BIG AGNES CAUSEWAY HELINOX POLES
TEST SERIES BY MIKE PEARL
INITIAL REPORT - July 01, 2011
FIELD REPORT - October 04, 2011
LONG TERM REPORT - December 06, 2011
Woodstock, Vermont, USA
5' 9" (1.75 m)
155 lb (70.30 kg)
My backpacking experience began six years ago, after years of car camping. Most trips are for two or three days, some lasting a week. I hike with a group of two to four, with plans for a multi-day solo hike this summer. I pack a tent or tarp depending on availability of trail shelters. An average day is 12 miles (19 km). While aware of weight, it is not my primary concern. I strive for enjoyable outings with functional, reliable gear. I usually travel in woodland mountain terrain. I am a three-season camper, but enjoy hiking all year.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Big Agnes
Year of Manufacture: 2011
Manufacturer's Website: www.bigagnes.com
MSRP: US$ 134.95
Listed Weight: 17 oz (482 g)
Measured Weight: 19 oz (531 g) per pair with boots and baskets
Measured Weight Rubber Boots: 0.6 oz (18 g)
Measured Weight Baskets: 0.5 oz (15 g)
Listed Max Length: 57 in (145 cm)
Measured Max Length: 57 in (145 cm)
Listed Collapsed Length: 25 in (64 cm)
Measured Collapsed Length: 26 in (66 cm)
Available With and Without Shock Absorption
Tested with Shock Apsorbtion
Made in South Korea
The Causeway Poles arrived attached to a cardboard hanger. The hang tag provides a fair amount of information, most of which I've included within this report.
The poles are made by DAC, the tent pole company, for Helinox and are distributed in the Americas by Big Agnes. DAC and Helinox state their mission is to make outdoor gear that is the lightest weight with more strength and better quality and performance.
An example of this is the DAC exclusive TH72M aluminum alloy of which the poles are made.
While pushing for more advanced materials, environmental responsibility is also being achieved. DAC uses the trademarked closed cycle process Green Anodizing which is nitric and phosphoric acid free.
The Causeways are listed as ideal for extreme conditions and are available with or without a shock absorber. The poles being tested are the GL145SA model, GL for groove lock, 145 for the length of the poles in centimeters and SA for shock absorption. The Groove Lock is a trademarked feature used to lock the length of the poles. The mechanism has no external buttons or levers. There are internal grooves on the shafts that engage mechanically to lock the poles. The handles are ergonomically shaped using hypoallergenic and breathable EVA.
Advice on sizing the poles gives the 90 degree rule of thumb. Proper pole length is achieved when the elbow is bent 90 degrees and the forearm is parallel to the ground while holding the pole.
The only maintenance recommended is to separate the pole segments and allow them to dry thoroughly following use in wet conditions.
The poles are held together with a small plastic clip, which seems like great idea for when the poles are in storage. However, the clip doesn't have enough hold and the poles are easily dislodged. I will be jettisoning the clip.
The Causeway have three sections, with each sliding into the one above it to adjust length. Printed on the upper shaft is the Helinox logo and company web address, as well as the model number and mention of the Groove Lock System. The grip has a long 8.5 in (14 cm) downward extension. Three or four turns and the middle section easily extends. Maximum and minimum lengths, weight and country of origin are printed on this section, as well and length increments in 5 cm intervals at each groove in the pole. At the end of the middle section a stop point is printed. I slowly continued to extend the pole disconnecting the two sections to reveal the shock and locking mechanism. The locking mechanism is a plastic piece that flairs out at the bottom when the pole is turned and expands into the groove on the shaft it is housed in. There is a small metal pin at the top of the screw portion of the mechanism. This prevents the flaring piece from being removed. The shock is located below the locking mechanism and moves into the middle section when engaged. The lower shaft works in the same fashion minus the shock.
The tips are covered with rubber boots which are removable. The baskets are 2.25 in (5.7 cm) in diameter and are also removable.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
The instructions are quick and easy.
1. Unlock the sections to adjust. Lock on selected groove. The poles adjust in 5 cm increments.
2. Maintain the middle section longer than the lower for increased stiffness.
TRYING IT OUT
Unlocking, extending and locking the poles is easy enough. A slight click of the groove is felt. When fully extended the poles easily flexed. Adjusting down to my size of use, 120 cm, I notice the lower section is labeled zero and then with "-5 cm" intervals. The middle section denotes the usable length. At this setting 120 cm and 0 cm the pole still has a good deal of flex. I then made the suggested adjustment of keeping the lower section shorter. Now at 135 cm and -15 cm the flex is greatly reduced but still noticeable.
