Pacerpole 2-Section Trekking Pole REVIEW

Unique molded grips add extreme comfort and power to these heavier two-section aluminum/carbon fiber hybrids. But are they worth the weight?

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by Marty Coatney | 2006-09-06 03:00:00-06

Pacerpole 2-Section Trekking Pole REVIEW

Introduction

The Pacerpoles are the heaviest carbon fiber poles that we’ve reviewed. Are they worth it? It depends on where you are hiking. The innovative grip design allows you to propel yourself over level terrain with ease and in a manner where the weight is hardly noticeable (when used correctly). The grips allow you to securely hold the poles with minimum effort - your hands seem to curve naturally around it. The molded grips are also where the majority of the Pacerpoles’ excess weight is found. They also limit the poles’ usefulness in steeper terrain and require a slight learning curve. The poles are rock solid with an aluminum upper section and a carbon fiber lower section giving excellent stiffness and stability.

What’s Good

  • Extremely comfortable and unique grips minimize hand fatigue
  • Adds noticeable power to strides on level or smoother terrain
  • Excellent quality and construction
  • Light swing weight due to carbon fiber lowers
  • Weight savings of 0.6 ounces per pole over the aluminum 3-Section model

What’s Not So Good

  • At 10.6 ounce (301 g) total weight per pole these trekking poles are quite heavy
  • The molded grip weighs 4.4 ounce (125 g) alone. That is 42% of the total weight of the pole.
  • Grip design limits use in steep descents or ascents
  • Two-section poles only collapse to 99 centimeters (39 in), making them more difficult to stow than three-section models

Specifications

  Year/Model

2006 Pacerpole 2-Section

  Style

Adjustable length, two-section collapsible

  Shaft Material

7075 aluminum upper, carbon fiber lower

  Tips

Carbide flex-tip

  Grips

Molded thermo-plastic/rubber

  Grip Size

One size

  Weight Per Pole
(without baskets)

10.6 oz (301 g) measured weight; manufacturer’s specification 10.5 oz (298 g)

  Pole Length

39-54 in (99-137 cm)

  Baskets Included?

Yes - diameter: 2 in (13 cm), weight: 1.6 oz (43 g)

  Basket Type

Leki-style

  MSRP

$114 (US)

Performance

Pacerpoles set themselves apart with their unique grip. The molded plastic/rubber grips are specific to the right or left hands and angle the hands further forward than any traditional trekking poles, which are gripped in the vertical position. It definitely took a period of adjustment for me to get comfortable with these poles. My first instinct was to use them as I would any other pole: bringing the whole pole out in front of me with each stride; however, the proper technique with Pacerpoles is different than either trekking or Nordic walking techniques.

Pacerpole 2-Section Trekking Pole REVIEW - 1
The Pacerpoles’ unique grip is what sets it apart from other trekking poles on the market.

With proper Pacerpole technique, the poles are held lower and extended behind the hiker and used to propel forward. (Pacerpoles’ website has extensive instructions on how to correctly use their trekking poles.) The poles aren’t meant to be lifted off the ground and swung forward; instead they come forward during natural walking with the tips “skimming” the ground and the entire pole basically staying at the same angle throughout the stride. When used correctly I felt a noticeable increase in my forward momentum. Using the poles on a stretch of open beach hiking I found I could set the “cruise control” and haul on down the trail at an amazing clip and I barely noticed the extra weight.

And the Pacerpoles do weigh more. At 10.6 ounces they are the heaviest carbon fiber trekking poles that we’ve tested. If the neoprene grip on the shaft is removed that weight can be reduced to 10.4 ounces but the majority of this weight is found in the grip. At 4.4 ounces alone (per pole) the grip makes up 42% of the entire pole. Subtract this weight and the Pacerpole would be comparable to several of the poles tested.

When carrying the Pacerpoles in your hand or in a pack, there is no denying the weight increase over lighter collapsible poles. However, this weight is not as perceptible in use as a traditional pole would be because the heavier grips are not a part of the “swing weight” and the light carbon fiber lowers swing with the best of them. That’s if they are used correctly; in varied terrain I found correct usage harder.

The Pacerpoles’ distinctive grip shows its limitations on moderate to extreme ascents and to a lesser extent on steep descents. According to the manufacturer’s website the correct method for ascents is to keep the hands near the sides of your torso and pump the hands up and down “like pistons.” This puts the poles more behind you and does provide forward thrust but provides no increased stability. When I used the Pacerpoles to pull myself up steeper inclines or uneven terrain (as I would with traditional poles), my wrists bent at unnatural angles. The poles do have a 14 centimeter neoprene sleeve on the upper shafts for use as a grip on steep climbs. These were indispensable on the steeper climbs but of little use of slight up-hills or stepping up onto smaller obstacles without adjusting pole length.

