Soul Bamboo Ski Poles – Review

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Soul bamboo ski poles, not a gimmick but we're not sure about using them for backcountry skiing.

Soul bamboo ski poles, not a gimmick but we're not sure about using them for backcountry skiing.

Bamboo is hot these days. The fast growing plant is considered to be a sustainable material you can eat, grow for aesthetics, write on, wear, use for ski cores, make music with — and use for building stuff. While some of those uses are more green hype than pragmatic (especially bamboo fabric), ‘boo does make an amazing “natural composite” material. Until recently (in the lengthy history of skiing) it was the material of choice for poles. Aluminum and carbon fiber are favored nowadays, but bamboo could make a comeback. It looks cool and it’s sustainable. Surprisingly, bamboo in this sort of application is equal or even better than aluminum tube in a number of ways.

Thus, we couldn’t resist acquiring a set of bamboo ski sticks from Soul Poles

While Soul Poles are a bit clunky looking, the scale told a different story. To our surprise, fairly long testers weighed in at just 9.8 ounces, while a pair of big-brand adjustable backcountry poles we have lying around weighed nearly 1/2 ounce more! Granted, a high-quality fixed length alu pole could be slightly lighter, but most we weighed were virtually equal to the bamboo.

But, are bamboo ski poles strong? Apparently, yes. Soul poles are said to be 25% stronger than alu poles, and comparable to composite. Perhaps that’s exaggerated. Whatever, even if they’re comparable in strength that is strong enough.

Ok, Soul Poles look cool and are somewhat sustainable, with the grips etc being made with mostly recycled material. But practical? I like skinny, fixed-length carbon fiber poles. They’re lighter than the Soul Poles and work better as probes. But if you’re thinking of something more sustainable than your adjustable aluminum sticks, Soul could most certainly do equal duty. Especially for the resort, cut a pair to length and enjoy. They have a pleasant shock-absorbing flex, don’t freeze your hands when you choke up your grip, and yeah, a lift chair conversation starter for sure. Heck, if I was single I’d depend on them for a pickup line along with a discussion of the bamboo floor you just had installed in your kitchen.

Only inherent downside I found with Soul Poles is the grip shape is a bit archaic, and the strap buckle loosens during repetitive uphilling motions. Swapping grips could be fairly easy, but in our experience is probably best done by ordering your poles fairly long and cutting to length as the stock grip is difficult to remove. For less waste creation, Soul would probably supply poles without grips. They seem like that kind of company.

In all, Soul Poles remind me of all the innovation going on with ski these days. Something old, something new = something hip. Perhaps every ski pole quiver needs a pair.

Shop for ‘em.

Comments

19 Responses to “Soul Bamboo Ski Poles – Review”

  1. mark February 28th, 2013 9:54 am

    Talking to a girl you just met about installing bamboo flooring? Good thing you’re already married Lou!

  2. timstirling February 28th, 2013 10:23 am

    Don’t seem cheap mind. I’m someone who has a habit of breaking or loosing ski poles fairly regularly (same with sunglasses) so I tend to pick up basic cheap models, preferring fixed length alu poles. Tried various BD telescopic flick and twist locking poles and they all tend to fail before long. For the last years I have been using a pair of light alu poles that a lifty gave me for free after the prvious BD snapped in half. These held up well until the handles got pulled off 1 pole and the tip snapped off the other!
    I’m now using some cheap carbon fiber poles I picked up from Costco. The baskets failed on day 1 but I superglued on some older powder baskets. Twist lock mechanism sucks so I will superglue the poles to the right length….. Looking forward to the day these irreparably break and will go back to finding a cheap alu pole.

    My Worry with a bamboo pole is it that even if it is as strong as alu it will catastrophically in a splintered mess, i like the ability of alu to be bent back into shape, roughly. Kind of like the plastic vs alu shovel debate.

  3. Samuel Savard February 28th, 2013 10:37 am

    Thanks for the review, I saw those at the store the other day and wondered if they were any good. That was useful!

  4. Lee February 28th, 2013 11:35 am

    Went touring once and at the road head discovered I’d left my poles at home. A couple of very rough bits of ash branch snapped to length did for the uphill, but they lacked something on the way down and quickly snapped. Made for an interesting day though! video here https://plus.google.com/photos/107001351347285604825/albums/5298250522321180273/5311892879355228338?banner=pwa
    not sure if link will work

  5. Lou Dawson February 28th, 2013 11:45 am

    I forgot to mention that the wrist straps are hemp fabric. If you want to go beyond that, you can find some nice bamboo bongs out there in google land.

