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Reviews > Trekking Poles > Poles > Big Agnes Helinox Passport Poles > Owner Review by Brian Hartman

BIG AGNES PASSPORT TREKKING POLES
TEST SERIES BY BRIAN HARTMAN
LONG-TERM REPORT
July 30, 2012

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Brian Hartman
EMAIL: bhart1426ATyahooDOT com
AGE: 44
LOCATION: Westfield, Indiana
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
WEIGHT: 145 lb (65.80 kg)

I have been backpacking for over 20 years throughout Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and most recently in Western USA. In addition to backpacking I enjoy family camping with my wife and kids and being outdoors in general. I would describe myself as a mid weight backpacker. I use fairly light weight equipment and gear but still like to bring more than the bare essentials with me while on the trail.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

IMAGE 1
Manufacturer: DAC (Distributed by Big Agnes in North & South America)
Year of Manufacture: 2012
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.bigagnes.com/
MSRP: US $99.95 US
Listed Weight: 11.6 oz per pair (328 g)
Measured Weight: 11.6 oz (330 g)
TL125 Max Length: 49.2 in (125 cm)
Collapsed Length: 14.7 in (37.4 cm)

Other Details:
Shock Absorbers: No
Basket Style: Micro Baskets
# of Sections: 4
Locking Mechanism: Tension Lock System
TH72M Aluminum Alloy
Long EVA Foam Grips
Adjustable Wrist Straps
Carbide Tips
Tip Protectors
Made in South Korea


INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

IMAGE 2 The Big Agnes Helinox Passport trekking poles (hereafter referred to as trekking poles, Passport poles or Helinox poles) arrived at my door step in a small cardboard box. Although I was expecting their arrival, the box was so small and light weight that I initially thought it was something my wife had ordered. To my surprise, it was from Big Agnes and contained the Passport trekking poles inside a small navy blue and black nylon carrying bag. The bag measured 4 x 16 inches (10 x 40 cm) and was constructed of ripstop nylon and nylon mesh with the Helinox brand logo stitched to the bottom of the bag and the word PASSPORT printed in large capital letters on the side. The top opening of the bag had a drawstring closure which was easy to open and the poles fit nicely inside with enough room so that they easily slid out for inspection. Upon removing the poles from their carrying bag, I found them to be in new condition and quite sleek in design. The poles have a brilliant light green color while the grips, baskets and tips are black. The color combination is understated and very attractive. The grips are long and thin and upon putting my hand on the grips I immediately felt that they were molded perfectly to fit my hands. The poles were folded into three sections measuring 15 inches (38 cm) at their longest point and secured with a hook and loop strip. Upon removing the hook and loop strip and straightening out the pole sections, my eyes were next drawn to the blue shock cord that ran through each of the pole sections holding them together. After a few minutes of trial and error, I realized that a fourth section of pole was contained inside the grip and that I simply needed to slide it down and lock it into place. My immediate thought after easily assembling both poles was that the Tension Lock system was brilliant in its straightforward, simple approach to reducing storage space.

Materials and Construction: As described on Big Agnes website, "the Helinox poles are engineered with DAC's exclusive TH72M, an advanced aerospace aluminum alloy that provides superior strength/weight performance characteristics. Every Helinox aluminum part is Green Anodized by the exclusive DAC process which eliminates the need to use nitric and phosphoric acids. All Helinox components are strictly PVC free and highly recyclable. The ergonomically shaped grips are made from hypoallergenic and breathable EVA. They have a skin friendly one-piece wrist strap design and easy exchange baskets with the outstanding durability of carbide tips. The TL115/TL125 series poles use a tension lock system that makes them incredibly lightweight and compact."

Features: The two big features that stand out from my initial observations of the Passport trekking poles are 1) they are engineered from incredibly light weight materials to help reduce their carrying weight and 2) they incorporate Helinox's Tension Lock system which allows them to be collapsed into a very small space for travel.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

A small multi-page hang tag was attached to the Passport trekking poles. It contained information regarding the use, sizing, maintenance and assembly of the trekking poles. According to the sizing instructions, the trekking poles fit me almost perfectly as my forearms were nearly parallel to the ground while holding the poles. Regarding pole maintenance, it is as simple as separating the individual pole sections after use in wet conditions, and allowing them to dry thoroughly.

TRYING IT OUT

I visited a local park last evening for a short hike with the Passport trekking poles and found them to be very easy and comfortable to use. On the drive over I was able to set the carrying bag on the passenger seat of my car as it was so small and light weight. After arriving at the park, I simply removed the poles from their carrying bag and within a minute had both poles extended and locked into position. During my hike, I thought about whether the poles were any less useful because they were not adjustable in length, but by the end of my hike I came to the conclusion that they worked fine as is. Since they weren't adjustable I didn't waste time fidgeting with them to get the perfect height and quite frankly it would be one less thing to break if there was a problem. At the end of my hike I simply depressed the locking button, collapsed the poles to their folded position and then secured the Velcro strap before tucking them back into their carrying bag.
IMAGE 3 IMAGE 4 IMAGE 5
I found that using the poles, including the adjustment of the wrist straps was quite simple, and the poles appeared to be sturdy enough for everyday use. Of course, I'll have a chance to test how rugged they are when I visit the Grand Canyon in a few weeks. I'm not looking forward to the drive but I'm also not worried about whether I'll have enough room to fit them in my car; heck, they'll fit just about anywhere.

