Gossamer Gear LT4 Trekking Pole Review

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A while back Gossamer Gear ran a competition to win some LT4 trekking poles for its Trail Ambassador members.  Several hundred photos were submitted. Fellow UK-based David Linton and myself cleaned up, bagging a pair of LT4 poles each.  Having used them over some gnarly terrain and bagged a few mountains summits to boot, I decided a review was in order. To be honest, I would never have bought these poles. I broke my Pacer Pole carbon fiber model and, having seen my friend fold his carbon poles twice, I had no inclination nor desire for spending money on more.  But I am at a point where I use trekking poles for some uphill sections and long descents only – so see little value on valley sections now for them.  I rate trekking poles, but more often have them stashed on my pack waiting till I need them. So of late I had been using some excellent Fizan lightweight aluminium poles.  But winning the LT4 poles I thought, what the heck, let’s give them a go.

Design

The LT4 Trekking Poles are part of the “Take Less, Do More” approach from Gossamer Gear. Light, in that the average weight of each pole without any baskets attached is 119g (that’s light for a pole).  Made from two custom-made carbon tapered tubes with a spiraling wrap which is meant to add durability.  The locking mechanism is minimalist, along with the star of the show – the handles made from the famed “Kork-O-Lon” foam grip.  They have a small spectre cord loop attached to the handle to add a keep cord if you need to.  Add in the carbide tips and that’s it.  A minimalist, super-light trekking pole.

Performance 

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Used now for trips in Scotland and the Lake District, the poles have been excellent on long descents, adding lateral stability, and for assistance on river crossings.  As well as pitching shelters like the Luxe Hexpeak and MLD SoloMid XL.

These poles have reasonable stiffness, so I could generate power on uphill sections, and found they absorbed shock on some tricky, boulder-choked sections.

I like the EVA “Kork-O-Lon” foam grip handle, which remains grippy, wet or dry, and is very comfortable. I found I can alter my hand position on them to suit different terrain situations, remaining with a comfortable grip.  I would happily buy these grips and put onto other poles.   I hate straps – and the LT4 has a strapless option, which I opted for.  I don’t like being locked into poles with all that force going through the pole into your arm if jammed, or folding up, trapped in rocks.

Not having a strap means you grip the pole and control it more, I find – unlike the relaxed, let-your-hand-sink-into-the-strap style of using a trekking pole, with the straps seeking to force leverage over control.   I see strapless poles as more measured and controlled.

The LT4’s came with 2 inch baskets, but one fell off on the first trip I used them – but on reflection, it was my fault for not mounting it right.  I use snow baskets now as they stop the pole sinking in soft ground when pitching a shelter,  as well as making jamming the pole into rocks or tree roots less likely.

The poles support a SoloMid XL in an inverted position without extenders, as they can open up to 140cm.  So they are a good choice for pitching mids.  I supported a Luxe HexPeak fine with them. Others I have seen join them to pitch a large mid like a GolIte Shangria-La 3  – which I must try.

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The locking mechanism took a bit of sussing out.  I had slippage first time out, but once mastered I can now lock the pole off with ease.

 Simply screw down the rubber section and brass cap, then marry to the upper section so that it just goes in and you feel it grab, then adjust the height – locking it off.  It’s not complex.

The locking mechanism is simple and minimalist, so clean out the poles when you get home to stop them jamming and being unable to separate on the next trip.

In addition, there is also a red ring you slide down the shaft if using the poles upside down to pitch your shelter.  This is supposed to prevent ingress of muck and water into the shaft.  I don’t need it, but if your shelter is pitched with the tip fitting into the apex then this could be of use to you.

The tips are made of a durable carbide.  I have hammered these poles on rocky summits, bog, peat hags, and steep down hills coming off 3000ft mountains.  Nothing has broken so far; plus, there is no sign of damage on the lower shafts.  I am very confident in them. Let’s face it: caning them over rocky Lakeland summits and the Cairngorms has shown to me that they work fine with no visible wear or damage.   I like the 2-piece construction, but they won’t stash down small strapped to your pack.  But they are light carried on your pack when not needed (so I can compromise).  I reached for them last trip, and will do next time I am packing to go out to the hills.  I am impressed with them.  I never wrap gaffer (Gorilla) tape around my poles, by the way.  I like to keep the weather off the tape and keep it clean for when I need it.

