This is the first review I’ve ever had to start out with an apology. But it is required from my viewpoint. The Summer of 2018 was one of extreme pain for me as well as stacked with what seemed like endless heatwaves. This limited me in so many ways, and mostly thanks to the marvels (sarcasm of course) of my ever worsening CRPS. In short, I do not handle the heat well at all and often find I sweat so little that it’s not enough to cool my body or worse... don’t sweat at all. And yes! That feels every bit as bad as it sounds.
However, this did give me ample time to test Trekology’s equipment out in all kinds of urban and wild environments and even get the opinions of other hikers by lending out the equipment for day or overnight trips.
As a result of this… delayed review, I would like to (and will be) pointing out that this review covers a product, i.e. the TREKOLOGY’s TREK-Z Poles that has since been improved and upgraded to a newer version. Therefore the end conclusions of this review may have already been addressed and/or modified. But to be totally up-front with you here… I think these are definitely worth a look.
When talking about my experiences in the woods, there are few times when the use of trekking poles does not come up in the conversation. And after spending several months testing out TREKOLOGY’s TREK-Z Poles I think I have something new to add to the conversation.
Mobility and balance issues aside, using a good sturdy set of trekking poles can really enhance the experience. Yes, I know there are probably a lot of eyes rolling right now, sarcastically questioning my words and especially the young and virile who seem to bounce down the trail like a freshly made rubber ball. Yeah… I haven’t moved like that in quite some time. Once more, I do believe that eventually most of us come to one inevitable conclusion whether it’s simply from the aging process, physical issues accumulated over time or challenges we started out with.
That is, “maybe it would help if I started using trekking poles?”
Over the last 20 years I’ve used an incredible number of solid wood walking sticks and trekking poles. So when TREKOLOGY offered to send me a set of their TREK-Z Poles for review I really wasn’t expecting anything different than I’ve used before. So I guess it's nice to know that I can still be surprised from time to time.
Concerning my own personal use and observations of TREKOLOGY's TREK-Z Poles I found both positives and negatives when using this particular design. But first, let's look at the specs.
REVIEWING – TREK-Z Poles (original version)
Manufacturer – TREKOLOGY
Products weight – 1 lb. - 7, oz.
Sizes available – 100-125cm (personal height of 5’8” or shorter) or 115-135cm (personal height of 5’9” or taller)
Pack Size – 5”W x 5”D x 18”L (measurements taken after adjusted for my personal height.)
Open Size (if relevant) – 2”W x 2”D x 48.25(1/4)”Long (measurements taken after adjusted for my personal height.)
Price – $39.97
(NOTE: The TREKOLOGY TREK-Z Pole has been recently upgraded and improved. The price featured here is for the new 2.0 version of this product.)
Product Description – The TREKOLOGY TREK-Z Pole multi section trekking poles feature a quick setup design that allows the user to quickly extend or collapse the poles in seconds while maintaining the exact desired height for the user. (i.e. No more remembering height adjustment numbers for each section every time you set up each pole.) In addition, the TREK-Z poles also feature a flip lock mechanism that allows for small on-the-spot height adjustment to accommodate steep terrain. The TREK-Z poles also come equipped with an extended hand hold that is extremely comfortable and easy to grip onto in wet and humid conditions. These hand grips also offer the user options on how to grip the pole as well: using either a high and tight grip by using the ergonomically-shaped upper hand grips or a low and loose grip by using the lower extended soft foam hand grip. Each TREKOLOGY TREK-Z Pole also comes equipped with a storage bag, mud basket and rubber tips for hard surface use as well.
(NOTE: The original TREKOLOGY TREK-Z Poles featured in this review has been recently upgraded and improved to the 2.0 version and now features accessories and upgrades beyond what you see listed in this review.)
1. Initial appearance and impressions upon delivery – Upon delivery and opening the package I was instantly impressed by the strength of the materials used. Most inexpensive trekking poles utilize extremely lightweight materials such as simple tubing grade aluminum. However, the TREK-Z poles are made of aircraft grade aluminum which is far stronger and sure to take a lot more punishment.
2. Comparative price – Considering trekking poles can range in price from anywhere between $17.00 and up to and beyond the $400 range, the TREKOLOGY TREK-Z Poles are priced within that golden zone where most economically priced trekking poles can be found. (i.e. – between $25 and $45 price range.)
3. How easy is the product to set up and use? – Although I’ve never held or operated this type of trekking pole design before, I was surprised that I had the TREK-Z Poles figured out and set up within 2 minutes of opening the package. I have to admit that although I take this part of testing extremely seriously, I find that I get the best answers to this question by approaching the subject just as I know that 75% to 80% of all consumers do. That is, by first simply attempting to open the package and use the product without reading any of the instructions or looking at diagrams. Once more, this 2 minutes also included the time it took to screw on the two included mud baskets before extending them to full length.
