Our trekking poles come with either EVA or Cork grips, which is a pretty common offer in the outdoor market. Usually the weight difference between these two options is pretty small, but with our poles the grips have a big impact. Despite being identical in every way but the grips, our EVA poles weigh 7oz per pole while our cork poles weigh 9.5oz per pole. The entirety of the weight difference is attributable to the grip material alone.
So why the difference, you probably ask. What makes our cork grips so heavy?
Instead of taking you through the history of trekking pole grips, I want to jump straight to the end: we use fully molded cork with only the smallest of plastic inserts. We don't use cork sheets or a plastic grip with cork covering, and we focus on using a lot of cork, so you get the most of the grip you are using.
So? Cork is light and buoyant, and using a molded cork grip shouldn't mean it is heavy. And you are correct, if you look at some of the cork grips on fishing poles you will notice they are much lighter than ours. A key part in making a solid cork grip is making sure it retains its shape while still allowing for comfort. We use highly compressed cork granulate in our grips to ensure that even after a full thru-hike, your grip remains a grip and not just the ruins of one - all without using plastic. This is where the weight comes from.
What are the benefits of a compressed cork grip?
This is probably the real question here, since weight is pretty obviously a drawback for most backpackers and hikers.
The reason to make such a robust grip was to emphasize comfort and durability, especially since the sum of all the other materials making up our poles were so very light. We managed to create a truly "premium" feel in our grip while still keeping our cork poles around 9.5oz a pole, which is still pretty light. Our grips feel solid from the start and over time, truly mold to the shape the hand.
Environmental impact also plays a big role here: cork is considered a carbon neutral material, is natural, renewable and we are actually using the leftovers from the wine industry to make our grips. When the amount of cork in a product is reduced, the amount of other materials increases: plastic, foam, etc. - materials that much more impactful on the environment than cork.
So, is it worth it?
We obviously think that the incremental weight increase is definitely worth the better experience and reduced environmental impact, and so do many other hikers, but at the end of the day this is one of the oldest conversations in backpacking: is the weight worth it?
Is the comfort, durability and environmental impact worth the extra weight, when compared to the alternatives? That is for you to decide.