BIG AGNES PASSPORT TREKKING POLES
TEST SERIES BY NANCY GRIFFITH
July 25, 2012
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT
Northern California, USA
5' 6" (1.68 m)
130 lb (59.00 kg)
My outdoor experience began in high school with involvement in a local canoeing/camping group called Canoe Trails. The culmination was a 10-day canoe voyage through the Quebec wilds. I've been backpacking since my college days in Pennsylvania. I have completed all of the Appalachian Trail in Georgia, Tennessee and North Carolina. My typical trip now is in the Sierra Nevada in California and is from a few days to a week long. I carry a light to mid-weight load, use a tent, stove and trekking poles.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Big Agnes
|Photo courtesy of Big Agnes|
Year of Manufacture: 2012
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.bigagnes.com
MSRP: $99.95 US
Listed Weight (on website): 10 oz (283 g) for 115 cm length
Listed Weight (on pole): 10.6 oz (301 g)
Listed Weight (on hangtag): 11 oz (312 g) for 115 cm length
Measured Weight: 10.6 oz (302 g)
Rubber tip Weight: 0.3 oz (9 g) each
Length tested: 115 cm (45.3 in)
Also Available: 120 cm (47.3 in)
Collapsed Length: 35 cm (14 in)
Poles are sold individually for $49.95 US
The Big Agnes Helinox Passport trekking poles are described as being appropriate for moderate to arduous overnight or day trips for use in wilderness, trail, urban and travel. The Helinox poles use an exclusive TH72M aerospace aluminum alloy which, according to the hangtag, provides superior strength with light weight. The aluminum is anodized using a 'green anodize' process which means that no nitric or phosphoric acids are used which is better for the environment.
The poles are fixed length and use a tension lock system to hold it all in place. This is pretty unique and is the first pole I've owned with this design. To disassemble the pole I simply press a locking button which is located below the grip. This releases the tension and allows the upper pole section to telescope up inside the grip. With the slack that this allows, the lower two sections then have room to separate. The three sections then fold up and are held together with a hook-and-loop strap which is attached to the grip. To assemble the pole I simply line up the sections and then slide the upper section out of the grip until the locking button engages. It takes some force to do this but wasn't very difficult.
The grip is ergonomically shaped for my hand and fingers and is made of hypoallergenic and breathable EVA foam. Both poles are the same so there is no right-hand and left-hand grip. Below the hand grip is the strap that holds the folded pole together as mentioned above. When the pole is assembled, there is enough recess below the strap that it wraps around the pole and stays flush. Below the strap is a lower grip for those occasions where I want to grip the pole low. The wrist strap is narrower than most I've seen but seems adequate and has a nice soft material on the backside for comfort with my hand. The length of the wrist strap is adjustable.
The tips are tungsten carbide and the poles came with rubber tip protectors which slip over the end for use on hard surfaces. The rubber tip has a square tread pattern on the bottom for better traction. The removable baskets are described as micro baskets and are quite small in diameter.
The poles came in a mesh and nylon storage pouch with a drawstring and cordlock at the top.
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS & TRYING THEM OUT
My initial impression was how small and light the box was in which these were shipped. I really couldn't believe that trekking poles were inside. After opening them I tried to figure out how they assembled and wasn't sure if I was doing it right so I consulted the hangtag. It provided some good information regarding the material and also clearly showed how to assemble and disassemble the poles.
I chose the shorter length although this is slightly too short to keep my elbow at a 90 degree angle with my forearm parallel to the ground. Since I'll be using them mainly on uneven trails and not for urban use, I think they'll be just fine. I tried the wrist strap and adjusted it a little to get it just right for my hand. The straps adjust very easily by simply pulling the strap through the grip from either direction to tighten or loosen them. I'm not really sure how they work because they move completely freely and don't require me to lock them in place. But then when I put my weight on them they are completely secure.
I couldn't find any instruction for how to remove the baskets but was able to pull them off using a slight twisting motion. They snap into a groove in the pole. I was disappointed to find that this attachment method is different than any of my other trekking poles so I won't be able to interchange any of my existing baskets.
The poles are very much as advertised on the website. I wasn't completely sure how the tension lock system worked until I saw them. The website shows three folded sections but describes four pole sections. Now that I see them I understand that the fourth section telescopes inside the grip so that when they are folded there are essentially three sections. There are some slight discrepancies in advertised weight between the website, the hangtag and the printing on the pole but they aren't that significant.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
Besides the instruction for how to assemble and disassemble the poles there was information on maintenance. It simply says that after use in wet conditions to separate the individual sections and allow them to dry completely.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
During the Field Testing period I used the Big Agnes Passport Helinox poles for three multi-day trips and three day hikes for a total of ten days of testing. I used them for snowshoeing, hiking and backpacking for a total of 64 mi (103 km) on granite, dirt, mud, snow and ice.
Pinnacles National Monument, California: 2 days of hiking with fully loaded backpack; 10.9 mi (17.5 km); 1,260 to 2,100 ft (384 to 640 m) elevation; 28 to 70 F (-2 to 21 C).
Sequoia National Park, California: 1 day of hiking 3.6 mi (5.8 km) and 1 day of snowshoeing 5 mi (8 km) with partly loaded backpack; 6,200 to 6,700 ft (1,890 to 2,042 m) elevation; 55 to 65 F (13 to 18 C).
Hunters Trail, Sierra Nevada (California): 3 days of backpacking with fully loaded backpack; 20 mi (32 km); 3,500 to 5,000 ft (1,067 to 1,524 m); 35 to 65 F (2 to 18 C) .
