The experiences of others

The internet has transformed the dissemination of information on both gear, techniques and routes over the past five years. We now have almost instant access to information on just about anything. Want an opinion on a bit of gear? No problem, Google it and you’re likely to come up with some blogger who’s reviewed it. Want to know what a route looks like? Use Geograph and you can find some pictures for just about any grid square in the UK or you can use Google Earth for a bird’s-eye view. Not only that but there are loads of photos sets on Picasa and Flikr to help you.

We are now in the midst of a load of feedback from this year’s tempestuous TGCO Challenge. The weather proved to be a real work out for gear (and participants). Andy Howell has written an interesting piece on carbon fibre walking poles and their vulnerability to snapping. I swapped to carbon fibre poles (Leki Makalu) a few years ago. I found that aluminium poles caused my elbows to ache after a while. I think this was due to the transmission of the pole strike up my arm. With carbon fibre poles, I’ve never had this problem.

On Andy’s blog, he relates that one Challenger’s carbon poles snapped and pierced his Duomid. This makes me wonder whether I need to swap back to aluminium poles when using my Duomid. I don’t tend to use my poles all the time, mainly for going downhill and crossing streams. The Challenger (Rob Slade) commented on Andy’s blog about the incident. Apparently cuben fibre can be “mended” by gluing a patch over the hole. I also wonder whether cuben is better than silnylon when punctured as silnylon has a tendency to rip. It might be another reason to get a cuben Duomid (eventually). The other snippet that was interesting is that Rob said that his Duomid stood up well to the high winds experienced, which gives me a bit more confidence about the Duomid.

The other snippet that I picked up was from Gordon’s TGOC account and from his posting on OM. Gordon had to swap from some TNF Hedghogs back to some Asolo Flame boots because of bruised toes, something I can sympathise with. It just shows that what works for one person (trail shoes) doesn’t necessarily work for someone else, even a committed lightweighter. Personally, in the hills, trail shoes don’t work for me and I like lightweight boots. Equally my addiction to Salomon Fastpackers is not for others. It’s all about finding what suits our needs, be they boots or shoes, tents or tarps, Paramo or hard shell, meths or gas stoves or even how much clothing to take. It’s interesting reading the experiences of others but ultimately you need to go with what suits you and ignore the proselytising of others (including me).

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11 thoughts on “The experiences of others”

  1. Totally agree Robin, I’ve tried stuff that was quite popular and found I didn’t like it, on the other hand I’ve tried stuff I’d never have considered and found it worked well for me. The great strength of Blog reviews rather than magazine reviews is that you get a longer term opinion, sometimes you get a piece of kit that intially seems to tick all the boxes, 6 months down the line your opinion may have changed or issues may have arisen, you only get that in a magazine if it’s a long term test but most kit isn’t and really the reviews are aren’t reviews as such, more of a 1st look really.

  2. There comes a point where you work out, usually through a process of (hugely enjoyable) trial and error, which reviewers are looking for the same things you are and therefore their reviews are likely to resonate more with you than others. Richard’s right – bloggers’ reviews tend to be more comprehensive and objective (even those that are regarding products given to them my manufacturers – most I say are still reasonably objective with some notable exceptions). For example, I am interested In Salomon Fastpacker boots because you have a raved about them and because I have spent some time looking at them to see if they meet my needs. I am not likely to buy them solely on your recommendation but its a useful starting point.

    On carbon walking poles – my friend’s carbon Makalu poles have busted too. After not much use either…

    1. Interesting about the poles. If they break when using them as a support for the Duomid, it’s a bit of a disaster. I may have to get some aluminium poles.

  3. Last year I pitched my Duomid in some very strong wind to see how it performed. The CF centre pole was flexing alarmingly and my first thought was if this snaps it could make a hole in the Duomid and then I could be in real trouble. I considered either getting an aluminium pole (but I have seen one of these snap clean in two) or using a proper tent pole rather than a hiking pole. I now have a Trailstar and the pole is much lower, and hence stiffer, when pitched low for high winds.

  4. This seems like stating the obvious, but… Carbon fiber poles are much stronger at the same weight level. In normal use, breaking a 6 ounce carbon fiber pole is much less likely than breaking a 6 ounce aluminum pole.

  5. Totally agree with Fu. I have some ancient F&T poles which weigh as much as my first trekking poles, some Kola Classics. The F&T poles have spring suspension, whereas the Classics rely on kinky handlers for adding comfort. The F&T poles have needed much less maintenance than the Kolas (much less dust internally) and seem bombproof still.

    Most of the time, I use carbon Makalus, which can often be seen strapped to my pack in case I break them while crossing awkward ground. I did once, luckily when I didn’t need them for holding up a Trailstar or Cave. I guess it depends on how much carbon the manufacturer uses.

    When carbon mountain bikes were first coming in, Santa Cruz made a bike in aluminium and carbon options. They claimed that if you hit the aluminium frame with the carbon frame, the aluminium frame would be dented and the carbon frame would be undamaged.

    1. I wonder whether the issue is how they fail. Perhaps carbon fibre is stronger but shatters whereas aluminium is weaker but bends. I’m not concerned about the pole failing when the Duomid is erected. I use a backpackinglight.co.uk pole extender which means I’m not overextending the walking poles. I’m more concerned that I might break a pole while I’m walking.

  6. It’s weird, Robin, I’d worn my Hedgehogs a lot – with no problem. Then on the Challenge they attacked my toes. It’s happened with a pair of Scarpa Mantas that I once had – ok for 2 winters and then they attacked my heels.

    Interesting about the poles. I use Black Diamond Alpine Carbon poles and they have taken all the abuse and use I’ve put them thru, so far. My concern about using twist-to-lock poles would be whether the forces on one used as a support for a Duomid or Trailstar would cause the pole to collapse down on itself.

    I am convinced that if I had been using a Duomid while camped on my first Saturday of the Challenge – it would have meant a retreat down from the bealach. The Trailstar – pitched low – was taking a battering that I don’t think anything pitched any higher would have taken. (BTW in the storm of 1986 I was camped at Grisedale Tarn in a Vango Hurricane – both hoop poles snapped after an all night battering!)

    1. Bruised toes: you might want to investigate Superdrug gell toe protectors. I use them and they are excellent.

      The Trailstar looks the business for high winds. I prefer a two skin tent though. I think the Duomid has its limitations. I suppose it would be easy to collapse in a real blow and just shelter under it.

  7. I think the construction/diameter of the poles is just as important.
    As i remarked on Andys blog, i wasn’t happy using my carbon TiGoat poles with my Duomid. They flexed alarmingly under vertical compression. I used my new Carbon Pacers this weekend, and they performed perfectly. They have a bigger diameter than the TiGoats. There was no flexing, and they seemed solid. My TiGoat poles work well with a traditional tarp though. Maybe different stress is placed on poles with the compression in a ‘mid type shelter, compared to a ‘tradional’ tarp, and the problem, if there is one, is in using carbon shafts that are too thin?

    1. Thanks Mike. I think my Leki carbon poles are the same diameter as the Pacer Poles. Using Bob’s cunning pole extender, they seemed to be pretty solid.

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