With the poles properly adjusted I walked down my gravel driveway. The wrist strap is comfortable and easy to adjust with a pull to make it either longer or shorter. The grip and extension are both of good shape and texture. But the diameter feels too small to me. There is also a noticeable rattling sound and slight vibration when the poles strike the ground. Holding the pole in the air and shaking it also creates the rattling sound. The shock absorber is cushiony and easily engaged.
The Helinox Causeway trekking poles are sleek and attractive. I like the lightweight and streamlined design of the Groove Lock. I am concerned about the flex and rattle in the poles, however. I give DAC kudos for being a producer of outdoor gear that is concerned about the environment.
This concludes my Initial Report. Please check back in two months to see how the Helinox Causeway poles and I get along during Field Testing.
I would like to thank Big Agnes and BackpackGearTest.org for making this Test Series possible.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Eight day hikes for a total of about 70 mi (113 km). All hikes took place in the Upper Connecticut River Valley of Vermont and New Hampshire. The elevations ranged from 600 - 4,000 ft (180 - 1,200 m). Terrain here is mostly forested rolling hills with rocky to muddy trails. Weather consisted of various amounts of sunshine and rain with temperatures from 50 - 85 F (10 -29 C).
Seven days backpacking Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming
Weather encountered; overnight lows around 40 F (4 C) and daytime highs ranged 50 - 85 F (10 - 29 C), one night of rain that began as marble size hail just after dinner. One full day of rain and a second with intermittent showers. The balance was partly sunny to clear and hot.
Terrain traveled; distance 80 mi (129 km), elevation range 7,300 - 8,000 ft (2,225 - 2,438 m), conditions varied greatly from dry hard packed trails to gravelly shoreline to knee deep snow pack to fording waist deep streams.
Three days and two nights in Adirondack Park, New York
Camp - Heart Lake, elevation 2,165 ft (660 m) temperature highs around 75 F (24 C), lows around 50 F (10 C) with light breezes and clear skies
Hike Day 2 - Mt Jo, elevation 2,876 ft (877 m), 2.6 mi (4.2 km) round trip from camp to summit
Hike Day 3 - Marcy Dam, elevation 2,362 ft (720 m), 4.2 mi (6.8 km) round trip from camp to Marcy Lake
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
As the days and distances hiked with the Causeway poles increase so does my opinion of them. In my Initial Report I was concerned about a rattling noise and flex of the poles. The flex has turned out to not to be an issue. The rattling has decreased substantially. It is only noticeable when the pole strikes an object laterally with force.
During Field Testing I removed the baskets and left them at home. Several times I wished for the basket as the poles plunged deep into muddy or snow packed trails. Once the snow starts to fall the poles and baskets will be reunited. I have taken the removable rubber boots on all hikes. They have stayed mostly in the hip belt pocket of my pack. But I like using them on sections of bare rock or any unwelcome, unavoidable pavement. Not hearing and feeling the metal tips striking these surfaces is a big plus for me.
The Groove Lock feature has kept the Causeway poles at the set length without fail. I have placed my full weight plus pack weight of 47 lb (21 kg) on the poles without problems. The ease of length adjustment was appreciated when crossing waterways in Yellowstone. Using the Causeways at the full 145 cm (57 in) length gave me a greater reach in the water. This made me feel more secure as I could make contact with the river bed better. Once in camp the poles need to be cleaned and dried. The Groove Lock made disassembling and then reassembling them very easy.
The wrist straps have been comfortable since the first days of use and continue to be. The grips have not made my hands feel sweaty even on the hottest days. Nor have the grips felt slippery while hiking in the rain. They do feel undersized when squeezing the grips tight on more difficult or strenuous sections of trail. At all other times the grips feel comfortable and provide a nice swing to the pole. I did have one unusual experience with the hand grips. It occurred only once and on the first hot day after a day of rain. When stopping for lunch I noticed a black film on both of my hands. I had not handled anything other than my pack, hydration tube and camera since leaving camp with clean hands. The film easily washed off and was never seen again.
In the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks in New York hiking Mt. Jo the trail reaches the top in 1 mi (1.6 km). A few parts of the 712 ft (217 m) change in elevation is very steep. There are large boulders to negotiate and rocks to climb. The grip extensions were very helpful through these areas. I was able to place the poles above me to gain leverage where I could not with the hand grips alone. I like being able to change where I grip the pole without changing the length.
The Causeway poles have assisted me in covering many different types of terrain. The carbide tips have held traction on all surfaces encountered. The Causeways have helped me stabilize and balance myself while crossing fallen trees and waterways. When not in use they collapse to manageable size that I can easily lash to my pack.
