G3 Via Carbon Ski Poles — Review

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | January 28, 2016      
At play

G3 Via Carbon at play.

In the last few years the market has been flooded with adjustable ski touring poles. Choosing one out of the ensuing stick pile is difficult. Various pole options can be quite similar, so it’s the small details that differentiate.

There’s a debate within the Dawson clan on the utility of adjustable ski poles. Lou Sr. uses lightweight fixed-length poles for all his touring, and sees adjustable poles an an unnecessary and expensive gimmick, created so that backcountry ski converts will be able to justify spending money on fancy new poles rather than using their perfectly functional alpine poles. I, on the other hand, use adjustable poles for most of my touring. Adjustable poles have a few advantages and features I enjoy, and make it worth it for the serious ski tourer. But, we’d both agree that purchasing new poles is near the bottom of the list when building a kit for a backcountry skier. The truth is, almost any pole that’s the right length will work fine. Any day, I’d take a cheap fixed pole over a cheap adjustable pole that could easily fail.

Last year G3 came out with a full line of both aluminum and carbon ski poles, including adjustable and fixed-length. The Via Carbon poles are fully carbon fiber (the upper and lower shaft). The rods have a wide diameter, which increases strength, but also makes them more bulky. The adjustment is done via G3’s version of the popular cam-lock system, which incorporates a cast aluminum lever.

G3 Via Carbon backcountry ski mountaineering poles

G3 Via Carbon ski poles.

Via Carbon come with a 3-sided powder basket (as well as the option for a smaller basket). The grip is dual-density, like most ski pole grips, and incorporates a removable strap. The strap attaches with a buckle that is basically a side-release buckle that snaps into the top of the grip. The grip also has a aggressive “hook” on the front, for manipulating ski bindings. Another little feature is the molded plastic bump a few inches down the shaft for grabbing the pole on sidehills.

The full-carbon construction makes the poles fairly light. They weigh in at 282 grams (10 oz) for one pole. I have the large size, which adjusts out to 145 cm.

I’ve been using the poles for a little over a year now. I like adjustable poles and use them the majority of the time. For traveling, adjustability is great, as it opens up a bit of space in the ski bag. On skin tracks that are anything more than a short lap, I lengthen the poles to about 125 cm, and shorten them down to about 115 for the descent. On long, flat approaches or low-angled skating, I lengthen the poles to the maximum. Another utility of adjustable poles is for hiking down steep hills carrying skis. I set the poles to a nice long length, and let them take a bit of pressure off my knees. During an average day of skiing, I adjust my poles at least once, perhaps a few times.

In my opinion the only adjustable poles worth anything use some version of a cam to set the adjustment, similar to the flicklock invented years ago by Black Diamond. I’ve tried a variety of other systems over the years and have always found them to unexpectedly collapse, or ice up and fail to adjust. Cam-locks rarely have these problems (if properly adjusted and tightened). G3’s version of the cam system works nicely.

The aluminum levers on my poles have gotten scratched, but otherwise, they, as well as the plastic components, show no sign of wear. They’ve never iced up or collapsed for me. There is an adjustment screw, but I’ve never had to use it. Overall, a tried and true, reliable system.

The powder basket is 3 sided, with one side slightly smaller, for use on steep, hard snow. The 3 “points” are useful for flipping heel lifts and I can even use them to grab the toe levers on Dynafits (although, ironically, I can’t do this with G3’s Ion Binding, due to the lack of a little bump at the end of the toe lever).

The powder baskets started out stiffly attached to the poles, but over time they spin. This makes flipping heel levers more difficult, and diminishes the benefit of the short side of the basket for steep skiing. I may try to fix the basket in place with a dab of glue, but I haven’t had much luck with that in the past. There is a lot of leverage on the shaft, and I don’t want to permanently attach the basket.

Using the basket to pull up the toe lock on Dynafits. This works best on the Radical line, that have the toe style pictured.

Using the basket to pull up the toe lock on Dynafits. This works best on the Radical line, that have the toe style pictured.

The grip is comfy. The slight hook on the front works super well for pulling up tech binding toe levers, and flipping heel risers. The simple strap attachment is one of the better ones I’ve seen. It’s very easy to take off, but I’ve never had it come off inadvertently. Unfortunately the strap itself isn’t ideal. It is stiff and bulky, and uses a big piece of Velcro for adjustment. The Velcro tends to come undone and instead attaches itself to the Velcro cuff on my jacket. The Velcro also doesn’t allow the strap to be adjusted small enough for me to comfortably use with bare hands, necessary for spring touring. A simple ladderlock buckle would have worked much better. In my opinion, minimalism is key when it comes to ski pole straps. Bulkier, fancier ski straps are rarely more comfortable. A simple, contoured piece of webbing with a single buckle adjustment is the way to go. But, the minute details of the strap aren’t a deal breaker, and the Via strap has been adequate so far.

