Thursday, 19 September 2013

What works for me: Pacer Poles

I first started using hiking poles back in 2002, they were a set of Leki Poles complete with shock absorption, I soon learnt how to turn the shock absorption off. They were heavy, seeking out lighter poles I came across the REI  Peak UL poles made by Komperdell, they were much better to use but I was still not entirely happy. In 2006 having read about Pacer Poles while living in the USA, I contacted Brian Frankle at ULA and purchased my alloy Pacer Poles, which I still have to this day, I first wrote about these poles in 2008 and it now seems reasonable to update that post.

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I have continued to use the alloy poles for all my long trips up north, and while the poles are heavy at 712 gm per pair they are very comfortable to use with their angled grips. I find them equally comfortable on all types of terrain whether it be climbing or descending. The twist lock mechanism in the Pacer Poles is the most reliable twist lock I have used, with only the occasional slippage.  More recently I have purchased a set of Carbon Fibre Pacer Poles.


Comparing the 2 types of Pacer Poles.



AlloyCarbon Fibre
Collapsed Length (includes rubber feet)68 cm.65 cm.
Fully extended Length (to the maximum stop, including rubber feet)142 cm.135 cm.
Weight (including baskets and rubber feet)712 gm.
540 gm.


Using the poles

The Pacer Poles are a pleasure to use, the angled hand grips provide a comfortable and supportive position for the hand enabling the user to "rest" their hand on the pole in contrast with normal poles where the hand must "grip" the pole to ensure that the hand does not slide up and down the pole. Thus the pacer pole provides support and assistance when walking that , whereas a normal pole does not in my view.

The poles are not just for walking, or perhaps one could ask "What other uses can I put my walking poles to?" Like most other poles there are several options, some of which I have used which are listed below.

Using a pole as a Monopod

I enjoy taking photos on my walks and am always pursuing "the perfect photo" one thing that is obvious to me is the importance of a camera support whether it be a rock, a fence post or ideally a tripod. However, when I carry tripod I am sometimes reluctant to use it as I do not want to stop, take it out set it up and then take the photo. Maybe I should take more time, as I often become goal focussed and not focussed on the surrounds.

The Pacer Pole people offer a camera mount for their poles which I acquired a while ago but it took me a while to realise the best way to use the cameramount. I am right handed, so firstly the camera mount should be placed con the left hand pole. Then you need to learn how to use a Monopod (there are many youtube videos on this) finally a ballhead is strongly recommended as it allows you to fine tune your set up.  I have found that the one shown below works for me and with a weight is 68 gms, I can also use it with my Gorilla Pod.


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Here it is shown mounted onto a Carbon Fibre pole with the Olympus EP 2 and the 40 to 150 mm lens.

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Using the poles as shelter support

Perhaps the most important use of the poles is as shelter support, I have tried Pacer Poles in many different shelters, such as MLD Cricket, Black Diamond Megalight and Betalight, Tarptent Notch, GoLite SL 2 and SL3,  MLD Trailstar just to mention a few and in all cases they have performed admirably.

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MLD Cricket



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MLD Trailstar

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Tarptent Notch

Handle down or up? I have tried both and I feel that it is a matter of personal preference.
Handle up can distort the shape of the peak of the mid, while handle down would appear to provide a more stable base, although it may slip more easily.

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Recently I have looked at joiner sections, initially using parts of my Leki poles but then I decided to contact Heather and Alan at Pacer Pole and see what they could do. As always their customer support was excellent and after an email conversation, I received two joiner sections, one for the CF poles and one for the alloy poles as shown below.

Pacer Pole Connectors


These sections are very light and can easily be stowed in the pack.  I am very grateful to Heather and Alan for scouring their stocks of old poles and locating these pre loved handle sections.
For information the carbon fibre section is 34 cm in length and weighs 30 gms, and the alloy section is 23 cm in length and weighs 34 gms.

This allows the two lower sections of each pole to be connected and provides a maximum length of 192 cm for each set of poles. However, I prefer some overlap at the joins and with the BD Megalight requiring an internal height of approximately 150 cm there is ample overlap at the joins. The poles do flex when sideways pressure is applied, however, the Megalight  when set up places most of the force at the top of the pole and thus is transferred thorough the poles to the ground, and I have not experienced any failure to date.

Black Diamond Mega Light and Oooktub

Using the poles: Snow and sand baskets
I have a set of snow baskets which I have never used, but if there is to be a lot of snow than I can easily add the ski baskets to help.


What improvements would I like to see?

A better camera mount, would be my main request. However, the adoption of Flicklocks on the poles may also be worth considering, though as I have previously stated I experienced very little slippage with the currrent locking system.


Which poles do I prefer?
If I had a choice I would always take the CF poles (because of their weight), but my concern is the "what if?" situation, especially when long trips above tree line where my poles are my shelter supports. In my experience if I slip/fall the Alloy poles will not break (possibly bend), whereas my CF poles may break. So for long trips I prefer my trusty alloy poles but for local or shorter trips I use the CF poles.


Towards Maddagaisi


Where have I been with my Pacer Poles? They've been everywhere.

here is just a selection of a few locations.


SwedenSmåland Pilgrim Trail

 Norway
Pacer Poles Bjøllåga, Nordland Norway

 Australia
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Sweden, again
Pacer Poles


Skåne, Sweden
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Denmark

End of the Hærvejen

Finland
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During the writing of this article I visited the Pacer Pole website and was impressed to read "USE FOR 4 WEEKS - FULL REFUND IF NOT SATISFIED" which is further evidence of the amazing customer service provided by Heather and Alan at Pacer Pole.

For a detailed report on the benefits of using Pacer Poles I encourage you to visit Section Hikers review found here.