TSL VANOISE POLES
TEST SERIES BY NANCY GRIFFITH
April 27, 2009
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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. Now I usually hike in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. Most of my trips are section hikes or loops from a few days to a week. I carry a light to mid-weight load, use a tent, stove and hiking poles.
December 22, 2008
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Photo courtesy of TSL Outdoor
Manufacturer: TSL Outdoor
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.tsloutdoor.com
MSRP: Not available
Listed Weight: 275 g (9.7 oz) each
Measured Weight: 270 g (9.5 oz) each (without any basket)
Length: 64 to 145 cm (25 to 57 in)
Basket diameters: 55 mm (2.2 in) for summer; 95 mm (3.7 in) for winter; 130 mm (5 in) for powder
Measured Basket weights: 5.5 g (0.2 oz) for summer; 14.7 g (0.5 oz) for winter; 45.4 g (1.6 oz) for powder
The TSL Vanoise trekking poles are made of three telescoping sections of 7075 aluminum and have tungsten tips. The lower section has one adjustment line labeled STOP. The middle section has lines labeled from 110 to 145 cm (43 to 57 in) with increments in between every 5 cm (2 in). Just past the 145 line it is labeled STOP. The grips are plastic and are covered with shock resistant foam except at the very top. This foam extends for two additional grip lengths down the pole allowing for gripping in multiple positions.
There is an adjustable nylon wrist strap which has material in the center for providing a cushioned fit on my hand. The strap length is locked by pushing a small plastic piece into the grip once the length is in the proper place.
The poles came with rubber tip protectors. The poles came in a nylon and mesh storage bag which has a small zippered pocket at the bottom which contains a small instruction manual and three sets of baskets: summer, winter and powder. On the bag is a small sticker that says 'Made in Italy'.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
The six-language instruction booklet included is in French, English, German, Italian, Spanish and Dutch. It shows the following:
--The SBS locking mechanism uses a double expander over an aluminum pin.
--For adjusting the height, set the lower pole section to the STOP line and then set the middle section to the desired height.
--How to use the push and pull system for removing and replacing baskets.
--How to use the poles on sidehills, uphills and downhills.
--The caution section at the end says and I quote: "Warning: Do not forget that the poles of the range carrying removable parts (handle, sprigs) may encounter dysfunctions during use. Don't through the STOP sign." I think I understand this to mean not to expand the sections past the STOP line or else they may come apart and parts may fly.
INITIAL IMPRESSIONS & TRYING IT OUT
My initial impression was how light the poles are considering they are telescopic and made of aluminum. I typically use carbon fiber poles, so I was expecting heavy poles. I like the storage bag that they came in since they will help to keep the baskets with the poles. Plus the bag has a top strap that will make it easy to hang them in the garage next to our other poles.
I tried to remove and attach the baskets without reading the instruction. It was really easy to figure out how the system works and was easy to push the red ring into the open position. This is the first step to attaching a basket. I slid the summer basket onto the end and then had a lot of difficulty to push the red ring closed to secure the basket. I tried all three of the basket sizes and had equal difficulty with each. I could push the ring about halfway closed. I then read the instructions and found that I was doing it correctly. After trying it several times and pushing the basket in as hard as I could, I was able to completely close the red ring and secure the basket. I'm hoping that they become easier to close as they wear in.
I found the length to be easy to adjust. The knurled rings rotate freely and come to a stop without me having to guess whether they are tight or not. The rings were easy to tighten and held securely when I put my full weight on the poles. I repeated the experiment wearing my winter gloves. I could tighten the lower ring with one hand while my other hand was gripping the basket area. Then I could tighten the upper section with one hand while my other hand was gripping the lower ring. I was not able to tighten the upper ring enough to allow the middle section to hold my entire weight, but the lower section held securely. Overall, I find this to be acceptable because my gloves do not allow for a great deal of dexterity.
PROS & CONS
Difficulty of securing basket
Overall the poles are as advertised on the website. There are a few discrepancies between the website product description and the information in the technical data sheet, For instance the description says that they weigh 275 g each but the technical data sheet says 270 g. This isn't a big discrepancy, but I noticed it. Also, the description says that they come with the summer and winter baskets only. The techical data sheet indicates the 'Nordic Snowshoeing Label' but seems to indicate the powder basket as optional. However, all three baskets were included. The website says that it is under construction, so some of this may be warranted.
