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Reviews > Trekking Poles > Poles > Black Diamond Alpine CF > Brian Tannehill > Test Report by Brian Tannehill

BLACK DIAMOND ALPINE CF HIKING POLES
TEST SERIES BY BRIAN TANNEHILL
LONG-TERM REPORT
March 18, 2007

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Brian Tannehill
EMAIL: tannehillclan (at) gmail (dot) com
AGE: 31
LOCATION: Colorado Springs, Co
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 7" (1.70 m)
WEIGHT: 185 lbs (83.90 kg)

I am fairly new to backpacking, but I have hunted/fished/camped all my life in East Texas, Colorado, and California. My young kids (4, 10, 12) limit me to weekend overnight camping trips, or day hikes Geocaching. I am also an avid mountain biker. Currently I live in Colorado Springs, Co at the base of the Rocky Mountains. Pike National Forest surrounds me at 9000 - 14,110 feet (2743 m - 4301 m). Snow can happen 10 months out of the year and summer is the hottest reaching 65 F + (18 C +), the other months average 45 F (7 C).


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

IMAGE 1



Manufacturer: Black Diamond
Year of Manufacture: 2006
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/
MSRP: US$ Unknown
Listed Weight: 17 ounces (498 grams)
Measured Weight: 17.88 ounces (507 grams) (for the pair)
Lengths: Packed length (closed) 25 in (64 cm)
Useable length: 100 - 130 cm (39 - 51 in)

Other details: From the product packaging, it says "If you travel often in colder weather where you demand SAFETY and RELIABILITY, you cannot afford to worry about twisting and tighting your adjustment system. Our Mountain Series Trekking Poles use our patended "Zero-Slip" FLICKLOCK system for super quick and easy-to-use adjustments even with gloves on---a mechanical lock that will never let you down. "

"The Fastest, quickest, and most secure adjustment system--flick closed and go"

"Mechanical-locking FlickLock does not rely on twisting for friction and does not wear out."Patended double FlickLock adjustment system is quick and easy-to-use even with gloves on."

From the BGT News site as these are not posted to the BD site yet:
"The new triple-section carbon Alpine CF is our ultimate lightest weight trekking pole. It features dual FlickLocks, three vibration-absorbing carbon fiber sections and a new streamlined dual-density top knob for increased palming and downhill control. This pole offers grip variations for extended use comfort, a non-slip foam grip with lower extension for choking up on steeper terrain, comfy 360 padded webbing, low profile non-snagging trekking baskets, and with Long Flex Tips it allows year-round versatility with accessory Powder Baskets."

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

Whoa Nellie!! Was my first thought when I saw these poles. I have hiked exclusively the last 3-4 years with a homemade hiking pole that I really love. It's made from a small tree I found while out hunting in Colorado one year and it has my initials and the date branded into it. I have only ever used one pole. Now these two poles which combined weigh 17 oz (498 g) will replace this pole.

The poles are made from carbon fiber, predominantly black in color with some silver logos and accenting. Starting at the top with the handle, it has a soft foam grip with a rubber top.

IMAGE 6



The foam is fairly stiff, but comfortable and is formed to fit in the palm of the hand. There is a place for the trigger finger, and a place for the base of the hand to rest. The wrist strap is about 1.5 in (4 cm) wide and feels really comfortable. It is adjustable to allow for bigger hands or gloves. The foam then continues down the shaft of the pole to make a second place to grab the pole on up hill hikes. See the below image for a picture of the grip and wrist strap.

IMAGE 5



The trekking pole is made of three sections of carbon fiber pole. Each section tapers to a smaller diameter towards the bottom and can be separated for cleaning and maintenance. Each section is held in place by the patented Flick Lock system. Its more of a squeeze instead of a flick, but none the less it seems to hold very well so far. Here is a picture of the flick lock system open.

IMAGE 4



and here is a picture of the flick lock system closed.

IMAGE 3



Each section is labeled with lengths between 100 - 130 cm (39 - 51 in). I basically match each section to the desired length and go. Initially I am using 115 cm (45 in) as the correct length for me.

