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30359EDIT - DENNIS Re: [BackpackGearTest] INITIAL REPORT: BD Contour Trekking Poles (Dennis)

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  • rebecca@backpackgeartest.org
    May 2, 2003
    • 0 Attachment
      Thanks for the great and thorough report again! It's deja vu all over again
      for me too. =) I've added a few edits and comments below...not many - good job!

      > Initial Report - Black Diamond Contour Trekking Poles
      > Report Outline
      > Tester Information
      > Summary
      > Product Information
      > Product Description
      > Initial Observations
      > Testing Plan
      > Biography
      > Tester Information <back to top>
      > Reviewer: Dennis Shubitowski
      > E-mail: shubitow at msu dot edu
      > Date Published: May 1, 2003
      > Summary <back to top>
      > I really like these poles at first glance. This test series accidentally
      > began with the 2002 year model, and nearly all the concerns I had with those
      > otherwise fine poles were addressed in this 2003 model update. The FlickLock
      > mechanism is a solid and easily adjustable locking mechanism that is very
      > effective, and it is probably the strongest asset of this pole lineup in the
      > Black Diamond collection. If you are looking for a very light, comfortable,
      > and no-frills trekking pole, give these poles serious consideration.
      > Product Information <back to top>
      > Item: Black Diamond Contour Trekking Poles
      > Manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment, Ltd.
      > Manufacturer's web address: www.bdel.com
      > Year of manufacture: 2003
      > Manufacturer listed weight: Not listed on website or in product manual
      > Weight as received (poles only): 1 lb 0.5 oz (474 g) for pair (measured
      > laboratory scale)
      > Manufacturer listed length: Not listed on website or in product manual
      > Length as received: 28.4 in (72.1 cm) to 53.9 in (136.8 cm)
      > MSRP: $99.95 USD
      > Product Description <back to top>
      > The Black Diamond Contour Trekking Poles were waiting for me on the porch of
      > my house on Saturday, April 19, 2003. The poles were shipped in a plain box,
      > wrapped in "Black Diamond" logo shipping tape, with the poles, trekking
      > baskets, and a shipping receipt inside the box. The poles were wrapped in
      > plastic wrap and held together by a plastic connector and a rubber band, and
      > the pointy-tipped end of the poles were shipped with a mushroom-shaped tip
      > protector already in place. Everything arrived in good condition. There was a
      > generic instruction manual attached to one of the pole straps that covers
      > their pole lineup and is printed in English, German, French, Italian,
      > Spanish, and Japanese. The manual mentions both adjustment mechanisms -
      > "Flicklock" and "Binary" - and how they operate, the "Ascent" shock absorbing
      > grip which does not apply to these poles, and the 'Whippet" self-arrest ice
      > pick which is not included either. The manual also covers inspection,
      > maintenance, and storage of the poles.

      COMMENT: In the above paragraph you use the term "Flicklock" but everywhere
      else you capitalize the L - "FlickLock". Better to be consistent...

      > This is my second pair of Black Diamond Contour trekking poles. This test
      > series began with the wrong set of poles (2002 model instead of 2003 model)
      > being shipped. This pole set has several changes compared to the first set I
      > have used. I surfed over to the recently redesigned Black Diamond website to
      > read about the new 2003 Contour poles, and I had difficulty finding them on
      > their website. The poles are not logically listed under "Backcountry »
      > FlickLock Poles," but instead under "Rock » Trekking Poles." A "Site Index"
      > or "Search" would be very helpful here, but they are not active links at the
      > bottom of the web page as of May 1, 2003. The Black Diamond website lists
      > these summarized properties for the poles:
      > * Lightest pole in Black Diamond collection
      > * Ergonomic, non-slip foam grips
      > * 15º corrective angle
      > * Binary and FlickLock adjustment systems
      > * Usable adjustment range of 13 in (33 cm)
      > * Easily replaceable carbide tips
      > The poles appear exactly as indicated by the picture on the Black Diamond
      > website, and they are quite sharp looking trekking poles. The poles are made
      > of three aluminum sections and are non shock-absorbing. Starting at the top,
      > the grips are set at a 15º angle. They are made a stiff foam and are topped
      > with a hard, plastic head. The grips are about 5 in (13 cm) in total length
      > with about 4 in (10 cm) of "useable" grip where your hand would normally
      > rest. My three bottom fingers wrap naturally around the lower portion of the
      > grip, and my thumb and forefinger rest on the curve of the upper portion. The
      > straps for the poles are connected to a recessed area in the plastic head.
      > The nylon straps are variable in width - they are about 0.5 in (1.3 cm) wide
      > at their narrowest and about 1 in (2.5 cm) at their widest. The side of the
      > straps that would rest against your hands are lined with a neoprene-like foam
      > that is cleanly sewn and follows the changing curves of the straps. The
      > straps are attached with a half-twist so they lie naturally against the back
      > of your hand without kinks when your hands are inserted from the bottom of
      > the pole straps. The straps are shortened by pulling down on the long, narrow
      > tail of the strap and lengthened by pulling up on the portion of the strap
      > that is closest to the top of the poles. The smallest loop diameter is about
      > 12 in (30 cm) and the largest loop is about 18.5 in (47 cm); the straps are
      > designed so they cannot be accidently pulled through the adjustment
      > mechanism.