The grip works well for manipulating bindings.

The grip works well for manipulating bindings.

The front of the grip has a nice, aggressive "hook" for pulling up toe levers and heel lifts.

The front of the grip has an aggressive “hook” for pulling up toe levers and heel lifts.

The nice, minimal lower grip.

The lower grip is minimal and adequate.

The other aspects of the pole are well thought out. The molded plastic “second grip” on the upper shaft is minimal, with just enough material to keep your hand from sliding down the pole on sidehills. The poles also seem durable. I’ve fallen on them a few times, and they haven’t broken or cracked. The pole tip hasn’t shown excessive wear. The top of the handle is soft and rubbery — it is chipped and scratched from me hitting various things, but that is only cosmetic.

There’re lots of pole options out there; shopping for a pair can be like battling through a forest of South American bamboo. G3’s Via Carbon poles are a solid choice. They’ve got good features, high-quality materials, and have held up well after hard use.

Shop for G3 poles here.


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38 Responses to “G3 Via Carbon Ski Poles — Review”

  1. Mark Donohoe January 28th, 2016 11:29 am

    Does the lower shaft fit a whippet upper shaft? That would be super!

  2. Mike January 28th, 2016 12:41 pm

    So….can we assume that any evidence in this blog of you and Lou skiing together has been photoshopped? Since Lou is adamant that he never sees anyone he tours with adjusting their poles?

  3. Jay January 28th, 2016 12:47 pm

    Ha! Family feud or the Dawson men didn’t tour together last year?

    Lou 12/23/2015: “after more than 100 days of uphill skiing last season, I cannot think of one time I observed someone adjusting adjustable poles.”

    Louie (above): “During an average day of skiing, I adjust my poles at least, maybe a few times.”

    Love this blog but it seems Lou keeps pushing his head farther in the sand on some things.

  4. Jeremy C January 28th, 2016 12:48 pm

    I also have these poles, I bought them last season. Your experience is exactly the same as mine, with the same positives and negatives. The strap adjustment isn’t large enough, so I only have minimal overlap, when using the straps for the traditional grip. Likewise the triangular baskets, spin in use (round or star baskets probably do as well, but you don’t notice). It isn’t a deal breaker, but it negates a little of the proposed benefits.

    The removable strap is great for tree or off-piste, where it is all too easy to automatically use the strap.

    The only other, admittedly niche, feature is the loop below the handle which is apparently designed as a tether point for tent guy ropes or similar.

    I’ve previously had BD Pure Carbon and Leki Tour III adjustable poles, and the Via Carbons are my favourites.

  5. Jay January 28th, 2016 12:50 pm

    Ha again! I was on the fence about a snarky (but necessary) comment and Mike was expressing the same thing at the same time.

  6. Krista January 28th, 2016 1:00 pm

    Maybe Lou is just always ahead of the pack.

  7. chris seilern January 28th, 2016 1:53 pm

    i could never make up my mind about fixed length vs adjustable, but i break them regularly, so like Lou I now used simple BD expedition fixed length aluminium poles with long eva handles.

    but i do have a thing for Exped adjustable poles – the attention to detail on them is way beyond anything i have seen: the lower telescoping part does not length adjust but clicks into place with a mechanism similar to that of shovels (i.e. no accidentally shrinking poles ever).

    The upper locking mechanism is a traditional twist lock mechanism, but with a little extra: the pole has small, almost indistinguishable, waist lines every 5cm. When lined up properly (you feel it when you adjust it), the twist lock clicks into the pole at the marked waist and locks really firmly into place (i have never had it accidentally shorten on the upper part either)

    The EVA handle is long and knurled for good grip, the leash is neoprene padded and adjustable with one hand. they come in 2 part and 3 part versions, are light and durable – they are the only brand i have so far not managed to break.

    on the nasty side, I have gone trough many Komperdells – they are just rubbish quality. One pair had the lever lock fall apart after 5 days of use when its pivot axis simply fell off into the snow! Another pair, in carbon, just shattered (literally) as i came down a mellow powder run (i guess it caught an edge??). Another pair still (this time a collapsible type with a string inside) literally ha the lower half ripped off when a basket caught a cow fence. Never again Komperdell – just pure rubbish.

