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Cnoc Poles Are Fully Funded!

Cnoc Poles Are Fully Funded!

Our Cnoc Trekking Poles  were fully funded on Kickstarter in nine hours (and a few minutes). These fully repairable trekking poles are officially happening. We're sold out of some of our early bird prices, so pledge as soon as possible to get the best price on your poles.

Our Kickstarter was featured in Forbes, proving that tiny, determined businesses with good ideas can become major national players.

It's not over yet. Our Kickstarter ends October 31. We're thinking about stretch goals. Have a feature you'd like to see? Let us know.

Have you pledged yet?

Here's what Darwin on the Trail, Dan Becker, and Devin of Backcountry Exposure have to say about our durable made in the USA carbon fiber trekking poles.

"“I really dig these poles... Typically, you have to heat the end of a trekking pole up to get the tip off, but these actually screw off and same with all of these parts; you can easily swap them out in the field.” -Darwin

"I was bummed when Cnoc discontinued their original trekking poles because I loved them so much. Then they sent me the prototype for their new poles. One word. Amazing. They are going to be a game changer for trekking poles with their replaceable parts. It's amazing how lightweight they are as well. Love them." -Dan Becker

“I’ve started to carry just one pole and the Ultralight pole has been a solid piece for me on the trail. Should there ever be a failure with this pole, it's comforting to know that I can keep the good sections and replace only what is needed. This is not only a good sustainable approach, but it just makes sense! Invest once into good gear!”-Devin, Backcountry Exposure

The Last Trekking Poles You'll Ever Need to Buy on Mars?

This image of the flight model of NASA's Mars Helicopter

 

Nice landing. Is there something familiar about that helicopter?

We have some really cool news about our manufacturing partner Goodwinds Composites! Along with them making our carbon fiber tubes for our new Cnoc trekking poles, they are also providing parts for the landing gear of NASA's first helicopter on Mars, scheduled for launch in 2020. The helicopter will prove the "viability of heavier-than-air vehicles flying on another planet" and deliver beautiful high resolution color photos of the stark red landscape.

That's big news for a company in a little town like Mt. Vernon. We couldn't be more excited to be working with them. Here's an exclusive interview with Amelia Cook, one of the two owners of Goodwinds. 

How did you end up working with NASA?woman (Amelia) holds a trekking pole in a warehouse

We were contacted by NASA and they were wonderful to work with. We helped design and wholly manufactured the wrapped carbon tubes that will be used as landing gear in the NASA Mars Helicopter, set to launch in July 2020. We leveraged the same composites engineering expertise and used the same process to create the wrapped carbon tubes used in the CNOC hiking sticks.

How similar are the carbon fiber tubes used for helicopter and for our trekking poles?

The fantastic thing about wrapped carbon tubes is that they are extremely versatile in attributes. The things that make a wrapped carbon tube a great choice on Mars, like strength-to-weight ratio and impact resistance, make them an excellent choice for trekking poles. Like we did for NASA, we were able to customize the tubes we manufacture for the CNOC hiking sticks in terms of stiffness, length, diameter, hoop strength, straightness, and many other technical aspects to build the absolute best tube for the intended use.

 How has the collaboration with NASA affected business?

We've had some great publicity from this project—it's just so cool. We all touched those tubes before we sent them out the door. NASA has since cleaned them so as not to transfer anything from our planet to Mars; did you know that is the job of the Planetary Protection Office? We've been geeking out ever since.

If given the opportunity would you ever go to Mars?

I think I'd love to go to Mars, but I'm probably not the best candidate... I have high hopes for my kids!

Helicopter Lands in Jezero Crater February 2021

When the helicopter lands on those sturdy carbon fiber legs, we can say our trekking poles are literally out of this world, or at least their cousins are. Why be content with making the ultimate trekking poles out of terrestrial carbon fiber when we could be making the ultimate poles in the solar system?

Animation of Mars helicopter and Mars 2020 rover.
Credits: NASA/JPL-CalTech

Back our Kickstarter to get the poles that are going to Mars!

From Vertex to Kickstarter

From Vertex to Kickstarter

Poles are now available for purchase!