On steep descents or stepping down I needed to release the grip slightly to be able to reach and plant the poles. (Note: I have observed this same trend when I use traditional trekking poles.) Once I learned how to properly adjust my grip I never felt as if the difference compromised my safety.

Pacerpole 2-Section Trekking Pole REVIEW - 2
When used to pull myself up rough (even small obstacles) terrain, I found that the grips placed my wrists in uncomfortable and unnatural positions. The neoprene shaft grips only helped with this problem on steeper climbs or larger step-ups. On descents I noticed myself having to release the grip some to reach down.

Like other adjustable poles, the Pacerpoles can be used in shelters requiring trekking poles. The grips contact the ground at an angle and are slightly less stable than traditional poles but I never found this to be a problem. However, I did not try them in a teepee-type shelter that requires the poles to be linked into one long pole so I cannot comment on their usage with this type of shelter.

Compatibility With Trekking Pole Shelters

Shelter type and pole length required Usable with this shelter?
Gossamer Gear/Tarptent Squall Classic (42 in/107 cm) Yes
Tarptent Virga 2 / Squall 2 and Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo / Europa (45 in/114 cm) Yes
GoLite Trig 2 (48 in/123 cm) Yes
MSR Missing Link (54 in/137 cm) Yes

The Pacerpoles show excellent construction. The twist locks never slipped, even while pole-vaulting myself across stream crossings. The poles are easily adjusted, though I found that the length I used was a good 10-15 cm less than what I would with other poles. This is because of the extra height of the grips and the fact that the poles are held lower when using the Pacerpole technique. On the newest version of the 2-section Pacerpoles the carbon lower is roughened to provide additional grip when making adjustments.

Overall, I loved the innovative grips of the Pacerpoles, especially when using them on smoother terrain. On sections of the PCT they did great. On firm open beach they excelled. When used correctly they have the potential to propel a hiker to speeds they normally wouldn’t feel comfortable trying to attain.

Pacerpole 2-Section Trekking Pole REVIEW - 3
One of the few optional accessories available for the Pacerpoles is this custom aluminum camera mount that turns the pole into a monopod. This is done by removing the colored plug in the grip and sliding the mount easily into place. The newest version includes a protective cap to cover the threading so that the mount can be left in the pole without becoming clogged with grit and dirt.

What’s Unique

The molded plastic/rubber grips are what set the Pacerpoles apart from any other pole on the market. The poles are available in both the version tested here with the carbon lowers and the Pacerpole 3-Section which is all-aluminum and was tested by Backpacking Light in 2005.

Recommendations for Improvement

Pacerpole has reduced the weight of their trekking poles by producing the carbon fiber lower section (by 0.6 oz) but I would like to see the weight reduced further in the grip, possibly with a thinner plastic or carbon fiber core and an EVA foam outer surface (though this would most likely increase costs).


Citation

"Pacerpole 2-Section Trekking Pole REVIEW," by Marty Coatney. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/pacerpole_2-section_trekking_pole_review.html, 2006-09-06 03:00:00-06.

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Pacerpole 2-Section Trekking Pole REVIEW
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Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Pacerpoles on 02/25/2007 16:44:10 MST Print View

Hi pj and Dondo

> IME (in my experience) they work fine for balance.
Oh, I agree entirely. I also agree that for people with sore knees they can be a blessing on descents. I dare say they can be useful on difficult ascents.
Where I start doubting is when I see people walking along an asphalt road poling vigorously.

If we are doing a tricky river crossing over boulders with fast water I will find a couple of stout sticks for my wife and myself for balance in the fast water. No hesitation.

Brett wrote:
> I am growing dependent on my poles, not for efficiency or survival, but for balance. Before I had them I never needed them; now I seem to.
> We saw a similar phenomenon in downhill skiing. When I try to tell my skiing friends that you can downhill ski just fine with no poles, they recoil in horror or stare in scepticism. (note, does not apply to x-country skiing)
:-)
Yes, one can become used to using them in rough terrain. They can be useful there.
But I had to laugh about the skiing comments: so true! I have seen some very elegant downhill skiing without poles: a row of instructors, each one carrying a flare in each hand, at night coming down the whole side of a resort.

Dondo .
(Dondo) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Pacerpoles on 02/25/2007 17:09:08 MST Print View

>>Where I start doubting is when I see people walking along an asphalt road poling vigorously.

LOL. I think I would start doubting, too. As much as I love my Pacerpoles, I don't think I would take them out for a walk around the park.

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Pacerpoles on 02/28/2007 09:34:58 MST Print View

>Where I start doubting is when I see people walking along an asphalt road poling vigorously.



I find that I hike about 0.25 to 0.3 mph faster using poles. I tested this over the same trail multiple times, with standard heavy and ultralight poles, using them in the Nordic-walking style. I'm not claiming that I burn less energy or am less tired (although I don't notice any difference, and they do help my knees) but the speed difference over a full day is worthwhile on its own. YMMV.