In general, the poles seem to be very well-made and have some nice features. I'm looking forward to testing poles that are particularly suited to snowshoeing and skiing.
February 20, 2009
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
During the Field Test period, I was able to use the poles for hiking and backpacking as well as snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. This allowed me to use the summer and winter baskets and to use a variety of length and gripping positions. It also meant that the temperature and weather conditions were quite variable as well. In total I used them on 11 days including two days where I snowshoed and cross-country skied on the same day. Total mileage was approximately 55 mi (89 km).
Some examples of my trips follow:
University Falls, Sierra Nevada (California): 5.6 miles (9 km); 3,450 to 4,100 ft (1,052 to 1,250 m); 31 to 37 F (-0.5 to 3 C); sunny; winter baskets
Blodgett Research Forest, Sierra Nevada (California): 2.5 miles (4 km); 4,000 to 4,300 ft (1,220 to 1,310 m); 30 to 35 F (-1 to 2 C); partly cloudy; winter baskets
Echo Lake, Sierra Nevada (California): 5.0 mi (8 km); 7,300 to 8,000 ft (2,225 to 2,438 m); 35 to 45 F (2 to 7 C); deep snow conditions; sunny; winter baskets
Loon Lake, Sierra Nevada (California): 6.5 mi (10.5 km); 6,400 to 6,700 ft (1,950 to 2,040 m); 31 to 45 F (-1 to 7 C); deep snow conditions; sunny; winter baskets
Spooner Lake, Eastern Sierra Nevada (Nevada): 10 mi (16 km); 7,080 to 7,600 ft (2,158 to 2,316 m); 20 to 35 F (-7 to 2 C); calm overcast to breezy snowstorm conditions; winter baskets
Point Reyes National Seashore (California): 13 miles (21 km); 0 to 854 ft (0 to 260 m); 39 to 60 F (4 to 15 C); sunny to foggy weather; summer baskets
Point Reyes National Seashore (California): 3 miles (5 km); 0 to 400 ft (0 to 122 m); 45 to 60 F (7 to 15 C); sunny to foggy weather; summer baskets
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
My hands get so warm at times while snowshoeing and skiing that I need to remove my gloves. Even in cold temperatures, the foam grip was very comfortable. It did not feel cold to the touch.
I adjusted the poles to various lengths for longer stretch of hiking uphill or downhill, but for shorter stretches I simply adjusted my grip location to account for the terrain. While holding the pole at the lower portion of the grip, I found the ridges to be very comfortable and useful for maintaining a good grip. With other poles, I often grip the very top portion of the pole when going downhill. I did not find that to be a comfortable option with these poles. Since the very top portion is not covered with the foam grip, I found the plastic to be uncomfortable in my hand. It was fine when wearing gloves.
For the Spooner Lake trip, it was particularly useful to have telescoping poles because we hiked in on snowshoes and then cross-country skied from base camp. For cross-country skiing the pole length needs to be quite long so it was nice to simply extend the poles rather than carry an extra set of poles.
While skiing/falling, at times I put my entire weight on the poles. The only problem that I had with them collapsing was due to them not being tight enough when tightened with my gloves on. I started tightening them with my gloves off which worked great.
The swapping of baskets became easier as the mechanism wore in. I used the summer and winter baskets. Due to snow conditions, I was not able to make use of the powder baskets yet. The winter baskets really helped to keep from sinking too much into the snow which allows for a good push off.
I accidentally used the rubber protector tips at the beginning of the backpacking trip. I simply forgot to remove them and my husband noticed it after about a half mile (0.8 km). I removed them for fear of losing them, but since the trail at that point was very hard, the rubber tips had worked pretty well. It made me want to use them for future trail sections that are completely rock covered where the hard tips may slip.
The wrist straps are easy to adjust and hold in place where I set them. I changed the length of the strap depending on my activity. If I was wearing gloves, I found that I wanted to lengthen the strap a little. Then for hiking with bare hands, I tightened the straps slightly.
There are no signs of durability issues. The length adjustment mechanism shows no sign of wear, the tips are intact and the poles in general look nearly new.
I find these poles to be very well made and easy to use. I have experience with several other brands of poles and find these to be the easiest to adjust and to have the most secure hold of the length adjustment. Every other brand that I have seen has occasions when they are difficult to secure.
