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Reviews > Trekking Poles > Poles > Black Diamond Spire > Jason Boyle > Test Report by Jason Boyle

Black Diamond Spire Trekking Poles

Test Series

Last Updated: March 13, 2007

Tester Information:
Name: Jason Boyle
Age: 29
Gender: Male
Height: 5' 6"/ 1.68 m
Weight: 170 lb/ 77 kg
Email address: c4jc "at" hotmail "dot" com
City, State, Country: Snoqualmie, Washington, U. S.

Backpacking Background:
I have been camping and backpacking for about 18 years. My introduction to the outdoors started with the Boy Scouts of America and has continued as an adult. I have hiked mostly in the Southeastern and Northeastern United States. I am generally a lightweight hiker, but will carry extras to keep me comfortable. I have recently relocated to the Pacific Northwest and spend most of my time hiking and backpacking in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, but I can be found exploring the other wild areas of Washington!

Product Information:
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
Model: Elliptical Spire
Year of Manufacture: 2006
Listed weight: Regular Weight: 1lb 4 oz (572 g)
Compact Weight: 1lb 3oz (536 g)
Measured weight: Regular Poles 10.1 oz (286 g) each
Total weight: Regular Poles 1 lb 4.2 oz (573 g)
Lengths: Regular Collapsed size 27 in (68.5 cm)
Regular Usable range: 41 in - 55 in (105 cm - 140 cm)
Compact Collapsed size 25 in (64 cm)
Compact Usable range: 37 in – 49 in (94 cm – 125 cm)
Shaft Material: Aluminum
MSRP: $124.95
Country of Manufacture: Made in Taiwan

BD Elliptical Spire Poles

Product Description:
The Black Diamond Elliptical Spire poles are different from any other poles that I have seen or used. Instead of the shaft consisting of a round tube, they are elliptical shaped tubes. The shape of the poles in not a true ellipse though, the radius of one end is greater than the other end creating what looks like a wing or tear drop shape to me.

The poles have three sections and two locking mechanisms, a binary lock on the lower shaft and a FlickLock on the upper shaft. Additional features of the poles include a 15 degree ergonomically correct angle on the handle, dual density foam on the top knob, non slip foam below the handle, short Flex Tips, padded wrist strap, and low profile trekking baskets. The poles are offered in a regular mode and a compact mode. The regular pole is usable to 140 cm (55 in) usable length and the compact offers a 125 cm (49 in) usable length. Black Diamond recommends the compact pole for users 5’8” tall or less.

Binary Lock 15 degree hand grip
FlickLock top FlickLock side

Initial Report - October 21, 2006

These are nifty looking poles! I like the elliptical shape, but I wonder what the significant benefits over a round pole are. But hey that is what testing is for! The poles seem to well constructed, and all of the pieces and parts operate smoothly. The foam on the handle and the upper shaft seems to be very soft and comfortable. I really like the padded wrist strap. It feels nice on my wrist.

The binary lock and the FlickLock are both very easy to operate. The binary lock works by pushing the lock together with a thumb and forefinger. It has a see-through window that turns red when the bottom section is in the locked position. The FlickLock mechanism only requires a little pressure from my thumb to open or close the lock. The tension of the FlickLock mechanism can be adjusted via a small screw.

One good thing that I have already noticed about the elliptical shape is that the sections will only go back together one way. So if I have to take the poles apart for maintenance I know I can put them back correctly.

Field Report – January 6, 2007

Heading out into the desert

Thus far the Black Diamond Spire poles performed as expected - great. The FlickLock mechanism makes these poles very easy to adjust and the elliptical shape ensures a tight lock. The foam grips are comfortable to use with and without gloves and I have not noticed any durability issues with the poles or tips.

Field Conditions:
I used the poles on 8 trips for a total of 10 days over the past several months. My trips were split between the Mt. Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest in Western Washington and the High Desert and Grassland Wildlife Refuges of Central Washington. I also used the poles during a day of alpine skiing at the Mt. Baker Ski Resort. Elevation ranged from sea level to 4000’ (1219 m), temperatures ranged from 20 F to 48 F (-7 C to 9 C), and precipitation ranged a little bit of misty rain to hard snow.

I am very happy with how easy these poles are to adjust and use. The FlickLock is easy to open with and without gloves as is the Binary Adjustment button. The foam grips have been comfortable to use, especially on all day treks. I can’t say that I notice any difference with the 15-degree corrective angle from other trekking poles that I have used, but I can say that I have not noticed any fatigue or hand issues while using the Spires. My hand print is beginning to wear into the grip as expected. I have been able to use the poles in the snow and in a light misty rain and I have not experienced any grip issues.

