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REI Co-op Traverse Power Lock Cork - Women's Review

This aluminum pole is adjustable, durable, packs down to a reasonable size, and is fairly light.
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Price:  $100 List | $69.93 at REI
Pros:  Light, durable aluminum alloy, cork grips, adjustable length
Cons:  Strap difficult to adjust, power lock adjusting levers don't work well
Manufacturer:   REI Co-op
By Sibylle Hechtel ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 10, 2019
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57
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 20% 4
  • Weight - 20% 7
  • Locking and Adjustability - 15% 5
  • Packed Size - 15% 8
  • Durability - 15% 5
  • Versatility - 15% 5

Our Verdict

The REI Co-op Traverse Power Lock Cork trekking poles come in at an average packed-size, average weight, and have one of the lower prices of the women-specific poles that we tested. However, the pole strap adjustment doesn't work well, and the power lock levers that allow you to adjust the length are poorly designed. The lever circumference is too large, making them prone to slippage. If you're looking for a budget women's pole for your first hiking adventure, this pole is for you.


Our Analysis and Test Results

The REI Traverse trekking pole is an aluminum alloy pole in the mid-price range. You can adjust the pole length with power lock levers. It ranges from a collapsed length of 24" to an extended length of 49". The Traverse has cork grips on its aluminum alloy shaft.

Performance Comparison


Claire Walters  the author of "Nordic Walking " tests the Traverse pole. Claire  at less than 5' tall  has small hands and would prefer the contour on the cork grip to be shifted higher (closer to the top of the grip  and to the bottom of her hand).
Claire Walters, the author of "Nordic Walking," tests the Traverse pole. Claire, at less than 5' tall, has small hands and would prefer the contour on the cork grip to be shifted higher (closer to the top of the grip, and to the bottom of her hand).

Comfort


The grip, made of a harder and less pliable cork, is not as comfortable and doesn't conform to your hands like the Black Diamond cork grips. The grips' contours are also poorly placed for smaller hands, a frustrating design flaw on a women's specific pole. We found the wrist strap to be relatively comfortable, but difficult to adjust.

The grip on the Traverse is made of a harder cork than other options and does not mold as well to the hand. The strap is difficult to lengthen. We can only pull out the adjustment block to lengthen the strap using needle-nose pliers.
The grip on the Traverse is made of a harder cork than other options and does not mold as well to the hand. The strap is difficult to lengthen. We can only pull out the adjustment block to lengthen the strap using needle-nose pliers.

Weight


These poles weigh 8.8 ounces each, making them lighter than some poles that we tested. This weight is about average for a trekking pole and didn't detract from our experience hiking with the Traverse Power Lock.

Locking and Adjustability


The locking mechanism doesn't always catch. We had to unlock and relock it on occasion. It's an annoying issue. This may be because the adjusting sleeve is too large to grip the base pole easily. We looked for play within the Power Lock itself but didn't find any. The two halves of the plastic Power Lock touch when we close the lever, and no further adjustment or tightening is possible.

REI Traverse's external locking mechanism.
REI Traverse's external locking mechanism.

We also had a hard time adjusting the wrist strap in the field. We had to use needle-nose pliers to remove the wedge-shaped block that locks the wrist strap length in place. These would be good poles for those who don't use wrist straps, but if you like to use this feature, other poles have better wrist strap adjustment mechanisms.

The grip of the Traverse shown with the block pulled out (using pliers). The adjustment block has teeth that grip the strap as you pull on it  and the strap that you're trying to pull out is held in by the block's teeth. Instead of pulling the top strap  which wouldn't be held by the teeth  in order to lengthen the strap  one must pull the bottom strap  which is held by the teeth.
The grip of the Traverse shown with the block pulled out (using pliers). The adjustment block has teeth that grip the strap as you pull on it, and the strap that you're trying to pull out is held in by the block's teeth. Instead of pulling the top strap, which wouldn't be held by the teeth, in order to lengthen the strap, one must pull the bottom strap, which is held by the teeth.

Packed size


These poles collapse down to 24 inches (61cm), which is about average among the other poles in the review. They use a telescoping, 3-section design to allow this collapsed size. They will fit onto the side of a backpack or into your luggage, but if you need a pole that will collapse into a climbing pack, consider a z-pole design.

Durability


The poles did not break while we used them, but online reviews indicate that these poles may suffer when faced with wear and tear.

One review reported that the locking mechanism broke on the first hike. Another user reported falling and bending the bottom shaft. Yet another hiker used the poles on Mt. Rainier, and one pole broke in half at the plastic clip. Other Seattle area hikers went hiking into Alpine Lakes, and within 100 feet, the poles collapsed and failed. Tightening the screw did not work to keep the poles fully extended.

Other hikers confirm that the locking mechanism is a weak point for them as well, with both cracks and complete breaks reported. Another person ordered poles, and when they arrived, both poles were broken at the top where the straps emerge from the cork grip. We love REI's return policy, and you might have to use it with these poles.

REI Traverse Power Lock external locking mechanisms in the closed position.
REI Traverse Power Lock external locking mechanisms in the closed position.

Versatility


These poles work for day hikes or backpacking. Though, if you really rely on your poles, you may want to consider a sturdier pair for long backcountry missions or multi-day trips. For snowshoeing or backcountry skiing, the lack of strap adjustability presents an obstacle.

Value


This hiking pole is in the middle of the price range. For a moderate price, you get a cork grip, adjustable length, a lightweight pole, and REI's gear guarantee, which you might need.

Conclusion


The REI Traverse is a useful pole for local day hikes and short hikes on fairly level terrain. If anything breaks, REI has excellent customer service. If you experience any problems with the poles breaking or collapsing, REI will either replace the poles or refund them for another pair. That said, there are better poles out there.


Sibylle Hechtel