3.5/5 | Overall Rating
The REI Co-op Flash Carbon is an entry-level carbon pole manufactured by Komperdell for REI. The pole is very lightweight thanks to its ultra-thin carbon fibre construction and its modern foam handles.
We found the thin nature of the telescoping shaft made it less durable than most other carbon poles, which are already less durable than their aluminium counterparts.
Beyond the materials used, the pole had average scores for most categories with comfort being let down by less-than-premium grips and portability compromised by the telescoping design. However, we did find the locking mechanisms worked superbly and were very rugged and the pole performed well in a variety of terrains.
At a very modest price point, the REI Co-op Flash Carbon is great for someone on a tight budget or someone looking to invest in their first set of poles.
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Carbon poles will always be a bit less durable and long-lasting than aluminium ones so we kept that in mind when testing the durability of the Co-op Flash Carbon. When compared to other carbon poles in this year’s line-up, the pole from REI had a visibly thinner carbon fibre weave which gave it a flimsy feel when used.
While we didn’t experience any compromises in the integrity of the pole during testing, we did find it harder to ‘trust’ the pole when hiking through rougher terrain. Most hikers wouldn’t really pick this up when using the pole, but when compared directly to some of the other, more solid poles, it felt like it lacked in strength.
Where the pole did score well in durability was for its locking mechanisms that were made completely out of aluminium. They were easy to use and felt secure when locked.
Comfort is the one category we found scored the highest on all poles tested as it is (relatively) easy to make a trekking pole comfortable. The Co-op Flash Carbon was a comfortable pole to use for various distances but didn’t seem to shoot the lights out with its handles.
As one of the few foam handles in the top 10, they didn’t quite compare to the traditional cork or cork/foam combination. They also weren’t textured like some of the other foam grips we have seen, nor did they have an extended foam portion below the grip – a nice add-on we’ve seen on a few poles this year.
Foam grips will perform well in hot or humid conditions as they wick moisture away from the palms, so this might be a factor to consider if you intend on hiking in warm places or if you sweat a lot.
With its thin carbon fibre shaft and foam handles, the REI Co-op Flash Carbon was one of the lightest poles we tested at 425g. This is great for backpacking where you want to take as little as possible to minimise weight and for day hiking where you will have your poles out and in your hands the whole day.
As we mentioned in the durability section, the lightweight nature of the carbon used in the pole does have an adverse effect on its durability, which we found to be less than other carbon poles. This shouldn’t be a major issue for on-trail usage or for daily hikes, but could be problematic for off-trail hiking.
The low weight of the REI Co-op Flash Carbon acts in its favour when scored for portability, but unfortunately, being a telescoping pole, its length when retracted was almost 70cm. This is too long to fit into backpacks and could even be problematic with some suitcases and duffle bags, meaning the pole isn’t designed for those wanting to hike for multiple days or in multiple locations.
The pole is suitable for day hikes or for those who hike locally but is not recommended for alpine climbing where the poles will need to be packed away for portions of the hike.
For a carbon pole of its price, the Co-op Flash Carbon actually performed well when it came to versatility. It can be used for a variety of outdoor sports and styles of hiking, limited to on-trail use and comes packed with some interchangeable baskets for different terrains.
Because of its thinner structure, we wouldn’t recommend this pole for heavy use or bushwhacking but for one of the cheaper carbon poles out there, it offers hikers a great deal and will prove to be a worthy addition to any hike.