  8. Rob January 28th, 2016 4:03 pm

    Is this a quiver killer for poles?

  9. See January 28th, 2016 5:04 pm

    I’ve been using break away straps for a long time and I’m not totally comfortable with regular straps any more. It’s releasable or strap free. The most recent occasion when I snagged a basket and the strap separated was the day before yesterday. I’d just like to suggest (again) that manufacturers make this feature more widely available. The break away straps on my old Life-Links poles have worked flawlessly for many years. I still can’t find Scott SRS straps for retrofitting to numerous Scotts I have.


  10. jasper January 28th, 2016 5:16 pm

    I’ve been considering Lou’s recomendation and going carbon fixed length as I haven’t adjusted my poles in a year. However the other day halfway through a ten mile traverse we had to bail and turn around. 155cm was pretty nice for the miles of flat rolling terrain we were subjected to.

  11. Louie III January 28th, 2016 6:09 pm

    Haha, I’ve gotten into the habit of announcing to Lou every time I adjust my poles, which ends up being several times a day. I’m trying to drag his head out of the sand 😉

    Admittedly, however, we don’t tour together as much as you’d think, since I’m skiing out in Washington most of the year, and he’s in Colorado. I get out to Co a few times a year, and we went on this recent Europe trip together. Before this Thanksgiving, however, I hadn’t skied with Lou since last December (although maybe I’m forgetting a trip?). Perhaps that’s where part of the discrepancy comes from.

    I agree on the breakaway pole straps being awesome. Do you guys have any issues with them coming apart on accident? That’s always been my concern with using them.

    I’ve considered using a file to put a little bevel on the G3 buckles, that would let them get pulled out with a little force, basically making them breakaway buckles. I’m surprised G3 didn’t do that, actually. They could even include two versions of straps with the poles, one that is releasable, and one that isn’t.

    Unfortunately they don’t fit the upper shaft of a whippet pole. However my whippets are a few years old, so the diameter might have changed on newer versions. The G3 poles are FAT, so I doubt they fit in any other poles though.

  12. See January 28th, 2016 6:23 pm

    My straps have never let go except when needed. But I’m not sure the occasional strap “pre-release” would be a big problem, in most situations.

  13. See January 28th, 2016 6:32 pm

    One reason break away straps may be able to achieve the sort of reliability unheard of with bindings is that retention and release occur in opposite directions— you want them to hold when pulled down (toward the basket) but release when pulled up (basket is snagged).

  14. Aaron Mattix January 28th, 2016 8:16 pm

    I have a set of the G3 Via aluminum poles that I had to epoxy together, as they developed a habit of separating into two pieces at the slightest hang-up in brush or trees. The hook on the grip has proven very handy for fiddling around with bindings. Most of the time it feels more efficient to flip the pole upside down to use the hook end, as the basket seems a bit cumbersome for such tasks.

  15. phil January 28th, 2016 10:01 pm

    The reason I switched from adjustable poles to standard ones was due to the fact that once upon a time while touring I got cliffed out and when I had to make the leap into the slot I caught a tip on a tree branch and ended upside down with the tree top holding my skis. When I used my adjustable pole to push on the heel of my freeride binder for a release it collapsed. When I tried the other pole the same thing happened. It took a bit of effort to scrunch up and push on the heel release with my hand to get a release all the while upside down. I think it was only because I was so fit from backcountry skiing that I was able to accomplish such a feat. Think of an inverted stomach crunch with a foot of fresh in the chute. Anyway that’s why I sold my adjustable poles and have never missed them. Do you think Lou had any kind of thing like that happen?

  16. Jernej January 29th, 2016 12:48 am

    Both my brother and I switched back to fixed poles for exactly the same reason – collapsing (or not collapsing when desired) and other ridiculous failures.

  17. mitch January 29th, 2016 12:52 am

    Around 20 years ago I bought a pair of BD adjustable aluminum poles that you could insert a pair of teeth into the handles for use for self-arrest. Worked great until the upper shaft broke last season. (The the pole I have is no longer available, the whippet may be BDs replacement for it.) Anyone have comments on this type of pole and or know where I can find a replacement upper shaft for that old one.

  18. Martin January 29th, 2016 2:42 pm

    The G3 pole locking mechanism has a minor problem. The cam lock is a bit loose when the pole is fully shortened, and the cam can swivel around and come unscrewed from the bolt that holds it in place. I lost one of my cam locks that way (I’d shortened the pole for boot-packing up a couloir). It also turned out that G3 wan’t able to provide a replacement part. Fortunately I was able to exchange the pole under warranty through the dealer, in my case backcountry.com.

