Review: Cascade Mountain Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles

cascade mountain carbon fiber trekking hiking poles

My hiking poles, out in the wilderness.

By Heather

I couldn’t decide whether to call this a review or a Project Half Dome post. It’s a little of both!

Oh, man. How much do I love using hiking poles?! I beg forgiveness for ever having made fun of them.

A couple months ago, I purchased the Cascade Mountain Tech Ultra Light Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles with Quick Lock, since I plan on doing a lot more strenuous hikes – particularly Half Dome – and I want to preserve my knees.

I’ve used them on three hikes so far, all of varying difficulty – Los Liones, Mt. Baldy and Hermit Gulch – and pretty much can’t imagine going without them now.

The Cascade poles come with a snow basket, mud and sand basket, rubber tip, tungsten carbide tip and walking boot. As it says in the name, they’re ultralight and certainly don’t feel heavy to me, but they weigh one pound. That sounds kind of heavy from what I know of ultralights – and Cascade sells another pair that weigh in at 8 oz. that curiously does not have “ultralight” in the name.

The quick lock is easy to operate once you figure out how it works. You need to adjust the screw to get the correct tension so that the pole is nice and secure and doesn’t collapse when you lean on it. This took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out. Pro-tip: leave the tensions off when storing your hiking poles so they don’t wear out.

The handles are nice and comfy, and the straps have a soft material inside to make it comfortable to lean on them. They are also a great value at $50 or thereabouts.

If you don’t know how to use hiking poles, watch this video. I found it really helpful before I went out and used the poles for the first time. The woman in the video is right – you’ll find your own rhythm for sure. It takes a little time to get comfortable with them, but you’ll get there.

Hiking pole benefits

If you’ve never used hiking poles, these are some of the benefits:

  • Increased calorie burn. When you use poles, your arms are more engaged. By resting your palms on the straps while gripping the pole, you can push off when going uphill, giving the triceps a fantastic workout.
  • Muscle tone. Since some of the weight you’d normally be putting on your legs is now transferred to your arms, you’ll be going to the gun show soon.
  • Less strain on knees. This one is particularly important for me, since I have awful knees and want to remain active until I drop dead. The hiking poles have helped insanely in this department; when I first hiked Mt. Baldy, my knees for sore for a week. The second time, after using the poles, there was some soreness the next day and then I was good to go.
  • Better stability. Without the hiking poles, I am Trippy von Tripsalot. With them, it’s more like Trippy von Tripsoccasionally. These things are especially handy on loose gravel.


The pros far outweigh the cons, but there are a few:

  • They’re one more thing to juggle and you’ll need to stop every time to take water breaks.
  • They require more energy to use, so pacing yourself and having enough fuel is important. Again, on the second Baldy hike, I was famished nearly the whole way up! Very different from the first time.
  • The tips don’t seem to last long. Three hikes in and the original tips are shredded, though all were long hikes. Fortunately, they’re not terribly expensive to replace and can be purchased here. And I probably shouldn’t have used rubber tips on Mt. Baldy, which is very rough terrain. Oh, well. Live and learn.

I’m sure a lot of hikers get by just fine without them – I did for a while – but there’s no way I’ll go back now after seeing how much they have improved my hikes!

Hiking Mt. Baldy via the Ski Hut Trail

By Heather

mt baldy summit

A few weeks ago, I hiked to the top of Mt. Baldy again.

Darren and Steve did it too!

mt baldy summit

This time, we took the Ski Hut Trail. Like it is going up from the Top of the Notch, the Ski Hut Trail is straight uphill. That’s why we were pretty discouraged to overhear another hiker say at the Ski Hut, “That was the easy part of the hike!”

The advantage of the Ski Hut Trail is that it’s shadier for longer. Going up the other way offers no shade at all, ever. But it’s no easier. Take your pick!

darren heather baldy summit

That’s me and Darren at the summit! Also, I need a new hat, because I’m not an Angel’s fan and just got that for free at a game. I can’t be a fan of a team whose name translates to “The Angels Angels of Anaheim.”

We celebrated with beers and snacks at Top of the Notch restaurant, which was nothing like last time, thank the sweet baby jesus. The tents and loud music and dirt people were gone. The picnic tables in the lodge were put away and it was a normal restaurant serving decent food for something in the middle of nowhere. They also have a terrific selection of craft beers that are mostly local!

steve darren baldy top of the notch

A couple of beers and a meal killed any desire we might have had to hike the rest of the way down. So, we purchased lift tickets and took the long, slow ride back to our cars. On the way out, Darren and I stopped at the visitor’s center which, sad to say, isn’t much to speak of. I was hoping for a braggy “I climbed Mt. Baldy” t-shirt or sticker. Guess I’ll have to make my own.

It’s getting late in the season and I really want to get in at least one, maybe two, more new summits before they get all snowy and require way more skill and daring than I possess.

Updated Review: Waterproof Smartphone Case

By Heather

Oh, hi there. How have you been?

