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IR - Black Diamond Elliptical Spire Trekking Poles - Gail S.

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  • woodswoman
    I just completed my IR for the Black Diamond Elliptical Spire Trekking Poles: HTML:
    Message 1 of 3 , Oct 22, 2006
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      I just completed my IR for the Black Diamond
      Elliptical Spire Trekking Poles:

      HTML:
      http://www.backpackgeartest.org/reviews/test/TESTS/IR-Black%20Diamond%20Elliptical%20Spire%20Poles%20-%20Gail%20S./

      Black Diamond Elliptical Spire Trekking Poles
      by Gail Staisil, Marquette, Michigan
      October 22, 2006

      Tester Information

      Name: Gail Staisil
      Age: 54
      Gender: Female
      Height: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
      Weight: 140 lb (64 kg)
      Location: Marquette, Michigan USA
      Email: woodswoman2001@...

      For the last 17 years, backpacking has become a
      passion. I am a four-season backpacker and an
      off-trail navigator. Although I do take yearly trips
      to the American West or Southwest, the majority of my
      trips are in Michigan and Canada. My pack weight
      varies considerably but my base weight is below 18 lb
      (8 kg). I am primarily a tarp camper who averages more
      than 50 nights a year backpacking in a huge variety of
      weather conditions including relentless rain, wet snow
      and sub-zero temps.

      Black Diamond Elliptical Spire Poles-- Description


      Manufacturer
      Black Diamond
      Website http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/
      Phone 1.801.278.5552
      Model Elliptical Spire (Regular Length)
      Color
      Matte Silver, Orange Graphics, Black Trim
      Materials
      Aluminum Shaft, Dual-Density Plastic, Nylon Webbing
      Length (Collapsed)
      27 in (69 cm)
      Length (Usable Range)
      41 in (105 cm) to 55 in (140 cm)
      Manufacturer Weight
      1 lb 4 oz (572 g)
      Tested Weight
      1 lb 4.2 oz (573 g)
      Model Year 2006
      MSRP NA


      According to the manufacturer, the Black Diamond
      Elliptical Spire Poles have the highest fore/aft
      stiffness on the market that provides unrelenting
      support on technical climbs and descents. Features
      include non-rotating elliptical-shaped shafts and
      immediate engagement with the Auto Lock Binary System.
      An elliptical-shaped FlickLock provides easy
      adjustments on the elliptical-shaped poles. Other
      features include15 degree corrective angles on the
      hand grips, dual-density materials on the top knobs,
      non-slip foam grips with extensions, padded webbing
      that encircles the entire hand, Short Flex Tips and
      low-profile baskets. The poles are available in both
      compact and regular sizes.

      Black Diamond Limited Warranty:
      For climbing and backcountry ski gear we warrant for
      one year from purchase date and only to the original
      retail buyer (Buyer) that our products (Products) are
      free from defects in material and workmanship.


      Black Diamond Elliptical Spire Poles--
      Initial Impressions


      When the Black Diamond Elliptical Spire Trekking Poles
      arrived at my place, my first thoughts related to the
      observation that they presented a modernistic-design
      approach to trekking poles. Even though I knew that
      the shafts on the three-section poles would be
      elliptically-shaped, I was surprised that the
      appearance was so cool and innovative looking. I can't
      help but think that the matte-silver finish with
      stylish graphics on the poles also led to my
      impression. The poles appear to be beautifully
      finished and there were no flaws to the naked eye.


      FlickLock System

      I was especially interested in some of the features of
      the poles that I wasn't previously familiar with. The
      FlickLock adjustment feature on each of the poles was
      new to me. I have only used the more common types of
      trekking poles that secure with a twist. The poles
      arrived with the FlickLocks or levers in the open
      position. These levers (one on each pole) are located
      near the bottom edges of the top pole sections and
      extend about 1.5 in (3.81 cm) to the side of each
      pole. The end of each lever has a series of
      Braille-like raised dots that act to prevent slippage
      when force is exerted on the levers with my thumb.