SUMMARY

The Passport trekking poles are extremely light weight and compact yet from my initial observations they appear to be well-built and sturdy. I am looking forward to putting them through rigorous testing on my trip out West. This concludes my Initial Report for the Big Agnes Passport trekking poles. I will post a Field Report in approximately two months so please check back then for further information. Thank you to Big Agnes and BackpackGeartest.org for the opportunity to test these poles.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

IMAGE 1 During this test phase I used the Passport trekking poles extensively while on a fourteen day backpacking trip across the Southwest. Although I did not use the Passport poles on every hike, I covered approximately 68 miles (109 km) with them while on this trip. The weather conditions throughout my journey were ideal with mostly sunny skies and daytime highs averaging 70 F (21 C) most days. Below are a few of the areas I hiked.

Oak Creek Canyon, Coconino National Forest, Arizona: Over the course of three days we hiked throughout this steep, narrow river gorge that runs for approximately 12 miles (19.3 km) between the cities of Flagstaff and Sedona. The top (north) of the canyon is at an elevation of approx 7,100 ft (2,164 m) while the bottom of the canyon varies from 6,200 - 4,800 ft (1,890 - 1,464 m) elevation as it descends southward towards Sedona. The trails in this area varied from hard rock to sand with numerous creek crossings that were quite deep in some areas.

Fay Canyon Trail, Sedona, Arizona: This half day hike was approximately 3.5 miles (5.6 km) along a mostly level and partly shaded sandy trail which led to Box Canyon. At the end of the trail my son and I climbed up a rock cliff which provided great views of Dry Creek Valley and Chimney Rock. From there we continued another mile (0.4 km) along a rock ledge before turning around to head back.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona: This trip involved a 17.1 mile (27.5 km) hike down the South Kaibab Trail to the Colorado River and Bright Angel campground and then back up the Bright Angel Trail. The elevation on the South Rim was 7,260 ft (2,212 m) while the elevation at the bottom of the Grand Canyon at the Colorado River was 2,420 ft (738 m). The temperature at South Kaibab trailhead at 7:30am on the morning of our descent was 31 F (-0.5 C). When we arrived at Bright Angel campground at the bottom of the Grand Canyon it was 71 F (22 C). The skies were sunny during both days in the park. IMAGE 2

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado: This beautiful park is located in Southwest Colorado near the Four Corners and was created in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt to protect some of the best-preserved cliff dwellings in the world, including Cliff Palace and Spruce Tree House. Most of the trails I hiked during our two day stay in this area started between 7,100 and 8,000 ft (2,164 and 2,438 m) elevation and were somewhat steep with rocky hiking surfaces and some sand. One memorable 3 mile (4.8 km) trail began near Spruce Tree ruins and traversed along the canyon walls on its way to some spectacular petroglyphs before the trail climbed up to the mesa and back along the canyon rim to the trailhead.

Buena Vista, Colorado: On this portion of our trip we hiked through the Collegiate Wilderness Area and had spectacular views of several fourteeners in the Sawatch Range of the Rocky Mountains. However most of our backpacking was done through forests of Ponderosa Pines and Aspen trees and along Chaulk Creek because it was so windy on the exposed ridge lines. Daytime highs during this two day stretch were cooler than normal at 64 F (17 C) and the nearly constant 30mph winds on the first day created morning wind chills approaching 28 F (-2 C). The elevation in the areas we hiked was approximately 7,900 feet (2,408 m).

Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, Colorado: Most of the trails we hiked were through pine trees and rock formations in rocky and sandy terrain. The elevation here was approximately 6,035 ft (1,839 m).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

IMAGE 3IMAGE 4 One of the last things I packed in the van in preparation for my trip out West was the Passport trekking poles. Because they were only a month old and I didn't want anything to happen to them before hiking into the Grand Canyon, I set them right next to me in the front seat of the van. As we made our way from Indianapolis to Arizona and then on to Utah and Colorado over the next fourteen days, I really enjoyed the fact that I could pretty much stash these poles anywhere due to their small storage size and not be concerned about them breaking. Needless to say, they survived the trip in one piece and took up practically no space at all in our overly packed vehicle. A second set of poles that I had brought along were not so lucky. They were an older pair of traditional hiking poles, heavier in weight with large baskets and collapsible sections that slid down into each other. Because they were too long to fit in the front of the van they were relegated to sit behind the third row of seats where they got smashed by fallen luggage on the drive home.

