Backcountry Access Scepter Carbon Review
Cons: Doesn't pack small, grip is too small for large hands, heavier than expected
Manufacturer: Backcountry Access
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Backcountry Access Scepter Carbon
|Price||$130 List||$149.95 at Amazon||$169.95 at Amazon||$155 List||$76.93 at REI|
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|Pros||Unique scraper handle, durable for a partially carbon pole, decent grip, releasable wrist strap||Comfortable grip, lightweight, good features||Packs very short and slender, lightweight, simple and fast to use||Nice grip features, relatively light, easy to use||Simple design, good durability, comfortable grip|
|Cons||Doesn't pack small, grip is too small for large hands, heavier than expected||Not as durable as some, doesn't pack small enough for splitboarders||Fixed length, not as strong as other poles||Not durable, grip only works for large hands, doesn't pack small||Sluggish swing weight, doesn't pack as small as we hoped|
|Bottom Line||The scraper handle sets this carbon pole apart from the rest of the pack||These lightweight poles are great for big days in the hills||The right choice for splitboarding, this pair is simple to use and packs small||A good carbon pole for users with large hands||An unremarkable 3-section backcountry ski pole, but can double as a trekking pole|
|Rating Categories||Scepter Carbon||Black Diamond Razor Carbon Pro||Black Diamond Carbon Compactor||G3 Via Carbon||Black Diamond Expedition 3|
|Ease Of Use (35%)|
|Packed Size (15%)|
|Specs||Scepter Carbon||Black Diamond...||Black Diamond...||G3 Via Carbon||Black Diamond...|
|Size Tested||145 cm||140 cm||120 cm||Long||140 cm|
|Measured Weight Per Pair (oz)||21 oz||18 oz||18 oz||18 oz||19 oz|
|Shaft Material||Carbon, aluminum||Carbon, aluminum||Carbon fiber||Carbon||Aluminum|
|Min Length (cm)||105 cm||115 cm||120 cm||115 cm||62 cm|
|Max Length (cm)||145 cm||140 cm||120 cm||145 cm||140 cm|
|Pole Design||Adjustable||Adjustable||Z-Pole||Adjustable||Double Adjustable|
|Locking Mechanism||Plastic Lever||Flick Lock||Z-Pole||Flick Lock||Dual Flick Lock|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Scepter features a unique scraper handle in the backcountry ski pole market, plus a rarely-seen releasable wrist strap. Other than that, it performs about average for a carbon-aluminum hybrid ski pole.
Ease of Use
The BCA Scepter features a large grip handle with a rectangular shape designed to easily scrape snow off the topsheets of skis when skinning, reducing the weight that the user must drag uphill with each step. In reality, the scraper feature is slightly rounded and dull, not sharp enough to effectively and reliably scrape icy snow off a ski's topsheet. Furthermore, the strap often gets in the way of the scraper, reducing its effectiveness even further. Our testers like the scraper idea, and found it somewhat useful, but not a large enough reason alone to spring for this pole.
Otherwise, the pole's velcro strap is easily adjustable, and when yanked hard, like during a crash or when caught on a tree, the strap releases from the grip. This is a fantastic feature for backcountry skiing that can prevent injury and also prevent dropping a pole because users won't hesitate to wear their pole straps. Plastic lever locks securely fix the pole's length, and the locks are easy to tighten and loosen by simply rotating the locking lever; no tool needed. The Scepter Carbon is equipped with large powder baskets that come in handy on deep days in the backcountry. Some of our testers liked to use the large scraper handles for pushing against when skinning, but other testers didn't like the large handle, which can feel abrasive against the palm.
The Scepter Carbon weighs more than the average backcountry ski pole in our test group. At 21 ounces per pair, it weighs in on the heavier side of the spectrum but remains lighter than some options on the market. If you are looking for a lightweight ski pole for long days and light-and-fast missions, look elsewhere, but this pole is a great compromise between weight and durability for the daily ski tour.
This pole features carbon in the lower shaft and aluminum in the upper shaft, saving weight in places while improving durability. The secondary grip is made of foam instead of the rubber that we see on other poles on the market, which helps save some grams. In general, we see a relationship between weight and durability. The lighter a pole gets, the less durable it is. The Scepter falls on the heavier, more durable side of the spectrum.
We are surprised by the Scepter's durability. After a month of skinning, bushwhacking, and hard-charging backcountry skiing in Colorado and Wyoming, these poles barely show a scratch and certainly don't have any structural damage or wear. We even whacked a few dead branches out of the way while skinning through thick timber and haven't been able to break these poles yet. We detected some wear in the straps, with loose threads after two weeks of use, but the pole shafts remain in great shape after heavy-duty use. We would expect these poles to last at least one season of everyday use, which is good for a carbon pole.
The Scepter does not pack very small. With two sections that extend using a telescoping design, these poles are not designed to be collapsed to a small size. The minimum length in telescope mode is 105cm, and the pole breaks down a bit smaller than that when the pole sections are taken apart, but these poles won't break down and fit on the side of most touring backpacks. As such, they are unsuitable for backcountry splitboarding. On the upside, the pole extends to a maximum length of 145cm, which is very useful for long exits on flat roads where skating is necessary.
The BCA Scepter is a fairly comfortable ski pole. The grip features nice contours and a good thickness, but it is too short for users with large hands. One tester noted that the lip on the bottom of the grip came up about half an inch short of the end of the palm of his gloved hand. Other poles in our review feature longer grips that fit larger hands better, but small and average hand-sized users will find this pole comfortable.
The top of the handle on a backcountry ski pole is used to push down against when the skin track gets steep. The large, rectangular handle provides a large platform to push against, which some users like, but the straight edges get annoying over time and even cause discomfort on the palm's skin. After a long test period, our lead tester decided that he doesn't like the comfort of the top of the Scepter's handle.
The Scepter Carbon is relatively inexpensive compared to other high-end and durable backcountry poles while providing key performance attributes. The pole seems built to last, but we have had issues with BCA's warranty program in the past, especially with carbon products. Still, this pole will probably last multiple seasons of average use and is a good deal.
The BCA Scepter Carbon is a solid overall ski pole with plenty of length adjustment, an ideal balance between weight and durability, and great overall usefulness in the backcountry. The scraper handle could function better, and the grip is unrefined, but overall, this is a good carbon/aluminum hybrid backcountry pole that will likely provide multiple seasons of use.
— Jeff Dobronyi