I was recently given the opportunity to test-drive one of the top trekking pole models on the market today: the Gossamer Gear LT5 carbon poles (MSRP $195.00). The GG poles accompanied me on numerous dayhikes and one memorable backpack into the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park, the highs and lows of which I’ve highlighted in a previous blog post.
A relative latecomer to the use of poles for backpacking (my knees requested help around age 40), I’d been using the economical, Massdrop-backed Fizan Compact Poles for a couple years. As one would expect, the Gossamer poles were certainly a step up in terms of performance and quality! Here are some specs provided by the manufacturer.
Pole with strap and basket – 5.3 oz / 150 g
Pole – 4.6 oz / 130 g
Strap and screw – .4 oz / 12 g
Basket – .3 oz / 8 g
23.5″ / 60 cm when closed to 51″ 130 cm when fully extended for hiking
Top section 19.5″ / 49.53 cm
Middle section 19.25″ / 48.98 cm
Tip section 18.75″ / 47.62 cm
This evaluation will focus on four distinct areas: initial impressions, use during walking, use as a pole for ultralight structures, and a direct comparison with the ubiquitous Fizan Compact trekking poles.
Upon removal from the box, it’s clear that these poles are a step up from the Fizan Compacts I’ve been using in terms of quality of materials and craftsmanship. These poles are obviously well designed and well constructed, which is comforting to users who expect quality at this price point.
Use during walking
The adjustment straps are truly first class! They are easy to adjust, stay in place once adjusted, and are comfortable in both the material used and the placement of the adjustment buckle. My favorite adjustment system of any set of poles I’ve used.
On my first dayhike, I immediately noticed that the handles basically require two fingers above “the bump” instead of one. I am generally accustomed to hiking with one finger above the bump, but I was able to make the transition without too much trouble. Some hikers may not find this to be a problem, while others may not find a finger placement that is comfortable for them.
In addition to their unusual size, the handles get softer with use—both during a hike and over time and multiple outings. As a result, my thumbs eventually make contact with the screw at the top. I did find this somewhat distracting and would recommend that Gossamer Gear consider a somewhat more rigid material towards the top of the handle to accommodate us thumbs-on-top folks.
Some lightweight poles have a tendency to “whip” during the stride, perhaps due to a lack of stability in materials. I find the whip-like feeling to be distracting while walking. These poles do not exhibit the dreaded whip effect! The baskets are slightly larger than average and did seem to catch on rocks and plants somewhat more often than poles with smaller baskets.
I did notice that the twist-lock mechanisms on these three-piece poles had a tendency to loosen with use. This was surprising at first, but I quickly adopted a habit of tightening both poles whenever I sat down for a breather. Problem solved.
Use as pole(s) for ultralight structures
The LT5 proved to be excellent poles for use with an ultralight shelter—in my case, an early 2018 model Gossamer Gear The One. I encountered no difficulty getting the exact pitch I wanted with these poles.
As mentioned before, the LT5 do not have the strongest twist-lock mechanism I’ve encountered. While this is a slight negative for walking, it’s just fine for those of us who like to experiment with a variety of different pitching strategies for our shelters. Even after a long day of desert hiking, the twist-lock did not freeze up or prove difficult to loosen. In this photo, I pitched The One with one larger pole and one shorter pole to provide extra vestibule room to help me through a storm-filled Utah day. The poles allowed such a pitch with no quarrel.
Comparison with Fizan Compact poles
Here are a few direct comparisons with my previous go-to trekking poles, the Massdrop-exclusive version of Fizan Compact poles. If a subject is not specifically addressed in the bullets below, it is because there was not a significant difference between the two types of poles.
- LT5 hand straps are much more comfortable and do not have the exposed and potentially scratchy threads found on the Fizan. Winner: LT5.
- LT5 hand strap adjustability is much more convenient than the Fizan. Winner: LT5.
- Fizan has smaller, closed baskets, which are less likely to momentarily catch on rocks than the LT5. Winner: Fizan.
- LT5 was much more likely to inadvertently collapse due to weakness of the tightening mechanism. Winner: Fizan.
- LT5 did not exhibit the “ultralight pole whip” feeling from which the Fizan sometimes suffer. Winner: LT5.
In conclusion, I’d strongly recommend the Gossamer Gear LT5 poles based on their superior performance while in use. I did have a few minor quibbles that required some mental adjustments on my part, but once I got on the trail those issues were quickly forgotten.
Author’s note. The poles described in this post were provided by the manufacturer at no charge for the purpose of testing and review. The thoughts and conclusions above are strictly mine and were not influenced by the manufacturer in any way.