by Ken Knight | 2005-05-03 03:00:00-06
The author hiking off-trail with the Pacerpoles.
In the world of look-a-like trekking poles, the Pacerpoles stand out. They have a radically-angled grip and pole length substantially shorter than traditional trekking poles. They are heavy by lightweight standards at 11.2 ounces (318 grams) per pole without baskets, but they are still worth a close look - under most conditions, the Pacerpoles are the most comfortable poles to hold of any we have used. The grip is designed to facilitate a relaxed walking style that permits you to use your upper body strength to help propel you forward without forcing you to put undue strain on your arms. When used properly, we found the Pacerpoles let us move forward in a fluid yet relaxed manner under a broad range of conditions.
• Trekking Pole Type
|Collapsible, three sections|
• Shaft Material
|7075 aluminum alloy|
• Weight (without baskets)
• Pole Length
• Model Year
|£83 as listed at www.pacerpoles.com (approximately $155 USD)|
The grip on the Pacerpole is designed to work specifically with the left or right hand. Your hand fits comfortably on top of the grip, naturally curling around the contours for a firm hold.
The Pacerpole is unique among trekking poles because each pole grip is designed to work with just the left or the right hand. The grips, shaped like a joystick for a modern video shoot-'em-up game, are made to cradle your left or right hand in a natural posture. At first when you grab a Pacerpole you find yourself wondering how you can possibly use the poles. But it quickly becomes clear that although your hand is just resting on the grip you are in no danger of accidentally releasing the pole: your fingers have curved around the grip just as they would do if you were walking with your hands held in a relaxed position at your sides.
The different grip affects how long the poles need to be. The manufacturer suggests, and our reviewers agree, that a good starting point for determining the proper height of your poles is to have the top of the grip just below your elbow height when you are standing with your hands at your sides making the Pacerpoles about 10-12 centimeters shorter than traditional trekking poles. The idea is to use the poles as extensions of your arms without compromising the relaxed grip of your hands. You position the Pacerpoles so that you can let your normal walking motion move the poles along with your stride. The pole tips are barely raised, almost skimming over the surface of the ground with the primary arm movement below the elbow. This ideal motion is more pendulum-like instead of a lift-and-plant motion. When you achieve this motion, ground permitting, the stress on your arms is greatly reduced and you are still able to use your upper body strength to help propel you forward.
There is an informative online user manual along with several articles on how to improve your walking style on the Pacerpoles website. The suggestions laid out in this material help you walk more efficiently and feel better doing it.
Due to the extreme angle of the grips and the resulting angled placement, the Pacerpoles are less than ideal for deep-snow conditions.
The Pacerpole grip has some interesting side-effects. When the weather cools off I may start a day hiking with light gloves. If I am using a traditional style trekking pole and it is not too windy I will almost always remove my gloves even when the temperature is in the 20s °F. When using the Pacerpoles my hands do not warm up as much and certainly not as fast. I often need to leave my gloves on with the Pacerpoles when I would have removed them if using other trekking poles. I believe this is further evidence that you can hold a Pacerpole securely without exerting much force.
While extremely comfortable for non-technical hiking, we found the grip angle was not as well suited for deep snow or mountaineering applications. In these situations, a more vertical pole placement is more secure and the non-adjustable angle of the grips made them harder to use. During several days of snowshoeing in deep, crusty snow, we constantly wished for traditional, straight grips.
There is a security cord on the grip that you can insert your wrist through to achieve an added sense of control. We found that the wrist cord was a valuable aid, especially on steeper descents.
Immediately below the hard plastic grip is a 5.5-inch sleeve of neoprene that can be used during steep climbs. We found this to be another valuable tool as this hand position is more natural during technical ascents.
Pacerpoles use the common twist-and-lock system for length adjustment. Once tightened we found the poles stayed locked even when we placed our full weight on them. The pole length needs to be adjusted as the terrain varies to get the most out of them. Fortunately they are easy to manipulate even when wearing gloves.
The Pacerpoles come with small 2-inch trekking baskets and larger 4-inch snow baskets. These Leki-style baskets are easy to screw on and off the pole.
|Shelter (pole length needed)||Usable with this shelter?|
|Six Moon Designs Europa 2 (41 in/104 cm)||Yes|
|Golite Trig 2 (48 in/123 cm)||Yes|
|MSR Missing Link (54 in/137 cm)||Yes|
We used the Pacerpoles with a variety of shelters and found that they worked as well as trekking poles in most situations (see below). Shelters that require the grip to contact the fabric grip-side up (such as the MSR Twin Peaks) are harder to set up with Pacerpoles, but it is still possible.
The tip is a basic tungsten carbide tip. The poles come with a removable rubber protective ferrule.
The Pacerpoles weigh 11.2 ounces per pole (without baskets). While this is heavy by lightweight standards, the poles generally do not feel heavy when properly used in non-technical situations. Once you have the poles well adjusted and are using them in a smooth pendulum-like, ground-skimming motion the weight of the poles becomes much less noticeable. If, however, you have to lift and plant the poles frequently, as we found ourselves doing in deep snow conditions, the extra weight becomes readily apparent.
We estimate that nearly a third of the Pacerpoles' weight is in the hard molded plastic grip. We wonder if the grip can be lightened and whether the poles need to have three sections. Even our tallest reviewer, 6'2", typically only extended his Pacerpoles to about 115 centimeters - a length that can be achieved with a two-section pole.
The Pacerpole length remained stable when properly tightened even when I placed my full weight on it. It is a very stiff pole, whether used for hiking or as a shelter support.
When you are properly swinging Pacerpoles they should just skim over the ground in an easy pendulum motion. You aren't bringing the poles into contact with the ground with great force which translates into minimal vibration, although more than carbon fiber trekking pole models.
The Pacerpoles are solidly constructed using 7075 aluminum alloy and tough plastic for the hand grips. There are no signs of wear on our test samples after many hard days of use on all manner of terrain.
Pacerpoles are not cheap at approximately $160 USD. However, the Pacerpoles offer a different approach to using trekking poles that we think is well worth examining carefully.
The Pacerpoles are heavy. While the weight is less of an issue when skimming the poles across the ground without excess lifting, this style is not always possible. We'd like to see the grip weight reduced. Our reviewers found that they generally did not have to extend the poles nearly as much as they would traditional poles. A two-section version of the pole that extends to 120-125 centimeters could shave a couple ounces off the weight. (Pacerpole is currently developing a carbon fiber bottom segment that should reduce pole weight.)
An adjustable grip angle would make the poles more usable in snow or technical situations although this feature might add unwanted weight.
"Pacerpoles Trekking Poles REVIEW," by Ken Knight. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/pacerpoles_trekking_poles_review.html, 2005-05-03 03:00:00-06.