If you're into bouldering then it's likely that at some point you'll have found yourself needing to brush a hold that is just out of reach. Up until now I've always made do with a stick I found near Mother's Pet a few years back to get to those inacessible holds, but over the past few months I've been putting the Project Brush Stick through its paces.
Now I'm aware that even before I begin this review I should address what will undoubtedly be the first question raised after its publication: why not make your own? Obviously it would cost less, much less than the £39 price-tag of the Project Brush Stick, and it's worth mentioning that I have indeed done this myself; but that's not what we're reviewing - we're reviewing the Project Brush Stick. Still, I'll try to compare the features of each to keep things real...
There are some fairly major benefits to the functionality of the Project Brush Stick over my previous wooden stick model, most notably the fact that it is telescopic, with a range of up to 2.5m. Clearly my wooden stick lacks the ability to telescope, so immediately there's a plus here as I can carry something that has the ability to brush things high up in a relatively compact form. In addition to length, weight is also a consideration. Like-for-like my stick weighs in at 350g vs. the Brush Stick's 470g. Obviously I could have used a lighter stick, but you want/need something that's a bit more sturdy so you can actually brush things - if it bends too much then your ability to clean holds is diminished (you can tell I've thought about this a little too much). On that note, I did ask the manufacturers why they didn't create a longer length and the answer was simple: flex. Whilst there is a degree of flex to the Project Brush Stick it is to an acceptable degree; any more and I suspect durability - and actually getting any meaningful power behind the brush itself - would become a fairly major issue.
One downside of the telescopic design is that it obviously has moving parts that can fail. Over the past few months I have experienced a few technical issues when the mechanism has failed to engage, leaving me with 1.5m instead of 2.5m. The next session it might work again, but there has been a slightly unpredictable element as to whether it will or won't engage, something that is obviously quite annoying when you need to brush high-up holds (which is after all what you've bought it for). Clearly this isn't an issue with the wooden stick, unless you snap it!
The head unit of the Project Brush Stick is designed to fit (and comes supplied with) a Lapis Uber brush, which features a large surface area and soft bristles. The fastening is secure and the brush is difficult to knock out, even with the most vigorous use! Whilst this isn't a brush I'd personally used a lot before, it is a good all-rounder for the kind of thing you use the Project Brush Stick for and the only reason I have changed it is for the purposes of this review. For those wishing further refinement other brushes fit too, but some fit better than others. The Sublime Brush for instance fits, but on the outside of the sleeve rather than the inside; as such isn't quite as stable, and a bit easier to knock out mid-brush.
On topic of the adjustability, the head unit has three settings: straight, 45 degrees and 90 degrees. The first and last settings are easy to adjust and very secure, but the 45 degree setting does take some tinkering with, as it's easy to miss the sweet spot and thus end up with a loose head which is quite ineffective for brushing. The tightening wheel can also be a little hard to tighten with cold hands and something that might have been nice to see would have been more of a handle or nut to make it easier to crank it up.
One thing that has drawn comment in the UKC Forums, and something that I too had noticed, was a potential missed opportunity to create a modular clipstick + brush stick adaptor for those that both boulder and sport climb (which I'd imagine would account for a large number of users). The ability to have an interchangeable or multi-purpose head would have been great - but alas it is not to be here. As such, the Project Brush Stick is very much for boulderers only. There is a selfie stick adaptor available, but...well...how do I put this...
One final note, and this is more a matter of etiquette, is to consider when it is and is not appropriate to brush. With soft/wet rock there could be a lasting impact from over-zealous brushing and having a brush stick does encourage you to give it more welly than you might otherwise, so please think twice and be careful. On the plus side, assuming the situation is correct, use of a brush stick (be that the Project Brush Stick or that old wooden stick I mentioned earlier) will hopefully encourage people to leave problems as they found them, clear of chalk and ready for the next person.
It may not be long until you see me reviewing some form of compact stepladder for boulderers; then and only then will you have my permission to say that enough is enough and the end of the world is nigh... Until then, if you are after something a bit more sophisticated than a toothbrush duct taped to a stick then the Beta Project Brush Stick is for you. Whilst some may baulk at the price (which I would argue is fair) and the absence of a clipstick feature (which would have been a very useful addition), it serves the purpose of brushing out-of-reach holds very well and - contrary to the disapproving comments I forsee in the forums - I can see it becoming a popular choice for boulderers around the world, much as carrying a brush already is.
An adjustable, interchangeable, and lockable articulated brush for cleaning out of reach holds.
Made in Sheffield by Beta Climbing Designs, the Project Brush Stick is designed to be the perfect all-rounder, featuring an articulated head, extendable shaft, and a modular head that is compatible with a wide variety of brushes.
Available as of November 2016, the Project Brush Stick comes with a Lapis Uber Brush (and a free Font 8a tick*) as a part of the package. This, alongside the Standard Beta Stick Extendable Pole on which it is mounted, comes in at 510g, extending up to 2.5m, and available in shops for £39.
Stalwarts of using actual sticks, finger tape, and toothbrushes need not apply...
*terms, conditions, and climbing ability apply