      Before closing the levers, the middle shaft sections
      of the poles can be adjusted to the desired length
      just by extending or sliding them. There are
      centimeter increments listed in graphics on each pole
      in 5 cm (1.97 in) markings. The markings range from
      140 cm (55 in) to 110 cm (43.31 in). After
      experimenting with the desired length, I closed the
      lever on each pole. It took a bit of force but I knew
      they were closed when I heard the final snap sound on
      each pole. After playing with the levers several
      times, they seemed to close easier than the first
      attempt. Maybe I was just more confident in closing
      them. There is an adjustment screw located on the end
      of each lever. Those screws were pre-adjusted in the
      factory but they can be re-adjusted if the tension is
      too loose or too tight with a quarter or half turn to
      the screws.


      Auto Lock Binary System

      When extended, the lower portion of the trekking poles
      lock in place immediately by an Auto Lock Binary
      System. There is only one location or hole where it
      locks located at the top end of the lower sections. In
      other words, the lower portions of the poles can only
      be locked in one position when they are extended. To
      unlock the pole sections, I have to depress the clear
      soft plastic lock buttons that encase the poles.


      Elliptical Shape

      The shafts of the aluminum poles are formed in an
      elliptical shape. The side profile measures about 0.94
      in (2.39 cm) while the front profile measures 0.56 in
      (1.42 cm). This feature reportedly allows the poles to
      have a tremendous fore/aft stiffness. I do have carbon
      fiber cross-country ski racing poles that feature a
      similar shape but they are not as pronounced. The
      lower portions of the poles are also elliptically
      shaped but they taper down and change to round-shaped
      sections just above the area where the baskets are
      screwed in place.


      Hand Grips/Padded Wrist Straps

      The top sections of the poles have non-slip foam
      rubber-type material almost extending 12 in (30.48 cm)
      in length down the poles. The handle portions are
      about 6 in (15.24 cm) in length and they are canted at
      15 degree angles from the rest of the poles. Below the
      canted portions, the extended portions have the same
      non-slip material with four indentations for grip.

      The top knobs of the handles are made of dual-density
      materials. The extreme top portions and most of the
      sides are made out of a softer material and there are
      harder plastic inserts that cover the area where the
      webbing for the wrist straps are inserted into the
      poles.

      The padding on the wrist straps encircles my hands
      completely. Although the webbing allows the straps to
      be adjusted larger by extending a portion of plain
      webbing (without the padding), they cannot be adjusted
      smaller. Being that my hands are on the small side,
      the padded strap is very loose around my bare hands.
      There is quite a bit of open space so even bulky
      gloves and mittens will likely fit.


      Baskets/Tips

      The baskets on the poles are very small or low
      profile. They measure 1.5 in ( 3.81 cm) in diameter.
      It appears that the baskets are twisted in place. With
      the basket attachments being round it would be
      interesting to find out if larger baskets for deep
      snow, could be used on these poles to make them more
      versatile. The tips of the trekking poles are encased
      in Short Flex Tips. The flexible rubber tips encase
      short carbide tips for grip on rock or ice.

      Black Diamond Elliptical Spire Poles-- Test Plan

      Locations/Conditions

      My scheduled fall and winter backpacking trips in
      Michigan include a four-day trip to the Hiawatha
      National Forest in November, a four-day trip to the
      Pigeon River State Forest in December, a five-day
      winter sledge trip in January in Michigan's Upper
      Peninsula, and a nine-day winter sledge trip in
      February to Ontario, Canada. In addition, I am very
      prone to taking last-minute trips.

      The next four months in the Great Lakes area of
      Michigan and Canada will produce many wild, windy,
      rainy and snow-filled days and nights. The Great Lakes
      create their own unique weather system, so I would
      expect rapid sudden drops in temperatures and much
      precipitation in the form of rain and snow during this
      time period. The testing conditions will be at low
      elevation or low altitude 600 ft (183 m) to 2000 ft
      (610 m), with mostly cold conditions and mid-to-high
      range humidity (50-100 percent).

