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Adjustable poles are just nice to have. If you’re regularly touring the backcountry to earn your turns, extra length is ideal for ascents. Or maybe you just like the idea of something that can be shortened for storage and transportation ease—or something that can be quickly adjusted to help out a friend who left his poles at home. The key is durability: Too often, an adjustment mechanism weakens a pole. One wrong move in those slushy spring bumps, and snap—time for new poles.
The Lock Jaw Carbon Alu pole/probe ($140)—new from K2 and part of its growing line of mainstream backcountry/sidecountry products—has one of the beefiest locking mechanisms we’ve seen. The upper shaft is made of aluminum, for strength; the lower shaft is lightweight carbon-reinforced fiberglass. You can connect the lower shafts of both poles to make a probe up to 86 inches long. The Lock Jaw Carbon/Alu comes in two sizes, 100-130 cm, or 115-145 cm. The latter stretches all the way to 58 inches. The Lock Jaw Alu model ($75) is all aluminum and lacks the probe feature.