Road test – Coleman trekking poles

The well-signposted trail is very easy to follow right the way up to Laban Rata. The first landmark is Carson’s Falls, a small waterfall. After this, there are rest points at shelters every kilometre or so where you can check your position on the trail map, talk to other hikers, fill up your water bottle (untreated water) and visit the toilet if needed. The trail is well looked after and there is very little litter indeed. The views are quite limited to begin with, but as you get closer to Laban Rata, the vegetation become less dense and you can admire the huge granite cliffs of Kinabalu towering in the distance and the valleys of Sabah behind you.
Bagging It!

Disclaimer: I’m new to trekking poles and have been using these for less than three weeks. There are several reviews of these poles floating around the Internet from people vastly more experienced than me. This review is from a newbie’s perspective. Let me put it this way: would you rely on the opinion of somebody who’s had a learner’s permit for three weeks about whether or not to buy a particular car?

I mentioned a post or two ago that I’ve acquired a pair of Coleman trekking poles. These weren’t my first choice, but they seem to be the only ones available in Vietnam. I was after something not too expensive that would let me learn not only how to use them but also what I really need.

The Coleman poles are positioned in the budget segment of the trekking pole market. I looked at a large number of user comments (Amazon has a heap of them) and they were mostly very positive. The advertised features are impressive for a product in this price range:

  • collapsible (sliding, twist-lock shafts)
  • shock absorbers
  • cork grips
  • tungsten-carbide tips
  • aluminium shafts
  • removable rubber bootees (or whatever they’re called)

As I said, the reviews were good. Negative features that were mentioned included:

  • an overall ‘cheap’ feel, i.e. lack of quality
  • the bottom shaft pulls out of the middle shaft too easily and is fiddly to get back in.
  • several people said the tips come off easily [I think they may have been talking about the removable rubber feet]
  • one person said a pole bent on first use (no details)

Based on this (and the fact that these are the only trekking poles available locally!) I decided to go ahead and get them. The best of the local online suppliers is I ordered them and they arrived a couple of days later. The cost, by the way, was just over USD50 including shipping, about what I would have paid to Amazon (USD30 per pair plus shipping) if they delivered to this neck of the woods, which they don’t.

They arrived a couple of weeks ago. I quickly unpackaged them and set about setting them up. No manual was supplied, but there was no rocket science involved. Sure enough, a bottom shaft pulled right out the first time I extended it. A few seconds of fiddling with the rubber expanding grommet thingy (please excuse the technical talk) and I had it back together. No biggy, but it is a poor design feature. The wrist straps were fiddly and awkward to adjust. Unfortunately I had to head off to work instead of taking off to the countryside to play with them.

I’ve already written about my first experience with the poles (Trekking Poles 101). The one thing I found really annoying was that there was no shock absorber as advertised. Nothing. Nada. I found the jarring when using the poles on rock unpleasant. I figured, OK, I’ve ended up with a cheap Chinese knockoff of a made-in-China product.

Over the next week I familiarised myself the the poles. Adjusting the length was fiddly but easy enough. After a few days, the shock absorbers magically appeared. It turns out that after adjusting the middle shaft for length, you twist it back an eighth of a turn until it clicks. Voila! Shock absorbers! Well, I did say there was no manual.

After two weeks of solid use, I’ve found a number of good points and some not so good points.

  • Firstly, for somebody just getting started they’re a good first choice. They’re light, easy to use and adequate for the task. For the price you pay, they’re excellent value.
  • The cork handles were great. Comfortable, fit my hands well, nonslip even with sweaty hands and no abrasion or sore spots.
  • They’re reasonably easy to adjust but take longer than I’d like, especially with wet hands.
  • When you collapse them, they are still way too long to stow in a backpack.
  • There are lines painted on the shafts to assist you when adjusting the length, but they are already starting to wear off.
  • It’s just a feeling, but I’m not confident that they will last a long time. They have a slightly flimsy feel to them.

I’m not sure I’ll use them for Mt Kinabalu – I’m just not that confident that they’re up to the task. However, ask me again when I’ve got another hundred or kilometres racked up on them. I’ll bring them to Kota Kinabalu with me just in case, but I plan to do some serious shopping around for new poles when I get there. I plan to get into hiking/trekking seriously in the coming year and I think it’s worth getting a set of poles that will outlast me.

That said, I’m happy I got these. I’ve learned a lot from them, and still have more to learn. The features you get for this price are unbeatable. If you’re in the same position as me and want a pair of sticks to learn on, they are ideal. I think they’re also good for the occasional hiker.

Posted on October 25, 2015, in Hiking and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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