The REI Co-op Flash Carbon is a lightweight carbon pole for those looking for a great deal. REI contracts Komperdell to construct their poles for them. We thought that the Flash Carbon was super lightweight at 14.6 ounces. However, we found that for the weight there was some sacrificed strength and comfort. We also felt that the carbon fiber used to construct this particular model was a little on the thin side, decreasing overall durability. This model did, however, feature REI's durable aluminum Powerlock mechanism for adjustability.
REI Co-op Flash Carbon Review
Cons: Foam grips aren't as comfortable, thin carbon construction
Manufacturer: REI Co-op
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The REI Co-OP Flash Carbon is a lightweight carbon pole for a pretty incredible price of $140. It features durable aluminum Powerlock mechanisms and foam handles that were pretty comfortable.
The Co-op Flash Carbon scored moderately in our comfort metric. It featured foam handles, which saved on weight, but they weren't as comfortable as the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z or the Leki Micro Vario Carbon's foam grips. They're exceptional for hot weather as they wick moisture well, and that said, they certainly weren't uncomfortable. Carbon fiber is a wonderful material, as it is naturally shock absorbing, and we found it to be a great addition to these poles, allowing us to cover plenty of miles without complaint.
Locking Mechanism and Adjustability
The Co-op Flash Carbon features REI's Powerlock system, and because this is a higher end pole, these were constructed of (a super rad red) aluminum. This locking mechanism was quite durable, although Black Diamond's FlickLock Pro and Leki's SpeedLock 2 mechanisms were a bit higher-end and better constructed. However, these are still well-built mechanisms that are functional and easy to use.
This model features about 35 centimeters of adjustability. The third section of the pole needs to be pulled out all the way to an "extend to here" section.
This is where the Co-op Flash Carbon excels, weighing in at 14.6 ounces, this is one of the lighter poles in our review, only rivaled by the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z, one of the lightest poles on the market. The addition of foam handles helped in the weight section; however, although the thinner carbon fiber construction helped to create a lightweight pole, it wasn't as strong or as durable as something like the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork (17 ounces). While the Carbon Cork weighs more, it features a much heavier duty weave of carbon fiber.
The Co-Op Flash Carbon is a traditional telescoping design, and packs down to 27.5 inches, which is in the upper ranges of our telescoping poles this year. It's not as packable as a break apart style pole like the Black Diamond Alpine FLZ which breaks down to 15 inches, and a couple of inches longer than the telescoping Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork, which packs down to 25 inches.
The Co-op Flash Carbon features a thin Carbon Fiber weave for its construction. Although we didn't run into any issues on trail, the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork is a beefier carbon pole, with thicker carbon weave. The Co-op Flash Carbon is a great pole for regular on-trail use from day hikes to lightweight backpacking trips, but we don't think it would do as well off trail or bushwhacking. Instead, we would suggest a burlier pole like the Black Diamond Trail Back or the REI Co-op Passage, as these poles feature aluminum construction.
The Co-op Flash Carbon is relatively versatile for on-trail use, cross-country, lightweight backpacking, and day hiking. We don't think it would be as great of a pick for something like alpine rock climbing or folks who frequently travel, as it doesn't pack down as small as some other designs. It does come with small trekking baskets as well for slightly gnarlier trails.
The Flash Carbon is an extraordinary entry level carbon pole, that excels at multiple different outdoor sports. Although we'd be hesitant to use it on heavy-duty trekking trips or alpine climbing trips were packability is paramount, we think that most general use hikers and backpackers will find the Flash Carbon to be a great pole.
At $140, the Co-op Flash Carbon is one of the least expensive carbon contenders in our review this year and one of the less expensive on the market, compared to the price of the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork or Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z. Although it isn't as durable or compact as some other models, it still performs well as a lightweight pole and is a great pick for any on-trail adventures you might have.
The REI Co-op Flash Carbon is a lightweight and inexpensive carbon pole. It allows the user an affordable price point and makes it easier on the wallet in terms of breaking into the carbon fiber design realm.
— Graham Williams