Gossamer Gear LT4 Trekking Poles [Gear Review]

It isn’t often that you find a piece of gear that just will not die. We’ve all heard the expression: “Lightweight, Cheap, Strong – pick two.” I picked all three (well…maybe not quite CHEAP, but certainly no more expensive than other high-quality carbon fiber poles) with the LighTrek4 (LT4) Adjustable poles from Gossamer Gear (GG). (Image above taken at: Just below the summit of South Sister, Central Oregon)

I beat the crap out of these poles and they just keep taking it.

My pair has been to the shattered crater rim of Mount St. Helens. I took them to the 10,385’ summit of South Sister. They’ve been on hundreds of other lower-altitude summits and have been scratched, dinged, leaned on; they’ve been used to prop tarp-tents and hammock tarps. I’ve kicked them and dropped them and closed them in the car door – and I can’t kill them.

/happy rant.

Gossamer gear LT4 poles

Don’t I look excited to have my poles?
Tanner Butte – Columbia River Gorge, Oregon

Constructed of two sections, the LighTrek4 poles are extremely minimalist in design; they are simply made from two tapered carbon fiber tubes, a handle, carbide tip and a locking mechanism. That’s it. No gimmicky ‘anti-shock’ springs or fancy padded straps.

Some people might be put off by the lack of straps on the LighTrek4 poles, but straps really are unnecessary with poles this light. Personally, I’m thankful that there are no straps attached, because I find myself using the poles less frequently than I once had. Since I only use the poles when hiking up steep trails, most of the time I end up carrying them in one hand. Fidgeting with a strap each time I need to use them would become tedious.

The handle is “EVA Kork-O-Lon”, which seems to mean that they are made out of rubberized awesomeness. They stay grippy even in desert heat and don’t chafe my hands at all. The handles don’t absorb moisture and they really don’t seem to get dirty, despite my heavy use.

Carbon fiber has something of a bad reputation, but for good reason. It is extremely lightweight and very strong for how little it weighs– but it doesn’t have much flexibility. Rather than flexing, carbon fiber snaps, so it does require some care. Leaning on them sideways or using them to pry things will eventually break them. That being said, most of the force I put on my poles is completely downward. I’m careful not to twist them between rocks or bend them, but some people are harder on their gear than I am.

The bottom half of the pole is wrapped in a ridged material, which adds some strength where the poles would be weakest. This reinforcement helps prevent nicks and scratches from becoming catastrophic breaks in the pole.

The LT4 poles use a twist-lock mechanism, and are the only twist-lock poles I have used that didn’t fail within a few dozen miles. Only twice in a year (and hundreds of miles) have I had any trouble with the locking mechanism – and both times were my fault because I let them get filthy inside. The mechanism has never slipped while the poles were in use, only refused to lock until I took them apart and dumped out the mud.

Gossamer Gear has always had a reputation for making some of the finest ultralight gear on the market, and I experienced the exceptional quality firsthand with a Gorilla pack that I carried for several seasons. Unfortunately, users seemed polarized; they either loved the poles or truly despised them. One user would claim that the poles snapped after only thirty miles on the trail while another user successfully completed the PCT with only nicks and scratches on his poles. Ultimately, I decided to pull the trigger because I’d used UL equipment for years and knew how to handle it.

Gossamer gear LT4 trekking Poles

Golite Shangri-La 1 with LT4 Poles as tent poles
Goat Rocks Wilderness, Washington

Use & Durability:
I use poles to alleviate pressure on my knees during steep climbs and descents. At 27 years old, my knees are surprisingly weak. I’ve been living with a torn meniscus for several years due to a racquetball injury in college. Running & hiking in a more ‘natural’ fashion, with an emphasis on striking with the ball of my foot rather than heel, has helped to limit the grinding pain. It still flares up occasionally, and when it does, I am glad to have poles on hand.

When I’m not using poles and hiking up a steep grade, I tend to lean very far forward. This puts undue pressure on my knees and forces me to take longer strides than I should. Trekking poles help me stay more upright and regulate my steps during these climbs. For this type of use, the LT4 poles are perfect. I carry them in one hand on flat or rolling terrain, use them for the steep climb and descent, and frequently use them in camp to pitch my shelter or prop up my hammock tarp in ‘porch mode’. From time to time, I need to use them for balance in loose, rocky sections, but I rarely put significant weight on them.

Gossamer Gear LT4 poles with hammock tarp

GG LT4 Poles being used in ‘Porch Mode’
Near the summit of Whistler Point – Ochoco Nat’l Forest, Oregon

Folks who happen to be heavy or need poles because they are clumsy might consider a heavier pole than the LT4. These are NOT designed to take the weight of a 200lb man falling on them, at least in my opinion.

I’ve read threads on BackpackingLight about users finding that poles without straps do not imply the same mechanical advantage as poles WITH straps. Physically, this makes sense. So if you use straps and find them necessary to your hiking style, GG does make a version of the LT4 with removable straps.

I don’t typically use the LightTreks during more serious climbs because they can break under significant lateral force. It would be pretty harrowing (and possibly lethal) if a pole snapped during the prevention of a major fall. If I’m heading up high in the ‘off-season’, I carry a pair of Black Diamond TrailBack poles. For general hiking/backpacking, though, the LT4 poles are fantastic.

In Sum:
My LT4 poles are the most well-used item that I carry when backpacking, and that is no exaggeration. I take them on nearly every trip and use the heck out of them. Despite reading others’ experiences with the poles snapping off during inopportune moments, I’ve had nothing but luck. It’s possible that I’ve simply been lucky thus far and my poles are plotting to drop me on my arse at the next misstep, but I think I’ve put them through their paces and they continue to impress me!

Purchase Date: March 21, 2012
Purchase Price: $160
Review Date: March 23, 2013

jesse bloughJesse Blough – Senior ODTG Writer/Gear Geek (Jesse@Outdoortrailgear.com) Jesse is an avid ultralight backpacker and hammock enthusiast who hails from the beautiful Pacific Northwest.

Jesse hikes roughly 30 miles per week, and goes backpacking (2-3 days at a time) twice a month. Major multi-day trips 5-10 times per year. Jesse has hiked most of the long trails in Pennsylvania (all of the NCT in PA, the Loyalsock trail, the Quehanna trail, etc.) He’s summited most of the lesser peaks in the PNW.

His obsession with the lightest gear on the market has become increasingly expensive – so he found a business partner and began OneLife Wilderness Products as a means to feed the addiction. OneLife products is available in the ODTG store, along with other items that Jesse uses and swears by.

Jesse is working with Outdoor Trail Gear as lead gear tester, reviewer & blogger. Most of his gear reviews will be long-term and in-depth – written to help other hikers make informed decisions about what items might work for them in the long run.

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