REI Co-op Trailbreak Review
Cons: Doesn't pack small, not very durable, not that comfortable
Manufacturer: REI Co-op
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Overall, we found these poles to be somewhat unrefined. They get the job done at a reasonable price and are useful for new hikers who are curious about the benefits that trekking poles provide. However, they aren't as comfortable, versatile, lightweight, or durable as other options. Experienced users, or anyone who wants poles for off-trail use or for heavy backpacking, should look elsewhere.
The grip on the Trailbreak is made of soft foam, which is lightly contoured to fit the shape of a hand. Our testers agreed that the foam is too soft for efficient energy transfer, and it feels like it takes some effort to grip the pole securely. The contour is pretty good, but other poles on the market have grips that match the contours of the hand even better. There is no grip extension below the main handle, which is a feature that most other poles on the market include. Overall, the handle is good enough but could be a lot better.
At 17.0 ounces per pair, the Trailbreak sits squarely in the middle of the pack. There are plenty of lighter poles out there, but in the telescoping design category, this pole is not too heavy. In fact, it is equally as light as some carbon fiber options on the market, and lighter than some of the other aluminum poles. New hikers and experienced ones new to trekking poles won't notice the weight, but if you are used to lightweight equipment, this pole will feel heavy and sluggish. For on-trail use, it's not a problem, but mountain runners, alpine climbers, and ultralight backpackers should opt for a lighter option.
Locking and Adjustability
The Trailbreak extends to an incredible 55 inches long, from a collapsed length of 25 inches, offering a mind-boggling 30 inches of length adjustment. In reality, we never used this full range during our testing, and can't think of a reason why you'd want so much length adjustment unless you were purchasing this pole for a child and expecting them to use it year after year as they grow. The locking mechanisms are secure and adjust easily in the field by twisting the screw lever. However, the lever locks are a bit bulky and stick out, and they are made of plastic, which is likely to snap or chip after extended use in rugged terrain.
The wrist strap is also unintuitive and hard to figure out at first but is simple to adjust once you get the hang of it.
This pole collapses down to 25 inches, which is among the largest collapsed sizes in our test. This is not a great deal larger than other telescoping poles, which don't pack very small across the board, but compared to the foldable pole options, this packed size is huge. In general, telescoping options allow more length adjustment than foldable poles, but in most cases, we see no reason why anyone would need more than about 8 inches of length adjustment. As such, we generally recommend foldable poles for anyone who might want to stow their poles on their packs. The Trailbreak is best for casual hikers and backpackers who will always carry their poles in their hands.
Aluminum poles are generally the more durable option, but in the case of the Trailbreak, we aren't overly impressed. The shafts bend ominously, and even though aluminum poles bend to prevent snapping, the amount of flexibility in the shafts isn't inspiring. The soft foam grip is susceptible to chipping and tearing, and the plastic lever locks are bound to crack and break sooner than the aluminum locks on more durable poles.
The Trailbreak is a moderately versatile pole, useful for a variety of on-trail uses from the average day hike to more strenuous overnight backpacking trips. We wouldn't use it for mountain running or alpine climbing, however, because it is relatively heavy and doesn't pack down small. Furthermore, we'd be hesitant to use it for long-distance cross-country travel, or for trekking in remote locations because of durability issues. That said, it's a great option for hiking and backpacking at moderate levels of difficulty, and it's also useful on summer snow.
This product is priced fairly. It is less expensive than many of the best poles on the market, but the performance doesn't match up to these high-end poles, either. For the novice hiker or the experienced trail user who is just trying to understand what all the hype is about, these poles will do the trick for a fair price.
The REI Trailbreaker is a good option for mid-level performance in a trekking pole, but it doesn't come close to the best products on the market. It provides everything you need, like a contoured foam grip, plenty of length adjustments, and some versatility for a variety of uses, but it lacks the refinement of the best poles out there. For the price, however, it is hard to beat.
— Jeff Dobronyi