The bottom of the poles consist of a small basket and a long tip that ends with a metal tip. The basket is roughly 1.5 in (4 cm) in diameter, and the tip is 3 in (8 cm) long. The very bottom of the metal tip reminds me of a lead pellet from a pellet rifle.

IMAGE 2





TESTING STRATEGY

My test plan would consist of using these poles on every hike I take. I would also like to try them out with my Crazy Creek hammock and set it up like a bivy, with the poles supporting the tarp overhead.

Another design I have contemplated with my homemade hammock is to use these hiking poles like a spreader bar at either end of my home made hammock and spread it out so that it doesn't constrict me as much when I lay down in it.

Since I am finally in an area that gets some snow, I would also use these for snow shoeing, and I am looking to make a homemade pulk and would like them to help pull that.

My test plan would also help answer some of the following questions:

With my current pole, my hands tend to fall asleep while using them. Will this happen with these wrist straps?

How wide is the wrist strap? It looks like it is lined with some type of jersey nit material, will that gather gunk and funk? Will it be easy to clean? Can I disconnect them from the poles and wash them? Will they fit over a pair of thick winter gloves?

How is the wrist strap connected to the handle? Will it pull out if a lot of pressure like a fall is placed on them?

Will my hands become sweaty with the grips? If so will the grips collect gunk from use? Will it be easy to clean?

The grip looks like it is laid over a cork handle. Will the grip peel up over time? Will I have a tendency to pick at the grip and cause it to pull up?

Will my hands fit the grips with thick winter gloves on?

How well does the locking system work. My son tested a pair of kids sized hiking poles and it was difficult for even me to get the twistlock to lock sometimes. How do the FlickLock mechanisms work? Will the cold affect them?

How easy will they be to adjust? Can I do it with thick winter gloves on?

How will the metal tips perform on the Ice? On Rocks? Will it bite or slip?

How well do they stand up to freezing temperatures? Provided they will fit, I will freeze these poles in my deep freeze and see what happens in extreme cold weather. Otherwise I will be using these primarily in the ice and snow as we are fast approaching winter here. If they wont fit I will sit them out overnight in any freezing weather/snow to see how they perform.

The baskets look really small; will they catch on a lot of things? Will they collect any snow? Dirt? Debris?

How will the poles "feel"? Will they feel balanced? Will they feel easy to use? Will they make me tired?

How will they stand up to 185 lbs (79 kg) of weight constantly being put on them? Will they feel strong? Will they bend much under pressure?

It looks like below the normal handgrip is a second grip. When moving uphill is it easier to choke up on the poles and use this second grip or to reposition the lengths of the poles?

How will they pack when I'm not using them? Will they fit easily into my pack? Will I need to strap them to the outside? Will I need extra cordage to strap them down?

Will they work as a support for my camera? I take lots of pictures when I go out. I like to set the camera on top of the hiking pole and use it to hold the camera still. Will these facilitate holding the camera like my hiking pole does?

Will the lettering for the different lengths rub off over time?

And the biggest question after hiking with just one pole for the last 3-4 years is will I like having a pole in each hand?


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

The locations of my tests have been on the trails around my house at the base of the Rocky Mountains of Pike National Forest just west of Colorado Springs. Elevations ranged from 7000 feet (2134 m) at my house up to around 10,000 feet (3048 m) in the local mountains. Weather so far has been cold and snowy. Temperatures have ranged anywhere from 3 F( -16 C) to about 45 F (7 C).

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I have used these poles on about five different day hikes so far. I have had about 60 inches (152 cm) of snow dumped on me for the month of December, and only about 10 inches (25 cm) through the first 14 days of January 2007. I have hiked on the trails (what I can find) through the woods around where I live, with and without snowshoes. At any given time I have been hiking through 10-15 inches (25 - 38 cm) of snow. Some of the snow drifts have been 36+ inches (91+ cm) deep. When I hiked with these poles before the massive amounts of snow arrived, I had them set about 115 cm (45 in), which was fine for me. When I hiked in the deep snow, I did increase the length to help me dig through the snow.

