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Reviews > Trekking Poles > Poles > Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Poles > Test Report by Andrea Murland

Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles
Test Series by Andrea Murland
Poles at Lake O'Hara
Initial Report - June 28, 2016
Field Report - September 13, 2016
Long Term Report - November 8, 2016

Tester Information

Name: Andrea Murland
Email: amurland AT shaw DOT ca
Age: 31
Location: Elkford, British Columbia, Canada
Gender: Female
Height: 5 ft 2 in (1.57 m)
Weight: 130 lb (59 kg)

I began hiking frequently in 2006 and have since hiked in Western Canada, Australia, and spent 2 months backpacking in the Alps. I spend most weekends either day-hiking or on 2-3 day backpacking trips, with some longer trips when I can manage them. I also snowshoe and ski in the winter, but don’t have a lot of experience with winter in the backcountry yet. Elevation is typically 500-3,000 m (1,600-10,000 ft), in the Canadian Rockies and the Selkirk, Purcell, and Monashee ranges. I try for a light pack, but I don’t consider myself a lightweight backpacker.

Packaged Poles

Initial Report – June 28, 2016

Product Information

Manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment
Manufacturer's URL: www.blackdiamondequipment.com
Model: Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles
Year of Manufacture: 2016
MSRP: US $159.95
Listed Weight: 475 g (16.8 oz)
Measured Weight: 467 g (16.5 oz) with trekking baskets
Listed Length: 63-130 cm (25-51 in) usable length, 63 cm (25 in) collapsed
Measured Length: 62-130 cm (24-51 in) usable length, 62 cm (24 in) collapsed

Description & Initial Impressions

The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles are 3-section lightweight collapsible poles with carbon fibre shafts. The poles adjust in length using Black Diamond’s FlickLock system. To adjust, I flip open the cam lever, set the section to the length I want, and then flip the cam lever closed. The tension on the levers can be adjusted easily with the adjustment screw. The middle and bottom sections of the poles are marked in 5 cm (2 in) increments from 100 cm (39.4 in) to 130 cm (51.2 in) so that I can easily set the length I want, with STOP printed after the 130 cm (51.2 in) mark. Visually, the poles are quite striking, as the top two sections are a pearl ivory colour and the lower section a charcoal color. The markings on the ivory sections are black, both the length indications and the Black Diamond logo and text. On the charcoal section the markings are white.

The grips are made from cork which is in the typical shape of a pole handle. There are no grooves or anything for fingers, so my hand can slide along the grip as needed. The usable part of the grip is about 10 cm (3.9 in) long, and below that is a 12 cm (4.7 in) long black foam grip extension. The top of the handle is made from a rubbery-feeling material. The strap on the handle is nylon on the outside and a mesh material on the inside. It feels like there is some slight padding in the strap. The strap adjusts simply by pulling on the tail to shorten it. To lengthen, I pull material back into the loop of the strap. It seems that I can only lengthen the strap loop by pulling straight out or up from the handle, but when the strap is in a downward position (as it would be while using it), it won’t lengthen. The straps are marked with “R” and “L” to indicate which pole goes in which hand.

The poles came with small 3.8 cm (1.5 in) diameter trekking baskets installed, and also with 10 cm (3.9 in) diameter powder baskets for winter use. The poles specify that they have a carbide interchangeable tip, but no other tips were included.
Pole details

Trying Them Out

The first thing I tried after I took the poles out of their packaging was adjusting the length. I have used the FlickLock adjustment mechanism before so I found it easy to use. The cam levers were quite tight, but not too bad, so I’ve decided to leave them as they are for now. Too loose and the poles could collapse on me! If I find them too hard to adjust, though, I did confirm that my multi-tool has the appropriate screwdriver for changing the tension.

The next thing I did was adjust the strap on the handle. Once I figured out that all I had to do was pull, it was very easy to adjust. I need to have the strap tightened all the way, and might actually like it a little bit tighter. The strap feels comfortable on my wrist, and the grip comfortable in my hand. I have never used a cork grip before, so the texture is a bit different, and we’ll have to see how I like it!

