Mar 28 2011

Review: K2′s LockJaw Ski Poles

The new LockJaw® Carbon/Carbon and Carbon/Alu ski poles from K2 take the concept of functionality for a ski pole to a new level. The core features remain, like the Lock-Jaw® clamp that holds reliably and is easy to adjust. But what originally distinguished K2’s backcountry ski poles from the competition, depth readings and slope indicators, are significantly improved with next years models.

New for next year is a bubble gauge slope meter tucked under the bottom of one of the ergonomically designed handles. It only covers the range of angles a skier would be interested in – 30° to 45° – coincidentally the slope angles most likely to avalanche.

In the models with the bubble gauge inclinometer, depth readings adorn both poles, not just one. Turn the pole upside down and probe down into the snow. Numbers are shown on the pole shaft every five centimeters up to 40 cm, to indicate depth relative to the top of the handle. On the Carbon/Carbon model the depth numbers are kind of hard to read. They blend in, but once you recognize ‘em they’re obvious enough. Part of the reason you don’t notice them immediately is because the first 40 cm of shaft beneath the handle is a grippy sheath that makes it super easy to choke up on the pole while traversing. Then you notice that the numbers are part of this rubbery sheath, hence the blended visibility of the depth numbers. The rubbery sheath grips well in a variety of temperatures, and snow does not stick to it.

Compared to the inaugural version of K2’s ski poles, the LockJaw™ on this latest pair of poles is noticeably improved. When they are locked now, the pole holds – no exceptions.

The baskets are a clear notch better too, providing lots of solid surface area for better flotation in the fluffy stuff. More importantly, the retention of the baskets is higher too, meaning you’re less likely to lose your basket when it plunges beneath a crust and you have to pull it back out with a lot of force.

As ever, the handles of K2s ski poles are easy to grip, and have a wide, smooth top for palming. However, the best improvement to the handles is with the straps. They are easy to adjust, with wide, padded webbing that distributes force evenly around the back of your hand if you’re strapped in. Although I don’t use straps very much, there are still occasions when I want them. I like the fact that there are no plastic clips to break. Every one of my adjustable backcountry poles with plastic on the straps has eventually broken. So even when I might need the straps, they can’t be strapped around my wrist because the connection is broke. Not so with these poles.

2-year Update
It’s been two years since reviewing these poles. They remain my go-to pair of poles, or are the single pole I keep as the baseline of comparison when evaluating other poles. The closest equivalent pole in terms of quality, durability, comfort and reliability of the locking mechanism are Black Diamond’s FlickLock® poles, especially the updated FlickLock® Pro version. The main thing I prefer with the K2 Lockjaw ® poles are the straps without any plastic clips for adjusting length.

The rubber sheath seemed like such a good idea. In reality, it slips, then bunches up. I finally cut it off.

Alas, there is one feature that hasn’t survived long term use — the rubber sheath around the upper shaft. It is nice and grippy and does indicate snow depth when turned upside down. However, over time it slipped down and bunched up, making it even grippier, but rendering the depth markings unuseable. The slippage of the sheath began rather soon after this original review and finally after a year and several failed attempts to pull back up I just cut it off. Hopefully this nice feature has been improved, but only time will tell.

If you’re in the market for a new set of adjustable poles, K2s LockJaw series poles are worth considering. You might find a better price, but not a better feature set.


K2's Carbon/Alu Lockjaw ski pole.

Lock Jaw Carbon-Carbon Probe
Weight/pole: 8.7 oz. (248 g)
MSRP: $179.95

Lock Jaw Carbon-Alu Probe
Weight/pole: 10.3 oz. (295 g)
MSRP: $139.95

Lock Jaw Alu 3-piece Adjustable
Weight/pole: 10.4 oz. (296 g)
MSRP: $109.95

Backside Carbon
MSRP: $99.95

Lockjaw Alu
Weight/pole: 10 oz. (286 g)
MSRP: $79.95


© 2011