  19. Robert January 29th, 2016 6:09 pm

    I have the aluminum version which was cheaper for virtually the same weight. they have been durable over the last two years

    A couple of notes. The straps are breakaway- they attach with a standard buckle that breaks away from the handle under force. Also the replacement straps have a more generous sized loop closure.

    Overall its an excellent pole at a reasonable price.

  20. See January 29th, 2016 7:08 pm

    All straps are break away given enough force. Web description says “removable” which leads me to suspect that the force needed to separate the strap from the grip might be too high to offer much protection in case of a snagged basket. But I’ve never seen the poles, so I’d really like to know if they actually have a viable safety release for the straps.

  21. Jim Milstein January 29th, 2016 8:44 pm

    Does Lou have pole adjustment blindness? If so, is there a cure?

  22. Dave January 29th, 2016 10:07 pm

    As my Life Link Carbon Pros are beginning to fail, collapsing, I’ve been in the market for an adjustable preferably carbon ski pole.

    Somehow the G3 carbon pole has shown up in my web searches.

    But my horrible experience with G3s first generation Onyx binding will not doubt give me pause.

  23. Jeremy C January 30th, 2016 9:06 am

    @Robert, thank you for mentioning that the ‘spare’ straps are larger than the originals, as that is the only niggle I have with the poles. When wearing large gloves I have to wiggle into them, rather than just slide my hand in. Now I just have to find someone that has then in stock.

    There are some comments about poles collapsing, but no mention of the type of adjustment used. The old twist to lock type are well known for slipping, but I have never been able to move any of the cam lock type.

  24. atfred January 30th, 2016 10:44 am

    I haven’t used pole straps since I started patrolling 25 years ago. Much like ice axe straps, and run away straps, I find them more of a liability than a benefit.

    My poles do have straps, but only for looping around the tips of my skis when securing as one package.

  25. Ron Rash January 30th, 2016 11:43 am

    Maybe it is an age thing. I have been using fixed length ski poles for years. I use longer poles than I use for the ski resorts.

    Adjustable poles are silly except for trekking poles and then I need adjustable poles for the flight.

  26. Lou Dawson 2 January 30th, 2016 11:48 am

    Regarding me not seeing Louie adjusting his poles, honestly, I didn’t! I must have had my head in the sand, but it was really white sand. Lou

  27. swissiphic January 30th, 2016 1:09 pm

    @jeremy/alfred; I experimented using rubber G3 and Voile long ski straps as pole handle straps this season. 60 days later, it’s been a positive outcome. Note, for saftey reasons, i never wear them on the down but need them due to wrist/forearm issues for the up.
    1. you always have 2 emergency long ski straps literally ‘on hand’
    2. more rigid form factor makes insertion of gloved hand into loop much easier than floppy fabric
    3. super quick release and on the fly tension adjustment and large opening for removing gloved hand without catching on fabric or cinch buckle plastic
    4. the slight shock absorbtion is a god send for downhill hiking on rocky ground and hard icy/crusty snow conditions with full body weight on straps …I had persistent numbness tingling in my hands for years from ski touring…gone within a month of using the rubber straps…can’t confirm causation vs. correlation but seems that they have helped for sure.
    5. straps slip nicely into the recess of the securing pin (re and re pin to insert) in black diamond adjustable poles and are snugged in normal use but in emergency can be pulled through and out.
    6. fold over the tip and wrap some electricians tape around to close the loop for day to day use.

  28. VT skier January 30th, 2016 1:39 pm

    “I agree on the breakaway pole straps being awesome. Do you guys have any issues with them coming apart on accident? That’s always been my concern with using them. ”

    Like SEE I have the old, carbon fixed length Life-Link poles. Skiing in New England, I often catch a tree branch, or snag something under the snow with a basket. With only a mild tug, the strap releases (but stays on my wrist). No searching in the snow, for the strap, and it pops right back, with a nylon tab, into the top of the grip. So I can safely leave my pole straps on at all times.
    I wish the same pole was available in an adjustable version.

  29. VT skier January 30th, 2016 3:27 pm

    I just checked my Lfe-Link poles; with the releasable straps; they are called the AC-BCs. There is a pole length adjustment system, but it involves unlocking the grips, on the shafts, to slide them up or down only a few cm.
    Sometimes the pole grip lock (at the base) jams up so I don’t use this adjustment in the field.

  30. Robert January 30th, 2016 3:50 pm

    So some added detail…
    The replacement strap is about 13 inches in circumference vs <12" for the original. The difference is that the attachment Velcro has been reduced to 2.5 versus 4".