Snowdrift
Just a small drift of about 24 inches (61 cm) here
Shoes_poles
Only about 10 inches (25 cm) of snow in this picture


Overall the poles have done great and I really like them. They are light weight, strong, and have really helped me hiking, especially in the deep snow. There are a few marks down on the lower end of the poles from whacking bushes and holding limbs and such out of the way for my little one when she goes with me, but nothing that would hinder the performance of the poles. The snow has stuck to the baskets, but being small, they do not collect very much at all. No snow sticks to the poles themselves, and any that is on the baskets is knocked off easily. The metal tips show some wear, and have been poked in everything from snow, to mud, to rock, to concrete, to wood. While they have a few scrapes and very minor dings, they are not worn out.

As far as the weather, it has been very cold here. The last few days of the 10th through the 14th of January 2007 the highs have not risen above freezing. The poles have set outside in my carport in the freezing weather for through out that period and have not had any negative affects to show from this. I pulled them inside and immediately put my weight on them for a few minutes to see if the cold made them brittle and susceptible to breaking. I also opened and closed and re adjusted the lengths, while the poles were still freezing cold. The poles held up fine.

A couple of things I have noted about these poles though is the hand grip angle and vibrations while walking. One of the things I do not like about these poles is the hand grip angle. There are a number of different ways to hold these poles. To me, to properly size a pole, my arm needs to bend at the elbow in a 90 deg angle. This would give my hand on the grip a 90 deg angle to the pole as well. However, the grips on the poles force my hands to turn upward some versus staying at a 90 deg angle. For the majority of my hiking, I have the poles set to this angle, which is about 115 cm (45 in) for me.

The poles are set at 115 cm (45 in) in this shot so that my arm is almost a 90 deg angle, like I think it is supposed to be for proper size with hiking poles. This is where I like the poles for a proper fit to me. However this is a bit uncomfortable to me when I hike. The straps are not on properly, as I'm just trying to point out the grip angle.
90 deg angle
Proper angle


In the next photo the poles are set a little bit higher to show the angle of the grip. The poles are set to the maximum of 130 cm (51 in) and is a bit more comfortable when using the poles, however they are too tall for me to use in that position on normal terrain unless I'm bushwhacking through 15+ inches (38 cm) of snow.
not 90
Improper angle


To put the wrist straps on properly, I run my hand from underneath the strap so that it goes around my wrist (step 1 in the picture), then I place the strap between my thumb and index finger (step 2 in the picture), and then grab the pole if needed (step 3 in the picture).

Straps
How to use the straps



The other thing I don't really like about the poles is every time I plant one on the ground they vibrate. For some reason after about 10 mins of hiking with the poles and the straps around my wrist, my hands will get tingly feeling. Then add to that the vibration of the poles striking the ground and it makes for aggravating use. I will test the theory of using the poles with out the strap for the next report, as I believe the strap is causing some the problems with my hands being tingly. I had the same problem when I used my homemade hiking pole as well. I have never used either set with out the straps, as that is part of how to properly use them for support. However the vibration is aggravating to me and I'm not sure why.

I have used the poles with both a thin and thick pair of gloves. The thin gloves I used are a pair of nomex flyers glove. The thin gloves have fit fine through the wrist straps and around the hand grips. The thick gloves I have used are a pair of Saranac that I have had for about 5 years. They fit fine around the grip, but are tight for going through the wrist straps.



SUMMARY

In summary, I really like the hiking poles. So far the three things I like about them are:
They are light weight, Strong, and durable.

There are only two things I don't like about them:
They vibrate, and my hands get tingly using them.

TESTING STRATEGY

I will continue to use these poles on all my hikes. I had a lot of questions in my IR for these poles, some are answered, some not. I have not used these poles yet with a pulk, but have snow shoeing. I also have not used them for a spreader for a hammock. Its just been to cold to lay out in a hammock.

Will my hands become sweaty with the grips? If so will the grips collect gunk from use? Will it be easy to clean?
I have not used them yet with out gloves, or in warmer weather. It's been cold out.

The grip looks like it is laid over a cork handle. Will the grip peel up over time? Will I have a tendency to pick at the grip and cause it to pull up?
Not yet

Will my hands fit the grips with thick winter gloves on?
Kind of

How easy will they be to adjust? Can I do it with thick winter gloves on?
So far yes.