      SPELLING: Accidentally

      >Initially, I find the straps much easier to shorten than they are
      > to lengthen. The straps for both of the poles are attached in exactly the
      > same manner - there is no dedicated "right" or "left" pole.
      > The upper section of the poles is anodized in a soft orange tone that is
      > solid in color closest to the handle and fades in a random, pleasant pattern
      > as it approaches the FlickLock mechanism. This pole section has a definite
      > bend in it near the top that accounts for the angle of the grips. The upper
      > section is emblazoned with the Black Diamond logo and name, "Contour" in a
      > black band directly below the name and logo, and a FlickLock logo is located
      > near the bottom. At the bottom of the upper pole section is the removable
      > FlickLock mechanism used to adjust the length of the center pole section.
      > There is a removable sticker warning label directly on the Flicklock

      COMMENT: Again with the Flicklock vs. FlickLock

      > mechanism itself noting to adjust the tension before first use. This
      > FlickLock is a simple, cam mechanism, and the tension is adjustable by a
      > large screw using either a Philips or a flat headed screwdriver.

      COMMENT: I don't think the comma after simple is necessary.

      The screw is
      > very easy to adjust, and nearly any thin, flat object could be used for
      > tension adjustment in a pinch. To adjust the center pole length, you flip
      > open the Flicklock mechanism, the tension on the center section loosens, you
      > adjust the length by moving the center section in or out, and then snap the
      > FlickLock back into position. The center section can be pulled out and
      > separated completely from the upper section. The center pole section is
      > anodized with the same solid, soft orange color and is clearly marked with
      > the Black Diamond logo, measurements of 105 cm, 110 cm, 115 cm, 120 cm, 135
      > cm, 130 cm, and 135 cm (about 2 in intervals), and a STOP marker - all these
      > markings appear to have been masked off to reveal the silver aluminum base.
      > There is also a red, plastic end cap at the top of the middle section that
      > seems to be part of the tensioning mechanism for the poles. At the bottom of
      > the center pole is the Binary adjustment mechanism for the bottom pole
      > section.
      > The bottom section of the poles is not removable, and it is not adjustable.
      > This pole section is meant to be either all the way in or all the way out,
      > thus binary is a proper term. To lock this section into place, you pull the
      > bottom section out until it stops and rotate it slightly until the brass pins
      > click into place. The mechanism is similar to the common, spring-loaded
      > button that pops out into one of many holes for adjustment on many types of
      > adjustable aluminum tubing sections like those used in some tripods. To
      > collapse the bottom section, you squeeze on both sides of the Binary
      > adjustment mechanism's soft, clear collar to compress the pins and slide the
      > pole back into the center section. This pole is silver and is marked in black
      > printing with the Black Diamond name and logo as well. The tip section is
      > located at the bottom of the pole (obviously), is made of a hard, formed
      > plastic, and is about 3 in (7.5 cm) long. There is a "neck" at the top that
      > stops against the Binary adjustment mechanism, and there is also a slight
      > ridge that is the upper stop for the trekking pole baskets. This tip section
      > tapers toward the carbide tip that is cut with an asterisk pattern cut onto
      > its end. According to the manufacturer, the carbide tip is "easily
      > replaceable," but I could not figure out how to remove it. All baskets and
      > tip protectors, when used, are held onto this section by friction. The
      > trekking baskets are pushed up to the slight ridge, and the tip protectors
      > slide onto the tapered section. The tip baskets are held quite firmly on the
      > poles and can be quite difficult to remove. This is probably a good thing as
      > I wouldn't want them to fall or get pulled off in the field. The tip
      > protectors have a small, metal disc inserted inside and at the bottom to
      > prevent to carbide tip from poking through. The metal discs do not seem to
      > stay firmly in place and look like they will pop out with repeated on the
      > pole, off the pole motions; testing will tell. Both the trekking baskets and
      > the tip protectors will fit on this lower tip section at the same time.
      > The listed usable lengths of the poles given by the manufacturer is only
      > given as adjustable over a 13 in (33 cm) range - this is accurate by my