South Fork American River Trail, California: 10.9 mi; 800 to 1,200 ft (240 to 370 m) elevation; 60 to 75 F (15 to 24 C).
Auburn Recreation Area, California; 3.6 mi (6 km); 500 to 1,500 ft (150 to 450 m) elevation; 35 to 55 F (2 to 13 C).
Forni Lake, Desolation Wilderness, California: 10 mi (16.1 km); 6,600 to 7,100 ft (2,012 to 2,164 m) elevation; 55 to 70 F (13 to 21 C).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The Big Agnes Passport trekking poles have performed flawlessly over the test period. I have to admit that due to their light weight I wasn't expecting them to be so durable. I have managed to bend even the heftiest downhill ski poles so I am impressed with these poles. There have been multiple occasions where my entire body weight including a full backpack has been supported by one pole which has jammed between rocks. There are no signs of any bending or damage to the poles. Overall the durability has been impeccable. There are some very slight scratches but surprisingly few considering how much abuse the lower sections of the poles have been subject to.
The ability of these poles to collapse and fold to such a small length and compact size is truly ingenious. In fact they are so short when folded that they are too short to attach to my backpack in the area designated for poles! The photo shows the grip held at the very top and the tip of pole still doesn't reach. The other side shows a standard trekking pole which is held well below the grip with the tip in the loop.
I like to be able to stow my poles when scrambling and was easily able to do this with these poles. On the Pinnacles hike there is a long section through a cave system which I could not use poles inside due to the need for crawling and scrambling. I stowed the poles on my pack easily and quickly. Then after exiting the caves it was very easy to restore them to full length and get moving. I also stowed them when fishing at Forni Lake and for scrambling over rocks on the hike back.
The push button works easily to release the upper section and then I can fold the lower sections and simply tie the sections together with the hook-and-loop strap. It is fairly easy to do all of this while continuing to hike.
Despite the very small basket I used the poles on one snowshoe hike. The snow was late-season and thus very compact and icy so the poles did fine in most areas. I haven't yet used the rubber tips but I plan to use them during the Long-term test period now that the higher elevations of exposed granite are not covered with snow.
The straps are easy to adjust and very comfortable even when soaking wet. I hiked for many hours in pouring rain on the Hunters Trail trip and didn't feel any discomfort with the straps. They also dried quickly the next day when the rain stopped.
The handles are comfortable even while holding the top for steep downhill sections. I like having the additional cushioning well below the grip area because I like to grip my poles low on steep climbs.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I used the Passport trekking poles on two multi-day trips and one day hike during the Long-Term Test period for an additional ten days of use.
Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada, California: 5 days; 37 mi (60 km); 4,200 to 9,400 ft (1,280 to 2,865 m); 45 to 75 F (7 to 24 C).
Loon Lake, Sierra Nevada, California: 4 days; 13 mi (21 km); 6,327 to 6,700 (1,928 to 2,040 m); 40 to75 F (4 to 24 C). This trip was a backpack into a base camp followed by day hiking, swimming, kayaking and fishing.
Auburn Recreation Area, California; 3.6 mi (6 km); 500 to 1,000 ft (150 to 300 m) elevation; 65 to 75 F (18 to 24 C).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The poles continued to be remarkably strong despite their very light weight and to perform similarly to the Field test period. However, I did get to use them in a couple of new ways during this test period.
For one, I used the rubber tips which my husband called 'mall bumpers' until he realized how well they worked. On our Yosemite hike I started pushing the rubber tips on in areas which were primarily granite and removing them and putting them in my hipbelt pocket on less rocky stretches. They gripped incredibly well and I ended up not taking them off unless the trail was soft dirt for a long stretch in which case the carbide tips worked better. It was interesting to see (and hear) how everyone else's poles slipped on the granite while mine stuck like glue.
After several days of this, I expected that the rubber tips would have significantly worn at least enough to remove the grid pattern but they seem to be in great condition. The tips held in place and never got pulled off despite being jammed in between rocks. One of my hiking partners even commented about this since she noticed how many times her poles got stuck in something.
I also used the poles for staking out my tent vestibule on multiple nights. We had a nice breeze blowing for most of the day and evening so in order to take advantage of it, we staked the vestibule up higher by using the poles. This allowed the breeze to flow better through the tent. In order to do this, I pulled off the micro baskets and slipped the tip of the pole through the loop in the cord to pull out the vestibule. I could adjust the location by sliding it up and down on the pole. The baskets were fairly easy to remove with a twist and strong pull and very easy to re-install in the morning.
My tent is able to be made free-standing by placing a trekking pole in either end but these poles were too short to be used for this. It requires a minimum of 140 cm (55 in) length to work correctly.
I haven't used the storage bag at all since I've been using the poles so frequently but I am happy to have it for winter storage when I'll be using heavier trekking poles with snow baskets for snowshoeing. I like knowing that I can store the poles with the rubber tips separate and not lose them.
The durability has been great. There are a few scratches but nothing of any significance. The locking mechanism works without fail. The internal cords are perfectly intact. The straps are probably a little dirty but show hardly any wear. Overall they look surprisingly new considering all that they have been subjected to.
The Big Agnes Helinox Passport poles are an extremely durable yet light weight pair of trekking poles. Overall they are a very high quality product with an innovative design.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2012. All rights reserved.
My favorite things:
Fold to short length - easy to stow
Wrist strap is easy to adjust
My not-so-favorite thing:
Baskets are not interchangeable with any of my other poles
This concludes my Long-Term Report and this test series. Thanks to Big Agnes and BackpackGearTest.org for allowing me to participate in this test.
Read more reviews of Big Agnes gear
Read more gear reviews by Nancy Griffith