4/5 | Overall Rating
The Traverse Powerlock Cork is the mid-range sibling of the Flash Carbon offered by REI and manufactured by Komperdell. Modestly priced, REI gives you a three-piece telescoping aluminium pole with cork grips that fulfils the basic needs of almost any hiker.
While not the lightest or most portable pole out there, for under $100 you are getting a durable pole that will handle well in any condition and that comes with lever locking mechanisms and a decently comfortable grip.
The pole doesn’t come with many add-ons and lacks the type of finishes you would expect on a premium pole, but REI and Komperdell have ensured that it performs well, feels great to use and most of all allows those on a budget to experience the benefits of a good quality trekking pole.
The Traverse Powerlock Cork was the best ‘budget’ pole we tested and was therefore named the Best Pole under $100.
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Komperdell poles are known for their durability and the Traverse Powerlock Cork was no different. The pole puts others in the <$100 category to shame and even competes with some of the more premium poles when it comes to strength.
The three-piece aluminium shaft provides great resistance to knocks and bends and will easily hold up any hiker’s weight plus a heavy backpack. The new lever locking mechanism is easy to adjust while on the trail and didn’t slip at all when tested (you can tighten the lever on the hike if you feel them slipping).
The poles are perfect for heavy use and will stand up to being bashed around in a travel bag or bangs and scrapes while hiking. The mechanisms are simple but reliable and previous poles from REI and Komperdell have withstood multiple years of use – impressive for a pole of its price.
The cork grips were a welcome addition to the pole and gave them an edge over the other grips under $100. We tested them in some warm weather and they maintained grip well and felt comfortable throughout the hike, even moulding to your hands after extensive use.
They also felt great with gloves on and their ergonomic design fitted the hands of everyone on our team – so there’s no need to worry if you have big hands. The lack of a foam lower portion (somethings we’ve seen in quite a few poles this year) was a bit disappointing as it allows you to choke down on the pole and gives your hands a break from being in the same position the whole hike.
Besides the grip, using the pole was enjoyable. The extra weight wasn’t much of a concern as the pole made up for it in durability and price. Where we did find the pole lacked in comfort was during uphill parts of the trek. The slightly heavier pole and lack of grip extensions made it a bit awkward to use the pole, although we found it was better once you adjusted the length to suit the climb.
At 567g the pole is heavy. With some poles down to under 300g, some users may find the weight of the pole a deal breaker – especially if you’ve always used a super light carbon pole. However, for most hikers the weight isn’t much of an issue and the knowledge of having a slightly more durable pole may even make it desirable.
To get a similar performing pole at a reduced weight, you will seriously have to fork out at least another $50 on your pair of poles. This trade-off is often driven by preference, so if you're new to hiking or if you're buying your first pole we’d recommend something durable, affordable and not worry too much about the weight.
Like the weight, REI are simply not able to make a pole under 60cm and keep the price under $100. The Traverse Powerlock Cork is 67cm when fully retracted and so won’t fit into a standard sized backpack or daypack but should be fine in most duffels or suitcases for longer travel.
This means the pole isn’t suitable for hikes where you will need to store the poles or for alpine climbing. They are more suited to day hikes where you’ll have the poles in your hands for the duration of the hike or just for backpacking in your local nature reserve.
The poles come standard with quite large baskets, about half the size of snow baskets, meaning they perform well in soft soil or light snow conditions. They can also be used on off-trail hikes thanks to the durable aluminium build and strong carbide tip, making the Traverse Powerlock Cork a true four season pole.
Its versatility is only limited by its weight and length making it not the ideal pole for climbs or ultralight through-hiking. However, its versatility on most hikes make it a great pole for first time buyers looking for something that can be used year-round and that will last them a long time.