REVISED: Application to Test Black Diamond Terra CF Trekking Poles
- A small point. but I forgot to add a crucial point referred to in the
text to the list!
Application to test the Black Diamond Terra CF Trekking Poles
I have read and understood the current requirements in the Survival Guide
(version v. 1202 as of 09/10/04) and I agree to comply with all these
requirements as a tester. I also have a signed tester agreement on file.
51 years old
6 ft 1 inches tall (1.85 meters)
215 lb (98 kg)
erd <at> wilsey.net
Catskill Region, New York State
I enjoy walking in all its manifold forms, from a simple stroll in the
woods to multi-day backpack excursions. Though by no means an extreme
ultralight enthusiast, from spring to fall my preference is to carry a
packweight of 12 lb (5.5 kg), more or less. In recent years, I've
rapidly moved to a philosophy of "lighter is better," within the
constraints of budget and common sense.
Testing locations and conditions.
Catskills, Adirondacks, possibly the White Mountains and the
mid-Hudson valley region, from late winter to late summer/early
autumn. Depending on when the poles arrive, I could expect to be out
and about in temperatures down to 0 F (-18 C) in what little remains
of the winter. Upper temperatures during the testing period could run
as high as 90 F (32 C), during the summer portion of the test period.
Similar poles used over the years
Lekis, too numerous to count
MSR Overland Carbon poles
Inexpensive Black Diamond FlickLock poles
I suppose poles and staves have been around for as long as there have
been walkers. While it's hard to conduct Robin Hood style derring-do
with a pair of adjustable poles, they certainly win hands-down over a
quarterstaff when it comes to convenience and low weight! My first
exposure to trekking poles (I had used poles previously for
cross-country skiing and snowshoeing) occured when a friend loaned me
her Komperdells for a few minutes, some eight years ago. I was
immediately hooked. The improvement in stability, the ability to use
them to accelerate pace by using a bit of upper body force, the extra
control when hopping down from low boulders and ledges: all of this
made it immediately clear that here was a tool I needed.
Since that time I've experimented with poles from a number of
manufacturers, and I have developed a reasonably thorough
understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. I do find them an
impediment on any kind of steep scramble where full balance is
required. I am sometimes annoyed when they concertina unexpectedly (I
maintain all my poles scrupulously, but it does happen, though rarely)
or freeze to an inconvenient length in the middle of a winter hike.
But these are small quibbles, and my fifty-year-old knees say that
poles are a blessing!
What is my ideal pole? They must be light (naturally) and have
comfortable hand-grips that are somewhat absorbent and don't become
sweaty. Straps should adjust quickly and easily, and should be
comfortable against the hand when in a cross-country ski hold (which I
usually use on ascents and flats). A nice knob on the end of the pole
is convenient for down-climbing (I usually don't use wrist loops on
descents, for safety reasons). The poles should fold down to a
conveniently small size, so that I can strap them to my pack when I am
climbing (and also so they don't hang up on trees when bushwhacking).
Swing weight is important (for smoothness of movement), as are details
such as interchangeable baskets (all my poles see summer and winter
use). Baskets should be as rigid as possible, so that the end of the
poles is less likely to be caught between rocks. They should stay
locked at the length I have chosen, and (ideally) never, ever should
they suddenly collapse under load. They should be durable and should
not oxidize too much internally, and the locking mechanisms should be
easily adjusted and replaced. And so the list goes on.