      > measurements assuming the bottom pole section is locked in the extended
      > position. The shortest collapsed length is 28.4 in (72.1 cm) and the longest
      > usable length is 53.9 in (136.8 cm). You can knock about 2 in (5 cm) off the
      > minimum length (i.e. in using the pole for a tarp support) by jamming the tip
      > into the ground up to the pole's basket. The poles and accessories were
      > measured on a laboratory balance with the following results:
      > Pole: 237.1 g (8.36 oz)
      > Pole: 236.9 g (8.36 oz)
      > Tip Protector: 8.3 g each (0.3 oz)
      > Trekking Basket: 8.5 g each (0.3 oz)
      > Initial Observations <back to top>
      > It is hard not to compare these poles to the 2002 model we were originally
      > given to test. The straps on these poles are a significant improvement over
      > the previous design. Black Diamond also made a very light pole even lighter
      > with the new model design. Length markings are now anodized onto the pole
      > shaft which should ensure that they will not rub off as well. From the
      > FlickLock mechanism on down, the poles remain relatively unchanged from the
      > previous model. One thing I noticed right away is that the straps for the
      > poles are attached in exactly the same way with no designated right or left
      > pole. This is unfortunate in an otherwise excellent redesign because padding
      > for the pole only fits naturally for my left hand where my thumb rests (this
      > assumes inserting your hand into the pole straps from the bottom). Since the
      > strap layout is the same, my right thumb does not rest on the neoprene
      > padding. This could be easily fixed by attaching the strap for the "right"
      > pole in a mirror image of the current attachment and labeling the top of the
      > poles with a "R" and "L." However, if I inserted my hands from the top
      > instead of the bottom, this change would probably not make a significant
      > difference in how the strap padding rests on my hand. The instruction manual
      > for this pole set needs to be updated as well - there is no mention of the
      > new strap system and how to adjust it.
      > Additional resources for trekking pole use: Pete's Pole Page
      > Testing Plan <back to top>
      > I will continue to use the Black Diamond Contour poles for the remaining test
      > period and beyond. I plan on paying particular attention to the Binary
      > adjustment mechanism as it is not removable and may be difficult to clean if
      > dirt or grit lodges its way past this locking mechanism. The upper section of
      > the poles can be separated for easy cleaning if necessary, and I plan to test
      > this likely using a shotgun cleaning kit. It is also curious to me that the
      > bottom section of the pole is also not adjustable with a FlickLock mechanism.
      > The bottom pole section is the smallest in diameter would seem to be the
      > weakest section in the pole. There is no mechanism to leave part of this
      > section in the upper section and lengthen the center section to make up the
      > difference. I will pay particular attention to this area as well as I
      > continue to test these poles. These poles will accompany me when geocaching,
      > going for my walks on campus during my work breaks, and while backpacking.
      > Spring is quickly fading into summer here in Michigan, and I will have
      > numerous multi-day backpacking trips and dayhikes in varying terrain which
      > will provide good testing opportunities for these poles. The poles will also
      > be assessed for secondary usages, especially as they apply to shelter setups
      > using tarps and my homemade tarptent shelter where they would replace the
      > Easton aluminum poles I currently use.
      > Biography <back to top>
      > Name: Dennis Shubitowski
      > Age: 33
      > Height: 5'11" (180.34 cm
      > Weight: 165 lb (74.84 kg)
      > E-mail: shubitow at msu dot edu
      > Location: Owosso, Michigan
      > Born, raised, and currently live in Michigan. I have been camping with family
      > since I was a young tot (and probably before that) along with scouting
      > activities. I have been backpacking since the early 1990s and have gotten out
      > much more over the last several years as life has settled down. I also hunt,
      > geocache, horseback ride, ski, orienteer, and canoe. I backpack in every
      > season - rain, snow, or shine. My hiking philosophy is definitely slid
      > somewhere between ultra- and lightweight backpacking over the past couple
      > years from my "backbreaker" days. This includes a homemade, silnylon tarp
      > shelter (although those hammocks are starting to look inviting!), a frameless
      > backpack, homemade alcohol and Esbit stoves, and cooking in a WalMart grease
      > pot.
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