Height adjustment on the other hand took a little bit longer but was still extremely fast and easy. With only one height adjustment mechanism on the upper end of the trekking poles, this made adjusting the height extremely easy, even when making adjustments on the move.
4. Product PROS –
1) Very strong and durable. Besides the obvious advantages of balance, stability and safety, the TREKOLOGY TREK-Z Poles provide, they seem extremely strong, especially when compared to the more popular and inexpensive telescoping type trekking pole designs that are comparably priced. I believe this is partially due to the TREK-Z Poles foldable design (creating all sections of the trekking poles at a consistent diameter from top to bottom) which greatly enhances the strength and durability of the entire trekking pole. This is in stark contrast to the collapsible design where each section of the aluminum tubing must be smaller and thinner than the next in order to fit inside one another as they telescope together.
2) Extremely fast setup. An extremely useful advantage that I found with this design was how quickly the TREKOLOGY TREK-Z Poles could be folded up or deployed in literally seconds. Although this quick deployment is typical for this multi section foldable design, I had become used to fiddling over the length of each section of my collapsible trekking poles. In fact, on my old collapsible trekking poles I would usually scratch a little line into the aluminum with a nail file so that I could quickly find the exact length when setting them up. But even with this little trick my collapsible trekking poles easily took triple or quadruple the time the TREK-Z Poles set up in. Especially once I got used to them and started to come up with a few tricks of my own. Except for undoing the attached hook and loop strap that keeps TREK-Z Poles folded when they are collapsed, I can set each pole up in under 10 seconds with no further adjustment needed. This is incredibly fast.
3) Setup height is locked in. This quick setup is partially due to the fact that the TREKOLOGY TREK-Z Poles set up height is not being adjusted each time you set up each trekking pole. Each TREK-Z Pole is equipped with a flip lock height adjuster located near the hand grip which allows the TREK-Z Poles setup height adjustment to remain locked in even when fully collapsed. In this way they are always set to the desired height each time they are extended and locked into position with one little click.
4) Both ergonomic hand grips & extended foam hand grips. This is one of those things that I wish all trekking poles came with. Cutting my teeth on the grandpa of all trekking poles, i.e. the old style wooden walking stick, I quickly noticed how tired my hand got from gripping a walking stick all day long. This of course led me to adding a long hand strap to use as a sort of sling for my wrist which allowed me very loose grip on the walking stick and put more of the weight on my wrist and arms instead of my hands and fingers. In more recent years however, I've also found the ergonomic hand grips to be extremely useful as well. Especially when climbing or descending steep inclines when you tend to be either pulling yourself up as you climb, or easing yourself downward as you descend.
5) The flip lock design on the height adjustment is well thought out. Although
the original TREKOLOGY TREK-Z Poles utilized a plastic/nylon flip lock on the height adjustment mechanism, the new 2.0 version has a new and improved metal flip lock.
6) Extremely strong metal fittings between sections. Usually the joints are the most vulnerable point when pole sections are fit together in such a way. With TREKOLOGY's TREK-Z Poles however, each section is capped with an even stronger metal fitting that actually seems to make the joint stronger than the shaft itself. TREKOLOGY boasts that their TREK-Z Poles are actually stronger than carbon fiber. And after using them for more than a year and short of actually doing the strength test myself, I have to say that these trekking poles are built like a tank. Rugged and durable.
5. Product CONS –
1) No shock absorbers included. To be completely up front with you, I’m not sure if this is a disadvantage or not. When loaning the TREK-Z Poles to friends for hikes we did together, the lack of shock absorbers was the first thing they all seemed to noticed about this set of trekking poles. But as I mentioned before, I cut my teeth on using a simple wooden stick. So not having the shock absorbers in the TREK-Z Poles didn’t feel like a disadvantage to me as much as it might be for others who rely on that springiness when it comes to their trekking poles. My personal observation however is that although I’ve found these shock absorber devices to be great when hiking on roads and other hard surfaces, I find that I am oblivious to any advantage to them when I’m on wild trails like the A.T. or similar wilderness trails. But that's just my opinion.
2) Not a substitute replacement for your in-camp walking cane. In recent years I found it necessary to either carry a cane to use around camp or to carry at least one trekking pole that has a cane (or derby) style handle so that it can be shortened to about 36 inches tall and used to get around camp. This is far superior to using full length trekking poles as they can be extremely clumsy when used in a limited area. In the past and in a pinch I have even use a standard trekking pole in the same way even without the derby handle. Granted, it wasn’t the most comfortable cane grip in the world, however it did get me through the experience. But I found this was not possible with TREKOLOGY’s TREK-Z Poles and found myself once again carrying a separate walking cane to use around camp on my outings. I should point out though, that if you don’t require a cane on any point on your excursions that this is a moot point.