Ease of length adjustment
Secure hold of telescoping sections
Edges of top of grip are uncomfortable
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
During the Long-Term Testing period, I used the poles for one 3-day backpacking trip, 3 snowshoeing day hikes, 1 cross-country skiing trip and 6 day hikes. I used all 3 basket configurations as well as hiking with no baskets at all.
La Verkin Creek Trail, Zion National Park (Utah): 3 days; 20 mi (32 km); 5,413 to 6,070 ft (1,650 to 1,850 m); 40 to 75 F (4 to 24 C); red sandy soil, multiple stream crossings; summer baskets
Some examples of my other day trips are:
Vernal Fall, Yosemite National Park (California): 5 mi (8 km); 4,035 to 5,400 ft (1,230 to 1,646 m); 25 to 30 F (-4 to -1 C); deep snow; heavy snowstorm conditions; winter and powder baskets
Glacier Point Road, Yosemite National Park (California): 11 mi (18 km); 7,200 to 7.350 ft (2,200 to 2,240 m); 18 to 22 F (-8 to -5 C); groomed snow conditions; sunny to overcast; winter baskets
Fern Canyon, Russian Gulch State Park (California): 6.7 mi (11 km); 50 to 350 ft (15 to 107 m); 45 to 50 F (7 to 10 C); sunny conditions; no baskets
Salmon Falls Trail, Folsom Lake (California): 10 mi (16 km); 800 to 1,300 ft (244 to 400 m); 45 to 60 F (7 to 15 C); overcast conditions; no baskets
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
On the Vernal Fall hike, I used my winter baskets until we got into some deep powder. Then I changed the baskets in a snowstorm, so that says something for the ease of changing baskets. It wasn't easy to do, but even without gloves in driving snow, I was able to do it myself. I still prefer to change the baskets in the warmth of the car or house, but it is getting easier to do. The powder baskets really worked well. The powder was probably 18 in (46 cm) deep so the baskets helped to keep my pole from sinking in too much.
The adjustment of the straps is really nice. It is easy to adjust the length and they hold in place well even with my full weight on them. So, I can hike with them tight enough that I can loosen my grip and use the straps to push off with my wrists instead. This gives my hands nice break from firmly gripping the handle.
I really like having the foam grip along such a large portion of the pole. I don't always want to adjust the pole length, especially when the terrain changes to steep uphill or steep downhill for short sections at a time. So I often find myself not using the straps and just gripping the pole wherever it is most comfortable.
When hiking down steep terrain, I like to hold my poles with the very top in the palm of my hand. However, I find the very top of the grip to be uncomfortable. I managed to put a small ding on the corner edge which made a sharp point. This tendency to be able to make a sharp edge on the top corner along with the discomfort of trying to hike downhill while gripping the hard plastic makes me want to see the entire plastic top covered with the foam.
On the second day of the Zion backpacking trip, we hiked up-canyon to explore a narrow side canyon. This hike was halfway on a trail and halfway off-trail. There were numerous creek crossings where the creek was fast-moving, silt-filled spring run-off. The poles were really useful for being able to jump across a longer distance than what I could do without them. Because the water was fairly deep, I extended the poles to their full length. Then I was able to use them to help me pole vault across. After crossing I would adjust the length back to a normal hiking length until the next crossing. They always held securely even with my full weight on them.
The durability of the poles is great. They appear to be in a nearly new condition. The straps have not worn, the tips still look great and the length adjustment mechanism works well. The basket attachment is working better than when they were new but could still use a little more wearing in of the baskets to allow me to change them easier, especially in cold conditions. The only wear that I see is on the baskets and the lower knurled ring is deformed from collapsing the poles.
Overall I really like these poles especially for winter use. The length adjustment mechanism is as easy to use and as reliable as any other poles I've seen. The foam grip is very comfortable even in cold temperatures and allows for use in multiple positions. The multiple basket options are extremely useful although they are still a bit difficult to swap out.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
Ease and security of pole length adjustment
Ease and security of wrist strap adjustment
Variety of baskets included
Comfort of grip in various positions
Storage bag to hold extra baskets
Difficulty changing baskets (until the mechanism wears in)
Uncomfortable grip at very top due to lack of foam
This concludes my Long-Term Report and the test series for the TSL Vanoise poles.
I would like to thank TSL and BackpackGearTest.org for choosing me to participate in this test.
Read more reviews of TSL gear
Read more gear reviews by Nancy Griffith