You've probably noticed lately that our Vertex poles are being phased out and you might have asked yourself why. This is due to two main factors:
- Production and quality assurance problems in our factory
- Developing a new, domestic, production line for our poles
How it started
Cnoc started with poles production back when I (Gilad) still lived in the UK and broke one pair of poles too many and decided to make my own. Taking the needs for a lightweight design and aiming to simplify production, I ventured into the big world of Chinese factories to find the right partners to make my poles.
The design is not groundbreaking but utilizes my experience from adventure running to produce a better pole for lightweight hiking and travel, resulting in a very compact pole once collapsed. By using adjustments to the shafts design, we have managed to create a pole that collapses easily to 14.5 inches.
With this design, a few years ago, I found a factory and we started to work together, but got bad results. Going back to relationship building, we tested a couple more factories until connecting with our current factory, which has produced poles for a long time and is the source for several other brands, small and big.
Production in China
Being a small company with limited means and a less standard design, the factory has not responded much to our feedback and that resulted in repeated production issues. Being small means we can't have someone on the line to ensure high quality of production nor materials. More than once we found, the hard way (in the hands of our customers) that our factory, once again, decided to skimp on the quality of carbon fiber or the amount of bonding between the parts. Lately, we even paid more per item just to make sure they are checking each pole to make sure they are all well made. Sadly, we still had too many issues that we feel is acceptable so decided to stop working with Chinese factories.
The main issues with the Vertex and how you make the most of it
Not surprisingly, we can pretty easily isolate what are the production issues with the Vertex and where our factory has been skimping. This can be split into three main problems:
1. Carbon Fiber quality
Our factory didn't make its own carbon fiber shafts but sourced those from another factory, sometimes resulting in lower quality CF than we paid for. Those shafts can have lower quality epoxy in the rolling process or just using other material (like fiberglass) to make the shafts cheaper.
We want consistent good quality carbon fiber and can't trust a factory that isn't transparent about the materials they use.
2. Insufficient bonding
This is probably the most repeating issue we encounter and the easiest to solve: the bond between the carbon fiber shaft and the aluminum connectors isn't glued, or not strong enough. This kind of problem is easily solved with a bit of superglue or epoxy and how we refurbish our poles.
3. Wire crimp problems
The central cable that keeps the poles tensioned is held in place by two crimps: one at the bottom and one in the top. When these crimps aren't placed properly or not fully crimped, they slip off or just move, reducing the tension to hold the pole in place.
Moving Forward: Better Made, US Made
The decision to stop producing in China came around the time we wanted to make a host of changes to our poles so the natural progression is to move production of our new poles to the US. The big problem is that there are no poles factories in the US so we need to create a brand new production line.
Our Z-poles have 30 different components to make one pole made from a host of materials: carbon fiber, aluminum, TPU, EVA, cork, nylon, stainless steel, etc, this means we need to work with 8 different factories to make one pole!
After almost a year of development, we are almost ready to test prototypes, but we are limited by the cost of tooling and design adjustments. It is a funny situation that the only way to make better poles is by pouring money into R&D, but as a small company, it is probably what we are lacking the most: money. We do compensate it with huge piles of enthusiasm and grit though!
Our new poles are designed to be light, simple, strong and most important: fixable! Most trekking poles, at least Z-style ones, are disposable: once a part is broken there is nothing to do but buy a new pair. Our new poles will be made from 7 main parts that each of them will be replaceable, making your poles useable for life with the occasional part replacement when needed.
To finalize our US made poles, we need more money, so the best way to help us is supporting us: maybe buy a Vecto? Recommend us to anyone you know and then some. All that can give us just enough to be able to make the domestic made poles a reality.
If you like the design of our poles but can't wait until late spring 2019, you can pick up our Vertex at a really ridiculous price or grab a refurbished pole. While we aren't recommending our poles for thru-hiking or bushwhacking, they're still an affordable choice for use on established trails.