LT4 Carbon Trekking Pole Review
This is my negative review of the LT4 carbon (fiber) trekking poles available from Gossamer Gear.
As I’ve mentioned in other articles, I had never hiked before. When buying my equipment I fell for all the marketing. I wanted the best of the best, and ultralight seemed to be all the rage. After much research, I came upon a product line from Gossamer Gear. The LT4 carbon trekking poles are very light, and cut down on redundancy because they can also be used as tent poles for their ‘ultralight’ tent, The One. This was exactly the type of weight savings I was looking for, or so I thought.
Then again, what did I know? I should have just read the dictionary. The word Gossamer is ‘used to refer to something very light, thin, and insubstantial or delicate’. In this sense, Gossamer Gear is true to its name. I came to realize that I had made a mistake purchasing these lightweight carbon fiber trekking poles, as the hike I was about to go on demanded much more robust equipment.
Benefits of Trekking Poles
The first 100 miles of our trek took us through a section of the Owyhee Desert in Idaho. Relatively flat, the poles held up fine, although the thick mud ripped the rubber tread pieces off the bottom. No effect on performance though, so no big deal – I thought.
My first clue that these poles were inadequate came once we got out of the desert into the foothills of the Sawtooth Mountains. This was when we started to send it through rivers and creeks during peak snow melt season. As mentioned, the season during which we started necessitated gnarly river crossings on our part. Trekking poles here make all the difference, as the water pressure could easily topple you over if you don’t have enough stability in these types of slippery and hazardous conditions.
Joel had experience on his side, sure, but he also had Black Diamond aluminum trekking poles (which I would eventually buy, and strongly recommend). He made it look easy when he crossed the waterways. As I would often follow in his footsteps, I noticed myself having a much harder time crossing – while also noticing that I couldn’t put my full weight on the trekking poles, lest they collapse in on themselves. I learned that this was because of the inadequate locking mechanism on these already weak carbon fiber trekking poles.
Gossamer Gear Trekking Pole Complaints
- Too delicate to put my full weight on during river crossings. The locking mechanism wouldn’t hold and I’d constantly fall into the water.
- This resulted in me putting more weight and pressure on my body, which resulted in injury.
- The carbon fiber was too weak to hold up in snow, and both poles splintered into dozens of pieces rendering the poles useless.
- Being hundreds of miles from where I started, and as the poles were a necessary component of my tent, this equipment failure could have ended my hike.
- Having these poles fail meant that I had to set up my tent (The One, from Gossamer Gear) with a rope and my fishing pole, combined with the shattered remnants of the poles, in what became a makeshift shelter during a thunderstorm.
- The gossamer gear customer service was not helpful at all, offering to sell me a replacement part. What is there to replace when the entire thing shattered like porcelain?
- Only lasted 250 miles before they completely shattered.
Trekking Pole Comparison
Gossamer Gear employs a twist-lock system on the LT4 carbon fiber trekking poles. This is garbage technology and is inadequate for a serious hike or for serious hikers. I learned this the hard way, as I mistakenly thought weight – or lack thereof – was everything.
I came to find that a better locking mechanism, such as the external lever lock used by Black Diamond on some of their poles, is necessary. On a serious hike such as the Idaho Centennial Trail or the Wild West Trail, durability is key, and I highly recommend buying a set of aluminum poles from Black Diamond.
*ProTip: Although I no longer recommend using single-walled tents, the Black Diamond trekking poles are compatible with Gossamer Gear’s The One tent. So if you absolutely must have their tent, at least get yourself some quality trekking poles. The weight of the poles doesn’t count towards your pack weight because they are in your arms; the added weight from aluminum over carbon fiber will serve to keep your arm muscles from withering away on extended treks.
If you take these Gossamer Gear carbon fiber trekking poles, or poles like it, on a real thru-hike you could actually die. There will be countless times that you’ll have to put your full weight on your trekking poles, whether it be crossing a river, traversing a snowy mountain pass, or climbing over downed trees. You’ll need something that you can reliably put your full weight on, otherwise it’s useless equipment.
There is certainly a need for lightweight equipment, but at what cost? If that cost is dependability or durability, especially on integral pieces of equipment such as trekking poles, they should be left for people section hiking the Appalachian Trail.
The point of having a piece of equipment is to make your life on the trail a little easier; the moment your equipment starts causing you frustration, it’s probably time to evaluate whether or not it is the right tool for the job.
Author: @carmenrao | I am basing this review on my 2018 experience hiking the Idaho Centennial Trail, or at least the first 250 miles of it – which is how long these lasted.