In fact, good hiking poles are a triumph of good engineering and
ergonomic design, and are far more complex artifacts than they at
first appear. A malfunctioning pole can just about spoil a hike, and
if one is backpacking and using poles for shelter support (as I do in
summer), a broken pole can be awkward. The Terra CF has some features
that I find interesting and commonsensical. I particularly like the
extended grip on the shaft, which looks as if it will save some bother
when side-hilling and in other situations where a rapid alteration in
pole length is needed. I also like the look of the top knob for
descentsit appears to conform well to the cup of the hand. And the
light weight is nice! And so, I'll move on to
1. Carbon fiber is a slightly problematic material for trekking poles.
I should mention here that I have owned a pair of poles made
completely from carbon fiber, but ultimately found them profoundly
disappointing. This was in part because of manufacturing and design
issues, but also because of the failure mode peculiar to CF. This
material has an extraordinary strength to weight ratio, but it does
not resist shearing forces that well. The fibers embedded in the resin
substrate can break under sudden load, leaving an invisible defect
that can cause the effected pole to shatter perhaps weeks later undera
a nominal light load. This has happened to me, but with the lower
section of a pole; sensibly, Black Diamond has opted for aluminum for
that portion. Therefore, I certainly don't anticipate problems, but I
will be extremely vigilant to observe (in so far as is possible) any
evidence of pole failure.
2. Another property of carbon fiber is that it has a slick surface.
This can cause real problems locking the poles to length (again based
on experience with another product). I will be very interested to see
if the FlickLock design avoids this difficulty.
3. Interestingly, a third issue with CF can be the converseI have
found that on occasion poles can lock so securely that budging them is
a real headache. Is that issue avoided here?
4. Is the maximum length (5 cm less than many poles, apparently)
adequate for the various tents I have that use hiking poles? Can the
pole be extended beyond its suggested length in low-load applications
such as tent supports? How well do the handles fit into the pole
pockets in such tents?
5. What is the Binary Adjustment System and how does it work? How does
it combine with the FlickLocks? Does the new FlickLock lever indeed
allow for easier adjustment? Do the pole sections move smoothly when
unlocked under all conditions?
6. How comfortable are the extended shaft grips? Is the diameter large
enough to give me a secure grasp on side-hills and the like?
7. Do the wrist-straps adjust easily and stay at the correct length?
Are they well-lined to avoid chafing?
8. On hot days, how comfortable to grasp is the handle? Does it get
slick with sweat or remain tactilely pleasant?
9. How well formed to my hand is the Ergo top knob? Does it indeed
work well for descents, giving me a secure grip?
10. Do the poles swing well (a function of weight distribution)? Is
the ergonomic angling appropriate? Does the carbon fiber section help
absorb pole shock?
11. No mention is made of the material of the flexi-tips. Carbide?
Plain steel? Do the tips grip rock well? Does the flexibility prevent
stress to the CF section?
12. What baskets come with the poles? Are other baskets types
available? Extra sets? How easily maintained are the poles and are
spare parts easily purchased? As I've indicated, poles can be
surprisingly delicate sometimes, and I try to maintain mine
scrupulously. Do these poles need to be disassembled after hiking to
allow the interiors to dry? This is one of these things one *should*
do but which I tend to forget!
13. What is the minimum length to which the poles collapse? When
collapsed, do the project above the top of my pack/s?
14. How well do the poles (both CF and aluminum sections) fair
cosmetically; do they resist scratching and marking (which, over tine,
can effect the peformance of the locking mechanism of a pole).
I will (assuming success in application, and early enough delivery) be
using the poles for snowshoesing as well as trekking.
Above are some of the issues I'll be investigating if I am selected to
review this pole. The list is by no means comprehensive. I have
examined my testing commitments and I'm far from overload-reports are
spread out in a comfortable manner chronologically.
My tests may be viewed at:
Black Diamond Zenix
MSR Missing Link tent
Tests in progress
GoLite Wizard jacket
LTR due May 3
Dahlgren Backpacking Socks
LTR due April 26
MSR Ascent snowshoe
LTR due 28 June
Princeton Tec EOS
LTR due 8 July
Granite Gear Winterizer
IR up, remaining dates not set
Tilley Endurables TH4
Not yet received (expected momentarily)
Applications in process
Current BGT involvement other than tests
Exponent Flex 5 System with Batt Pak
Granite Gear Aptitude Gloves
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