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Komperdell Explorer Contour Powerlock Review

A good pole that doesn't stand out in any category
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Price:  $150 List
Pros:  Relatively small packed size, decently lightweight and durable
Cons:  Flimsy locking system, unrefined comfort
Manufacturer:   Komperdell
By Jeff Dobronyi ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 3, 2020
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55
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 20% 5
  • Weight - 20% 6
  • Locking and Adjustability - 15% 4
  • Packed Size - 15% 7
  • Durability - 15% 6
  • Versatility - 15% 5

Our Verdict

The Komperdell Explorer Contour Powerlock Compact is a decent pole that we enjoyed testing. It features aluminum construction, a good range of adjustability, and foam grips. While it doesn't stand out from the pack in any one performance attribute, it is a good pole for most uses and isn't as expensive the high-performance options.

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Komperdell Explorer Compact performed in the middle of the pack in just about every category. It boasts a small collapsed size compared to other three-section telescoping poles, and a good light weight despite being made from aluminum. We didn't especially enjoy its foam handles or plastic lever locks.

Performance Comparison


The Komperdell Explorers are a great option for day hikes and light overnight excursions.
The Komperdell Explorers are a great option for day hikes and light overnight excursions.

Comfort


The Komperdell's grips are made from foam, are lightly contoured, and feature a foam grip extension below the main grip. All of this is great for wicking sweat on hot days. However, we found the foam grip to be a bit too thick in diameter, which meant that it was slightly less comfortable, and more tiring, to hold over the course of long days. The pronounced ribs on the lower grip extension aren't as comfortable as other poles in the review. The aluminum shafts don't absorb any shock from the ground. On the whole, we weren't impressed by the comfort of these poles.

The Komperdell's foam grips are too thick for small hands to grasp easily  and the ribbed extension isn't comfortable.
The Komperdell's foam grips are too thick for small hands to grasp easily, and the ribbed extension isn't comfortable.

Weight


At 16.0 ounces, these poles are remarkably light, given their aluminum construction and telescoping design. For comparison, one other pole in the review is made of carbon and features a z-style design, and weighs slightly more. The foam grip and plastic lever locks help shave a few grams compared to cork grips and metal lever locks, but these heavier features on other poles improve performance in other metrics.

Locking and Adjustability


We were disappointed with the plastic lever locks and tricky wrist strap adjustment features. In our experience, plastic lever locks get banged up and damaged over time, meaning that eventually, these poles won't be able to hold their length. We didn't have any issues during our testing period, but we have seen it before. The lever locks feel relatively solid, but seem unrefined. The poles feature 12 inches (30cm) of extension, which is plenty.

These plastic lever locks are not as confidence-inspiring as other locking mechanisms in our review.
These plastic lever locks are not as confidence-inspiring as other locking mechanisms in our review.

We didn't love the Komperdell's wrist strap adjustment feature. A toothed wedge connected to the strap has to be placed just right to lock down the strap in the correct length. We found this feature unintuitive and hard to adjust on the go. After a while, we got used to it, but it seems like there are better ways to achieve easy adjustments.

A small rubber wedge is attached to one end of the wrist strap  which needs to be pulled into place to adjust the length. This is confusing and counterintuitive.
A small rubber wedge is attached to one end of the wrist strap, which needs to be pulled into place to adjust the length. This is confusing and counterintuitive.

Packed Size


The Komperdell Explorer Compact scored highest in this category because they pack smaller than any other three-section telescoping pole in our review. They collapse down to 22.8 inches, which helps them fit onto the side of a large backpack with ease. They'll stick out if you strap them onto the side of a day pack, but much less than other poles in our review. The baskets are easily removable for low-profile packing inside of luggage.

The Komperdell Explorer Compact  left  packs the smallest of the three-section telescoping poles. The BD Alpine Carbon Cork (center) and Leki Makalu Lite (right) are shown for comparison.
The Komperdell Explorer Compact, left, packs the smallest of the three-section telescoping poles. The BD Alpine Carbon Cork (center) and Leki Makalu Lite (right) are shown for comparison.

Durability


In general, aluminum poles are relatively durable. The metal shafts resist chipping and cracking, and also bend when stressed instead of snapping. We found that these poles bend a little more under gentle weight than other aluminum poles, which was slightly concerning. Furthermore, the plastic lever locks don't seem robust and might be the weakest point on the pole. Still, we weren't able to damage these poles in our test period.

Aluminum shafts are durable  but still bend under weight.
Aluminum shafts are durable, but still bend under weight.

Versatility


These poles are good for average hiking use, like day hikes and short overnight trips. We wouldn't trust them for long backpacking trips, through-hikes, cross-country travel, and would choose a more durable pole for those uses. They don't pack as small or weigh as little as other options, making them less useful for technical climbs. Still, for the average hiker, these are plenty useful.

The Komperdell's baskets are a good size for most hiking uses. In dense brush  they'll get caught.
The Komperdell's baskets are a good size for most hiking uses. In dense brush, they'll get caught.

Value


These poles are cheaper than the high-performance options, making them a great entry-level pole that will provide good value and a useful lifespan. That said, there are cheaper options that perform better.

Conclusion


The Komperdell Explorer Compact is a good option for average hikers who just need a pole that does the basics. These won't cost you as much as other options, but you won't get all the bells and whistles either.

The Komperdell Explorer Compact poles on a fall hike in the Tetons.
The Komperdell Explorer Compact poles on a fall hike in the Tetons.

Jeff Dobronyi