      Testing location temperatures in Michigan will range
      from the average low in January of 3F (-16C) to the
      average high of 35 F(2 C) in December. These are only
      averages, I have been on several trips where the
      temperatures dipped to a low of -20F (-29C) in January
      and a foot or more of snow has fallen in a short
      amount of time. Average precipitation for the Michigan
      trips is approximately 13 in (33cm) during this time
      period, however average snowfall for the winter totals
      at least 185 in (470 cm) in some of the areas that I
      will be camping.

      My February trip to Ontario, Canada could produce lows
      of -40F (-40C) with the average low being -19 (-2F) In
      addition, snowfall for the month of February averages
      21 in (54 cm) with an average snow depth of 26 in (67
      cm). Again, this is an average, there is frequently
      over 6 ft (183 m) of snow on the ground during the
      Canadian trips.

      All of these trips will be taken to hilly boreal or
      deciduous forest. Most of the trips planned are of the
      bushwhack variety, so in addition to the above, I will
      also be traveling across flat, frozen, windy lakes
      during the January, and February trips.


      I will test the Black Diamond Elliptical Spire
      Trekking Poles with the following considerations in
      mind:

      Ease of Use:

      -Are the FlickLocks harder to open in frigid weather?
      -Can I adjust the FlickLocks and Padded Webbing Wrist
      straps with one hand? While wearing gloves?
      -Are the poles easy to collapse when I want to put
      them away?
      -Will I find the elliptical shaft shape that can't be
      twisted to be a bonus instead of the traditional round
      shaft?
      - Will the elliptical shafts make engaging the
      Auto-Lock Binary System easier?
      -Will the elliptical shafts make adjustments while
      under way quicker?
      -Will the straps on the poles be easy to adjust? This
      can be a source of frustration for me.

      Maintenance/Care:

      -Will the FlickLocks require special maintenance to
      keep them operating correctly?
      -If any parts of the FlickLocks crack - the lever or
      housing - can these be replaced?
      -Will I have to oil any parts of the FlickLocks
      mechanisms?
      -If the tension on the FlickLocks needs to be
      adjusted, is this easily accomplished?
      -Do the poles have to be stored in a special
      manner-FlickLocks open and collapsed or closed and
      uncollasped?
      -Will the poles need special care after they have been
      used in the field during wet weather? How about care
      after being in dirt and mud?
      -Will the top knob, padded webbing, Short Flex Tips
      and Trekking Baskets need any special maintenance to
      keep them functioning through the test period and
      beyond?
      -Is every part of the pole replaceable?

      Performance/Design:

      -Will the poles with their 15 degree corrective angle
      make a difference while hiking? - My current trekking
      poles don't feature a corrective angle so I am really
      interested in the possible merits of this
      characteristic for trekking. (I have used XC ski poles
      with this feature for skiing).
      -Will the FlickLocks design feature keep the pole
      sections from slipping? I frequently have a slipping
      problem with my twist poles when I exert pressure on
      them.
      -Are the hand grips comfortable to use with bare hands
      and with gloves or mittens?
      -Are the hand grips ergonomic so that they fit my
      hands properly?
      -Will the non-slip hand grips stay that way or will
      they become smooth after extended use?
      -Will the padded webbing straps stay where they are
      adjusted or will I have to frequently re-adjust their
      position?
      -Will the poles be stiff enough so that they don't
      elicit or waste too much of my energy when force is
      exerted on them? After countless years of performance
      xc skiing, I believe I have some insight into the
      qualities of an ideal pole for repetitive use.
      -Will the poles hold up to much of my weight leaning
      on them when I am going through difficult areas of
      descent?
      -Are the Short Flex Tips long enough to secure their
      position on ice and rock?
      -Will the trekking baskets be only sufficient for
      barren turf or will they float over snow as well? Are
      snow-specific or backcountry baskets available for
      future use?
      -Are the poles easy to stow in the side pockets of my
      pack if needed? I often transport my pack and both
      poles this way if I am taking a ferry to an island or
      while I am bushwhacking, I stow one of the poles so
      that I can have one hand available to push brush out
      of the way.

