Zpacks Minimalist Trekking Poles Review
This winter saw my biggest effort ever in terms of vertical elevation gain: a 12-hour race on Grandeur Peak in Salt Lake City. This race is part of the Running Up for Air Series—an event encouraging dialogue and solutions on better air quality. In the 12 hour time slot, I completed five laps on this mountain for just shy of 13,000 feet of gain. I relied on the Zpacks Minimalist trekking poles to propel me uphill in the slushy snow and to help with stability on steeper downhills when my legs were toasted.
For this event, I also trained exclusively with these poles to see how they stood up to long days. Their simple and lightweight design is perfect for long single-day efforts or thru-hikes. The full carbon shafts make them extremely lightweight yet durable. They feature a wide range of size adjustability with two twist-lock sections. Each pole also comes with a rubber road tip and a mud/snow basket for flotation. Though there are a few downsides (mentioned later), these poles are the best intersection of affordability and lightweight design I’ve found.
Zpacks Minimalist Trekking Poles: Key Specs
- MSRP: $59.95 (per pole)
- Weight: 5.1 oz (per pole)
- Length: 61 cm – 132 cm / 24.25″ – 52″
- Materials: foam grip, 100% carbon shaft
Circumstances of Review
I used these poles exclusively for winter trail running for the last few months. This included many steep ascents and descents, using the poles as support in icy/muddy/uneven terrain. The main factors I looked for were ease of use, durability, weight, and comfort.
Simple, lightweight design: Zpacks nailed it by giving these poles the name Ultralight Minimalist. They are some of the lightest on the market and have an incredibly simple design. With easy-to-use twist-lock adjusters and foam handles, they weigh in at just 10.2 ounces for the pair. The shaft is entirely carbon for sturdiness.
All accessories included: These poles come with rubber road tips and a minimal snow basket. The traction on the rubber tips is extremely helpful for long road walks or traveling over slick rock. The small powder basket definitely helped when hiking/running in a bit of snowfall this winter. However, for extensive snow travel, I would recommend upgrading the powder basket to something a bit wider.
Made to fit with Zpacks tents: The foam handle is designed to nestle right into the Zpacks “plex” tent series.
READ NEXT – The Best Trekking Poles for Thru-Hiking
What I Liked
Ultralight. At just 10.2 ounces for the pair, only a few poles on the market can compete weight-wise. Zpacks uses an all-carbon shaft to save weight, with twist lock adjusters and foam handles to be as minimalist as possible.
Affordable. When compared to other poles in a similar weight class, these are much more affordable. I also love that they’re sold separately, so if you’re looking to replace a lost product or you just need one pole to pitch a tent, you don’t have to waste money or gear.
Comfortable. The foam grips are easy and comfortable to hold. They didn’t get slick or sweaty with bare hands, and they were still secure with gloves. I had no complaints about the foam handles as a lightweight alternative to cork.
Packability. I was initially hesitant about these poles because I feared they wouldn’t be able to pack into my trail running vest. I typically use z-folding poles for ultralight running missions because they can attach to the sides of my vest. Though these have a three-piece design, they still collapse quite small and did fit in my vest. They’re also light enough that it’s not a pain to carry them when I’m not using them.
What Needs Work
Twist lock adjuster. Though using a twist lock mechanism saves weight on these poles, it takes more time than a flick lock. Also, when trying to adjust the length in a hurry, if you don’t tighten them down all the way, they will collapse. When racing this last winter, I opted to just carry these poles downhill instead of taking the time to fully collapse and pack them into my vest. When I’m not trying to go as fast as possible, it’s not too big of a deal, but in a race scenario, the extra time does matter.
Flimsy wrist strap. The wrist strap is very thin, and I anticipate it wearing or fraying over time. However, this does also save weight.
A Note on Durability
I used these poles as often as I could over the winter, but it’s impossible to simulate the wear and tear of thru-hiking. The only functionality issue that I had was with the twist locks collapsing when I didn’t tighten them down all the way. Other than that, the straps, grips, shafts, and tips all have stood up thus far to powering uphill and steep descents.
It’s also worth noting that I’m not particularly light on my poles. When using them for steep running descents, I plant quite hard rely on them to keep me upright while motoring downhill. I’m looking forward to using these more over the summer months for longer backpacking trips and all-day trail runs.
In sum, I would absolutely recommend these poles to ultralight backpackers or trail runners. They’re packable, affordable, easy to use, and some of the lightest on the market. Although I don’t love the twist lock adjustment system or the thin wrist strap, both of these features are part of what makes them so lightweight. I’m looking forward to using these for steep climbs on summer adventures and to replace my heavier poles as a non-freestanding tent support.
Shop the Zpacks Minimalist Trekking Poles
Comparable Trekking Poles
Gossamer Gear LT5 Three Piece Poles
- MSRP: $195 (pair)
- Weight: 9.8 oz (pair)
Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Poles
- MSRP: $199.95 (pair)
- Weight: 17.1 oz (pair)
The Zpacks Minimalist Trekking Poles were donated for purpose of review.
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The picture of the hand in the pole strap is an inefficient way to use the strap. Instead, one would get better support, and propulsion, if the hand rested on the strap. Bring the hand up and over on top of the strap, then grip the pole. RE: Nordic walking style.
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