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REI Co-op Flash Carbon Review

The Flash Carbon pole is a great entry level carbon fiber pole as it's lightweight and features durable aluminum locking mechanisms.
REI Co-op Flash Carbon
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Price:  $140 List | $139.00 at REI
Pros:  Lightweight, inexpensive for a carbon pole, aluminum locking mechanism
Cons:  Foam grips aren't as comfortable, thin carbon construction
Manufacturer:   REI Co-op
By Graham Williams ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 19, 2017
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71
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#10 of 17
  • Comfort - 20% 7
  • Weight - 20% 9
  • Locking and Adjustability - 15% 7
  • Packed Size - 15% 6
  • Durability - 15% 7
  • Versatility - 15% 6

Our Verdict

The REI Co-op Flash Carbon is a lightweight carbon pole for those looking for a great deal. REI contracts Komperdell to construct their poles for them. We thought that the Flash Carbon was super lightweight at 14.6 ounces. However, we found that for the weight there was some sacrificed strength and comfort. We also felt that the carbon fiber used to construct this particular model was a little on the thin side, decreasing overall durability. This model did, however, feature REI's durable aluminum Powerlock mechanism for adjustability.


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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Lightweight, inexpensive for a carbon pole, aluminum locking mechanismLightweight, packs compactly, comfortable grip, easily disassembledComfortable, easy to adjust, small packed size, light, versatileVery durable, versatile, comfortable, and lightweightTough, comfortable, FlickLock mechanism is stellar, and long lasting
Cons Foam grips aren't as comfortable, thin carbon constructionExpensive, may be less durable than some aluminum modelsExpensiveNot as small in packed size as the Leki Micro VarioNot as light or packable as other poles
Bottom Line The Flash Carbon pole is a great entry level carbon fiber pole as it's lightweight and features durable aluminum locking mechanisms.This pole made of lightweight carbon is our top-ranked trekking pole.This pole is the shortest to pack, is lightweight, the most comfortable, and easy to adjust.These poles are among the most durable tested. They are also comfortable, versatile, and easy to adjust.This is one of the top ranked poles in our review thanks to strong, durable construction, and its comfortable cork grips.
Rating Categories REI Co-op Flash Carbon Leki Micro Vario Carbon Women's Micro Vario Carbon Alpine Carbon Cork Alpine Carbon Cork
Comfort (20%)
10
0
7
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
10
Weight (20%)
10
0
9
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
Locking And Adjustability (15%)
10
0
7
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
8
Packed Size (15%)
10
0
6
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
7
10
0
7
Durability (15%)
10
0
7
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
0
10
Versatility (15%)
10
0
6
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
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10
Specs REI Co-op Flash... Leki Micro Vario... Women's Micro... Alpine Carbon Cork Alpine Carbon Cork
Measured Weight Per Pair (Ounces) 14.6 oz 16.4 oz 16.0 oz 17.0 oz 17.0 oz
Shaft Material Carbon upper/aluminum lower Carbon Carbon Carbon Carbon Fiber
Min Length (inches) 27 in 15.5 in 15.5 in 25 in 24 in
Max Length (inches) 54.7 in 47 in 51 in 51 in 51 in
Pole Design Collapsible Foldable Foldable Collapsible Collapsible
Grip Material Foam Foam Foam Cork EVA foam
Locking Mechanism External Lever Lock Speed​​Lock 2 Speed​​Lock 2 External Lever Lock Dual FlickLock Pro
Shock absorbing? No No No No No
Baskets? Tip Attachments? No Yes, tips and baskets Yes, tips and baskets Yes, rubber tips, trekking baskets, powder baskets Yes, Only Baskets

Our Analysis and Test Results

The REI Co-OP Flash Carbon is a lightweight carbon pole for a pretty incredible price of $140. It features durable aluminum Powerlock mechanisms and foam handles that were pretty comfortable.