Although it’s been silent around these parts, there has been much happening. We’ve hiked, we’ve camped, we’ve kayaked. I just haven’t found the time for the other half of the equation, the talking about the hiking, camping and kayaking.

eco fused waterproof iphone caseOne of the most amazing things that has happened over the last month concerns the waterproof smartphone cases we purchased a year ago for an upcoming trip to Catalina. I reviewed them then, noting that they worked perfectly. Our phones were bone dry, yet managed to shoot nice video and photos and even capture audio. Sweet!

We still use the cases whenever we go near water and they work great, but I may have undersold this thing a little.

A few weeks ago, we found ourselves back in Catalina, celebrating my beautiful mom’s 65th birthday. Darren and I rented a kayak and took it to our usual beach outside of Avalon. And as usual, I walked around the beach, enjoying the waves, taking pictures, while Darren floated out in the water.

After about 10 minutes of floating, Darren came back to shore. “Yep. Lost my phone.”

Turns out, he had his phone in his pocket and, not being secured to anything, floated away. (His brother, when told what happened, replied that the sea can be a cruel mistress. Ha!). He searched and searched, but despite the clear water and being relatively close to shore, we couldn’t find it.

Using the Find My iPhone app, he sent a message to the phone to call my number if on the off chance the phone was carried to shore, still working and someone had found it. HAAAAA. Like that would ever happen.

Oh, wait.

About 30 hours after that, we were enjoying some Dos Equis Ambar at Avalon’s only true dive bar, the Marlin Club, when my phone rang with Darren’s name on the display. I stared at it, confused. How could this be happening? His phone is gone! Then I looked around the bar, as though someone there might be pranking me. And then I showed the still ringing phone to Darren, who at first looked at me like I was crazy. “Yeah, that’s me.”

Before realizing…


I answered it. Some guy had gone out kayaking and snorkeling with some friends and found Darren’s phone just a few hours earlier. It was still dry and still had battery power. They were still on the island, so we found them in short order and got the phone back.

People. Darren’s phone spent the night on the ocean floor in this pouch, and it came back FINE! Whoa.

I can’t think of a better endorsement for these waterproof pouches. These crazy things work! So, unless you need more convincing than that, you can purchase yours here.

Camping Hacks: When Your Tent Poles Break

Coleman kenai tent

Our tent in happier times, when the poles were fully intact.

By Heather

Darren and I have recently experienced personally the two ways in which tent poles can break: the shaft can split and the shock cord inside can snap.

We learned about that latter failure this weekend. After we unloaded the car, we started the work of putting up our tent. I held up the bag of poles, dumped them on the ground and was surprised to see a couple of loose poles not attached to anything.

What the hell happened? It’s a mystery for the ages. When we packed up after using them last time, they were intact.

If you lie awake at night worrying that this will happen to you, I have solutions!

Problem 1: Splitting Tent Poles

Do not fret. The solution to this is a cinch: duct tape. Wrap it around, ensuring that you not only cover the split, but the area above and below the split.

Problem 2: Broken Elastic

The solution to broken shock cord was surprisingly simple: plastic clothesline. And I really lucked out in finding it, because we just happened to be camping near a very well-stocked store. In most other places I can think of, we would have been SOL.

Clothesline works so well because it’s slightly stretchy and slightly stiff, has clean ends so you can easily thread the tent poles and it has plenty of length so you can chop off what you don’t need.

When you’re stringing together your poles, leave the clothesline a little bit slack so you can fold the poles back up when you’re finished using them.

Lesson learned

Duct tape is an essential we always keep in our supply bin, but clothesline is a new one. Now we will never leave home without it! It seems like it could come in handy for a number of things.

Keep a 50- or 100-foot package of clothesline in your bin and you’ll be totally prepared if and when your tent poles crap out!

Camping Weekend: Table Mountain

By Heather

It’s been a few weeks since we’ve had a getaway. Booooo.  We hit our favorite spot once again: Table Mountain and Steve nabbed our favorite site!

There were SNAFUs, but we made the best of them: broken tent pole, busted can opener, a hole in the tent wall, a forecast for temps in the 90s that was wildly off and…rain!

This weekend also turned out to be the farewell performance for our first tent, which finally crapped out after serving us well for more than three years. Steve gifted us his old tent, which he will be replacing with something smaller and lighter for a road trip this month. It’s a pretty sweet tent, and we can’t wait to tell you all about it!

nabby doggy door tent

Nabby kept an eye on things while we slept.

pimm's cup

A number of Pimm’s Cups were consumed.

pimms cup ingredients

Here’s what I use to make Pimm’s Cups. No cucumber. Bitters isn’t traditional, but it sure rounds out that orange flavor.

reading by the fire

Darren and Steve read by the fire.

reading in the tent

I spent time bundled up in the tent reading about North Korea.

table mountain sunset

We watched a lovely sunset.

corn on the cob

We made grilled corn on the cob.


And California had a freak rainstorm. Where did THAT come from?!