Specifications

  • 4.1 oz or 119 g per pole claimed weight (mine feel light but I have not checked the weight)
  • Adjustable range of 90 cm 140 cm
  • Two piece pole 
  • Custom tapered carbon fiber material
  • Famed EVA “Kork-O-Lon” foam grips (really good)
  • Carbide tips as standard

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Conclusion

A light, functional, admittedly high-priced pole.  I had discounted them, but have been pleasantly surprised at how good they are.  I hammer poles and yet so far, over some gnarly UK terrain, I have had no issues.  What more can I say.  Highly recommended.  I have to say I am a lucky I won them.  They cost $175 a pair – but seem to me to be worth it.

I would like to see Gossamer Gear make a super-stiff 2 part aluminum pole with those handles.  But until they do, these carbon marvels will do just fine outside of winter.

Disclaimer

Martin Rye won the LT4 poles. No fee, request, nor obligation to write a favourable review was agreed – nor asked for by Gossamer Gear.  Martin Rye is a Trail Ambassador for Gossamer Gear.

21 thoughts on “Gossamer Gear LT4 Trekking Pole Review

  1. I bought a pair of these a quite few years back and I have to say that they are the biggest waste of money i have ever spent on hiking gear.

    The locking mechanism has failure built in to it – the parts in the mechanism seem to react with each other to encourage corrosion. Once corroded there is absolutely no way on earth you tighten or loosen them – believe me I have tried!

    Mine are still sitting in the cardboard tube in which they were sent to me – utterly useless.

    You’ll be glad you had a free pair Martin..

    An appalling investment.
    :-(

    • The current locking mechanism is improved over older ones Alan. I looked at the older reviews and issues raised. I will hassle GG for you. But based on the last Cairngorm trip, I’m well happy performance wise with them. But note taken to keeping them clean. I dont want your hassles.

      • From looking at your picture of the locking mechanism it does look different to the ones on my LT4’s. I bought mine in the winter of 2008/2009 and they did two TGO Challenges (but were playing up on the second – I had to fiddle about for half hours at a time to get them to lock) but when I took them to the Pyrenees in 2010 for a short section of the HRP (ie, when I really needed them) both poles gave up the ghost completely. One jammed at about 130cm and the other refused to tighten with any amount of encouragement. It made for a very awkward trip.

        I replaced them with flick lock aluminium poles from.Leki, that have been completely fault free for quite a few years now, which is important as I use them to support my Trailstar.

        I really don’t understand why GG don’t go over to a flick-lock design – which would solve any potential [problems at a stroke.

        I also have had issues with the length of the stowed poles – airports made me send the poles as outsize luggage, separate to my pack, so I had to allow devise packaging that would get them safely past baggage handlers – no easy job. They used to catch trees when walking through conifer plantations which gave me pine needled down my neck.. This is what they lok like when attached to your pack: Me, 2010

        Other manufactures make carbon poles in three sections, with flick-lock connectors. I don’t understand why GG still make them like they do. If it’s down to weight they have completely missed the point – function trumps weight every time.

      • My old BD Flick-locks were the dogs b(&&*( Alan. They wore out, but I agree the flick-locks system is the best way to join poles. I highlighted this discussion with GG the other night via email – so hope they get back to us. I know GG are looking at new pole designs and more packable options. If I had not won these I would not be using them. I ruled out carbon poles way back. But I was pleasantly surprised by the LT4.

        For winter I have my pacer Poles, but I had been considering making a 2 pice Aliminium pole, or getting these ones: http://www.ultralightoutdoorgear.co.uk/equipment-c3/trekking-poles-c67/all-trekking-poles-c168/easton-mountain-products-compact-aluminium-5-trekking-poles-p1566 by Easton – and might still get. Low price, acceptable weight. Fast deployment, 140cm enabling me to pitch my SoloMid XL with ease. I use a dedicated pole to pitch the SL3 at the current time.

        For a 2 part super strong pole I point people to this by DaveC http://bedrockandparadox.com/2013/08/28/the-perfect-pole-part-2/ which for a winter pole makes a lot of sense.

