REI Co-op Flash Carbon Review
Cons: Foam grips aren't as comfortable, large collapsed size
Manufacturer: REI Co-op
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Co-op Flash Carbon features foam grips, which save weight, but aren't as comfortable as other foam grip designs. They also can't compete with cork grips in the comfort metric. We did appreciate the foam grips on hot sweaty days where the foam wicked away sweat from our palms and fingers. The carbon fiber shafts are naturally shock-absorbing, but overall, we wish these poles had a more comfortable grip design and a padded grip extension for choking up.
Locking Mechanism and Adjustability
The Flash Carbon features REI's Powerlock system, and because this is a higher end pole, these are constructed of aluminum. This locking mechanism was quite durable, although there are better lever lock mechanisms in our review. However, these are still well-built mechanisms that are functional and easy to use.
This model features about 14 inches (35 cm) of adjustability. The third section of the pole needs to be pulled out to an "extend to here" section, which leaves only one section of pole to be adjusted. This is convenient.
The Flash Carbon weighs in at 14.6 ounces, which is on the lighter side of the spectrum. It is also one of the lightest 3-section telescoping poles. This design is the strongest of all extending pole designs, meaning you get an awesome strength-to-weight ratio. The light weight is enabled by thin (but not too thin) carbon fiber shafts and foam handles. The shafts could be thicker to increase durability, and the grips could be cork to add comfort, but both avenues would add weight. We think this pole strikes a good compromise for day hikes and short multi-day treks.
The Flash Carbonto 27 inches, which is among the largest packed size of poles in our review. As such, it is difficult to recommend these poles to anyone who needs them to be stowed on a small backpack or carried up and over an alpine climb or technical scrambling objective. These poles are not designed to be stowed, and they will present difficulty to anyone trying to pack them in a moderately sized backpack or duffel for air or rail travel. Other poles in our review are much easier to travel with.
The Co-op Flash Carbon features a thin Carbon Fiber weave for its construction. Although we didn't run into any issues on the trail, there are thicker carbon shafts for those who want more durability, and aluminum poles for those who want an even burlier option. As such, we wouldn't recommend these for the longest and most remote trips, like international trekking or long-distance through-hiking. They are great poles for regular on-trail use from day hikes to lightweight backpacking trips.
The Flash Carbon is relatively versatile for on-trail use, cross-country, lightweight backpacking, and day hiking. On the extreme sides of the spectrum, like technical climbing and scrambling, and long-distance trekking, these poles won't perform as well. They come with small trekking baskets.
These poles are relatively inexpensive for versatile carbon poles, although there are cheaper and better options in our review. We especially appreciate the REI lifetime guarantee, which is among the best in the outdoor industry. As such, these poles are a safe investment.
The REI Co-op Flash Carbon is durable and reliable pole. It allows the user an decent price point and is a good option for hikers looking to try out a carbon construction.
— Graham Williams