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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

Image of TSL Vanoise Poles

Personal Information:
Name: Kathryn Doiron
Age: 32
Gender: Female
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.

Product Information:

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)

Initial Report:
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.

Accessories and bag that came with the Vanoise Poles. Close up to show the opened and closed position of the push&pull system.

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.

Close up of the strap plus the adjustment plug.
Close up of the strap plus the adjustment plug

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.

Field Report:
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.

I used the poles on an overnight trip to Big Schloss in the George Washington National Forest. The elevation gain was about 2000 ft (610 m) with mostly ridge walking after that. The poles came in handy as the terrain was icy with some slippery spots. I opted to not use any of the baskets on this trip so I could easily keep an eye on the push & pull locking ring and determine if it was possible to knock it into the open position. I initially had to loosen the straps to accommodate my bulky gloves. This was easy to do bare handed but much harder to do with bulky gloves on. Once set, The straps worked well and I noticed no slippage. I did notice that when my hands started to overheat, I could remove my gloves and still have a foam grip even if it was a little lower. The mutli-grip handle allowed me to not worry too much about hand placement. The temperatures were about 40 F (4 C) dropping down to 23 F (-5 C) overnight. The metal parts of the poles were very cold to the touch and I was grateful to the rather large foam handle section to grip onto with my bare hands.

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.

Poles used on snowshoeing trip in ice.
Poles being used on a snowshoeing trip under icy conditions.

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 have been very easy to use, both in terms of setting the correct length for hiking and ease of use while walking. While they have been easy to adjust the length on, I find that I barely extend the middle section while the first section is extended to the recommended stop line. I have also found that the push&pull basket system, while secure, is very difficult to lock the basket in place initially. I will continue to monitor the tightness of the locking system to see if it loosens with use. After every trip, I remove any baskets I have used and place the poles back in their storage case. Removal is just as difficult and has nothing to do with any dirt or ice embedded in the mechanism. I also find that I haven't really used the multi-position grip. My hands tend to remain at the top grip with the wrist straps on. I did at one point leave the wrist straps quite loose which afforded more movement up and down the multi-grip section, but I feel more comfortable with the wrist straps tighter to my wrists.

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.

I took the poles out with me on a nice winter backpacking trip that saw a mix of hard packed snow covered with a thin layer of fresh snow. This made for a variable terrain that was hard to walk on without losing my balance. Temperatures were around the freezing point during the day and the elevation gain was not more then 1000 ft (304 m). The poles kept me from losing my balance and made it easier to climb up and down the hills where footing was a bit of an issue.

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.

Poles used on snowshoeing trip in deep snow.
Poles being used on a snowshoeing trip with deep snow.

Impressions and Comments:
The poles have been easy to use and very helpful when going up hills. The multi-grip handle hasn't been that useful as once I have the straps adjusted, my hands rarely leave the straps meaning I don't place my hands in any other location. I do think the amount of foam at the top of the poles does help a little with vibration as I haven't really noticed any significant amounts of vibration while using the poles on rocky surfaces. The straps have been fairly easy to adjust and have accommodated a wide range of glove weights, from heavy weight to mid weight to bare hands. The pole length has also been easy to adjust but I dislike the fact that I have to telescope out the first section almost all the way and barely telescope out the middle section at all. I am average height, but if I were shorter, I would have had to mark another 'stop' point just to be able to use the lines marked on the middle section. As it is, I am tempted to mark a lower 'stop' point just to get a more equal length from both sections and ensure a little more equal wear.

Limit of the extension needed on the middle poles section
Limit of the pole extension I needed for the middle section.

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.



    - grips are comfortable on the hands
    - easy to adjust
    - basket lock really locks baskets in place


    - only one pole marked with graduations for height
    - multi-grip wasn't that useful

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 and TSL for allowing me to play with these poles.

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