After a few weeks of being overly-excited about snow and forgetting our responsibilities, we finally set out on Sunday with the specific purpose of testing out the PoleClinometer and comparing it to some of the more popular inclinometers on the market.  That’s not to say we didn’t get in some epic turns as well, but we’ll get to those in another post.

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It was a beautiful day both for playing with gear and using it to shred.

First, the inclinometers!

Our mission was to see how well the PoleClinometer performed.  In order to do that, we needed a baseline, so we brought along a Pieps 30°PLUS Digital Inclinometer and a BCA Slope Meter.  We set out looking for a good slope to measure and found one pretty quickly.

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Dave taking a photo of the reading from the PoleClinometer

For each of our tests, we used the PoleClinometer first so we didn’t taint our reading of the scale lines by already having numbers in our heads.

First, we set up the PoleClinometer for a downslope measurement.  It read a pretty solid 25°.  (We plea guilty to improper use of the PoleClinometer: you’re supposed to let it dangle vertically from your hand.  We set it vertically in the snow, mainly because it’s darn difficult to take a closeup photo holding a camera in one hand and dangling a pole in the other.)

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Read off the line that appears flat as you look down the slope.

Next, we pulled out the Pieps, which lives on Sean’s pole, and took a reading.  The Pieps straps on using two stretchy straps.  We’ve seen no signs that it’s anything but secure.  It operates from -20°C to +45°C; -4°F to +113°F and weighs 30g, including the battery.  The device is not user serviceable, so you can’t replace the battery, but Pieps estimates that it will last five years.   Pieps measured the slope at 24°.  That’s spot on with our PoleClinometer reading.

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Pieps measures 24°.

Our last tester, the BCA Slope Meter, uses a small metal ball in a liquid filled tube to measure the slope.  BCA doesn’t disclose what the liquid is, but its purpose is to damp the movement of the ball so it doesn’t throw wild parties in the tube.  The BCA doubles as a scraper and include a small, mostly useless compass.  It also weighs 30g, but will never run out of batteries and will not stop operating at low temps because the battery gets to cold – there is no battery.  However, the BCA measured a bit high –

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The BCA Slope Meter Measured somewhere slightly north of 27°.

While we were surprised that the BCA measured high, it did explain some trends Sean had been seeing that kept him off of some slopes that were probably safe.  He had been thinking that everything was steeper than it actually was.  We can’t be sure that all BCA Slope Meters read high or that it was just this one.  Regardless, we eliminated the BCA from the comparison.

Next, we tested the PoleClinometer cross-slope reading against the Pieps.  First, with the PoleClinometer, the slope lines up right on the 45° line.

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PoleClinometer cross-slope measurement.

Our measurement with the Pieps was right in line.

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Pieps reading on the same slope – 46°

Our final PoleClinometer review?

Based on our comparison of the PoleClinometer in both down-slope and cross-slope readings, we trust it completely.  It’s simple to use and provides accurate estimates of slope angle.

We think the PoleClinometer is an essential tool for backcountry travel.  It weighs almost nothing.  It’s easy to install and use properly.  It’s inexpensive.  It’s always available.  It doesn’t have operating temperature limits (like the Pieps) or run out of batteries (like the Pieps).  It can’t break.

The PoleClinometer should come on every single backcountry ski pole.

Need help comparing gear?  Can’t figure out what’s right for you?  Our Gear Concierge has years of experience doings weird tests like this.  Put our experience to work for you!