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  1. #1
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    Default zPacks Carbon Fiber Staff - First Impressions

    I ordered a zPacks Carbon Fiber Staff during their December sale and finally got a chance to test it out on a short hike this weekend. Here are some first impressions for this interesting alternative to trekking poles.

    First, I should mention that my interest in the staff was triggered by my purchase of a zPacks Altaplex tent which requires either a trekking pole that extends to 58-60" or a trekking pole extender. My Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork poles do not extend that far so I would have had to either buy longer trekking poles or the extender. Instead of doing either, I decided to try out the carbon fiber staff which, at 60", is the correct size pole for the Altaplex.

    My initial impression is that this is a promising, yet somewhat quirky, option for hikers who are not wedded to the idea of having two trekking poles in their hands. I've gone on hikes in Europe (hut to hut in the Alps and the Camino) where I did not carry poles at all so I was open to the idea and actually liked having my hands free. The staff keeps one of my hands free at all times.

    In terms of comfort, I found it somewhat awkward to grip the staff because there is no foam or cork material to hold onto. I was wearing gloves on this hike and the staff seemed less secure in my hands than a trekking pole. On a positive note, the fact that I could grab the staff at any location made it easy to adjust the placement of my hands depending on whether I was hiking uphill or downhill.

    The staff weighs just 7.5 ounces compared to 18 ounces for my trekking poles so that's a pretty big difference. It sets up the Altaplex very nicely and the staff is far stronger than a trekking pole would be extended to its limits or coupled with the extender.

    However, this efficiency must be viewed against the fact that the staff is a single point of failure for the shelter system. If lost or broken, the staff won't be usable to erect the shelter and some other solution will need to be found. In contrast, if you break a trekking pole, you still have the other one to use for putting up a tent. This indeed was the case for me in 2014 on the Colorado Trail. One of my poles broke but I had the other pole available.

    At $125, the cost is another negative but it isn't that bad compared to the cost of two trekking poles.

    I am considering customizing the staff with cork material on the area that I normally hold to provide a better feel and grip. That might add an ounce but could be worth it.

    Another plus of the staff vs. pole is that zPacks says that the staff won't be flagged in airport security checks unlike hiking poles. I'm a big fan of carrying as much of my critical gear on flights as I possibly can.

    Anyway, these are my initial impressions after just a short hike - would be interested in the experience of others with this staff.

  2. #2
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    I like it so far from your description. No I don't have one and didn't know they even had them , but like the idea for many reasons....

    The length is 5' what is the diameter of the staff? I would suggest using duct tape 1/3 of the way down the staff and another row of duct tape another 1/3 of the staff . For grip and multi purpose use of course.

    And being strong and light weight would make quite a self defense weapon as well!!

  3. #3
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    zPacks has the diameter at 0.825". The duct tape idea is interesting - although I'm used to cork from my trekking pole.

    I can see using the staff in dog encounters, possibly. It's pretty sturdy, much stronger than poles.

  4. #4
    Registered User JNI64's Avatar
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    FWIW, I have the exact same trekking poles and love em! But I can see the advantage of having only one longer, lighter trekker pole. There are times when I want a drink, I want to swat a bug away, wipe spider webb out of my eyes, wipe sweat away, gotta scratch somewhere, and even when I have to pee,, only one pole is needed, and the other kinda gets in the way.

    As far as self defense it can be used against man or beast given the proper application!
    ( but and it's a big butt , but I don't use it for my shelter, meaningI don't know if I would like that knowing i depend on this as shelter as well, I have to say that part would have me a lil nervous).
    Last edited by JNI64; 01-18-2021 at 18:23.

  5. #5
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    I think that I could improvise in setting up the Altaplex but it would take time and effort to find a way to do it (an appropriately shaped stick or somehow tying out the peak somehow, idk). In stormy situations, that would not be welcome. But I don't think the staff would be easy to break - it's much stronger than a pole. It could, of course, be lost, but I'm pretty good (obsessive) about not losing things and its hard to forget something that is always in your hands.

