Overall: Five Stars for sitting nearly weightlessly in your pack to meet IMSF race regs (Section 9, Appendix 2). But as an avalanche safety instructor for AIARE and NSP (as well as an American Avalanche Associate governing board member), I feel compelled to subtract two stars for backcountry companion avalanche rescue as assembly is a bit difficult with an overly flexible feel, so Three Stars overall. The very similar ARVA Carbon 240 Light probe is a better choice for backcountry rescue.
Background on product familiarity: I bought the CAMP carbon fiber probe in 2008, but mainly it has just sat in my pack when I have been absolutely certain I would not need it (but brought it just in case I was wrong…).
First, the first impressions out of the box: Despite the impressively light weight, the 240cm length is sufficient for backcountry companion rescue (of any burial depth at which you have a chance of fast extrication). The ferrules (or whatever the proper term may be for the portions of the sections that overlap) are plastic, and a full centimeter shorter than the metal ferrules on the ARVA Carbon 240 Light.
Assembly entails pulling the knot on the connector cord up and over either of two slots on the end of final section. If you have the arm strength, this is almost as fast as the various mechanisms on more mainstream probes. But if you’re struggling for sufficient grip in snowy conditions and/or bulky gloves (or especially mittens), and you are also not very strong, then assembly could be a nightmare in a panicked rescue. You can adjust the tension beforehand simply by changing the position of the knot along the cord, but set the position too easy to assemble and then the probe will be too flexible. Overall, still acceptable, just not as easy as more mainstream models.
Second impressions, in use: The deflection of the assembled probe is noticeable, with a somewhat rattly feel, especially relative to the similar ARVA Carbon 240 Light. This is probably a function of the assembly method’s stiff connector cord – as compared to the ARVA’s stretchier cord, which allows more tension – and relatively shorter plastic ferrules, as compared to the ARVA’s 1cm longer metal ferrules. The advantage relative to the ARVA is that less force is required to pull connector cord, since its lack of stretch calls for less tension during assembly.
Third impressions, for long-term durability: In my avalanche safety courses, by far the most frequent gear failures are probes. The cord on this probe will probably fray eventually, especially with having to pull the knot up and over the slot on the end. However, if you reserve this probe exclusively for avalanche rescue (and the occasional practice assembly to refresh your memory of how it works), then the cord should be fine. But I also have reservations also to how well the probe will hold up to probing in very firm avy debris, given its relatively flexible and rattly assembled feel.
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