    I get a Large TNF Himalaya mitten through this loop also a big honking hestra #10 lobster claw. Neither with great ease, and not at the same time I use about 1" of Velcro hook and it breaks away with a good pull.

    We have the replacement straps as my wee little wife snagged a pole in the trees and the side claps quick release prongs broke and pulled free. Her arm did neither.

    Per the G3 Website, Carbon versus aluminum in the short size the weight per pole difference is 15g the price per pole difference is $25.

    I have had the quick flip "collapse" on me but only when I collapsed on it (in other words fell) My ribs remain un-collapsed.. Like any quick flip you can twist it and it tightens.

    In summary, an excellent durable well thought out pole. Not a precision instrument. Holds up Tarps OK. Bangs snow off boots with violence.

    Final vote for aluminum – matches TX pro / Pure 99 colours (Too much?)

    Comment on adjustability of poles. I skied AT gear yesterday for the first time. The loss of heel freedom was profound. What we take for granted until it is taken away from us! I find in my tele gear I adjust my poles a lot (more so at resorts than when touring) …short going down longer for pole push going up short uphill transitions. I don't think I would adjust them as much in AT gear. I mean you have to stop to switch the darn heels. So my thinking is if I am switching out the HEELS I am probably skinning so don't need the poles for much. Yes I use my poles for propulsion and that's another reason you have a loop.

  31. See January 30th, 2016 6:25 pm

    Thanks, Robert, for the added detail.

    And another nice thing about those AC-BC’s is that they convert fairly quickly into a decent size probe.

  32. peter k January 31st, 2016 10:22 am

    I saw a pair of these very poles forgotten in a snowbank on my last outing. I think I’ll stick with my $20 nordic poles.

  33. Ivar January 31st, 2016 11:56 am

    I have Always used adjustable carbon poles for summer, and love them. I liked the many great features in K-2s carbon, adjustable Backside poles, so bought a pair for winter.

    Then on day 3 of a 3 day tour with them, I used a pole to scrape ice from my ski bottoms (forgetting that they were carbon poles). Oops. 2 hours later on a descent, the pole snapped in half right up near the handle where I’d scraped the ski. On closer look, it was clear I’d scored the pole ever so slightly with my ski edge, fatally weakening the pole. Not possible to splint up near the handle, so had to ski out rest of day with one pole. Never again will I use carbon poles For skiing- back to my faithful, heavier, but tougher aluminum BDs.

  34. Wookie February 1st, 2016 2:51 am

    Louie is an adjustable-pole skier. I’m shattered. I mean – can I still go skiing with him if I see him? I it still OK to comment on his blog posts?

    I bet he sometimes skis on frame bindings too.

    Oh the humanity!

    To Lou: I know it must be difficult for you man. If you wanna talk about – I’m here for you. He might still grow out of it. And as to your never having skied with him – I get you. Some things…..you just gotta draw the line.

  35. Lou Dawson 2 February 1st, 2016 4:52 am

    It’s been hard, I tell you. Ski poles are life and only if they do not have a flicklock, Obewhanskinoobie told me that when I first encountered him so long ago in his cave, where he sleeps on a bed made of 2,500 inverted ski pole tips. Lou

  36. JCoates February 1st, 2016 5:32 am

    More reasons to use adjustable poles:

    I keep a set of adjustable poles in my car just in case there is a cute girl who needs to borrow a pair.

    For my male ski partners who break their carbon poles–I keep a very dull hand-saw and direct them to the woodline to get a small sapling to use as an improvised pole.

    Adjustable poles are also so much cooler looking when you are whacking your pole on a cornice (+1 extra G.N.A.R. point).

  37. Richard February 5th, 2016 7:01 am

    Having no snow in the east has made time to get even more anal about gear. I gave up on adjustable poles a long time ago after too many unexpected trips into Gimli mode. I have and like the G3 fixie, but have to give the nod to the Leki Redbird. Great grip (good shape for flipping climbing aids) with a soft, cross hatched extension down the shaft. I like the strap, carbon shaft is quite light and the basket is a softer, dual molded plastic that’s much less stiff than the Leki powder baskets of yore. Worth a look. Kind of scarce.

  38. Geewilligers May 11th, 2016 3:29 pm

    Does anyone know if the carbon lowers will fit into the aluminum uppers? I’m looking to replace the lower end of one of my aluminum vias, and thought this would be an easy way to join the cool carbon club. Any reasons that this would be a bad idea would also be appreciated. Thanks!

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