Komperdell Carbon Expedition FXP4 Vario. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Komperdell Carbon Expedition FXP4 Vario. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Price: £150 (pair)
Country of manufacture: Austria
Weight (pair): 504g without basket
Colour: black/silver
Length collapsed: 43cm
Length range: 122cm-143cm
Material: carbon fibre/Titanal aluminium alloy

The z-style construction of these Komperdell poles makes them easy to stash when not in use – they fold up to a compact size, meaning it’s easy to tuck them under a rucksack strap when, for instance, you need to use your hands for a scrambly section of route, or when things flatten out and poles aren’t needed.

The Komperdell poles combine two-top sections that slide together in a conventional way to provide length adjustment, with two other folding elements that deploy automatically when released.

The Komperdell Carbon Expedition FXP4 Vario poles fold up into a length a bit less than their cumbersome name, and have three upper sections in carbon fibre, with a lower element made from aluminium alloy. There’s also a short bottom section in Rocksleeve. This combination gives the strength and low weight of carbon with protection and robustness at the business end of the poles where knocks and scrapes are likely.

The Komperdell poles’ innovative feature is their self-deploying nature. Folding poles usually have a release button to allow their use. The Carbon Expedition FXP4 Varios are kept in their folded format by a tethered band with hook-and-loop fastening. Undo the band, hold the top handle and the poles snap into their extended form, ready to use. The two joints engage in a secure fashion and there’s no slack or rattling, nor any movement when the poles are deployed.

The poles fold to a compact=

The poles fold to a compact length. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The Austrian brand has worked on simplifying its FXP folding system, reducing the number of parts in the joint mechanism from 11 to three, with a corresponding 30 per cent lightening in weight.

The engineering and build quality are very good, with precision machining of the folding system giving a reassuring clunk as the three main sections snap into position.

To fold the poles, a flush-positioned button on each folding section allows disengagement of the joint. We found the easiest way to fold the poles was to disengage the bottom, alloy section, then the middle carbon section, allowing easy folding and securing using the hook-and-loop band.

Length adjustment is by a single Powerlock 3.0 clamp that forms the joint between the top two carbon sections, the upper having a diameter of 18mm and the lower one 2mm narrower. The lock worked well and held the lower pole section well when locked, with no slipping when downward force was applied. Tension adjustment of the Powerlock needs a screwdriver, but we found there was no necessity to adjust it while out on the hill. Komperdell recommends storing the poles with the lock open to maintain optimum performance when in use.

The Powerlock 3 system worked well. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The Powerlock 3 system worked well. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

There are length markings in 5cm intervals, from 140cm down to 125cm, though the poles will go a shorter – the minimum length is 120cm The poles actually measure 122cm from top to tip at the lowest setting. Komperdell also makes a Compact version of the Carbon Expedition FXP4 Vario, with length adjustable from 125cm to 105cm.

The poles’ handles are good non-slip firm foam, with a slight yield when gripped. The strap is broad webbing with a soft tricot lining. Length adjustment is by pulling up on the top strap of the loop to make longer, and the bottom strap section to shorten. Pulling the loop’s two sections together engages a plastic toothed wedge to lock the strap in place. The strap was comfortable in use and was long enough to use when wearing winter gloves.

The poles have a tungsten-carbide tip, which gripped most surfaces quite well, with minimal slipping even on stone flags. The Komperdell poles come with a detachable Ice Flex basket which attaches to a plastic collar on the bottom section of the pole. This pivots on a ball-and-socket arrangement to keep the basket aligned with the terrain.

Attachment of the basket is a little fiddly and involves sliding the basket into position then securing it with a locking ring that has three lugs to click into corresponding holes in the collar. Taking the basket off was also a bit tricky. Neither could be accomplished while wearing winter gloves.

The Komperdell poles earned a best buy rating. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

The Komperdell poles earned a best buy rating. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

We were impressed by the quality and design of the Carbon Expedition FXP4 Vario poles, which is reflected in their fairly steep price.

The Komperdell poles were easy to use and deployment was quick and drama free, making for rapid switching between using the poles and temporarily stashing them – particularly useful on mixed ground where use of the hands was needed from time to time.

Comfort was good too, with the handles and straps working well and remaining niggle-free even on longer routes.

We used them mainly while walking on mountain, hill and moorland but they’re light enough, just, for consideration by endurance runners and ski-tourers. The use of an aluminium alloy bottom section added to the confidence the poles should show good resistance against damage and scrapes. However, if the worst did happen, Komperdell offers a three-year ‘no questions asked’ repair warranty on its trekking poles.

Performance 26/30
Ease of use 27/30
Comfort 17/20
Quality 9/10
Value for money 7/10
Total score: 86/100

Some articles the site thinks might be related:

  1. On test: walking gaiters reviewed
  2. On test: Kärcher OC3 Portable Cleaner reviewed
  3. On test: Danner Mountain 600 boots reviewed
  4. On test: Leatherman Free P2 multitool reviewed
  5. On test: Norrøna Falketind PrimaLoft 100 Vest reviewed