Field testing has shown the Big Agnes Causeway Helinox poles to be strong, reliable performers. I had three concerns in my Initial Report. The rattle and flex issue has resolved. The concern over the hand grip size has been confirmed. The Causeways are well made and easy to use lightweight poles. I really like the Groove Lock feature, the length both minimum and maximum and weight of the poles.
This concludes my Field Report. Please check back in two months to see how the Helinox Causeway poles and I get along during the Long Term phase.
I would like to thank Big Agnes and BackpackGearTest.org for making this Test Series possible.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
Three separate day hikes on the Appalachian Trail, two in Vermont and one in New Hampshire.
Day 1-temperature of 55 F (13 C) and rainy. 10 mi (16 km) of mud and rock covered trails, through heavily wooded rolling hills with elevations of 1200 - 2600 ft (360 - 790 m).
Day 2-temperature of 45 F (7 C) and mostly sunny with light winds. 5 mi (8 km) of trail hiked with an elevation of 500 - 1300 ft (150 - 400 km). A thick layer of leaves covered the trail changing to pine needles after a steep rocky climb. This was a shorter hike due to my pack load, my 24 lbs (11 kg) three year old daughter.
Day 3-started early with temperature of 26 F (-3 C) and rose to 40 F (4 C) by the end of the day. There was abundant sun with light winds. In the shade the ground remained frozen. 12 mi (19 km) of trail with 900 - 1700 ft (270 - 500 m) of elevation through mixed hardwood forest.
Overnight on the highest peak in Vermont, Mt. Mansfield elevation 4395 ft (1340 m). Camped at Taft Lodge at 3600 ft (1097 m).
Weather encountered on Day 1 - Temperature a high of 44 F (7 C) and low of 31 F (-1 C), with a 0.5 in (1.25 cm) of sporadic rain and non-stop fog with light winds turning into 25 mph (40 km/h) gust with snowfall at and above treeline.
Day 2 - Temperature a high of 46 F (8 C) and low of 31 F (-1 C), clouds breaking early and skies turning partly sunny with light breeze.
Terrain traveled varied with change in elevation. The trail began in dense hardwood forest with many muddy and root strewn sections. As the trail climbs many areas of large, bare rock slabs are covered, some vertically. Once at treeline following the trail involves scrambling over large rocks and boulders. Nearing the summit the trail crosses the largest of three alpine tundras in Vermont at about 200 acres (81 ha).
Day hike on The Pogue trails, Woodstock, Vermont. It was sunny but windy, the temperature was 28 to 38 F (-2 to 3 C). The trails here become a cross country ski area in winter. This was a little recon as I am eagerly awaiting the overdue snow. Terrain gently rolls up and down as it winds the way up the hills surrounding the pond. 10 mi (16 km) over elevations of 1000 - 1600 ft (300 - 480 m) through hard and soft wood forest.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The Causeways continued to be solid trekking poles during Long Term testing. The poles felt well balanced while hiking. They provided extra stability while traveling over rough terrain. I never was very aware of the shock absorbers. Nor did I ever feel any major impact through the hand grips either. They really proved their strength while hiking Mt. Mansfield. On the many sections of bare rock the traction and stability provided was excellent. Even when my feet slipped the carbide tips held every time on the rain and/or ice covered rock. Three times I lost my footing and my full weight was quickly thrown onto a single pole. I was able to prevent a fall thanks to the Causeways.
Looking up to the "Forehead" of Mt. Mansfield and into the freezing mist. This is where things went from wet to icy.
I really enjoyed the grip extensions on the steeper climbs. The range of hand placement was great on varying uphill grades. The hand grips still felt slightly undersized for me. Especially during the early morning while wearing winter gloves.
The Canyon Trail on Mt. Mansfield involved some narrow climbs and even crawls. Areas where poles become more hindrance than helpful. I was pleased with the ease the Groove Lock makes of collapsing and extending the poles. They collapse small enough not to extend above or below my pack while lashed to it. This made negotiating the tight spots much easier.
I examined the Causeways for any damage or wear while writing this report. All I kind find is minor scratches on the baskets and pole shafts from brushing against rocks. The grips, wrist straps, tips and rubber boots do not show any damage or excessive wear.
The Big Agnes Causeway Helinox Trekking Poles are overall a quality pair of poles. I find only two things I dislike about them, undersized hand grips and an intermittent rattling. The things I like outweigh the dislike and tip my opinion of the Causeways to being positive. The weight to strength ratio is good. They feel balanced and stable while in use. The locking mechanism and grip extensions are great. I also feel a greater degree of pleasure using gear produced with environmentally conscious production methods.
This concludes my Long Term Report. I would like to thank Big Agnes and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test the Causeway Trekking Poles.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.
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