I decided to attempt to change one of the baskets just for fun. Once I found the instructions on the website (basically, screw/unscrew while pushing/pulling), I found it straightforward enough, though a fair bit of effort. I guess I don’t want to be losing baskets along the trail. It will be interesting to see if wear and dirt on the poles make the baskets harder to change.

Overall, the poles seem easy to use and comfortable. My current trekking poles are about the same weight, so these feel very natural to me for weight.

Summary

I am quite excited to get these poles out on the trail. I am looking forward to testing out the easy adjustment, as I adjust the lengths of my poles for up/down through a hiking day. I hope that the FlickLocks gain my confidence by not collapsing on me! I am also very interested in what I’ll think of the cork handle and the strap, as those are both a little bit different to what I’m used to. So far I like everything I see about these poles!

Field Report – September 13, 2016

Field Conditions

Over the past two months, I have used the poles on eleven days of hiking in a variety of conditions, as summarized below.

Lake O’Hara, Canadian Rockies
3 days of hiking from a basecamp, distances ranging from 7 km (4.3 mi) to 15 km (9.3 mi).
Weather: Sun, cloud, rain. Temperatures 5-20 C (41-68 F).
Trail conditions: rocky or dirt, often wet, one small snow patch.
Note: used powder baskets on poles

Castle Mountain, Southern Canadian Rockies
Day hike, 10 km (6.2 mi) with 650 m (2100 ft) elevation gain.
Weather: Sunny. Temperature up to 30 C (86 F).
Trail conditions: dry, dirt

Mosquito Creek, Canadian Rockies
3 day backpacking trip, daily distance ranging from 5.5 km (3.4 mi) to 15 km (9.3 mi).
Weather: Sun, cloud, rain. Temperatures 5-20 C (41-68 F).
Trail conditions: deep mud, shallow mud, wet/muddy alpine meadows

Norway
4 day hikes ranging in distance from 4 km (2.5 mi) to 14.6 km (9.1 mi).
Weather: Sun, rain, cloud, wind. Temperatures 10-20 C (50-68 F).
Trail conditions: Rock slabs or rock steps on two hikes. Packed dirt/rock on the other two.
Field Use

Observations

General Function:
First off, I am really enjoying my test of these poles! Most important thing first: I haven’t had the poles collapse under my weight while in use.

Adjustment of the poles is easy and quick. The FlickLock mechanism is intuitive and easy to use. I have loosened a couple of the mechanisms to make them easier to open and close, and it took longer for me to dig out my multi-tool than it did to make the adjustment. I haven’t had to tighten any of the mechanisms. Having the poles be easy to adjust has meant that I haven’t hesitated to collapse and stow the poles on my pack for sections of trail, as I knew it would be easy to re-deploy them when needed.

I found that the poles bit in well on dirt or trail with loose rock. They worked well on rooty sections as well. In deep mud the poles were wonderful. I was able to travel at a faster pace by being able to trust the poles to help me keep my balance instead of slipping, and they were also useful for probing the depth of mudholes. With the small trekking baskets on, I did “lose” a pole into a mud hole a few times, but it was easy enough to pull back out, usually at the same time as I tried to keep my feet from sinking too far. I did quite a bit of hiking in areas with rock steps, and although the tips bit in fine to push up, I was hesitant to fully lean on them on the way down. They never slipped out, but I also never leaned too hard on them. I had the same experience on a hike in Norway that was almost entirely rock slabs. After the first 500 m (0.3 mi) or so of the 10 km (6.2 mi) hike I stowed the poles on my pack because I felt safer using my hands rather than relying on the metal tips on the rock. They never slipped, but I had a hard time trusting them.

After my first trip with these poles, I switched them from the powder to the trekking baskets. Doing so was as straightforward as the first time. The powder baskets were a bit annoying while hiking with no snow around. I kept catching them on rocks and roots!

