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Reviews > Trekking Poles > Poles > TSL Vanoise Poles > Test Report by Kathryn Doiron
TSL Vanoise Trekking Poles
Test series by Kathryn Doiron
Initial Report: Dec 16, 2008
Field Report: Feb 17, 2009
Long Term Report: Apr 14, 2009
Name: Kathryn Doiron
Height: 5' 8" (1.7 m)
Weight: 150 lb (68 kg)
Email: kdoiron 'at' gmail 'dot' com
Location: Washington DC, USA
Brief Background: I started backpacking and hiking seriously almost four years ago. Most of my miles have been logged in New Hampshire and Massachusetts. I have recently finished 1200+ miles (2000+ km) of the Appalachian Trail. My style is to be as light as possible while not spending a fortune. My pack weight tends to hover around 25 lbs (11 kg) with two days of food and 16 oz (0.5 L) of water. I have recently started getting into winter hiking, snowshoeing and kayaking.
Manufacturer: TSL Outdoors
Model Year: 2008 - Made in Italy
Weight: (stated) 9.7 oz (275 g) each
Weight: (actual) 9.45 oz (268 g) each
Measurements: (stated) 25.2 in. x 57.1 in. (64 cm to 145 cm)
Measurements: (actual) 26.6 in. x 57.4 in. (67.7 cm to 145.7 cm)
Material: Tungsten tip, Aluminum 7075 body and EVA foam grips
Accessories: rubber tip (0.28 oz or 8.1 g), summer baskets (2.1 in. or 55 mm, 0.19 oz or 5.4 g), winter baskets (3.7 in. or 95 mm, 0.50 oz or 14.3 g), powder baskets (5.1 in. or 130 mm, 1.54 oz or 43.8 g)
December 16th, 2008
The TSL Vanoise Trekking Poles are designed to help make the going up and down easier with a multi-position foam grip. The poles come with the Nordic Snowshoeing Label. The poles come with three different types of baskets; a summer basket set, a winter basket set, and a powder basket set. The basket locking system is unique to me and is their patented 'push & pull pad system'. Basically a locking ring is pushed to one side, then the basket is pulled into place and finally the locking ring is pushed back in place to lock the basket in. The poles are three-piece poles that telescope out to the appropriate height and lock in place with a twist. There is a wrist strap at the top of the pole grip that is adjustable. The tungsten tips come with a tip protector that looks like it could be hiked with to protect rocks and get a better grip. The poles themselves are made of aluminum 7075. The foam grip extends 9 in. (23 cm) past the bottom of the hand grip giving an extended gripping area. The poles came with a multi-lingual instruction book that covered how to use the poles as well as safety. English was the second language listed and was mostly well written.
My initial impressions of the poles were that I immediately liked the idea of the basket locking system. The poles were also light and I didn't expect them to come in a nice bag. Based on the website, I wasn't sure whether I would be getting all three baskets. Even the .pdf download also seemed to imply that the powder basket was optional, but the included pamphlet shows all three as part of the pole system. Considering they are also approved for Nordic Snowshoeing, I would expect at least both winter baskets to be part of the package. In fact, all three baskets were included. The poles came in a protective bag with the poles together in one section with protective tips on and the baskets plus instructions located in a small pocket at the bottom front of the bag. The bag has a handle which I feel will make storage easier as I will be able to hang them from a hook to keep the poles from getting lost in the back of the closet. Keeping the baskets together with the poles will also be easier with the storage bag. The foam grip of the poles covers a large area. Not only does it cover the top hand hold, but it extends part way down the pole. This is where the multi-position foam grip system comes into play. It looks like the pole can be comfortably gripped anywhere in the top portion of the pole.
I am a little surprised at the way TSL recommends using the telescoping sections. Poles I have previously used suggested that each section be telescoped out to similar length, hence each section has height markings to assist in this manor. The TSL poles suggest that the lower section be telescoped out to the stop mark, pushed back in a little then tightened. The middle section should then be telescoped out to the required height marking. I didn't understand the written instructions the first glance though until I actually telescoped out one of the poles. The pole was a little tight to telescope as I may not have loosened the tightening knurl enough. That was when I realized that the lower section only had one line with 'stop' marked just above it. The instructions became clear after that. I am curious as to whether this makes for a stronger system.