      • Hi Mark

        I had always (perhaps foolishly) imagined that GG would be in touch with me after I had complained to them about my poles, but I seem to recall that they never got back to me. To be frank, i couldn’t be arsed at the time to follow it up, but now I’ve read all this and have subsequently found out that hordes of other hikers have suffered the same problems it has given me a fresh zeal to track GG down and have another go at getting them to sort out a product that was not fit for purpose.

        If I get nowhere, I’ll be in touch to send you the poles – but having hacked at one of the connectors rubber part and still been unable to free the mechanism, I don’t see how they’ll be of any use to you as it’s impossible to remove the mechanism from the carbon shaft to replace it. – I’ve had much clever engineers than me take a look and they have all shrugged their shoulders and said “They’re f*cked, Al”

        As I see it, the only way to fix these poles is to replace them.

    • Alan,
      I am not sure when you last contacted us and I am sorry no one got back with you. If you like you can email me at Support@gossamergear.com. I would be glad to help you out and try to find out what is wrong with your poles. Hopefully I can find a resolution to the problem. We are very proud with the current LT4 poles and between thicker carbon fiber tip sections and better locking mechanism, I think you would be surprised at the difference now from older models from several years ago. Please feel free to contact me and I hope I can help you out here in the near future.

      Gage
      Customer Service Gossamer Gear.

  2. I’ve been using LT4s now for about 5 years, and they are by far my favourite trekking pole. I love the handles, they are so comfortable, and the lightness in the hand is fantastic on long distances.

    Unfortunately, now, both the poles have broken. It seems that after two of three years the carbon becomes brittler. I snapped one tip section coming down a mountain in Norway, and I blame the mountain for that one (not my weight). The second one, however, just broke when it tapped against my shoe (as incredible as that may seem).

    When the first broke, Grant at GG sent me a replacement tip part, and I had a lot of trouble getting the locking mechanism to grip. It would take ten minutes of fumbling and gripping, and no amount of adjustment would solve that. It was a bit frustrating, but manageable. I also found one of the poles slipped more than the other, so had to mark which one was best for the DuoMid. (I also, incidentally, marked the poles in silver ink for different pitching heights).

    So, now I’ve had two broken poles. I was looking on the Gossamer Gear website to get another spare tip part, or entire pole. As you say, they are expensive, and I would be happy to buy one if it were not for one thing: the postage. It costs almost $100 to sent one pole, or even half a pole. This, I feel, is extortionate pricing. Even UPS or DHL can’t possible charge that much for something that weighs less than 500g.

    When we (I include myself here) review and celebrate gear from manufacturers in the US, we should also check the postage prices. There are ways around it: I’ve mentioned this to GG, and said they should work out a deal with TenkaraUSA who have a warehouse in Ireland, and can thus ship addresses in Europe at incredibly low prices. No response on that though.

    • Informative and insightful feedback Mark. A shame yours broke. Carbon clearly has a shelf life – note taken. But you love of them is testament of the design. Post is to me about $55, and UK internal post is higher now. I have to pay high post to send a parcel recorded delivery in the UK and it’s only going up if you want the value insured, otherwise it’s affordable. A very salient point on post costs and then lets not forget VAT at 20% and customs charges. In the UK you can end up paying £150 + UK for these. Comparable to the more expensive and more complex designed Komperdell ones. Great points and insight Mark. Keep it coming.

  3. The LT4s have some great attributes, as Martin mentioned. The lack of weight is noticeable in the hand, especially when walking all day and those handles are the most comfortable grips in the world, Everybody else should be stocking those grips on their poles. They’re pretty stiff too, and tough enough to get me across some rocky stream crossings.

    Now to their downsides. Packability. As someone who uses public transport a lot to access any hiking these poles really don’t pack down well, sticking out like antennae when strapped to the pack. Not such a problem when sat in your car or in the hills where you’ll likely be using them, but in the forests and public transport they’re liable to get broken. I much prefer the Black Diamond Z-pole design.

    The locking mechanism can be a little fiddly, but you kinda learn how to work it after a while.

    I’ve witnessed a couple of carbon fibre poles break in use and this turned me off them, especially if you rely on them to support your shelter. And then I stopped using two poles altogether, preferring just one. Makes taking photos and eating on the go much less of a faff. Now I only carry one pole I’m less concerned over the weight and more about it’s function.

