Trekking poles, we know they can help whether uphill or down. We also know they’re often designed by Captain Complex; heavy, bulky and slow to set, or light and beyond flimsy. All this of course means many of us leave the things in the shop or at home.
These Trail Blaze poles from Mountain King may just change your mind. Super light(115-135g), fixed length(110-130cm), anodised alloy body, tungsten carbide tips, folding to about a quarter their open length(pic 1) and quick to rig they’ve got me using poles again.
First off, fixed length; why? An ideal pole length(we’re talking walking/running here, not skiing) has your shoulders relaxed and forearms around horizontal on level ground. These poles come in 5cm increments, so getting close to your ideal is easy. From experience adjustable poles just slow you down as you fiddle and faff. Fixed length poles quickly become a familiar, useful extension of your arm. I’m not even going to start on anti-shock systems… suffice to say I’m not a fan.
Right back to these poles. They come packed in a mesh bag, good for storage and packed transport. You get a set of spike covers, flimsy but okay as travel protectors until you lose them. The poles themselves are lightweight alloy, slotting together(a bit of Glide or similar on the insert helps) like a tent pole or avalanche probe. The simple locking mechanism a piece of 2mm cord up the middle, pull it tight, slip the knot into the catch slot and you’re ready to go(pic 2).
That dangly bit of cord though, really irritated me; smarted too in strong wind. A bit of knotted elastic and a couple of strips of gaffa sorted it(pic 3).
To knock them down is equally quick. A velcro loop just below the grip should hold the poles folded. But, one fell off in the bag, the other on a bus somewhere between Sheffield and Fox House. I’ve replaced them with an off the peg velcro strap.
The wrist loops and grips carry on the light and simple theme, a fixed reach through loop and a mesh covered foam grip. A minor gripe for me is I have big hands, the padding could do with being 2-3cm longer for comfort. Perhaps time for a bit of bodging. The grip though is still refreshingly basic, okay for comfort and functional(pic 4). On hot days, you might find a thin glove adds some comfort; this is true for any pole.
The supplied baskets are a hard snow/ soft ground size; a bit large for summer. I found they caught and snagged in rocks and ground plants, both preventing a solid plant and easy lift. Thankfully poles are a standard size and smaller baskets are easy to find and fit(pic 5). You could always of course go basketless.
So to sum up, cons first:
- If like me you have big hands, the grip could be longer.
- The piece of velcro to hold the poles folded is rubbish; but so easy to replace.
- The supplied baskets are too big; but again so easy to replace.
- Like any pole, using them with a big bouldering pad is… comical for your companions.
Now the pros:
- They are simple, a huge bonus when tired in remote areas.
- These poles are light, easy to use and carry.
- They’re made in Newcastle, and Mountain King offer a quick repair service.
- They’re strong though, so you wont need that repair service much. I’m 189cm tall and 88kg, my 120cm poles easily cope with me vaulting on them.
- Those tungsten carbide tips bite, on gravel or mud or ice.
- So far, after about a year or so, mine are still in good condition.
- Range from 110-130cm; weigh from 115-135g.
- They’re cheap; for good quality poles.
- They do the job.
So, after waffling on, would I recommend these Mountain King Trail Blaze poles?
They are super light, simple, strong and do the job. So yes, if you want some poles, I do recommend them.
You can buy the poles from Sheffield’s specialist running shop Accelerate, either in person at the shop(kettle will be on…), or by mail order.
The manufacturer’s site is Mountain King.