I try to use the left and right poles in the correct hands. My previous poles were also hand-specific, so I am used to looking for a marking before putting them on. However, I find the marking on the end of the strap hard to see. The strap tail is so long that it is often flipped backwards, and hidden behind my hand when I’m holding the poles. I have marked the top of the grips in paint marker to help.

Comfort:
The cork handles on the poles have proven to be comfortable so far. When wet, they aren’t slippery or soggy-feeling. They also are comfortable when my hands are sweating. The wrist straps are comfortable and the length has been good with them adjusted as short as they go. The weight of the poles is comfortable to me; they don’t make me feel like I’m hauling around weights in my hands.

Durability:
So far the poles are doing well. The cork handles have some areas that are darker than at the beginning of the test, but they are otherwise the same as at the start. The surface of the poles have some scratches, particularly at the lower end of the poles. I’m not particularly surprised by that, as I hit my poles on things all the time.

Summary

I am really enjoying my test of the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles. I have no major concerns so far. In the next two months I’ll be getting out on some more hikes and hope to use the poles with my solo shelter to see how they work for that. By the end of the test period I should also be back into snow and able to test more of the winter features.

Long Term Report – November 8, 2016

Field Conditions

During the Long Term testing phase, I have used the Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles on a further three overnight hikes (though on one we didn’t stay overnight), and one day hike. Daily hiking distances ranged from 3 km (1.9 mi) to 21 km (13 mi) on surfaces that were dirt, muddy, or snowy. Temperatures ranged from around freezing up to 20 C (68 F).

On the two successful overnight hikes, I used the poles in the setup of my tarp shelter.
Long Term Use

Observations

General Function:
Testing these poles has been wonderful. They perfectly performed the primary function that I demand from my trekking poles: they supported me and never collapsed under my weight.

Adjustment of the pole length continues to be easy. I have loosened or tightened a couple of the FlickLock mechanisms to fine-tune how tight they were. One was just a bit tighter than I liked, as I had to put a bit too much effort into closing the cam lever. Adjustment was easily done in the field with the screwdriver on my multi-tool.

All of my use during this phase of testing was on dirt trails, either dry, wet, or covered in snow. In all of these conditions, the tip of the poles bit into the surface and didn’t slip. I had to cross a snow-covered , slippery, slanted wooden bridge on one hike and having the poles for support was critical. As I have encountered only shallow snow depths so far this autumn, I haven’t made the switch back to powder baskets for the winter yet.

I have found it much easier to rapidly sort out which pole goes in which hand after marking the top of the pole grips. That’s just my personal preference for where to look, I guess.

I use a trekking pole to set up my tarp when I am camping solo. Having an adjustable height at the peak is important during set-up of my tarp. I found that adjusting the length of these poles in this application was extremely easy and made it straightforward to get the pole to be the right length. I have previously used poles with a twist-lock mechanism and have always found that the height changes slightly during the twisting process, which is annoying. No problems with these poles!
Tarp Setup

Comfort:
I have had no issues with comfort of the handles or wrist straps in my hands. There are no spots where the straps rub or dig into my hands. I used the foam grip extension briefly on one hiking trip and found it to be sufficiently comfortable, and my hand didn’t slip on it. This is a feature that I use more on poles in the winter than summer, so it did not get used much over the course of this test.

Durability:
The poles are holding up well. The handles have darkened a little bit more and there are a few more scratches on the surface of the poles, but they still look pretty good, and the still function perfectly.

Summary

The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles are great lightweight three-section poles. With both powder and trekking baskets supplied they walked the line of being an all-season pole for me, though I did not test them in deep winter conditions.

Thumbs Up:
Easy to adjust length
Easy to adjust FlickLock tension
Comfortable grips & wrist straps
Lightweight

Thumbs Down:
Nothing?

Thanks to Black Diamond Equipment and BackpackGearTest.org for the chance to test these poles! I have loved using them and look forward to taking them into winter!



Read more reviews of Black Diamond gear
Read more gear reviews by Andrea Murland

Reviews > Trekking Poles > Poles > Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Poles > Test Report by Andrea Murland



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