The Montem Ultra Strong Trekking Poles are making quite a stir in the world of hiking stability. They are hailed by many as a premium-quality pole at a bargain price, and touted by sites like the Wirecutter as “the best for nearly everyone.” When Montem contacted me about reviewing these poles, needless to say I was excited. As a dude always looking for value in my gear purchases, these poles looked to be right up my alley. Montem was kind of enough to send me pair of trekking poles, and I’ve been trying them out on and off for the last 3 months. Here’s what I thought about them.
Montem Trekking Poles Specifications
Shaft Construction: Aluminum 7075
Grip Material: EVA Foam
Ultra Strong: Yes
Maximum Length (in):53
Minimum Length (in):24
Maximum Length (cm):135
Minimum Length (cm):61
Weight Per Pair (oz): 19.2
Montem’s poles are of the adjustable telescoping variety, replete with “flick-locks” for easy adjustments. Their adjustment range accommodates people ranging in height from 4′ all the way up to about 6’4″. The poles come standard with EVA Foam grips, but can be bought alternately with cork grips. Baskets are included for stability when used in snowy conditions. The poles come in six colors: black, matte black, matte blue, matte pink, white, and yellow.
What I Like!
EVA Foam Grips
The EVA foam grips are the top feature on these poles, in my opinion. Described by Montem as “non-slip”, on long hikes they don’t chafe like rubber and stay super comfortable in the hand. Montem also offers them with cork grips, but claims the EVA foam is more durable. Based on my experiences with cork, I agree, and am thoroughly satisfied with the foam grips on the pair I used.
“Flick-locks” is Montem’s own name for the lever-style adjustment locks. Montem describes them as “cutting edge” even though the same base design is used by many trekking pole brands as well as on tripod legs. Regardless, I’m a fan of the design as it is far easier to use than the twist-lock designs found on some poles. I do have one small qualm here, but it’s discussed in a later section.
The pair of Montem’s I’ve used have been incredibly durable. I feel pretty confident that these poles will last years if properly cared for (see Montem’s website for proper maintenance). I do recommend removing the baskets when not used in the snow, because they will get chewed up quickly on a rough trail (yep, know from experience).
What I Dislike!
Factory Setting on Flick-locks
When I used the Montem poles for the first time, I had to repeatedly stop to extend the poles as locks weren’t holding firm when I put weight on the poles. Having no tools with me, I attempted to hand-tighten the plastic nuts on the locks, but to no avail. When I got home, I used a pair of pliers to tighten up the locks. Since then, I haven’t had a problem with slippery locks.
I did notice this problem is addressed in the FAQs on the Montem’s website, which basically recommends tightening the nut as I had already done. The explanation for this seems to be that leaving the locks loose gives the user maximum personal adjustability. To me, that seems silly. How many of us really care to pre-adjust the tension in the locks? I think most users would prefer the locks to be pre-tensioned. And in the end, its frustrating when the poles don’t seem to function properly straight out of the box. Apparently enough people have this problem and don’t figure it on their own because it appears in the FAQs.
Although I’ve dedicated two whole paragraphs on this, its an easy “duh” fix that doesn’t affect the user experience once fixed, and isn’t something that will affect my final verdict on these poles. However, it’s something that could cause an impatient customer to throw away the product and hence I wanted to address it.
What I’m Neutral About
At 19.2 ounces per pair, these poles are definitely not the lightest out there. But, you wouldn’t expect so given the price point, or their telescoping design, or the fact that their made of aluminum. For ultra-light backpackers, this might be a deal breaker, but for most users, I hardly think its an issue.
How it stacks up to the competition
Here’s where things get interesting! Montem’s claim to fame is creating an excellent quality trekking pole for a affordable price. Well, I have a pair of Black Diamond Trail Back trekking poles in my gear stash, and they just happen to be the most direct competition to the Montem Ultra Strong poles.
A little backstory first. While I’m a pretty avid hiker, under normal circumstances, I usually leave trekking poles at home unless I’m going on a backpacking trip. I love the extra stability and impact absorption they provide when weighed down with a top-heavy load. I actually purchased the Trail Backs because I needed a pair of new poles for a backpacking trip, and wanted something durable that wouldn’t break the bank. Sounds quite a bit like MO of the Montem’s, doesn’t it?
Comparing the two sets of poles side by side, the most obvious difference is the grips. The Montem’s have tan-colored EVA foam, the Black Diamond’s have black rubber. When switching back and form between the two, the EVA foam on the Montems feel more comfortable in the hand. And while I’ve never had any major problems with rubber grips chaffing my hands, I’ve never had any at all with the foam grips.
In basically all other aspects, the two products are remarkably similar. Both are built of strong, durable aluminum. Both extend through an almost identical height range. The flick-locks on each have similar functionality. When used in hand on the trail, the only real discernible difference is the grip material.
Of course, the Black Diamond’s flick-locks did come pre-tensioned from the factory, so I never had the initial problem of the poles shortening when put under load. Also, the tension adjustment on the Trail Backs is a little better of a design, using a metal phillips head screw. The Montems basically have a plastic knob that will fit a phillips head screwdriver, and appear to be designed to be hand-tightened (although that doesn’t work well that way). The plastic looks pretty strong, but I’m nervous about about stripping it out if using a screwdriver.
But yes, I’d say the two poles are pretty much on par with each other, but the Montem gets the advantage because of the upgraded grips.
When comparing prices online, it looks like the typical retail price for these poles is also identical: $79.99.
The Bottom Line
Overall, the Montem Ultra Strong Trekking Poles are a durable, quality pole that give a hiker years of dependable service. With their super-comfortable EVA foam grips, they’ve taken over as my go-to trekking pole. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to anyone looking for a workhorse that won’t cost an arm and a leg.
That said, there is a little hype about these poles that might be a little over the top. I wouldn’t say these poles are in a class of their own (the Black Diamond Trail Back is a near equal). Regardless, the Montems are definitely a great pair of poles, and certainly set themselves above the likes of the junky bargain bin poles that we’ve all used at some point.
In the end, the Montem Ultra Strong Trekking Poles are a deserving recipient of the Mountain Tripper Value Pick for offering an above-average quality product at a good price.
Check current prices for the Montem Ultra Strong Trekking Poles:
Disclosures: Mountain Tripper is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
The author was provided with a free sample from Montem Outdoor Gear for review purposes. This review is the author’s own opinion, which he formed after personally using the Montem Ultra Strong Trekking Poles.