My trekking poles are feeling their age. They’re twist-locking springy poles from REI and have (as long as I periodically clean the mechanism) served me reliably for 4 years or so (and something like 400 miles of backpacking or walking). However one pole received a slight bend at Philmont, trying to hoick down a bear bag line, and it has gradually increased to where it interferes with opening and locking. (It took more than a few more miles to happen – so the pole worked very well).
So it is time to replace them.
I’d read good things about some of the relatively cheap poles found at places like W******t and C****o. So I took a look. They looked the part and were about 1/4 the cost of an REI set. The locking mechanism felt a bit sloppy – so I read the warnings on the package. There was a warning in slightly larger than normal fine print – these poles should not be expected to hold your entire weight. In other words, they look the part, but aren’t likely to be reliable. It really is important that the poles hold most if not all of your weight, at least transiently, because you will put a lot of load on them on the downhills.
Disappointed, I looked at some of the other gear. The 48-cent lexan spoons were good value, and I like their inexpensive water-resistant bags, but there were other traps for the unwary. Water filters that “improved the taste”, but didn’t filter microbes. Water purification pills that were not particularly effective. Steel tent pegs, heavy tarps and inadequate tents. (on the other hand if you know what you’re doing these can form the basis for re-engineered gear).
So it is critical to look carefully at the gear – sometimes it’s good, and sometimes it isn’t.