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Reviews > Trekking Poles > Poles > Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Poles > Test Report by Marina Batzke

BLACK DIAMOND ALPINE CARBON TREKKING POLES
TEST SERIES BY MARINA BATZKE
LONG-TERM REPORT
November 07, 2016

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

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Marina Batzke
EMAIL: mbbp2013 (at) yahoo (dot) com
AGE: 56
LOCATION: Los Angeles County, California, USA
GENDER: F
HEIGHT: 5' 5" (1.65 m)
WEIGHT: 132 lb (60.00 kg)

I converted from day hiking and car camping to backpacking in spring 2013. My backpacking trips are mostly weekend excursions in Southern California: desert areas in the winter months and mountainous areas in the summer months. I try to backpack one or two weekends a month. I always hike with a group and I like the gear talk when in camp. While I am looking for ways to lighten my pack, I am not an ultra-lighter: I like sleeping in a tent with a sleeping bag on a comfortable pad.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment, Ltd.
Year of Manufacture: 2016
Made in Taiwan
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.BlackDiamondEquipment.com
MSRP: US$159.95
Listed Weight: 17 oz (475 g) per pair
Measured Weight: 16.5 oz (466 g) per pair without the powder baskets
Weight of both powder baskets: 1.4 oz (40 g)
Diameter of one powder basket: 4 in (10 cm)
Other details:
Usable Length: 25 - 51 in (63 - 130 cm)
Collapsed Length: 25 in (63 cm)

INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Trekking Poles arrived as a compact, long bundle of two. The poles' metal carbide tips were well wrapped to prevent any injury while unpacking.
IMAGE 1
The pole package upon arrival

The wide powder baskets were attached to the center section of the poles with a cable tie.

Attached to the bundle was a small cardboard tag that highlights the product features in English, French and German language. A 5.5 in (14 cm) tall cardboard was wrapped around one of the two poles, imprinted with the product's bar code and a basic product description in the three languages English, French and German. Glued to the inside of this cardboard were the instructions for use (in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Japanese).

The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Trekking Poles are lightweight 4-season trekking poles. After I had removed the tag, the cardboard wrap and cut off the cable tie to remove the wide powder baskets for the snowy winter season, I right away noticed how lightweight the two poles are.
IMAGE 2
Cork grip with strap and foam grip extension

Each pole has a black top with the Black Diamond logo. Right below that top, the black fabric strap comes out. Black Diamond describes the strap as breathable and moisture-wicking. The strap has firm fabric on the outside with the Black Diamond logo imprinted. The strap inside that my hand will rest on is a soft, well-cushioned, upholstered fabric. A 3.5 in (8.9 cm) fabric extension is marked with L for the left hand pole and R for the right hand pole. Next comes the 4.5 in (11.4 cm) natural cork grip. This cork grip is contoured with the cork expanding at the bottom to prevent my hand from sliding too low.

Below the cork comes a 4.5 in (11.4 cm) black non-slip EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) foam grip extension.

IMAGE 3
The FlickLock pole adjusters

Now we get to the 100% carbon fiber pole in its pearlescent ivory color with Black Diamond imprinted in black. Each pole has two FlickLock adjustable mechanisms. The 2-pole image above shows one FlickLock open with the other three closed. Between the first and the second lock, ALPINE CARBON and 130 - 100 cm is imprinted in black. 130 - 100 cm converts to 51 - 39 in.

When I open the first (upper) FlickLock, the pearlescent ivory colored middle pole shaft ejects. It has a length range from 100 cm to 130 cm (39 in to 51 in) imprinted in black with the word STOP at the extended top of this pole section.

When I open the second (lower) FlickLock, the pearlescent 2-color black/grey lower pole shaft ejects. It has a length range from 100 cm to 130 cm (39 in to 51 in) imprinted in silver with the word STOP at the extended top of this pole section.
IMAGE 4
Carbide tips and low-profile trekking baskets

At the bottom, the pole has its 1.5 in (3.8 cm) diameter black hard-plastic trekking basket, followed by a 3 in (7.6 cm) long, black pole end. The pole finish is a 0.125 in (32 mm) interchangeable carbide tech tip.

The two poles are held together by a black hard-plastic connector that the poles snap into.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The instructions that were glued to the inside of that cardboard wrapper are printed in very small font and I found that small text a bit hard to read. The same instructions are also available to download as PDF from the manufacturer's website to the right of the TECH SPECS. I found it easier to read the enlarged PDF on my computer screen.

