The Cascade Mountain Tech trekking pole provides a remarkably good value. Priced at only $45 for a pair, you'll find some features usually offered only on poles that cost upwards of $100. With its carbon fiber shafts, it weighs about the same as the more expensive Leki Micro Vario or the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon poles. However, at this price point, you'll sacrifice some modicum of comfort, packed size, and durability.
Sibylle testing the Cascade Mountain trekking poles at about 10,000 feet on Ptarmigan Mountain in January.
The upper part of the grip is not made of high-quality cork, and it feels synthetic. 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 hill, and with the grooves, it's easy to grip and doesn't slide around.
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, and stronger 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, at a higher price.
However, for a smaller woman who wants a light-weight pole, with more comfortable grips and straps, and greater ease of adjustment, she may be happier with one of the following women-specific poles — the REI Flash, the lightest pole for women, the Black Diamond Carbon, probably the most durable women's pole, or the Leki Micro Vario, our overall winner of the women's pole category.
We've read two reviews by male hikers that address using this pole on longer hikes. One, Drew Robinson, noted in his review that he liked the heavier, sturdy pole, as he weighs 185 pounds and carries a pack. Another male reviewer, the accomplished ultra runner Andrew Skurka, author of The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide, reviews the pole and likes it as well.
Cascade pole shaft and grip, showing the foam lower extension grip that we like to use on the uphill.
The Cascade poles weigh only 16 ounces, which is the strong point of this pole. We can compare this to the lightest women's pole, the REI Flash Carbon, at only 13.2 ounces. The more expensive women's Leki and Black Diamond poles weigh about the same.
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.
Here is the Cascade pole shaft with its quick lock adjustment levers.
The shaft comprises three telescoping pieces that are very stiff when you shorten the poll. They collapsed 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 maybe it becomes easier to shorten the pole, but then the quick lock mechanism could slip.
One nice feature of the Cascade's quick locks is the thumbscrew that loosens and tightens them. On the trail, you can hand-tighten the screws if they are too loose, and don't need a screwdriver. Again, this thumbscrew adds to the quick lock's bulkiness, but it replaces the need to carry a screwdriver.
Here are three types of adjusting levers: the Speedlock on the Leki Micro Vario (top), the quick lock on Cascade Mountain, and the Powerlock 3.0 on the REI Flash Carbon (bottom).
We found this to be one of the more involved shafts to adjust. You have to adjust each piece individually to a given length. For instance, you must first adjust the bottom portion to 100 cm, and then separately adjust the top section to 100 cm. Other poles come with a set stop line near the end of the lower shaft. No matter what length you want, you adjust the lower pole section to stop at that line. After that, you adjust the upper pole section only, instead of moving two pole sections every time. We like the simple option since we like our poles longer on the downhill and shorter on the uphill.
The Mountain Tech poles come in a convenient travel bag that contains two poles plus four different tips or baskets.
The Cascade poles, at 26", are among the longest packed poles of the poles we tested. We don't find it to be too big a deal for our purposes, but if you like to take a smaller pack to attach your poles to, it's not ideal.
What's really nice is that this pole comes with a travel bag, which we found useful for stowing the poles while traveling and for bringing along spare tips.
Here are five of the poles we tested, the Cascade, REI Flash, REI Traverse, Black Diamond Alpine, and Leki Micro Vario. They are collapsed to give a length comparison.
The synthetic cork grip is not particularly durable. One online reviewer found that the synthetic cork ground off one of the poles, and peeled off from the other pole. Other reviewers found the poles to function well at moderate speed on smooth, even terrain, but their grip felt insecure on steeper sections or at higher speeds.
Several reviewers mentioned that one of their poles broke. One person broke a pole on the descent from a hike, and another broke after ten hikes. Another user broke his poles on the first use. He slipped and fell, caught himself with the pole, and it snapped in half. Carbon fiber poles can be more likely to break than aluminum poles, which bend, rather than snapping. Carbon is more prone to fracture.
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 them 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 because of the bulky lower quick lock lever, which could hit your ski edge.
Ultralight through-hikers 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.
The best applications for the Cascade pole include hiking, trail running, backpacking, snowshoeing, and skiing. This could be a great pole for someone who only uses a trekking pole a few times a year and isn't ready to commit to a high dollar version with all top of the line features.
Here are the Mountain Tech's four different tips and baskets. From left -- 1: A rubber tip for rock that's very handy for Utah slickrock; 2. A 'walking foot' for hard surfaces 3. A normal basket for trekking on most trails; and 4. A powder basket for snowshoeing, backcountry skiing, and hiking in deeper snow.
There's no question that the 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 could be the one for you.
The Cascade Mountain Tech poles are a good entry-level pole for new hikers and trekkers. While someone may be hesitant to spend $100 or more for their first pair of trekking poles, this pole gives people an option of buying a less expensive pole. This means that they can determine whether or not they like hiking with poles, and test various features, such as — do they prefer a foam or a cork grip? Do they use the lower grip extension, or do they not need this feature?