along the pole length, which we prefer.
The shaft is comprised of three telescoping pieces that are very stiff when you shorten the pole. They collapse less easily than other, more expensive poles. We were unable to close the quick lock using our thumb only but needed to push it forcefully with the heel of our hand. If one adjusts the lever more loosely, then it becomes easier to shorten the pole, but then the quick-lock mechanism slips.
One nice feature of the quick locks on the Cascade is the thumbscrew that loosens and tightens them. On the trail, you can hand-tighten the screws if they are too loose, no screwdriver required. Again, this thumbscrew adds to the quick lock's bulkiness, but it replaces the need to carry a screwdriver.
The Cascade Carbon Fiber poles collapse down to 26 inches, which is on the longer size of all the collapsed pole sizes in our review. This means that they will stick out if you attach them to the sides of a day hiking backpack, but will still fit cleanly onto the sides of an overnight backpack. They may present a challenge to fit into luggage, though, taking up more room than other poles in our review.
This pole comes with a travel bag, which we found useful for stowing the poles while traveling and for bringing along spare tips. Poles have a tendency to snag on clothes, punch holes in luggage, and ruin fabrics. The included sleeve is a nice feature that many traveling hikers and trekkers will appreciate.
These poles are not particularly durable. The synthetic cork grip has been known to peel off on occasion, and online reviewers have had durability issues with the grip as well. Carbon fiber is extremely strong when pressing down on the pole, as we usually do, but if the pole bends, it is prone to snapping. This can be an issue if you stumble and try to use the pole to regain your balance. Furthermore, carbon is more prone to chipping and cracking, and such small imperfections can create weak spots in the shaft that can lead to failure later.
While the lower sections of these poles are carbon, the upper sections look like aluminum. We took the poles completely apart and looked inside, and the inside of the top shaft looks shiny, as though it's made of fiberglass. That said, Cascade Mountain Tech lists the shaft material as 100% carbon fiber, so we'll take their word for it. The tips are not replaceable, but the entire lower pole shaft can be replaced if the tips wear out.
The Cascade poles come with four different tips — boots, mud baskets, snow baskets, and small tips. The boot would be useful if hiking in the Utah desert since poles work best with a rubber tip protector when hiking on slick rock trails.
Other hikers have used these poles when trail running and on day and multi-day hikes. We might be hesitant to use them on hikes abroad, such as two to three-week treks in Nepal, where, if a pole broke, it would be challenging to repair the pole and may be hard to replace during the trip.
With the snow basket, the Cascade can be used for snowshoeing or backcountry skiing. This pole would not be our first choice to use when alpine skiing, however, because of the bulky lower quick-lock lever, which could hit your ski edge. Ultralight through-hikers, on the other hand, will appreciate the length of this pole. If they erect a shelter that requires trekking poles to pitch, the 54-inch maximum length is a good fit.
There's no question that the Cascade Mountain Tech poles are an excellent value, especially considering the included interchangeable tips. These poles are less than half the cost of many mid-range poles and a quarter the cost of our most expensive contenders. If you just need a basic trekking pole without too many bells and whistles and you're not looking to break the bank, this is a great pole.
The Cascade Mountain Carbon Fiber poles are a good entry-level pole for new hikers and trekkers who are hesitant to invest in a high-end option. They aren't as comfortable, versatile, or durable as more expensive options, but for the price, they offer good performance for most hikers which is why we bestowed them with a Best Buy Award.
— Jeff Dobronyi & Sibylle Hechtel