The Pioneer aluminium trekking poles sound too good to be true. In a world where even the most basic models easily set you back a 100 bucks and more, paying less than 30$ for a pair on Aliexpress is almost suspicious. Can you really trust them on long treks and to support a tarp tent through storms?
I had the chance to use them extensively through a variety of conditions. Here is what I found out.
I got my first single aluminium 3-sections collapsible Pioneer trekking pole back in 2017. It comes with two interchangeable baskets (a small regular one and one for snow), and a rubber protector for hard surfaces. I used it extensively for trekking, climbing approaches, fording fast flowing rivers and as the pole for my small tarp tent across Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Switzerland, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Iran and Oman. If I add up all the days I get the equivalent of roughly 5 months of continuous use spread over a year and a half.
I left the lonely pole in storage at the end of 2018, thinking I had momentarily no need for it.
In 2019 I got the bigger Lanshan 2 tarp tent, and suddenly I had again the need for a pair of trekking poles. Being far away from my old Pioneer trekking pole, I ordered two new ones. So far, they have been used for the equivalent of roughly 3 months of continuous spread over a year. I’ve used them as part of the tarp tent in Canada, Sudan and Saudi Arabia. And as trekking poles to walk up almost every day to the paragliding takeoff in Bulgaria.
As far as I’m concerned, this is the single most important criteria: do they last? The last thing I want is for them to fail while supporting my tarp tent in the middle of a storm or collapse during a tricky descent. And so far, I must say that the Pioneer poles are up to the task. They never bent or broke, and as long as the flip-lock was properly tightened they never spontaneously collapsed.
I’ve heard these trekking poles referred to as disposable. Coming from people who never even came near a pair, I can but say this: keep an open mind! The price tag doesn’t tell the whole story.
I would happily give them 5/5 if it wasn’t for the flip lock mechanism. It works well, and is easily adjusted while wearing gloves. While I never had any problems, it is clearly not as solid as the one you will find on Black Diamond poles for example. But as long as you avoid overtightening this shouldn’t be an issue. Plus it should easily be field-repairable with a multi-tool and some wire, as long as you don’t lose the screw.
The tip is made out of hard (tungsten) steel. My impression is that it wears out relatively fast on hard surfaces, but frankly I had this happen with expensive trekking poles too. I usually keep the rubber protector on unless I really need extra grip (like on snow, mud or steep grassy slopes). They do eventually wear out, but I always seem to find replacements on the trail.
Functionality & Comfort 4/5
You obviously won’t find a fancy ergonomic cork design for the handle on the Pionner poles. Instead, what you get is high density foam, that extends down the shaft. And a simple padded wrist strap. The grip is good and comfortable, even with wet hands. The extension regularly comes in handy when traversing steep terrain.
The flip lock mechanism, as mentioned previously, is not the beefiest on the market, but adjusts and operates smoothly regardless of the temperature. More importantly, it beats the classic twist lock mechanism that you still find on many cheap (and not so cheap) models. Twist locks have a nasty habit to wear out, fail or seize up at the worst possible moment. Avoid at all cost!
Fully extended you get a length of 135 cm / 4’4 ft, which is fine for most, and crucially also allows for a high pitch if you are intending to use it for your tarp tent setup. The minimum height is 110 cm / 3’6 ft, and fully collapsed they fit in most bags at 65 cm / 2’1 ft.
Finally, having the choice between regular and snow baskets is a nice touch. On my newer set of poles the small baskets don’t fit perfectly, but they don’t fall off either. So not a problem as far as I’m concerned.
Bottomline: no outstanding innovative features, but everything you have come to expect from a trekking pole is there. What else do you need?
The pair weighs just under 0.5 kg / 1.1 lbs on my scales, with the basket and rubber tip. This is average for aluminium trekking poles.
Lighter carbon fiber trekking poles are currently all the rage. Even Pioneer makes a carbon collapsible trekking pole for twice the price. But carbon is inherently more brittle, especially when cold, and all manufacturers have to compromise on strength and durability when trying to shed weight. I have seen far too many expensive carbon fiber models fail in the mountains to try my luck with a budget version. For a puny 20% weight gain (so roughly 100 g / 3.5 oz), it’s simply not worth it in my opinion.
The retail price is usually around 25-30$ including shipping on Aliexpress. Sales regularly bring it down to 20-25$. Considering most comparable models from other manufacturers easily cost 3-5x as much, this is a real bargain. There are a few cheaper models on Aliexpress, but the Pioneer aluminium poles seem to hit the sweet spot in terms of durability and price.
Pioneer Aluminium Trekking Poles:
The Pioneer aluminium trekking poles are a solid budget option. In fact, I have yet to find anything better for that price. They are durable enough for regular heavy use, and won’t break the bank.
Bottomline: a great choice for anyone after a budget pair of trekking poles. Especially if you get a 100$ tarp tent and find it ludicrous to spend twice as much just to get the mandatory pair of poles to pitch it.