At CNOC we make it our mission to design for repair, so our trekking poles are designed and built to be easily fixed in the field using common tools. Our aim is to avoid any catastrophic fails that might lead to a bail out from an adventure.
If you have ever handled our trekking poles (or just checked them out on the screen), you may have noticed that our design is simple, very simple. There are no hidden parts; everything is exposed and accessible, and big enough to hold and see if they have any issues. This design is very intentional, since the art of "removing" features is not as simple as it sounds. In our opinion, most things seem to be over engineered when a simpler solution will suffice and might even work better.
We want to you take through the main potential issues that you might encounter with our poles, based on what we have seen and experienced with them. As we repeatedly say, gear in the outdoors will break, but being able to continue using it is key. So here is our little cheat-sheet to make sure your CNOC trekking poles keep on working though snow, rain, sun, bears, humans or anything else.
First: some definitions
We break our poles into 3 sections:
- Lower (or bottom) section - this is a 14mm tube that has an easy tip and a carbide tip*
- Middle section - 16mm tube that has a vibration reduction bumper (orange) and a Friction Quick Lock (FQL) on the other side
- Handle section - 18mm tube with a grip (EVA or cork) and a FQL on the other side
* The tips that are bonded to the bottom of the lower section are made of two parts: an aluminum part that is bonded to the tube and has a thread on it; we call that the Easy Tip. The Easy Tip is a self threading part, which means it will create a thread with anything that is put on it. The plastic part is the standard replacement tip you can find in most outdoor outfitters, doesn't need a thread to work with the Easy Tip, and pretty much anything on the market will fit on the Easy Tip.
The FQL is made of 4 parts: housing that is bonded to the tube, a clamp fitted on the housing, a lever assembly (lever pin and bolt) and a nut to tighten it to place. Very simple and very effective. What makes our quick lock unique is the rubbery mold on the inside of the housing - if you take the tube out and stick a finger into the FQL housing, you will feel that rubbery part. This reduces vibrations, increases the lock (this is where the Friction in the FQL comes from) and avoids compressing the tube too much which leads to micro fractures in the tubes.
Now that we have covered the basics of the poles, let's talk about tools to fix stuff. All you need to fix our poles is: duct tape, knife, mini zip ties or wire and a relaxed mindset.
With that, here are the main issues you might see:
Probably the most common thing for most poles on the market, but extremely rare with our poles. Our tubes are made to really withstand a beating, but in case you do have a break there are two options:
1. Change the length of locking (adjusting heights) so the broken section is in another part. Our poles are very long, so you have redundancy there for compensating for broken sections.
2. Create a splint: take two tent stakes (you should carry a couple of spares anyway) and duct tape, put the two stakes on both sides and wrap it with tape. Just like splinting a broken leg, but without the pain...
Hike out to the next resupply and on the way order a replacement part here.
Bond fail on the FQL or the Easy Tip
As the only real bonding points in the pole, those parts tend to be the most sensitive. Due to the design, though, they are by far the simplest to fix, all you need is duct tape (you are wrapping that on your poles anyway, right?).
Place the part back where it should be and wrap some tape around it: for the FQL just the housing should be taped and with the Easy Tip, you should tape the top inch or two so it doesn't wear out too quickly.
In the pursuit of simplicity, we had to make a couple of sacrifices; in this case, there is no mechanism to lock the nut and bolt that tension the FQL. This means that you can easily replace them, but also means that if you not paying attention, you might thread the nut off the bolt and lose them.
If you ever have a lever assembly that is not missing or not working, grab any means of forcing the clamp on the FQL to tighten it up. This can be a zip tie, or if you see a piece of wire around, loop it on. If you are a good knot tier, a simple knot with some string or a piece of cord will do the trick.
Bonus points if you can make the temporary part tie to loosen for adjustment! You can find spare parts on our site, and you can always go into any hardware store and replace the nut - it uses a standard M5 thread.
Worn out carbide tip/tip housing
Carbide tips are amazingly strong and are pretty hard to wear out, but the plastic housing the holds them is not so durable. In fact, when making the decision on what can be replaced on the pole tips, we concluded that replacing the whole housing is way more important than just the very hard carbide tip.
To make replacement easy in the field, stop at any outfitter and pick up replacement tips (usually sold as a pair). And we mean any, no matter the brand! Find a comfortable spot for a 5 minute repair.
Grab a knife and slice open the old housing through the length (see pictures), remove the old part, put it in the trash (can't be recycled, sadly), and thread on your new tip. It probably won't look as smooth and clean as the tips you got initially, but it will work.
If you want a better fit, warm up the easy tip a bit, which will allow it to "bite" into the plastic housing more easily and will thread deeper. For the advanced team: heat up the plastic part a bit and (without burning yourself!) thread on the softened housing as far as you can.
Extra point: the Easy Tip will work on its own if the plastic is completely worn, but only as a temporary solution. It is worth adding a tip to increase the longevity of the poles.
That is it, these are the main things that can go wrong with our poles and you can make sure that with a few simple (and light!) tools, you can keep them going no matter what.
Though we know those poles will serve you right, we also want to make sure that they will never slow you down or stop you from having a great time.