I was in Italy recently and having had a fair bit of knee strain decided against talking any walking gear, but when I got there things kind of eased off and felt up for a few light rambles. I was in the town of Tirano, on the Italian/Swiss border, and happened upon an outdoors shop there and thought I’d pick up a cheap pair of poles. In the end I found myself leaving with a pair of Camp Sonic Alu walking poles, and very pleased I was with them too.
These three piece collapsible poles are ideal for travelling as they pack up really small, at only 36cm they’ll fit inside many daysacks. Made from Alu 7075 aluminium/zinc alloy the poles are lightweight (230g each) but strong, and come with a flexible plastic cord which holds the three sections together.
Assembling is straightforward. The pole is effectively in three parts although the top section is actually in two parts which don’t separate and should be considered as one unit, and has a section which is pulled out to telescope down onto the middle section. Continuing to bring it down slides it over the middle section and then the bottom section locks into place. The pole becomes rigid when a small sprung button engages with a hole on the pole itself, and is also used as the method for releasing the pole when disassembling it. I was a bit concerned about this, my thoughts were that it could perhaps be activated accidentally, but I’ve found that it really needs a bit of pressure to operate and is probably unlikely to be operated unless real pressure is applied to it.
The top section with the handle has a flicklock lever which when released allows the pole to be adjusted anywhere between 115cm and 135cm. This is one of the few drawbacks to the pole; a two or three section conventional pole can be adjusted to well below 115cm. I’m 5’9” and find the pole most comfortable on its lowest setting, so I’d imagine it may not be overly suitable for shorter people, but that would be dependant on your pole technique.
The bottom section has a tungsten tip and the pole can be fitted with a selection of baskets, ultra small, medium and a larger one for snow/soft ground. The bottom section also has a twist mechanism to adjust the tension in the cord; too loose and the pole rattles slightly, too tight and you can’t engage the locking button.
The poles are light and comfortable to use. The foam handgrip is not overly pronounced in its shape and the only real clue which part is the front/back is the position of the wrist loop. It’s functional but nothing spectacular. There seemed to me to be a fair bit of flex in the poles but that’s to be expected from such a lightweight aluminium pole. I had some concerns about their strength, and while for normal use they are perfectly adequate I’d be worried about their ability to stand up to a slip where the full weight of walker and rucksack was applied at the wrong angle (however that can be applied to many poles, not just these). I’d also be wary of using these in winter, not for their strength, but for the lock/release button which almost certainly would freeze up, locking the pole in one section which couldn’t be dismantled without the application of heat.
Used properly these are perfectly good and very lightweight three season pole. Their small size and light weight means they probably won’t be left out of your gear, and will be your support of choice when looking to shave a few grammes off your load.
Sonic Alu Poles
Weight: 230g (per pole)
Length: 36cm (packed)
Accessories: Storage bag
3 sets baskets (Small, medium, snow)
Price: Expect to pay in the region of £60-£70.
Also available in a lighter Titanium model weighing 195g per pole.