The wrist strap has been a Jekyll and Hyde feature for me. It is the most padded wrist strap that I have ever used and the padding makes it very comfortable. However, the actual adjustment of the strap has been quite challenging. There is a button/toggle mechanism that is moved to lengthen or shorten the strap. I find that when I adjust this button to lengthen or shorten the strap, it won’t lock back down. It keeps slipping larger. Not sure what the problem is but it is annoying.

The poles seem to be very durable. The flex tips have been used on all types of ground and show little to no wear, the same with the adjusting mechanisms. I used the baskets that came with the poles for the majority of the testing including one of my snowshoeing trips. After this trip, I realized that the included low profile baskets would not provide enough flotation for use in deep snow. I purchased a pair of the Ύ size baskets and they have proved to be a good compromise between additional weight and flotation in deep snow.

I have also used the poles to set up my Tarptent Rainbow. I wondered if the 15-degree angle on the grips would affect the pitching of the Rainbow and I am happy to report that it did not make any difference in the pitch. I do like using the FlickLock mechanism to make my final adjustments once the tent is pitched. I was able to pick a random length on the poles and then once the tent was up, I was able to easily fine tune the length using the FlickLock to achieve a taut pitch.

Long Term Report – March 10, 2007

I have found a new pair of poles for my gear kit! These poles have performed well over the past four months. I have had no problems with the poles slipping or failing to lock. Other than a few nicks in the paint there have been no durability issues and the handles have become more comfortable as I have used them.

Field Conditions:
I have used the poles on 7 more trips since the field report; 2 backpacking trips, a ski trip, snowshoeing dayhike, and three dayhikes. One of the backpacking trips and my day hikes took place in the Mt. Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest, in the Cascades. My other backpacking trip took place in the LT Murray Wildlife Refuge and my ski trip was to the Summit at Snoqualmie. Temperatures ranged from 8 F to 40 F (-13 C to 4 C ), elevation range from sea level to 4700’ (1433 m). I encountered all type of precipitation from Ice Fog to horizontally blown snow and rain.

The poles have continued to work well for me over the last several months. Since the Field Report, I have worn gloves almost every time I used the poles and had no trouble with the grips. However, I did change how I gripped the poles depending on the type of glove I was wearing. If I was wearing a lightweight glove, I gripped the handle normally, where I brought my hand up through the grip and rested the strap on the bottom of my wrist. If I was wearing thicker/heavier gloves I put my hand through the strap and grasped the pole. The reason I shifted my grip was personal comfort; I found it easier to control the poles while wearing the thicker gloves with a different grip.

The only nice day the entire winter

normal grip with lighter gloves different grip with heavier gloves

I have not noticed any significant difference with the 15-degree cant on the grip of the pole, but they have been comfortable to use with and without gloves over the entire test period. I have noticed that I only grip the lower portion of the handle when I am not wearing gloves; the picture above on the left shows a similar grip. I have small hands and all of my fingers easily fit below the large bump on the handle. I do like the lower foam grip so that I don't have to adjust the pole length when ascending. I just remove my hand from the straps and grasp the lower foam portion. I did extend the poles while descending and for alpine skiing. This was easy to do with the FlickLock mechanism and remained easy to operate even with gloves on. My hikes took place on snow, mud, gravel and forest duff and I have not noticed any significant difference with the flex tips from the tips on other poles that I have used. I have noticed some flex in the Binary adjustment mechanism; I can grasp a pole above and below the mechanism and rotate it slightly back and forth. The travel is very small, but noticeable; at first I thought I needed to adjust the FlickLock mechanism, but they were both tight.

One of the areas that I was concerned with at the Field Report stage was the wrist strap. I am happy to say that the strap has not been the problem that I thought it would be. I figured out the locking mechanism, though I am not sure what I was doing wrong to begin with, and have not had any further problems with it.

The poles have continued to be durable and strong. I used them several times to pole vault over small streams and for hard plants while alpine skiing with no problems. The poles have a few chips in the paint but there is no real damage to either of the poles. The poles have also done a good job of providing great overall stability while hiking. I have enjoyed using four wheel drive with the poles and have really used the extra help on the trail as I am a bit of a klutz. I have not taken any spills while using these poles.

On my backpacking trip to Kelcema Lake, my hiking partner was using a pair of older Black Diamond poles that had the Binary Adjustment as well. One thing that jumped out to me immediately was how much easier it was to adjust the Binary Adjustment on the Spire poles than it was on my partner's round poles. When I pulled the Spires out of my pack I just pulled the lower shaft out until it locked and I was ready to go. My partner had to make sure his lower shaft was properly aligned then he extended it. To me it is the little details that make the greatest difference and the easy to align elliptical shape of the Spires makes a huge difference.

Overall, I am very pleased with these poles and they have earned a permanent spot in my backpacking kit. Thanks to Black Diamond and for the opportunity to participate in this test.

Read more reviews of Black Diamond gear
Read more gear reviews by Jason Boyle

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