The instructions describe how to open/close the FlickLock external camming mechanism, adjust the FlickLock tension and how to change the carbide tips.

The instructions also mention periodic cleaning: when a FlickLock is open, I can pull out an entire shaft and can wipe clean the metal. When the cork grips get dirty over time, I can wet the cork and sand it with a fine, waterproof sandpaper. I can then add some hand soap to the sandpaper and gently rub that onto the cork grips.

Black Diamond warrants their products to the original buyer for one year from purchase date against material defects and improper workmanship.

TRYING IT OUT

A close visual inspection of both poles shows no imperfections.

I flipped open the FlickLocks using their black plastic cam levers. It took a bit of power when I pressed against the cam levers with my thumb. I was then able to slide out the pole sections to adjust them to my desired length. Afterwards I pressed the cam levers back in place, making sure I heard them snap back onto the metal.

Sliding my hands into the left and right fabric straps was easy. The poles felt comfortable. I have no experience with a foam grip expansion, so I am looking forward to testing that pole feature.

SUMMARY

PROS:
Lightweight poles
Available as set of two
Left and right pole clearly marked
Pleasant feel of cork grip and soft cushioned straps
Nice color theme
FlickLocks work with a firm thumb press

CONS:
none yet


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Alta Peak, Sequoia National Park, California, USA
Elevation: 7300 - 11200 ft (2225 - 3400 m)
2 day/ 1 night backpack
18 mile (29 km) R/T on and off trail
Temperatures: 79 - 45 F (26 - 7 C)

Dobbs Cabin, Southern California, USA
Elevation: 5400 - 7240 ft (1645 - 2200 m)
2 day/ 1 night backpack
12 mile (19 km) R/T on trail
Temperatures: 80 - 55 F (27 - 13 C)

Yosemite National Park, California, USA
Elevation: 7900 - 10000 ft (2400 - 3048 m)
4 day/ 3 night backpack
23 mile (37 km) R/T on and off trail
Temperatures: 74 - 43 F (23 - 6 C)

Momyer Trail to Saxton Camp via Dobbs Cabin, Southern California, USA
Elevation: 5400 - 8400 ft (1645 - 2560 m)
2 day/ 1 night backpack
18 mile (29 km) R/T on trail
Temperatures: 90 - 61 F (32 - 16 C)

Mt. Baden-Powell from Vincent Gap, California, USA
Elevation: 6585 - 9399 ft (2000 - 2865 m)
Day hike
8 mile (13 km) R/T on trail
Temperature: 80 F (27 C)

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

LOVE THEM!
Throughout the last two months, I have enjoyed testing the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Trekking Poles, both on trail and off trail. Before starting this test series, I had not used any trekking poles for about six months.

The Alta Peak backpack gave me great opportunity to get acquainted with these lightweight poles. When I properly use the trekking poles (right pole forward with left foot forward, then left pole forward with right foot forward), my arms help accelerate my body move forward with each step and arm movement. So using the poles can increase my hiking speed.

While hiking on trail in a group, it is often not possible to properly use the poles alternating with each of my steps. When I am restricted by the pace and closer spacing of the group, I sometimes only use the right pole and that makes it easier to move that one pole forward with each step and keep a consistent (group enforced) pace. Sometimes in those instances, I have casually rested the extended left pole over my left shoulder, holding on to its lower portion with my left hand. Just a different handling of the poles to change things up for a while during a long hike.
IMAGE 1
Alta Peak June 2016
IMAGE 2
Mt. Baden Powell Sept 2016

During the Yosemite National Park backpacking trip, we hiked up a rather steep granite slab incline one morning. Here I would have appreciated rubber caps for the hiking pole carbide tips. Not only did the metal tips make clacking sounds on the granite, the metal tips also seemed to bounce off the impenetrable granite a bit. So I packed up the poles for that granite portion of hiking and attached them to my pack.

On the Mt. Baden-Powell day hike, I started out carrying both collapsed poles in my right hand, holding on to the comfortable soft black foam part. The poles are so lightweight, it is easy to carry both in one hand! Then once it got steeper, I expanded the poles to my preferred extended length of 3.6 ft (110 cm). In very steep sections, I feel I can support my legs by additionally pulling myself up using the poles. On the way down, I kept the same length, even though some people recommend adding a bit of length for an extended reach. In the steepest sections, I used the round plastic pole head in the palm on my hand and softened the impact of my down steps that way. Even with my body weight pressing onto the poles, their FlickLock mechanisms have firmly held the extended length of the poles.