3) The wrist strap could be a little bit longer. Using that ‘low and lose grip’ I mentioned earlier, I noticed that even with the wrist strap adjusted to its longest length, it does not have the length needed to allow my hand full access to the lower hand grip. Regardless of the fact that I have these two semi large bear paws to work with, adding another inch or two to the length of the wrist strap would accommodate the larger range of users. The lower hand grip showed a lot of foresight… But the short wrist strap sort of has a nullifying effect on the foresight.
6. Possible MEDICAL Concerns –
1) Other than accidentally stabbing myself in the foot with the carbide tip… or possibly a choking hazard for a sword swallower I could find no real medical concerns. And yes… I admit it. I did accidentally stab myself in the foot while putting these in my closet while writing this review. So, medical concern noted.
7. Medical Benefits of the Product –
1) Extremely strong balance and stability for walking or hiking. This one goes without saying for most of us. But I still find myself explaining to people who would like to hit the trail but have balance or mobility issues, that trekking poles are an important tool. A tool that will allow a person to do what their body may be unable to do. And although I often have to literally point it out to them, this applies to people of all abilities, not just those living with extra challenges. ie., trekking poles add stability and balance for all backpackers.
2) Ergonomic hand grips are easy on the hands. The simulated cork material that makes up the hand grip is the closest to using real cork as I’ve seen. Don’t get me wrong… actual cork is nice… but it doesn’t last. The advantages to cork however seem to be preserved in the TREK-Z Poles’ hand grips.
3) No twist locks or adjusting each section for proper height adjustment. I must admit...I really liked losing the twist locks. First of all because I’ve seen them fail first hand when not tightened properly. And yes… It was me who ended up “taking the fall for it”. (All puns fully intended). In addition to this, it was also extremely nice to get rid of any guesswork when extending the TREK-Z Poles to full size. I believe I mentioned before how I used to scratch a line on my trekking pole sections so I could easily spot the adjustment height. Being extremely dyslexic, I can not tell you how many times I set up my trekking poles wrong because my eyes didn’t properly identify what was actually being
displayed on the pole section. But it usually doesn’t take you long ‘til you realise something is very off and you’re stopping again to figure out why.
4) One click - fast setup with one tug. (See part 2) of next section 8, for details) Let’s face it… the less time standing around fiddling with those trekking poles the better! The TREK-Z Poles are incredibly fast to set up and therefore leads to less stress and struggle when getting ready to leave the car or camp.
8. Clinical Observations & Tips –
1) For me, carrying the TREK-Z Poles meant extra pack weight. i.e. - carrying a camp-cane again. Don't get me wrong, I really enjoyed these many months of testing out the TREKOLOGY TREK-Z Poles. But one of the things that I did to lessen pack weight in recent years was to carry at least one cane or derby style handled trekking pole in order to avoid carrying a separate cane to use around camp. Most people who walk with a cane will tell you that trekking poles are no substitute for a cane, especially in tight areas. Not to mention that the weight distribution on the trekking poles is all wrong when compared to a good solid cane. When hiking with trekking poles I find myself using a lot more of my back and legs than I do when I am walking with a cane. This in turn adds a whole lot more pain to my journey. You're no doubt asking by now, “So why doesn't he hike with a cane?” The quick answer here is the reach of the trekking poles over a cane or set of canes. And when hiking up and down hills, over rocks and fallen trees and anything else that's in your way… having that extra reach is priceless in such environments. However, besides not having the same support as a cane does, around camp those extra long and lanky legs (trekking poles) just tend to get in everybody's away.
2) The quick setup trick that made expanding the TREK-Z Poles even easier for me was as simple as this.
a. Sliding the pieces together,
|A little tug locks it all together|
b. Inverting the trekking poles to an upside down position,
c. Stepping one foot into the hand strap like a stirrup,
d. And then giving a gentle pull upward to lock it all into place.
As I mentioned before, once adjusted to your height, this little trick allows me to setup each TREKOLOGY TREK-Z Pole in less than 10 seconds.
In conclusion, I found the TREKOLOGY TREK-Z Poles to be a well made - an extremely strong set of trekking poles. While also staying within a reasonable price range, TREKOLOGY created a real backcountry beast in the TREK-Z Poles that is sure to stand up to the punishment that we backpackers like to put them through.
However, although I would have been able to overlook the need to carry a separate walking cane for in camp use alone, when combined with the short wrist strap I felt obligated to shave at least a few points off their score. Sorry Trekology, but perfect scores are hard to come by in adaptive hiking gear. But despite this, I still say ‘Great Job TREKOLOGY!
Besides… 4.5 stars is still a top grade rating in my book. And TREKOLOGY TREK-Z Poles are definitely worth checking out.
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Produced by: Terry Craig,
The Disabled Hiker
Assistant editor: Dave Deubler
Photos & video by: Larry Deitch,
& Terry Craig,
Disclaimer: This blog, written articles, video presentations, and all content within are not intended to take the place of professional medical advice. Please consult your Doctor before making any changes to your treatment plan and/or changes to your exercise routine.
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