PRODUCT SPOTLIGHT: Compactor ski pole
Innovation is what drives everything here at Black Diamond. If we're not making gear better, stronger, lighter, faster, more durable and easier to use, then we're not doing our job. In this new series of monthly posts, we'll be giving you an inside look at some of our most innovative products through one-on-one interviews with our team of industry-leading product designers and category directors.
This month, we sat down with our Ski Accessories Category Director, Curtis Graves, to talk about the Compactor ski pole, which brings our innovative Z-Pole technology to the world of winter sports. The Compactor comes in two different sizes and has already received an Editor's Pick Award from Freeskier Magazine.
For more information and to grab yourself a pair, CLICK HERE.
What was the design goal in creating the Compactor?
The intention of the Compactor was to bring winter use to our highly successful compactable Z-Pole technology.
How does the winter sports category benefit from Z-Pole technology?
The Compactor customer is looking for compactability, like traveling to go ski touring, or splitboarders—that's really where we've seen most of the early demand is in the splitboarding community—folks that need a touring pole on the way up and then need the pole to disappear inside their pack on the way down. Rather than just trying to find the most compactable trekking pole, this gives people a true ski pole on the way up.
What are the advantages of the Compactor over a traditional ski pole?
Compactability. The fact that it compacts down to 16 inches and can go in your pack rather than on the outside. And for the person looking for a true ski pole for ascents or light ski touring, it's a fully functional ski pole when it's deployed.
Any limitations compared to a standard ski pole?
It's not quite as strong. The original Z-Pole design was created for endurance runners and fastpackers, and we've taken a lot of steps to reinforce this for 4-season use and for light ski touring. But we hesitate to compare it to a traditional downhill pole—there are some compressive forces that occur in the ski pole world that the Compactor isn't really intended for.
What unique challenges did you come across in designing and creating the Compactor?
The main challenge was expanding already proven Z-Pole technology into the snow sports world. Whereas icing and freezing don't necessarily apply to trekking poles, we had to overcome those issues and also reinforce the pole in different ways for winter use, mainly by increasing the thickness of the ferrules and optimizing the tube length to get it to compact down properly with a ski pole grip.
What steps were taken to overcome the freezing issue?
We increased the inside diameter of the outer tube by a few tenths of a millimeter compared to what you'd find on our standard Z-Poles, so when the FlickLock adjustment is open, the tube is a lot looser inside, which essentially creates a self-clearing system and keeps the pole from freezing up.
We didn't just take a Distance FL and put a ski pole grip on it, that would have been too easy. That was the starting point, but we went through a lot of validations this winter getting this to the right specs. We also learned a lot through the development of the Compactor that we can apply to future trekking pole and ski pole lines.