Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Quick Lock Review
Cons: 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 Quick Lock features a cork grip that is gently contoured to fit the natural curves of the hand. Overall, the contouring isn't as refined as more high-end options, but for the price, it's darn good. The cork feels high-quality and slowly molds to the user's hands over time. The contouring is designed for small to medium-sized hands, however, so users with large hands might not feel as comfortable holding this pole. The top of the grip is nicely rounded and covered in rubber to provide comfort while pushing down from above.
These poles have a foam lower grip extension, with contoured grooves and a bump near the ridge that makes it easy to grip. This isn't as comfortable to hold as the cork handles, but it does the trick when hiking up steep hills or when traversing along the side of an incline. The grooves make it easy to grip without sliding around. The wrist straps are generally comfortable, and feature a felt lining on the skin side, which feels nice and soft. They are rather thin to help save weight, but for a heavy-duty trekking pole, we'd love to see more comfortably padded wrist straps.
Carbon fiber shafts help absorb some impact force, making each step a bit more comfortable as the hard carbide tips impact rock and firm trail surfaces. Usually, carbon poles are expensive, but the Quick Lock provides similar comfort to other carbon poles for a fraction of the price.
These poles weigh 16 ounces per pair, which is heavy compared to the ultra-lightweight trekking poles found on the market today. However, when compared with other heavy-duty trekking poles that are built for durability, comfort, and all-terrain performance, the Cascade Quick Locks are remarkably light. These poles gain some weight savings by using carbon fiber for shaft construction, but they don't skimp on shaft thickness, allowing the lightest weight possible while still retaining strength. The locking mechanisms could be more streamlined, but they feel strong and burly because of their size. Overall, these poles hit the sweet spot in the balance between durability and weight.
Locking and Adjustability
The quick lock adjustment lever on these poles is large, bulky, and sticks out around the shaft. The lower of the two levers is quite low, which means that you could hit the side of your leg with it when hiking or skiing, which isn't ideal. Many of the other poles in our review have the levers higher along the pole length, which we prefer.
The shaft is comprised of three telescoping pieces that are very stiff when the pole is shortened. They also collapse less easily than other, more expensive poles. We were unable to close the quick lock using our thumb only, needing 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 Mountain Tech 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. There are better locking mechanisms out there, but the price of these poles compels us to be forgiving.
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 a larger overnight backpack. They may present a challenge to fit into luggage, though, taking up more room than other poles in our review. And don't expect these poles to fit inside an alpine climbing pack.
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. Online reviewers have had durability issues with the synthetic cork grip, though they faired fine for us during our testing period. Carbon fiber is extremely strong when pressing down on the pole, as you 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, or if the pole gets wedged between rocks. 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.
These poles will last a while for the average user, and for the price, they are a great durability value. But for those who are especially hard on their gear, or who need the strongest poles on the market, we'd suggest something more durable.
The Quick Lock comes with four different tips — boots for bedrock trails, mud baskets, snow baskets, and small tips. The boot is useful if hiking in places like the Utah desert since poles work best with a rubber tip protector when hiking on slick rock trails, and they also don't scratch the soft rock.
Others have used these poles when trail running and on 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 option.
The Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber is 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 poles, but for the price, they offer good performance for most hikers which is why we bestowed them with a Best Buy Award.
— Jeff Dobronyi