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By Andy Dappen
My wife and I both grab for these poles first whenever we head out for a hike. A problem arises when we head out to do something together. Who’s gonna get our one pair of Exped Explorer 130 poles? You probably know the answer: The Boss gets them while I get a heavier, less-desirable pole.

I may moan but it’s a good thing to cater to The Boss. Her shoulders and neck get easily tweaked (an unfortunate side effect of being on the upper end of middle-aged), and these lightweight poles let her rattle off more miles without upper-body issues. Meanwhile on the down hills, poles are important for her knees (did I mention there are side effects of being on the upper end of middle aged?). These adjustable poles let her quickly adapt their length so her arms can take some of the strain off her knees. All of this lets her walk farther, and gets her home with far fewer pains. And that leaves her more willing to hike with me the following week.

I like the poles for these same reasons. However, having used them for ski touring, mountaineering, and out-of-area traveling, there are other features of the poles that I fancy. I feel a poetic mood dawning so let me extol thy blessed features o beauteous pole.

I exalt thy:

  • EVA foam grips. They extend down the top of thy shapely shaft and allow me to choke-up on your slender neck (oh no! I’m an NFL brute) yet maintain a firm grip while traversing steep slopes.
  • Interchangeable baskets. In less than a minute I can switch both poles from a hiker-friendly slim basket to a skier-friendly powder basket.
  • Quick-adjust handle straps. The straps stay at the desired loop length under load regardless of how I weight them, and yet it’s an easy one-pull system for shortening or lengthening the straps.
  • Compact size when collapsed. This is a four-section pole and you’ll be extremely hard-pressed to find another adjustable pole that collapses so small when carrying it in a pack (e.g., while scrambling or bushwhacking)f125, or in luggage while traveling.
  • Anorectic 7-ounce weight (per pole). Most other adjustable poles are a corpulent few ounces heavier (per pole). This may not seem like much … until they are each swung 10,000 times over the course of a day.
  • Quick-twist adjustment. Most twist-lock adjustments collapse under load, but these ones have internal welts every five centimeters that jam against the camming devices to prevent unwanted collapses.

Naturally, even products that have me singing their virtues have some sour notes. Like all very light products, one of the down sides of the Explorer 130 pole is its very lightness. I have a heavier ski pole I often use for outings that I wield as a weapon without thought when snow sticks to my ski boot or tree branches block the route. I do not use the Explorer 130, costing $150, thoughtlessly as a club. I consider it a more fragile flower, and treat it accordingly.

Also the maximum length of this pole is 130 cm which is fine for most hikers and many skiers. Sometimes on backcountry ski tours, however, I want longer pole for skating a snowed-over road found at the beginning or end of a tour. If this could be you, or if you are tall (over 6’ 1”),  you might consider the Exped Alpine 140 poles which are very similar to this pole, extend to 140 cm but don’t collapse quite as small. Compromises, compromises.

I know all about compromises. I compromise every time the Boss and I prepare for a hike together and I lap-up sloppy seconds after she lays claim to the Explorer 130s.

Details, Details: Exped Explorer 130

For more details about the Explorer 130 Pole, see this page.

For more details about the Alpine 140, see this review.

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