Friday, July 26, 2013

Using Trekking Poles to Pitch The GoLite Shangri-La 3

Recently I have decided to start using trekking poles, mostly because of issues I am having with my knees. I have resisted them for a long time because I don’t always need them, and I certainly do not need the extra weight. I was not happy about the concept of bringing extra weigh that might end up being strapped to my pack for most of the trip. So, when I decided to get trekking poles, I knew that I would have to offset the weight somewhere else. That way even if I didn’t use them in their primary role as poles, and just carried them strapped to my pack the whole trip, it wouldn’t make much of a difference.

The traditional place where one would offset the weight of the trekking poles is to get rid of the some of the tent supports. That is easy to do with some shelters like the MLD Trailstar, that can simply utilize a single trekking pole for pitching. The shelter I use however, the GoLite Shangri-La 3 is more complicated. It is a larger shelter, with a height of 62 inches, and requires a longer center pole than what a single trekking pole can provide. I knew from the beginning that in order to use my trekking poles to pitch the shelter, I would have to somehow connect them.

The poles I chose for the task are the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork. I bought the 2012 model, but the current 2013 model should do just as well.


The poles weigh exactly 16 oz, and can extend to 130 cm each. The poles use a flip lock mechanism which allows you to collapse the poles while at the same time holding them securely in place when extended.


My approach to using the trekking poles as a center pole for my shelter required that they have sections that can be separated. There are many models which can do that, this is just the one I chose because it had positive reviews. My thinking was to take the two poles, remove the lower section from each pole, and then use a connector piece to attach the poles to each other.


In the above picture you see all of the components of my system, ready for assembly. I have removed the two lower sections from the poles (right), which leaves each pole with two sections (left). On the log between the two parts of the poles you see a small piece of white plastic. Initially I intended to get a replacement lower section for a Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork pole and cut a piece of it to use as a connector, but I found a piece of pen which worked just as well.

To assemble the pieces, I just place the connector in the end of one of the poles, and close the lock.


I then insert the other end of the connector into the other pole and close the lock. Here I have fitted the two poles so that they come completely together, but that is not necessary.


Once the poles are connected, you can use the locks between the remaining sections to adjust the height of the combined pole.




The set up seems to work very well. I have not had any issue of the poles slipping, and they appear to be strong enough for the job. This past weekend I used the poles for my shelter, and in the morning there was absolutely no sagging or any other problems.


In terms of weight, as I mentioned above, the poles weigh 16 oz. The aluminum center pole that comes with the Shangri-La 3 weighs 11.2 oz. With the added weight of the connector piece, by replacing the center pole of the shelter with my trekking poles, I am adding a total of 4 oz to my pack weight. While not perfect, I think it is a good compromise. In effect, I am getting a set of trekking poles for just 4 oz. So far both the poles and the shelter set up have been working very well.

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