Will they work as a support for my camera? I take lots of pictures when I go out. I like to set the camera on top of the hiking pole and use it to hold the camera still. Will these facilitate holding the camera like my hiking pole does?
Yes they work well for a camera support.

And the biggest question after hiking with just one pole for the last 3-4 years is will I like having a pole in each hand?
So far yes!

Thanks to BGT and Black Diamond for allowing me to participate in this test. Please check back in about two months to see the Long Term Report.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

The locations of my tests have been in the Rocky Mountains of Pike National Forest just west of Colorado Springs. Elevations have ranged from 7,000 feet (2,134 m) at my house up to around 10,000 feet (3,048 m) in the local mountains. Weather at this time of the year can be fairly warm to down right cold. I've used these poles in a variety of weather conditions from to snow to sun. Temperatures ranged from a high of 65 F (18 C) down to a blistery -5 F (-20 C). The terrain is typical for the Rocky Mountain region with very steep, rocky trails.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

WOW! What a difference these poles make. Like I mentioned in the initial report, I have used one homemade pole for the last 3-4 years. I really do not think I will ever go back to one pole again, especially in the wintertime. I have thoroughly enjoyed using these poles. One thing I did try was to hike with just one pole. Boy I wished I had brought my second one along. I hated it. The trail I hike is fairly steep and rocky. Some spots I am climbing over 2 foot (.6 m) boulders. I felt slower going up and down on the trail and less secure about my foot placements. With two poles, I felt like I had four legs. Numerous times I have used these poles to catch me when I slip, putting the majority of my weight on them. These poles performed outstanding on every occasion. I did find on the last few hikes that the flick locks on one pole had slipped some when I put my weight on them. This was an easy fix as all I had to do was tighten the flick lock on that pole. ThIs just required taking a screwdriver and giving them about a quarter of a turn. After that I had no other problems with them slipping. As would be expected from nomral use these poles do have a few scratches in the bottom section of the hiking poles. They received the scratches from going through some brush and over some rocks. This has in no way affected the performance or strength of the poles, as I can hardly feel the scratches. I did find myself poking a lot of things with these poles. Through everything I poked though, the tips have held up well.

For the most part I kept these poles locked in at 115 cm (45.3 in). This is where they felt the most comfortable to me. On occasion I would extend them to 125 cm (49 in) on the down hill sections. This made it easier but for the most part I didnt do it. I also found that I really didnt like using the extra grip below the main grip. I didnt like the way it felt, especially after I got used to the trigger finger like grip on the main handle, along with the straps, I just didnt like using it any other way.

After talking with some other folks about how they used hiking poles, I found that I tend to really grip the poles when I hike instead of using the straps. The last few months I've found myself cinching up the straps fairly tight around my wrist and using the straps more to hike with than putting a death grip on the pole. I let the poles pretty much swing freely in my hands. I found this releived the problem of my hand gettings that tingly feeling. However I noticed a few times that the straps did not stay as tight as I would have liked, and I had to re tighten them some. I've also noticed by using the straps more, and not gripping the pole as hard, that I did not notice as much vibration in the poles.

The handles have held up well over the last four months along with the straps. I have not noticed any dirt or debris build up on the straps or the handles. The one thing that is aggrevating is that I have to remove one hand from the straps if I need to get access to something like my camera.

I do not think I can get the straps off the poles at all as one end of the strap is wider to keep it from pulling out of the handle. taper

SUMMARY

I've really enjoyed using these poles. It has made hiking a lot easier on my knees, lets me move faster both up and down hill, and has provided extra support on technical aspects of the trails especially when I have lost my footing on slippery rocks.

Things I like:
Lite weight
Strong
Allowed me to hike faster up and down hills

Things I dont like:
I wasn't too keen on the grip angles at first, but I've gotten used to them, especially since I dont grip the handles as tight anymore.
Straps dont stay as tight as I want them too.

Thanks to Black Diamond and BGT for allowing me to participate in this test.




This report was created with the BGT Report Generator. Copyright 2007. All rights reserved.

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