  6. #6
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    Hockey tape might b better

    thom

  7. #7
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    Literally had a group out this weekend and a backpacker with brand new Zpacks carbon fiber trekking poles had one snap in the parking lot before we even hit the trail. Hopefully their customer service will step it up a notch and take good care of him.


    "Your comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by slbirdnerd View Post
    Literally had a group out this weekend and a backpacker with brand new Zpacks carbon fiber trekking poles had one snap in the parking lot before we even hit the trail. Hopefully their customer service will step it up a notch and take good care of him.
    Wow, that's disconcerting. The staff seems really solid to me. Hopefully it holds up... zPacks has gotten bigger in recent years but they used to be very responsive when I had issues. Hopefully that's still the case.

  9. #9

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    I like carbon fiber poles for the most part, they are lighter and more importantly quieter than aluminum poles I have had. However, while they are ok for casual weight applied in compression (downward pressure) on trail environments, they can fail with lateral loads (side to side), and as I recently experienced, bowing action caused by increased weight applied in a downward motion. I have been using a set of carbon fiber poles for the past year with little trouble.

    I recently had a careless misstep and when I slipped the carbon fiber pole bowed with the sudden downward weight load and broke, sending me to the ground quickly followed by an inglorious moment of humility. Following this misadventure I went on the hunt for a replacement set and found aluminum poles (BDs) were only about 3-Ounces lighter for the pair than carbon fiber. Given the weight differential was minor and they are stronger (by my experience anyway). I opted to return to aluminum for now and may look around for a carbon fiber set for warm weather use in what I would consider normal trail conditions and long distance hiking where those 2 - 5-ounces would be welcome.

  10. #10
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    I took the staff out for a nine mile day hike yesterday and I'm liking it more as I get used to it. One big advantage is being able to easily adjust my grip depending on whether I'm climbing or descending. And I'm getting used to gripping the staff, albeit through gloves this time of year. I wear sun gloves in summer so I wouldn't be contacting it with my hands directly ever, anyway. I might still modify it to have cork on the areas that I usually grip, but I think I'll give it another few hikes before I make up my mind.

    I can say that I do not miss my hiking poles at all and liked having one hand free a lot.

  11. #11

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    Quote Originally Posted by slbirdnerd View Post
    Literally had a group out this weekend and a backpacker with brand new Zpacks carbon fiber trekking poles had one snap in the parking lot before we even hit the trail. Hopefully their customer service will step it up a notch and take good care of him.
    How precisely did this happen? Those poles are listed as 7.2oz each which is nowhere near the lightest CF trekking pole around. I have MYOG carbon fiber poles that weigh 8.2oz per PAIR and have a few thousand miles on them.
    UL, because nobody ever asks "How can I make my pack heavier?"

  12. #12
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    It's not just the weight of the pole, but the diameter to achieve that weight that can make them more fragile. I hiked the PCT in 2009 with some 7+ oz/pair Titanium Goat poles which later, when the family split into separate cottage companies, is now made by Ruta Locura. Great poles and had no issues hiking the PCT and a few years of hiking before and after, but the handles weren't that great at the time. After a pole disappeared overnight (I assume an animal wanted the salt), I tried Gossamer Gear's adjustable poles in 2012 (around the same weight) which had nice handles. Those cracked really easy. In only a few days of hiking, I walked by a boulder and as I swung my arms out in an arc as I walked by it, the pole hit the rock slightly and cracked. Seriously? Had other similar issues with them breaking really easy after replacing 2 different sections. My previous poles took much harder abuse without any issues. So I bought a new pair the now rebranded Ruta Locura poles (which now have better handles than they use to) and have never had any other problems in several years of using them. Pole design does matter as much as the material. Though the poles weighed about the same, the Gossamear Gear poles had a larger diameter (more typical of poles) so to get the lightweight the walls were thin. The Ruta Locura poles have a thin diameter so the walls are much thicker for the same weight. Also they allow the poles to flex more; like how a young thin tree can bend in ways a larger tree can't without snapping. One thing I do take care about, if I feel the pole resisting moving forward with me, I let go of the pole. Too often, a pole will slip down between rocks and if you don't let go, it will bend (if aluminum) or eventually snap if carbon fiber.
    Last edited by Miner; 01-25-2021 at 17:58.

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