One of the first trails I hiked after arriving in Arizona was the West Fork of Oak Creek Canyon. While hiking to the trailhead on the pavement and hard packed ground, I left the rubber tip protectors on the poles and they worked wonderfully. Keeping the rubber tips on during this part of the hike prevented the soft clanging and vibrations in the poles that occurred when they came in contact with hard surfaces. The trail itself was relatively flat with lots of creek crossings and short slopes up and down the rocky banks. The poles helped me keep my balance while stepping on rocks and logs to cross the creek. In addition the carbide tips provided excellent traction when climbing out of the creek banks.

I also used the trekking poles on Fay Canyon trail where they came in handy to help propel me forward on the sandy ground. The sand was deep enough that it came up over the micro baskets but luckily there was solid ground only 2 to 3 inches (5 to 7.6 cm) beneath. Upon arriving at the end of the trail and the beginning of Box Canyon, I quickly collapsed the poles so we could scramble up the rock cliff. In less than a minute I had the poles stowed away and we were climbing.

IMAGE 5 During my descent into the Grand Canyon I carried a 25 lb (11 kg) backpack and was very happy to have the Passport trekking poles which helped me keep my balance on the loose gravel trail. On several occasions the poles prevented me from going down or twisting an ankle. In addition, the trekking poles helped decrease the pressure on my knees which took a beating during the 7 mile (11.2 km) hike down South Kaibab trail. A few years ago when I first began having knee problems while hiking on steep terrain, I read an article in the Journal of Sports Medicine which stated that using two trekking poles while descending steep grades decreased the downward force on one's knees by 20%. I have been a devout user and advocate of trekking poles ever since.

During the first mile (1.6 km) or so of my ascent up Bright Angel trail in early afternoon, the trail was very sandy. The poles really helped me push forward and maintain my momentum so that I did not get bogged down in the sand. As I continued up the trail I encountered numerous rocks and logs which were used to form steps and keep the trail from washing out. It would have been very easy to get the poles wedged between the rocks or a log and break them off, but despite a couple of close calls I had no problems whatsoever with the Big Agnes poles bending or breaking. As I continued on up the trail and my legs got more tired, I found myself using the poles to help propel myself up the steps and there were a couple of times when the poles flexed but I never felt that they weren't up to the task.

SUMMARY

The Big Agnes Passport trekking poles performed very well during Field Testing. They are lightweight, well balanced and durable enough to stand up to some heavy duty use. This concludes my Field Report. Please check back in two months for my Long Term report and my final test results. Thanks to Big Agnes and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test these trekking poles.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

During the long term test phase, I used the Passport trekking poles on a three day backpacking trip to Franklin County, Indiana and on several day hikes at local parks in Central Indiana. Weather conditions during the past two months have been hot and extremely dry with daytime highs approaching 100 F (38 C) and drought warnings in many counties throughout Indiana. Nighttime lows during this period didn't offer much relief with temperatures typically hovering in the mid 80's F (29 C).

1. Franklin County: During this two night outing I hiked mostly on wooded trails in an effort to stay out of the sun. I covered 12.4 miles (20 km) across moderately hilly terrain with temperatures topping 95 F (35 C) by mid afternoon on two of the three days. At night I pitched my tent in the bottom lands hoping cooler air would settle there and give me temporary relief from the heat. Elevations ranged from 570 ft (174 m) to 710 ft (216 m).

2. My other three trips were to Cool Creek Park, Koteewi Park and McGregor Park in Central Indiana where I hiked mainly in the evenings. The distances I covered varied from 6 miles (10 km) to 10 miles (16 km). Temperatures around 7pm were generally in the upper 80's F (31 C) during these outings with mainly sunny skies and not much wind.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Passport trekking poles performed very well during my last two months of testing. They assembled quickly at the start of each hike and were dependable on the trail. I have not had a single problem with them throughout this entire test series. The carbide tips and rubber tip protectors are worn as expected after many miles of hiking but they still function well. The poles have some scratches but this has not affected their performance in the least. The Tension Lock system has been very reliable; it has never released prematurely or given me any reason for concern. The hand grips and straps are in great condition and show no signs of wear or fraying.

While hiking off trail in Franklin County, I used the poles to push aside briars in a particularly dense section of forest. This allowed me to continue on my original compass heading and avoid making a detour. I also used one of the poles to help steady my camera for a photo of some wildlife in the area. When not in use, the poles easily fit in my backpack and were so lightweight that I hardly noticed them. In fact during the past two months I've brought them with me on all of my hikes regardless of whether I ended up using them or not. All in all these poles have been a wonderful addition to my hiking gear. They are lightweight, durable and very compact when folded. They have helped propel me up steep terrain, greatly reduced my knee pain on long descents and kept me from falling on slippery rocks and slick trails.

SUMMARY

I really enjoyed hiking with the Big Agnes Helinox Passport Trekking Poles during this test series. They are lightweight, sturdy and take up very little room when collapsed. Although they are not adjustable in height and do not have some of the advanced features of other poles such as shock absorbers, I did not find myself missing either of these things. I undoubtedly will continue using the Passport trekking poles as they enhance my comfort and allow me to hike longer distances than otherwise possible.

This concludes my Long Term Report. Thanks to Big Agnes and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to be a part of this test series.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.

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