Performance Comparison



Comfort


The Co-op Flash Carbon scored moderately in our comfort metric. It featured foam handles, which saved on weight, but they weren't as comfortable as the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z or the Leki Micro Vario Carbon's foam grips. They're exceptional for hot weather as they wick moisture well, and that said, they certainly weren't uncomfortable. Carbon fiber is a wonderful material, as it is naturally shock absorbing, and we found it to be a great addition to these poles, allowing us to cover plenty of miles without complaint.

Co-op Flash Carbon foam grips
Co-op Flash Carbon foam grips

Locking Mechanism and Adjustability


The Co-op Flash Carbon features REI's Powerlock system, and because this is a higher end pole, these were constructed of (a super rad red) aluminum. This locking mechanism was quite durable, although Black Diamond's FlickLock Pro and Leki's SpeedLock 2 mechanisms were a bit higher-end and better constructed. However, these are still well-built mechanisms that are functional and easy to use.

The REI Co-op Flash Carbon's metal locking system.
The REI Co-op Flash Carbon's metal locking system.

This model features about 35 centimeters of adjustability. The third section of the pole needs to be pulled out to an "extend to here" section.

The REI Co-op Flash Carbon shaft.
The REI Co-op Flash Carbon shaft.

Weight


This is where the Co-op Flash Carbon excels, weighing in at 14.6 ounces, with the women's model, the REI Co-op Flash Carbon Women's even less at 13.2 ounces.

This is one of the lighter poles in our review, only rivaled by the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z, one of the lightest poles on the market. The addition of foam handles helped in the weight section; however, although the thinner carbon fiber construction helped to create a lightweight pole, it wasn't as strong or as durable as something like the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork (17 ounces). While the Carbon Cork weighs more, it features a much denser carbon fiber weave.

Packed Size


The Co-Op Flash Carbon is a traditional telescoping design, and packs down to 27.5 inches, which is in the upper ranges of our telescoping poles this year. It's not as packable as a break apart style pole like the Black Diamond Alpine FLZ which breaks down to 15 inches, and a couple of inches longer than the telescoping Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork, which packs down to 25 inches.

The REI Co-op Flash Carbon trekking pole collapsed.
The REI Co-op Flash Carbon trekking pole collapsed.

Durability


The Co-op Flash Carbon features a thin Carbon Fiber weave for its construction. Although we didn't run into any issues on the trail, the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork is a beefier carbon pole, with thicker carbon weave. The Co-op Flash Carbon is a great pole for regular on-trail use from day hikes to lightweight backpacking trips, but we don't think it would do as well off trail or bushwhacking. Instead, we would suggest a burlier pole like the Black Diamond Trail Back or the REI Co-op Passage, as these poles feature aluminum construction.

Versatility


The Co-op Flash Carbon is relatively versatile for on-trail use, cross-country, lightweight backpacking, and day hiking. We don't think it would be as great of a pick for something like alpine rock climbing or folks who frequently travel, as it doesn't pack down as small as some other designs. It does come with small trekking baskets as well for slightly gnarlier trails.

The REI Co-op Flash Carbon trekking pole.
The REI Co-op Flash Carbon trekking pole.

Best Applications


The Flash Carbon is an extraordinary entry level carbon pole that excels at multiple different outdoor sports. Although we'd be hesitant to use it on heavy-duty trekking trips or alpine climbing trips were packability is paramount, we think that most general use hikers and backpackers will find the Flash Carbon to be a great pole.

Value


At $140, the Co-op Flash Carbon is one of the least expensive carbon contenders in our review this year and one of the less expensive on the market, compared to the price of the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork or Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z. Although it isn't as durable or compact as some other models, it still performs well as a lightweight pole and is a great pick for any on-trail adventures you might have.

Conclusion


The REI Co-op Flash Carbon is a lightweight and inexpensive carbon pole. It allows the user an affordable price point and makes it easier on the wallet in terms of breaking into the carbon fiber design realm.


Graham Williams