When I started Cnoc Outdoors in 2016, my plan was to make the best carbon poles on the market. We began by making the Vertex poles, in the same way as everyone else—sourcing from China, where the infrastructure and supply chains are already firmly established. But because we were (and still are) such a small company, we couldn’t monitor quality assurance in the factory and had constant issues with the poles. In the summer of 2017, we got another batch that had a number of QA issues: breaking around the button, bonding issues, etc. We had a bunch of ideas on how to improve the poles by making some small adjustments, but the factory wasn’t really interested in pursuing these modifications. We realized that if we wanted to be able to truly make the best poles, with proprietary innovations, we had to make them close to home. 

The search for the right factories and the right parts

We began searching for a different way to make better carbon fiber poles, by doing it in the United States. We reached out to dozens of factories. It might even be close to a hundred by now. These were factories making all of the different components that go into a pole. Some companies preferred to stick to their small batch orders, rather than join our ambitious endeavor. Other factories were charging five times more per part, compared to what we had paid previously. Several factories never responded, or what they had to offer wasn’t an exact match to what we needed. Even after we found a few possible collaborators, some components didn’t reach our standards during testing. 

Carbon Fiber

Goodwinds employee holding sheet of carbon fiber

Our initial carbon fiber manufacturer in Michigan realized they didn’t have production capacity for our needs. Finding a new factory that we could work with—that could offer us the right tubes at the right price—was very hard and frustrating. It felt like going back to the drawing board in many ways, and forced us to change the final price point of the poles dramatically. In the end, Goodwinds Composites won our trust when we tested the strength of their poles against competitors. 

Friction Quick Lock

Making the Friction Quick Lock (FQL) was a real challenge. The molds that we had originally made were for a Michigan factory working with our original carbon fiber manufacturer. Once that relationship ended, factories closer to home (in the Pacific Northwest) didn’t have the tools nor capacity to work with them. New molds would cost around $100-150K. Smaller companies that could work with our molds were mostly too small, but Rex Plastics was right in the middle. They work with small batches but have big manufacturing capacity.  

Then our molds got stuck in Michigan, parts got lost along the way, and we needed to spend thousands more dollars to make the molds operable, delaying the poles again and again.

Grips

cork grips, EVA grips, and straps

For the grips and straps, we spoke to so many companies we’ve lost track in order to find domestic cork and EVA. But our search was hopeless. Cork isn’t grown in the US. EVA is not produced in the US. So, we had to seek solutions in south east Asia. We tested samples from three factories there, with one being a clear winner in results and quality. 

Why Bother?

We felt like quitting many times–every time that a big part of the process collapsed, or we were billed another tens of thousands of dollars to make a small part. It was a seemingly-endless road of hurdles and conversations about how much longer we could continue. 

The main reason we didn’t give up on the poles is probably sheer stubbornness and reluctance to quit. Another reason is simple business acumen: if it is so hard for us, it is hard for everyone, so if we succeed, we will probably be the only ones that do this. Not relying on mediocre, off the shelf parts means that our poles are as unique and efficient as we want them to be. That, by itself, is a reason to get them to market.

Our Aha Moment

Gilad putting together a zpole

We finally had an aha moment when we accepted that we would be moving from a company that pays factories to make our things (white labeling) to a company that manufactures. Over time, more and more of the supply chain moved into our hands: finding factories to make components rather than the poles as a finished productUnderstanding that we needed to source the granular parts and then would be assembling them in-house was the final aha in the process: We make trekking poles!

Building a Kickstarter Campaign

We never asked anyone for money to fund the whole project, only portions of it. We got rejected by at least four banks when looking for loans to fund the tooling and machinery for the poles. Instead, we used a different tactic and got a line of credit (SBA backed) for buying Vectos (our dual-opening collapsable water containers), to free up company money for the poles.  

So far we have managed to fund almost all the tooling needed from selling Vectos. We have a few last things that require roughly $55k. The big problem is MOQs (Minimum Order Quantities).  

Most factories won’t make a new part without high MOQ (or high price cost), so we needed to look for people to help us buy the parts—hence the crowdfunding campaign. Crowdsourcing the last part of the funding of the project is the only way we can think of that to sustain the business. The Kickstarter ties the purchase of parts to the interests of our customers. 

Thank you all for your continued support of our small but mighty outdoor company. Please join in backing our Kickstarter to help us bring these made-in-the-USA carbon fiber poles to you.