Overall, these poles look like they are well made. I did not feel any catches in the metal, not did I notice any blemishes in the paint. The 'push & pull pad system' is unique to me and I am looking forward to exploring it. Since I have had trouble in the recent past removing baskets from my poles, I will look forward to testing the push & pull system to see how well it works in cold temperatures, with gloves on, and when caked in snow and/or ice. I am also interested in seeing how well the system stays in the locked position. Will it be easy to knock the lock ring out of position against a rock or log? Can the baskets fall off at that point? I will be looking into this and keeping an eye on the push & pull system. The tightening knurls do not protrude much but are easy to use bare handed. I will see how well they work on the go. Sometimes knurls hurt my hand when I am trying to loosen them, I will comment if this is the case with these knurls. As I plan to use the poles for all outdoor activities from hiking to snowshoeing, I will look into how well the straps will accommodate bulky gloves as well as how well the various baskets work under their respectively suggested conditions. As the poles have been approved for Nordic Snowshoeing, I will of course be taking them out snowshoeing with me to see how well they work with my snowshoes.
February 17th, 2009
I have used the poles over 5 trips, one of which was a day hike. The poles have seen muddy, snowy and dry conditions over the 5 trips. I have not had a chance to use the snow baskets as I have not encountered deep powder conditions that would warrant their use.
The next trip out was a two day, two night trip. It started with car camping at the trail head, then we moved out early the next morning to do 13 miles (21 km). The total elevation gain for the first day was supposed to be 4000 ft (1219 m). In the end, we did 7 miles (11 km). I didn't put on any baskets for this trip as I noticed on the last trip that one of the baskets had popped open sometime during the hike. I wanted to look into this further. Sometime during the hike back, the push & pull locking ring popped open again. I suspect it happens when the pole hits a rock. This is something I will keep an eye on when I have the baskets on, but I hope the baskets will help keep the ring out of reach.
The next trip out was an overnight car camping trip that did include about 6 miles (9.6 km) of hiking. I didn't fix the length of the strap which was set for my bulky gloves. With the thinner gloves and the larger opening, I find I can do micro adjustments of my hands on the grips when going up and down. Either I use the strap off the back of my hand to support the push, or I put my thumbs on top of the grip for extra push. On this trip, since I was expecting muddy conditions, I put on the small summer basket. This was harder then I expected, given how easy it is to pop open the push & pull locking ring. On one pole I was able to pop the ring closed with few difficulties, but the other pole was a little tighter and as such was harder to push fully closed. I ended up pressing a pen length-wise against the ring to fully close it. Given how hard it was to close with a basket in place, I was happy that the baskets stayed on and the rings were not accidentally knocked open.
The next trip out was another car camping trip with temperatures starting at -24 F (-29 C) and rising to about a high of 30 f (-4 C) before the end of the two day trip. I used the snow baskets for the poles as I was snowshoeing. As the snow was not very deep or powdery, I opted to use the smaller snow baskets. The baskets didn't stop the poles from sinking in the snow but did keep them from sinking quickly, especially in some of the deeper more packed drifts. The push & pull locking ring is still very tight to work. I did sit down and spend a few minutes at home popping the ring open and closed over several minutes in the hopes of loosening it a little but I am not sure I had any effect. As I was switching back and forth between bulky gloves for the downhill sections and thinner liner gloves for the uphill sections, I have still left the strap length more open then needed for the liner gloves. I still find this to be comfortable, allowing me to shift my hands as needed.
