The credit goes to my wife for finding the PoleClinometer. When she decided to buy some inclinometers for her girlfriends before a yurt trip in the Tetons, she literally Googled “inclinometer sticker,” thinking it would be handy to have it on a ski pole to get on-the-go slope angle measurements.
Well she and Grayson King must be on the same wavelength. My wife came across Grayson’s Kickstarter campaign for the PoleClinometer. Grayson successfully funded his Kickstarter project with 422 backers, and this handy $12 tool has since become one of the best sellers in our online store.
Grayson is the exact type of person you want behind a product like this. His attention to detail is impeccable. Grayson wasn't the first to think of a sticker for your ski pole; he was just the first to recognize that you need to do the math to account for the curvature of a ski pole. He said in prior attempts people took a concept that worked on a flat plane and then made it inaccurate by wrapping it around a ski pole.
I recently got the opportunity to test out the PoleClinometer and find out for myself whether this little contraption works. Yes, is the short answer, but read on for details and full Poleclinometer review.
The PoleClinometer comes with three custom stickers. You need to select the correct sticker for your pole based on shaft diameter: 14 mm, 16 mm or 18 mm.
Installing the PoleClinometer isn’t a totally slap-and-go process, and I did encounter a few small hiccups. That said, the instructions provided with the PoleClinometer are very good and dead accurate, so the main takeaway is to actually read them and follow each step carefully.
In summary, to apply the sticker, you first need to clean the pole with wipes (included). Then you need to use a ruler to draw a straight line on your pole, before lining up the sticker and wrapping it around the shaft.
Once you apply the sticker, you should get two arrows to line up and make an X. If they do, then you’re ready to head for the hills. If they don’t, well, you’ve got a problem.
Guess what? I had a problem!
So, I called Grayson to see what might be wrong. It turns out I have one the very few ski poles that aren’t 14 mm, 16 mm, or 18 mm in diameter. My 12-year-old Black Diamond Carbon Fliplock poles are 13.5 mm, according to Grayson. Fortunately, Grayson actually had some PoleClinometers made for my poles, so he sent some my way. The second go-around I got the X.
My second screw up was with the heat shrink sleeve that comes with the PoleClinometer, to protect it from abuse. The instructions say to use a heat gun or a lighter. I don’t have a heat gun, so I tried a lighter and it covered the heat sleeve with nasty soot that wouldn’t come off. I ended up taking the heat sleeve off before its melted blackness became a permanent fixture on my pole.
I probably should have borrowed a heat gun from a friend for my second attempt, but instead I used a propane torch and that worked fine. Grayson told me over the phone that it does work with a lighter but I would not personally try it again.
Poleclinometer In the field
Once my PoleClinometer was installed it was time to test it out. I skied some familiar terrain just outside the boundary of Grand Targhee Resort. I brought along a traditional inclinometer from BCA to compare measurements.
In comparing the BCA inclinometer with the PoleClinometer, I have to say the little sticker was impressively accurate, and a lot more fun and easier to use. As I was touring around, I found myself quickly “shooting” slope angles on the horizon more for the enjoyment than even safety.
There are two ways to get a slope angle measurement using the Pole Clinometer: sighting across the slope or down a slope.
For a first-time user, sighting across a slope is the easiest way to grab a slope angle measurement. Simply “dangle” your pole and match up the line on the PoleClinometer with the slope angle. Easy cheesy.
Sighting down a slope takes a little more finesse. And, OK, I’ll admit I didn’t get it figured out on my first attempt. The instructions say “At the top of a slope, sight down it….Look for the PoleClinometer lines that appear least curved in your line of site.”
Ummm, if you look at the lines they are all curved ... what?
When I got home, I re-read the instructions. I then took the pole and sighted down my stairs. Wow! One of the lines, though curved in reality, appeared totally straight. I measured my stairs at 35 degrees. I then tested my stairs with my BCA, and guess what? 35 degrees!
This is where the “magic” comes in. “Optical illusion” would be another way I’d describe it. I’m sure there is science behind how sighting down a slope works, but somebody smarter than me will have to explain it. (I’m talking to you Grayson).
I’ve since tested sighting down a slope out in the mountains, and, yep, it totally works.
Parting words of wisdom on the Poleclinometer
Make sure you dangle your pole. You can accomplish this by grasping the top of your grip loosely between your thumb and forefinger or by making a “Dang a Loop.” Grayson sent me an email about making a Dang a Loop by simply drilling a small hole in the top of your pole and threading bungee cord through it. The bungee makes it easy to dangle your poll and can also be used to hold your poles together when not skiing. You can read more about that here.
Test it out at home. I learned a lot playing around with my PoleClinometer at home. I used it to sight down the stairs, like I mentioned. I also took a measurement of my stairs from the side. Other ideas include shooting your roof angle or any hills you may have in your yard. Just have some fun with it.
Staying safe in the backcountry is all about making good decisions based on the data you have. And, the more data you can gather, the better.
In addition to reading avalanche and weather forecasts, and sometimes properly digging and documenting pits, I really like doing small, quick tests while I’m out skiing. I poke the snow pack with my ski pole, stomp on small test slopes and make quick hand pits. The PoleClinometer falls into this latter category of easy, quick ways to gather information. You can get slope angle data without having to do anything more than stop and lift your hand.
The bottom line: The PoleClinometer is another tool in your tool kit to help you stay safe in the backcountry. It's accurate and easy to use. I am looking forward to having the PoleClinometer with me and learning more as I go.
- Because it’s already on your pole and ready to use it’s quick and easy to get a slope angle
- Could save your life
- Need to follow installation instructions carefully and meticulously
- Using a lighter to apply the protective heat shrink coating is difficult at best. I suggest finding a friend with a heat gun.
- Make sure you have ski poles that measure 14mm, 16mm or 18mm, otherwise it won’t work