Positioning poles: Added features and a variety of locking systems give consumers ample choice

Ski and trekking poles continue to get refined with combinations of lightweight but strong materials, ergonomic grips and user-friendly adjustability. SNEWS recaps this past Outdoor Retailer Winter Market's selections.

Throughout the next month, SNEWS will recap its coverage of Outdoor Retailer Winter Market 2013 with select stories from the O.R. Daily we published at the show Jan. 23-26. It’s an opportunity for you to catch up on stories you might have missed in O.R.D., and for us to update and upload the articles to our searchable archives.

Ski and trekking poles continue to get refined with combinations of lightweight but strong materials, ergonomic grips and user-friendly adjustability.

Each company touts its own take on locking multi-piece poles so they don’t collapse during use. Ultimately, the choice comes down to consumer preference.

Black Diamondbrings nine poles to Winter Market that are either brand new or updated, including the Fixed Length Aluminum Pole (MSRP $70), which is now the strongest pole in Black Diamond’s line. The three-piece Carbon Whippet (MSRP $139 per pole) combines an aluminum upper with carbon-fiber mid and lower sections, and includes a stainless-steel pick embedded in the grip for self arrests. The Carbon Compactor (MSRP $159) is an all-carbon version of the existing Compactor, which is built around BD’s Z-Pole technology — the pole collapses for portability similar to a tent pole, via an inner Kevlar cord and a push-button release.

The Hike AL3 (MSRP $69) from Easton Mountain Products (#34121) is a three-section adjustable trekking pole made of Easton’s 7075 aerospace-grade aluminum. Patented Rock-Lock clamps use a low-profile toggle joint to keep the pole from collapsing during use. Additional features include an extended grip and adjustable strap.

K2 Skis (#36113) introduces the women’s-specific LockJaw Carbon/Alu Pole (MSRP $120). Similar in style to the all-carbon unisex adjustable pole, this version has an aluminum lower shaft and reinforced carbon upper. Backcountry-friendly details include a lengthy, super-soft grip below the handle, inclinometer and snow-depth ruler. The pole also converts into a probe.

MSR’s (#19027) three-section, aluminum Deploy TR-3 trekking pole (MSRP $160) is built around the company’s zero-slip SureLock adjustment system for reliable performance on steep terrain; a push-button mechanism secures two parts of the pole together. The glove-friendly trigger release lets users adjust length on the fly without even having to let go of the grip.

Swix Sport(#31027E) believes its brand-new, four-model Swix Sonic series of adjustable poles for skiers and snowshoers (MSRPs $99-$249) is a game changer in terms of performance and reliability. The biggest emphasis is on Swix’s adjustable locking system, located high up on the pole and with a silicone-coated grip for turning ease. Pole shafts range from aluminum and carbon fiber in the R4 to all carbon in the top-of-the-line R1. The handles include a beveled straight edge that can be used to adjust AT bindings as well as clear skis of snow. Lightweight, interchangeable PVC-coated nylon baskets come with each pair.

--Cindy Hirschfeld



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