When Cnoc Outdoors set out to redesign trekking poles to be more durable and sustainable, the outdoor gear company looked to wrapped carbon tube manufacturer, Goodwinds Composites. Could a carbon tube be built to withstand the myriad forces put on it by an avid hiker, and could it withstand them hour after hour, day after day, year after year? Trekking poles go through an extreme amount of stress while in use: vertical pressure from weight, twisting motion from the walking process, and lateral force when the pole gets stuck between rocks, not to mention impact from repeatedly being pushed into the ground. The force of these stresses change, too: hikers might walk or run, go uphill or down, carry more or less weight, hike in desert heat or mountain snow… the list goes on.
Fortunately, a roll-wrapped composite tube is about as customizable as you can imagine and can be specifically manufactured to endure a variety of burdens. A roll-wrapped tube could be made using carbon fiber prepreg (cloth pre-impregnated with resin), fiberglass prepreg, or a combination of those or many other materials with resins designed to resist UV damage or vast temperature changes.
The fabric might be woven or unidirectional and can be cut with or against the fiber direction and layered over one another during the manufacturing process to create differences in flexibility, hoop strength, impact resistance, and wall thickness. The mandrel can be of any diameter and could be tapered or straight. Changes to the curing temperature, length of cure, and the compression tape wrap can also affect the outcome.
After curing, a composite tube can be ground to a specific diameter, sanded for a bonding surface, notched, drilled, or milled to specification. Options are literally endless.
Hiking sticks or trekking poles have been around for ages; modern ones have been made with aluminum or carbon. Aluminum is heavier than carbon (an attribute that matters to avid hikers), but most of the ultralight carbon poles are made in China and break easily and often. Imagine heading down a mountain after an arduous hike up and snapping your hiking pole just as you need the stability to help you with the descent. Cnoc worked with Goodwinds Composites to create trekking pole sections with strength and flexibility attributes similar to those of aluminum while at a much lighter weight. By sourcing these wrapped carbon tubes in the United States, Cnoc has great influence on the component manufacturing process and was able to design a modular pole that can be endlessly repaired.
The focus on sustainability goes further than just sourcing components in the USA, however. The Cnoc trekking pole is unique in that each part is designed to be replaced in the field. While the wrapped carbon tubes in Cnoc’s folding poles are tough, they are not unbreakable – and if you have to put so much pressure on the pole to stop your fall that it breaks, well, better the pole than you – so each carbon tube section can be easily separated from its clamps, tips, grips, and connectors for quick and easy replacement. Hiking trails are sometimes littered with discarded, broken poles. Cnoc poles are small enough and light enough to be packed off the trail in a hiker’s backpack once broken, rather than jettisoned into the wilderness in frustration. The future of sporting goods manufacturing is not just in high performance, but also in environmental responsibility. Composites, when manufactured well, can be durable, sustainable parts.
Find out more about CNOC and their products at www.cnocoutdoors.com.
Goodwinds Composites manufactures composite rods and tubes for a variety of industries. They helped design and wholly manufactured the landing gear for NASA’s Mars helicopter, set to launch in 2020.