  6. Gnorwegian February 28th, 2013 12:19 pm

    Check out Panda Poles for another bamboo pole alternative. They offer very customizable poles (length, grip, strap).
    http://www.pandapoles.com

  7. Lee February 28th, 2013 12:44 pm

    Personally I don’t like the clunky look of bamboo. Would love to see someone making split cane poles… was the material of choice for fishing rods before glass fibre, carbon fibre, boron, etc. Split cane is a thing of beauty as it has a hexagonal section rather than the nobbly bamboo look… anybody know of anyone making split cane stuff?

  8. John Gloor February 28th, 2013 3:48 pm

    Lee, I have to agree with you about the knobby appearance of natural bamboo. After watching a couple of youtube videos on the making of split bamboo flyrods, that seems like the way to make a really nice bamboo pole. Price might be a limiting factor though.

  9. Phil Miller February 28th, 2013 3:54 pm

    I’ve seen split cane poles on walls. They are a thing of beauty. The threaded binding really sets them off. I don’t know anybody willing to pay for the craft to put a pair together. It would have to be more than $400! And unlike a fly-fishing rod, we don’t exactly baby our ski poles… But there are plenty of skiing fly rod makers out there. Mountains are full of ‘em…

  10. John Gloor February 28th, 2013 3:58 pm
  11. David March 1st, 2013 7:03 am

    Sustainable? Granted I don’t ski every day or even every week, but have had the same pair of cheap poles for nearly twenty years… I use them hiking the Greens/Whites/ADK and skinning/skiing, as well as for random “chores” around the house. My Dad has had his for thirty+ years… Seems people need a lesson in how to care for property, rather than relying on “sustainability” to treat their property recklessly. Not trying to be a wet-blanket, this was just my knee-jerk reaction. Keep up the great “work” (grin) Lou!

  12. Bryon Friedman March 1st, 2013 8:06 am

    Hey all…thanks for the honest comments. I thought you should know that we make everything by hand in Park City, UT using recycled plastics for our grips, and baskets. The straps aren’t actually hemp, they’re a recycled PET plastic weave and we are working on a thicker version with more traction. Finally, we offer a 1 year guarantee on all of our products and put on workshops where you can also design, build, and customize your own poles with us at the shop. Hope this is helpful.

    Bryon

  13. Roberta McDonnell March 1st, 2013 11:54 am

    I got a pair for Christmas. I LOVE them. They did me right in Taos this Winter.
    And if you have any problems, they fix it, no whinning.

    Thanks SoulPoles.

    Roberta

  14. skyler March 2nd, 2013 3:09 pm

    This is hilarious. Bamboo poles aren’t new, you can pick up 40 year old bamboo poles at most thrift stores for about $5. I’ve been using a pair (with leather wrist straps) for two seasons, and they weigh several ounces less than these $184 hipster jokes.

  15. Loris March 3rd, 2013 10:12 pm

    Nice to see this, looks like a great niche product. I’d love to see lots of people using them in a couple years at resorts. Apparently the Petronas Towers (tallest building in the world for a while) were built w/ bamboo scaffolding…

  16. matt September 28th, 2013 2:21 pm

    Bamboo is a great material for ski poles and like a previous poster stated, they have been doing it for years and years.
    I have no problem with someone trying to make a buck but these things are outrageously expensive. As someone who purchases bamboo for trail markers, I can tell you that material in these poles would cost about $5 (retail).
    If you want some of these poles, get some broken poles from a rental shop and use the parts to make your own. That would be the MOST sustainable way to do it and it would be a fun, easy project.

  17. Jim Milstein September 28th, 2013 9:16 pm

    I have for years made my poles from bundles of horsetail fern fish-glued together. What’s wrong with you people? Improvise!

  18. Lou Dawson September 29th, 2013 7:14 am

    And what’s this obsession about skiing with two poles? Why not a single chunk of moderately sized log, like they used to do? Dragging it on one side or the other does a nice counter-steer turn that requires nothing more than some arm strength.

    Yeah, it’s called a “lurk” in some translations, while I’d just call it a “stick.”

    Some pretty hilarious tele action associated with it.

    http://youtu.be/8gkYfivRAfY

  19. Jim Milstein September 29th, 2013 9:16 am

    They call it a lurk; you call it a stick; I call it a staff.

    Just like a senator, I go nowhere without my staff.

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Welcome to Louis (Lou) Dawson's backcountry skiing information opinion website and e magazine. Lou's passion for the past 45 years has been alpinism, climbing, mountaineering and skiing -- along with all manner of outdoor recreation. He has authored numerous books and articles about backcountry skiing and is well known as the first person to ski down all 54 of Colorado's 14,000-foot peaks, otherwise known as the Fourteeners! Books and free back country news and information here, and tons of Randonnee rando telemark info.

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