    • Again great feedback Joe. I reckon on a plane they would be a pain. I covered the packability point, and it’s something to consider. On the train no big hassle, but I controlled the pack. Putting on a plan is another matter. I have seen my mate fold his carbon poles twice now, and I folded my Pacer Poles made of carbon – so its a concern. These will do – if they break I will be using alu ones most likely again. I do like the idea of one really stiff aluminium pole with a GG handle. Something to think about. Poles for me are a aid for certain sections of a hike. So function should always trump weight.

  4. Hi Martin, interesting comments regarding carbon fibre. I have the Fizan Compact 158g per pole. I am surprised how much abuse they will take and they seem to bend quite a long way – I always think they will snap but they don’t. Also a light & very strong pole for my TT SS1. Good review by the way!

    • Fizan make some of the best poles going Mark. Joe mentioned the Black Diamond Z-pole designed poles – which Hendrik Morkel did an excellent review of BTW. There is a range of very light, and excellent poles out there. But function is key; as it should be. A super stiff Alu pole with the GG handle is a want/need for me. Glad you liked the review. Its sparked up some fantastic comments so far.

  5. Those poles are incredibly light. The pair I had to review feel like together they might come up to around 1kg eeek! And one of them lost it’s tip on a descent.

    I think I will stay away from carbon fibre as the internet seems to be littered with cases where various people poles have broken at the most inopportune moments. It kind of makes sense too as Carbon Fibre tends to be built to take loads in one or two directions only. If a load comes from another not-planned-for-direction, the material will tend to break.

    • Light is not everything Rob, but taking only what we need is much better than lugging stuff around we don’t need! Carbon Fiber is ok, but I had no intention of getting any more of it, but then I got lucky and am pleasantly surprised at these poles. Dont rule it out. But for now master those poles you have and see what works for you.

  6. I’ve had quite a few pairs of poles over the years and have concluded from my own experience that carbon fibre is too brittle and breaks, wheres aluminium has more give, and flick lock is the only way to go.

    I currently use BD flick locks, not light but sturdy and reliable. The last set of carbon poles i had snapped on Sgurr Pitreagh, absolute rubbish.

    I hope yours do better Martin.

    • Chris I broke my carbon Pacer Poles. Yet walking with Chris Townsend recently his carbon poles had done the Watershed walk, and his Pacific Northwest walk. I agree its a suspect material – likely will break, but I like the poles right now. Flick-locks way better! and I am hinting lots to GG to make the change. I’m in a privileged position with these, as if they break I lost nothing. So if they do I shall report back. Thanks for the feedback Chris.

  7. Good to see some honest discussion on these…especially with regard to price. A real frustration for me re: many online reviews is that the author takes lovingly-rendered images of water beading off the surface of a jacket or of zips sitting snugly in their housing…but then never mentions the price of the item or whether it represents good value compared to other products. I think this is part of what happens if you get items for test which you don’t have to pay for…

    Anyway, £150 seems madness for a set of poles unless you’re doing something really extreme or a near professional. I must have spent £50 on some Lekis 10 years ago which have done a number of week/2 week walks in the Highlands plus countless days in bogs/boulders/supporting a Trailstar and are still going strong. I’ve never weighed them – I am sure they’re a lot heavier than the GG ones – but durability counts for a lot for me.

    Before that I have some BD flicklocks which were great to adjust but didn’t last long.

    • It’s a premium price James and one some will pay. Looking at the market the new fast deploying Leki, or BD poles made of Carbon cost the same. My old BD poles lasted a few years but wore out – shame as good kit and you can get a new pair for £60 of you shop around. Alu is way less cost.

      My Pacer ones are fine still. Pacer for performance and value are hard to fault, but I these days I often strap the pole on the pack on vally sections etc. So a pole for me needs to be light, but durability counts and if I was shelling out my cash I posted a link to some poles I would get in response to Alan. Ok weight, compact and fast deploying is my idea of a pole now.

      Excellent points James! Comparing value and durability matter. Points I shall bear in mind in future reviews. I also never ask for test kit by the way. I often turn it down. Honest and well used kit reviews are of value. I aim to always keep it that way.

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