      Durability:

      -Will the non-slip hand grips stay that way or will
      they become smooth after extended use?
      -Will the padded webbing fray with regular use?
      -Will the poles withstand ordinary handling and
      cartage?
      -Will the FlickLocks hold up to frequent adjustments?
      -Will the FlickLocks keep the pole sections in place?
      I once lost the bottom section of my twist pole in
      steep, forested and difficult terrain as it simply
      twisted out without me realizing it.

      Tester Remarks

      I will gladly address all these issues and any
      additional pertinent concerns as I test the Elliptical
      Spire Trekking Poles. Thanks to Black Diamond and
      BackpackGearTest for this great opportunity during the
      next four months.

      This concludes my Initial Report. My Field Report
      should be completed after two months of testing.




      ***Gail***

      **There is a pleasure in the pathless woods** - Lord Byron

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    • colonelcorn76
      Sorry this took a bit. I didn t realize you had already posted these when I picked up monitoring this test. Just a few minor things. Standard EDIT (required),
      Message 2 of 3 , Nov 12, 2006
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        Sorry this took a bit. I didn't realize you had already posted these
        when I picked up monitoring this test.

        Just a few minor things. Standard EDIT (required), Edit (suggested)
        conventions used.

        Jim H
        BD Spire Test Monitor

        --- In backpackgeartesters@yahoogroups.com, woodswoman
        <woodswoman2001@...> wrote:

        > (8 kg). I am primarily a tarp camper who averages more
        > than 50 nights a year backpacking in a huge variety of
        > weather conditions including relentless rain, wet snow
        > and sub-zero temps.

        ### EDIT: Need a metric here, unless this is metric and you need a
        Farenheit measure.

        >
        > The top sections of the poles have non-slip foam
        > rubber-type material almost extending 12 in (30.48 cm)

        ### Edit: "extending almost" reads a bit better

        > webbing (without the padding), they cannot be adjusted
        > smaller. Being that my hands are on the small side,
        > the padded strap is very loose around my bare hands.
        > There is quite a bit of open space so even bulky
        > gloves and mittens will likely fit.

        ### Edit: A note about your hand/wrist size (besides "small side")
        might make this more meaningful to the reader.

        >
        > Testing location temperatures in Michigan will range
        > from the average low in January of 3F (-16C) to the
        > average high of 35 F(2 C) in December. These are only
        > averages, I have been on several trips where the
        > temperatures dipped to a low of -20F (-29C) in January

        ### EDIT: All of these temps need a space before the unit
        abbreviation which is our convention at BGT. (3 F, -16 C, 20 F, -29 C)

        > and a foot or more of snow has fallen in a short

        ### EDIT: metric conversion for "foot" is needed

        > amount of time. Average precipitation for the Michigan
        > trips is approximately 13 in (33cm) during this time

        ### EDIT: 33 cm

        > My February trip to Ontario, Canada could produce lows
        > of -40F (-40C) with the average low being -19 (-2F) In
        > addition, snowfall for the month of February averages
        > 21 in (54 cm) with an average snow depth of 26 in (67
        > cm). Again, this is an average, there is frequently
        > over 6 ft (183 m) of snow on the ground during the
        > Canadian trips.
        >

        ### EDIT: Same issue with the temps in this paragraph. Also check
        your -19 (-2F) for what you really mean which I expect is -2 F (-19
        C). Check the conversion for 6 ft - you missed a decimal.


        > -Will the FlickLocks design feature keep the pole

        ### EDIT: either "FlickLock's design" or "FlickLock design"
      • woodswoman
        Thanks Jim...no problem on the wait. I did the edits but I omitted the field conditions/locations as it is now not required on the IR s. Thanks Again, Gail ...
        Message 3 of 3 , Nov 12, 2006
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          Thanks Jim...no problem on the wait. I did the edits
          but I omitted the field conditions/locations as it is
          now not required on the IR's.
          Thanks Again, Gail

          --- colonelcorn76 <colonelcorn76@...> wrote:

          > Sorry this took a bit. I didn't realize you had
          > already posted these
          > when I picked up monitoring this test.
          >
          > Just a few minor things. Standard EDIT (required),


          ***Gail***

          **There is a pleasure in the pathless woods** - Lord Byron



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