- Great Value for Money
- Small pack size
- Quick release locking mechanism
- Nordic style handle not to everyone’s taste
- Small and fiddly hand strap
- Not always practical for tarp camping
The compact ultra is a collapsible pole that folds down to a very short 38cm, making it very packable and particularly convenient for plane travel, trail running or climbing. The pole is assembled by slotting the sections together, much like a tent pole, and then pulling one end to put tension into an internal cable that is then locked in place by snap lock. You can then adjust the top half of the pole to your desired length and secure with the single quick release locking mechanism.
The handle is a Nordic style design with a non detachable velcro hand strap. It is worth noting for those who may not have encountered this style of grip that you cannot use the pole with your hand on top of the handle, like a walking stick, as the size and shape of the grip makes this uncomfortable. Likewise, it’s worth pointing out that while the hand strap is well made and looks really nice donning its Alpkit logo, it is rather small and fiddly making it hard to put on quickly. I found this design fine for long flattish walks where I could consistently hold the poles for long stretches of time but rather annoying on more technical hikes where I wanted to take my hand out of the straps often and quickly. If you plan to wear gloves in conjunction with these poles you may find it difficult to fit your hand in the strap.
Another thing to point out with this design is that while its collapsed length is very short, its minimum erected length is rather long (insert cock gag here) making it not particularly versatile for tarp camping where you may need shorter pole for your setup.
For the relatively tiny £34 price tag of these poles there’s question that quality you can expect would be lower than more expensive and familiar alternative options from the likes of Leki or Black Diamond. What you can expect here is a very compact folding pole that mostly bears the hallmarks of a product at its price but with a couple of nice features added in.
The hand strap, albeit small, is nicely made and I found it quite comfortable. I would prefer if it had a quick release clip or was simply larger.
The internal cable that runs down the centre of the pole is protected by a fairly thin plastic sheath. I noticed that when the pole is collapsed this cable is pulled tight against the edges of the pole segments, right now mine are holding strong but I will keep an eye on them as it looks vulnerable to damage, and if the cable breaks the pole become useless, something you wouldn’t want to happen on any long hike.
For this price, finding a branded alternative is quite difficult particularly one of this style with similar features. For instance any Leki pole that collapses as small as this will certainly cost more than £100, and the cheapest trekking pole they sell is still £5 more than the Alpkit.
If you need a pole that packs particularly small and you are on a budget, this is an excellent option. You can for the price, expect to forgo some practicalities and some quality, but ultimately Alpkit has succeeded here in filling a space in the market for an imaginatively designed product delivered at an unbeatable price. I would have rated this product 3/4 if the handle and strap where just a little better and easier to use.