I used the poles just recently on a very muddy dayhike. The hike was over about 6 mi (9.6 km) with brief ups and downs but little elevation gain. The trail was north facing and along a river making for very muddy conditions. The pole tips gripped into the mud very nicely and prevents me from slipping around much on the mud. I did slip a little at one point but managed to catch myself with the poles. The poles gripped into the mud firmly preventing me from falling completely. I had tightened up the wrist straps before starting the hike as gloves were not needed for this unusually warm day. The straps are easy to adjust and were comfortable around my bare wrists. I did notice that the foam grip seems to rub colour off onto my thumbs. My hands didn't overheat while gripping the foam grips.
Impressions and Comments:
So far, the poles feel great in my hands, are easy to adjust and have a very secure basket system. The downside so far is that the basket system is hard to initially snap in place or open after use.
Long Term Report:
April 14th, 2009
I took these poles out on two more day hikes, a simple overnight as well as a more involved long weekend trip. Read on to see how they performed.
The next trip out was a nice day hike with little elevation gain but did see some climbing around rocks, and walking along the edge of a drop off. The hike was about 6 mi (9.6 km) long and the trail was a mix of mud, rock and gravel. The poles came in handy for the short but sharp climbs as well as for balance on the short but steep drops. I also used the poles for pole vaulting over some logs across the trail. I was very pleased that the poles held tight as I didn't notice any slippage when the poles were supporting my weight during the jump.
The next trip out saw these poles in cold winter conditions again. There was about 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) of snow on the ground, about 500 ft (152 m) of elevation gain, and temperatures started around the freezing mark and dropped to a low of 13 F (-10 C) overnight. The trail was not a well traveled trail especially in winter leading to the need for poles just to stay upright given the snow-covered roots and rocks. Several times, the poles prevented me from taking a fall due to some hidden tripping hazard.
The next trip out was a three day two night backpacking trip up in the White Mountains in New Hampshire. The weather was around the freezing point most of the time and the base layer of snow was granular and about 3-4 ft (about 1 m) deep depending on altitude, possibly deeper. I had about 30 lb (13.6 kg) in my pack. The trip began at about 500 ft and went up to 1500 then up to 2000 ft over the course of the three days. The weather was sunny the first two days then rained the third day out. The poles really came in handy on the first day as a group of us pretty much broke tracks hiking around a lake. Due to a combination of no sleep for more then 24 hours, beautiful sunny weather, and almost pristine snow, we ended up goofing off and jumping and running all around the lake making fresh tracks. The snow was about 3 ft (1 m) deep here and had a few little stream crossings. Saturday saw a climb up over the ridge to get to the next camping point, then Sunday we backtracked back to the parking area in the rain. I used the poles with the snow baskets on.
Impressions and Comments:
The poles are still in great shape. I have used them over rocky terrain, bumping them into rocks as well as while doing some glissage and used the poles as brakes. The paint on the poles still looks to be in great shape as well as the tips still look like they have little wear on them. I only used two of the three baskets as the I never encountered powder. The snow basket worked okay with granular snow and much better with packed snow. The small cups worked well with soft forest loam. I used the rubber tips on rocks but didn't feel I got a better grip, I did feel I wasn't scratching up the rocks though. The push & pull locking ring hasn't become any easier to use with time. In fact, I still have to use the tip of one pole to open the ring on the other pole and vice versa. But this does mean that I haven't lost any of the baskets due to hitting something.
As for the pole locking mechanism, the poles have held well while I was doing some pole vaulting over downed trees, but sometimes would give out when I leaned on it too much as happened in some snowy conditions. I may not have tightened the locking ring enough as it was only the first section that collapsed. I haven't had to adjust the middle section once I found the optimal point as I barely have to telescope out the section. I find that when I need to telescope out the first section that I have to really untwist the section in order for it to slide out. One twist will only allow it to slide out a little, requiring more untwisting to loosen it up enough to slide out more. The same is not true when I slide the section back in. I give it about one untwist and I can push the whole thing back in but then I have to twist more then once to lock the section back in place.
This concludes my long term report on the TSL Vanois Trekking Poles. I hope you have enjoyed reading this report series and found it useful. I wish to thank BackpackGearTest.org and TSL for allowing me to play with these poles.
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