I like the cork grip, as it is pleasant to touch (I do not wear gloves). My hands do not sweat. I have not developed any blisters or hot spots on my hands. The cork is not slippery; it provides a good hand hold. The cork is getting a little dark (probably dirtied by sweat and sun lotion), yet I feel it is too early to apply Black Diamond's recommended cork refreshing treatment. I will test that during the long term testing phase.

The middle and the lower shafts of both poles show small paint scratches. I can fully understand first signs of paint wear, as I have extensively used these poles off trail on several trips. At Alta Peak for example, we were climbing up and over boulders near the peak and I was dragging the poles along. But overall, the poles still look great and durable.

LIKES/ DISLIKES

LIKES:
easy to extend and shorten the trekking poles using FlickLock
easy to read length numbering and expand to my desired length
cork grip has a pleasant touch
easy to carry the lightweight poles
I am enjoying hiking with poles now.

DISLIKES:
no rubber caps to cover the carbide tips


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

Kearsarge Pass + Robinson Lake, California, USA
2 day/ 2 night car camp
Day 1: 9200 - 11700 ft (2800 - 3600 m) elevation gain over 4.5 miles (7.25 km) one way
Day 2: 9200 - 10500 ft (2800 - 3200 m) elevation gain over 1.5 miles (2.42 km) one way
Temperatures: 70 - 55 F (21 - 13 C)
IMAGE 1
Hiking down from Robinson Lake

Icehouse Canyon via Cedar Glen Camp, Southern California, USA
2 day/ 1 night backpack
Camp elevation: 6368 ft (1941 m)
4.5 mile (7.25 km) R/T on trail
Temperatures: 70 - 55 F (21 - 13 C)

Henninger Flats, Angeles National Forest, Southern California, USA
2 day/ 1 night backpack
Camp elevation: 2600 ft (790 m)
6 mile (10 km) R/T on trail
Temperatures: 74 - 50 F (23 - 10 C)

Valley Forge Campground, Angeles National Forest, California, USA
2 day/ 1 night backpack
Camp elevation: 3500 ft (1067 m)
4.6 miles (7.4 km) roundtrip
Temperatures: 68 - 54 F (20 - 12 C)

Wilderness First Aid Class, Southern California, USA
3 days of hands-on first aid training
Mountain Lodge stay at 6000 ft (1829 m) elevation
Temperature: 59 F (15 C)

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

I CONTINUE TO LOVE THEM!
I continue to enjoy hiking with the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Trekking Poles. During the Kearsarge Pass weekend, our group did two steep day hikes and each time the trekking poles were of tremendous help. On Day 1, our group stretched out quite a bit, everybody hiking up to the Pass at their own pace and I could use the poles to support my stride. Day 2, the hike was pretty steep at times, so that I literally had to pull myself up with good positioning of the poles. Both days on the downhill hikes, I extended the poles which allowed me to reach down further and step down without having to jump. During the stepping down movement, my weight was well supported by the poles. The locking mechanism worked perfectly and the poles did not budge at all.

Recently, I participated in a three-day Wilderness First Aid Course, where I was able to use the Black Diamond trekking poles in our daily hands-on first aid simulations. We had to use items that we would have with us while out hiking and backpacking. I used the trekking poles to splint arms and legs of fellow participants, and to practice transportation of an injured backpacker. Wow, the poles did come in handy in all of these situations.

SUMMARY

The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Trekking Poles show paint scratches after 4 months, which I fully understand as these poles have been used both on and off trail and over granite. Apart from that, I am completely happy with their performance.
IMAGE 2
After 4 months

The cork grip has held up so well that I have not yet applied the sandpaper maintenance steps (see IR: Reading the Instructions). The FlickLock locking system has performed reliably. The light weight of the poles makes it very easy to sometimes simply hold them in one hand while hiking on flat terrain in a larger group.

I can only praise the great performance of the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Trekking Poles along with their durability. I am now a fan of using trekking poles and will continue to hike and backpack with this pair.

THANK YOU to Black Diamond and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this excellent pair of Alpine Carbon trekking poles.

Marina Batzke

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2016. All rights reserved.

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