There are certainly differences among the many brands and models, but the latest to the plate has what could be considered an artful blend of functional utility with a price that is bound to fit any budget loose enough to allow a dedicated BC pole.
With the release of the Scepter, Backcountry Access has put their spin on the classic, adjustable length ski pole. At a quick glance there isn’t much new with these poles except the grip. That also means there isn’t much wrong with any of them either and whether or not one is worth choosing instead of another brand depends on your priorities and budget.
Scepter SeriesThere are three poles in the Scepter series: an two-piece aluminum pole, a two-piece carbon/aluminum pole, and a four-piece, Z-style collapsible pole. The Z-pole configuration is great for traveling when you want to shrink your poles to fit inside a pack, but this model doesn’t have the grip that warrants closer consideration.
The two-piece poles use the K2 Lock-Jaw clamp that opens easily, and clamps down securely. From the factory you might deem it doesn’t have quite enough locking force, but it is an easy operation to tighten the clamp up. Pop the back bar off the cam, then twist it until it is tight enough. Generally a full turn is enough change to eliminate any potential collapsing of the pole when you lean on it hard.
Simple BasketThe standard basket for the Scepter is a simple, hexagonally shaped plastic ring. If you want a larger basket, consider swapping for K2′s powder basket for their Lock Jaw series of poles. With adequate force the baskets twist on or off relatively easy, but won’t easily pop off while skiing.
One size fits all
Unlike most adjustable poles, the BCA’s Scepter pole comes in one size that adjusts from 105cm for deep knee telemarkers and short people, all the way up to 145cm. Most ski poles have a small model that goes from 100cm to 125 or 130cm, and a large size that goes from 115cm to 145cm. If you’re counting grams, BCA’s one size fits all is a tad heavy. However, unless you absolutely must have a pole that shrinks to 100cm, the 105cm to 145cm adjustment range is something I think you’ll find is worth a few extra grams to carry for that range of adjustment for length. Personally I don’t adjust the length of my poles much, except when I want them to be extra long so I can add poling power when skating across a flat zone, and then I want them as long as possible. With BCA’s Scepter that can be 145cm, but since I set my poles at 110cm, with other makers that means my pole length maxes out at 135cm. It isn’t a big deal, but I consider the extra 10cm worth the extra weight of an all aluminum pole.
The Grip’s The ShizWhere BCA really brings something new to the table is with their grip, which has a long flat top for quickly pushing off the snow that collects on the tops of your skis when you’re skinning. This can really add a fair amount of weight to your every stride and having a way to quickly remove it with the handle of BCA’s Scepter poles more than makes up for the few extra grams they weigh for being all aluminum and potentially extra long.
That long table top also makes the grip more functional when it comes to other duties delegated to poles, like lifting climbing wires. On the short end of this top platform is a well defined “beak” for lifting the front lever on a tech toe to lock out release when touring. It is even a fairly nice platform to palm from the top when climbing, but for this I must request that BCA add just enough material to give the top of the platform a slightly rounded shape; not enough to eliminate the scraper function, but enough to make palming a bit more comfortable.
Under the grip is a short gripping section for choking up on a traverse. The webbing straps are nothing fancy, just a simple, adjustable bit of webbing. It isn’t extra wide, or padded, but will cinch tight around the back of your wrist when you feel compelled to have the extra security straps can provide.
Overall there’s a lot of value in BCA’s Scepter ski pole. You can find a lighter pair of poles, or cheaper, but I doubt you can find a pair that scrapes snow from your skis, eliminating drag weight, with as wide of an adjustment range, with such a budget conscious price. Available Fall 2015.
Weight/pole: 10 oz. (280 g)
Weight/pole: 8½ oz. (240 g)