Sorry for the long delay! I am back from my xmas vacation and newyears riding adventures with many new blog ideas. Hope you all had a great xmas with the fam and are bringing in the newyear with style!! Without further dely.. back to the gravity product blog!
BLACK DIAMOND WINTER SKI/TREK POLES
Loosing one of my trekking/ski poles and getting fed up having long arguments with them in an attempt to persuade them to function properly, I felt it was time to see what else is out there. My main complaint is the locking mechanism that 90% of the poles out there seem to use (a threaded screw that is locked to the pole turns into a plastic cap that expands out as the screw treads into it) only works for a year in ideal conditions. After the plastic get worn down grit gets inside the pole creating enough slip for the poles to no longer lock. When they do manage to lock in place they have to be so tight to stay where they are that when time comes to collapse them I end up having to take my gloves off to get the proper grip needed to torque them loose. There has to be a better solution on the market, and there is! I introduce you to the patented FlickLock® series by Black Diamond.
Black Diamond has adapted a mechanism commonly found on camera tripods, the FlickLock®. The FlickLock® is a camming mechanism that squeezes the pole shafts together creating an extremely strong joint. This mechanism means the user can now operate their poles w/o ever having to take off their gloves to change the poles length. A simple flip of the locking tab and the poles slide in/out with ease. This new mechanism also means that you no longer have to worry about grit affecting performance, not to mention the speed at which you can expand and collapse the poles! The downside to this type of mechanism is extreme cold conditions effecting the operation the hinge point.
The grip section of the poles is nothing new, utilizing ergonomic dual-density grips with variable-width wrist straps. As an adjustable pole they are easily tailored to individual user length requirements. The FlickLock® mechanism tries to accommodate thumb (or finger) placement under the tab and flick up (loosening the joint) or over the tab to flip down (tightening the joint) but falls a bit short of proper fit, even more so on a gloved hand.
All of the BD poles use an ergonomic shaped handle that helps to indicate proper hand placement, and 5 of the 6 poles in the lineup utilize color and materials to enhance the products ability to tell the user how to hold the grip. Decreasing the chance of improper use. The same can’t be said of the FlickLock®. Shape helps to aid in telling the user where and how to operate the mechanism, but not much. A solid black color adds to the confusion of operation. Color would not only help to play a role in the user understanding how it works but how to use it as well. Shape and texture of the flick tab could use some improvement as well, especially to accommodate a bulky gloved digit.
OTHER INTERESTING INNOVATION/DESIGN NOTES of the BD LINEUP
In addition to the FlickLock® mechanism BD has also developed a number of features that you won’t find in many other poles. Features such as an attachable snow-saw and built in ice pick.
Cost Effective Weight Reduction?..
BD offers a fairly inexpensive carbon fiber version that reduces your overall gear weight as well as your swing weight. In my opinion this isn’t the area that really matters when it come to light weight gear as the base model aluminum poles are already featherweight as is.
Pole to Prove Conversion..
The FlickLock® series is designed to combine the 2 poles into an avalanche probe. Although this is a nice thought in reducing the amount and weight of your gear, the concept is useless as a lifesaving device. In a avy situation time is of the essence, and the time required to turn these poles into a probe means they are more useful in body recovery rather then a live rescue, but useful non the less.
Pole to Saw Conversion..
3 of their 6 ski poles are designed to accommodate a snow saw. Contrary to the pole to probe conversion this adaptation of a saw and pole could prove handy in snow study situations. The process of attachment seems relatively painless. It’s still up to debate if this option is better adapted to a shovel setup over a hiking pole. I side more with the shovel as it speaks more of snow testing than a pole, and the fact that you more than likely have the shovel out and at hand when snow testing where as your poles are probably firmly planted somewhere to the side.
Pole and Pick –or- is it Pick and Pull..
Another feature of note is the Whippet Self-Arrest Pole that come with a suspect looking pick. BD emphasizes that the pick in no way substitutes for an ice-axe, and adds that it must be held by the poles handle grip and not like an ice-axe (lower on the pole). Sole intention here is to aid in self rescue, but how effective can a stubby version of an axe be? There is allot of room for this concept to become more useful. My opinion is that there is some merit in the idea but in its current form little justification in a real world application, although when in a pinch might prove useful.
¾ Toothed Basket..
BD has also developed a new basket to aid in those slippery crusty days. The front edge of the ¾ basket has teeth molded into it that I assume would aid, if only a little, in slippery conditions. Non the less it’s still an adaptation that takes the shortcoming of current solutions one step closer to that beautifully designed product.
OVERALL IMPRESSION of BD LINEUP
Hats off, and happily gloves on, to BD for creating a diverse line of winter poles that attempts to address multiple user needs. Although some features fall a bit short of making the design grade they are pushing the perception of a pole. The FlickLock® mechanism alone makes them my #1 pic for winter trekking poles!
BTW the BD Expedition Poles will be my next purchase. I chose the Expedition because of its packability and FlickLock® mechanism.