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Reviews > Trekking Poles > Poles > Black Diamond Spire > Jennifer Koles > Test Report by Jennifer Koles

Black Diamond Spire Trekking Poles-Compact Model
Test Series by Jennifer Koles

Long Term Report
March 6, 2007

Reviewer Information

Name:  Jennifer Koles
Age:  32
Gender:  Female
Height:  5 ft 5 in (1.65 m)
Weight: 140 lb (64 kg)
Email address: jennksnowy at yahoo dot com
City, State, and Country:  Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

Backpacking Background

I started taking overnight backpacking trips three years ago in the Uinta Mountain Range in Utah. I found myself taking entirely too much gear. I am finding out slowly how to minimize my needs and not require extra luxuries. My previous outdoor experiences consisted of 4-wheel-drive camping in primitive areas and day hiking. I use a four season convertible tent or a three season tent for my shelter. I plan to take more trips, increase my duration, and reduce my two to three day backpack base weight from 17 lb (8 kg).


Poles Collapsed
Poles collapsed
Initial Report
October 23, 2006

Product Information

Manufacturer: Black Diamond
Year of Manufacture: 2006
Model Tested: Spire Compact
Manufacturer Website: www.bdel.com
Color/Material: The aluminum shaft is silver with orange and black graphics. The nylon straps are black on the outside and gray on the inside. The dual density foam hand grips are gray.
Sizes available: Regular Collapsed size 68.5 cm (27 in)
Regular Usable range 105 cm-140 cm (41 in-55 in)
Compact Collapsed size 64 cm (25 in),
Compact Usable range 94cm-125cm (37 in-49 in)
Manufacturer stated weight: Regular: 572 g (1 lb 4 oz)
Compact: 536 g (1lb 3oz) 
Measured weight for the compact size:
Pair: 533 g (1 lb 2.80 oz)
Each: 266 g (9.40 oz )
Warranty: One year
MSRP: $124.95 USD

Black Diamond reports that the new Spire has the highest fore/aft stiffness on the market, providing unrelenting support on technical climbs and descents. Its elliptic shaft shape is non-rotating, offering immediate engagement with the Auto Lock Binary system, and the Elliptic FlickLock offers simple mid-stride adjustments. Additional features include a 15 degree corrective angle, a new streamlined dual-density top knob, a non-slip foam grip with lower extension, 360 padded webbing, Short Flex Tips and low-profile non-snagging trekking baskets. The Compact is a shorter 125 cm (49 in) version of the Spire with more compactability and reduced grip size for smaller hands. The Compact poles are designed for people under 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m) tall.

Pole extended
Pole extended to 115 cm (45 in)


Bottom of Pole

Initial Impression

I am quite impressed with the craftsmanship of these trekking poles. The poles appear to be made of quality materials and have striking graphics and good color combinations that are pleasing to the eyes. I found the shape of the poles interesting and appealing. The elliptical shape of the poles resemble the shaft of a non-technical ice axe.

The elliptical shape of the pole is found in all three sections. The upper shaft circumference measures 63 mm (2.48 in), the middle section measures 56 mm (2.20 in), and the lower section measures 5 cm (1.97 in) near the Binary Adjustment and tapers to 4 cm (1.57) near the plastic basket.
Binary Adjustment
Binary Adjuster
The Binary Adjustment on the pole quickly extends and collapses the lower section of the pole. This adjustment is not incremental and allows the pole to be extended 30 cm (12 in). The lower shaft of the pole becomes locked in place when this adjustment is activated. I extended the poles by pulling out the lower section until I heard a click. I did notice that there is a red dot (spring pin) in the clear plastic on the adjuster indicating that the pole is locked into place. I collapsed the lower shaft of the pole by pressing firmly on both sides of the plastic piece over the red spring pins on the adjuster. For this task I used my index finger and my thumb of one hand. While pressing on the adjuster I pushed the lower section of the pole towards the adjuster. Pressing on the red spring pins took some force to unlock the lower section.
I have never used a trekking pole with a FlickLock type of adjustment. I found that this was an easy system to quickly and securely adjust the poles. I held the pole in my left hand and with my right thumb I was able to easily open the FlickLock. The FlickLock is an external camming mechanism that squeezes the pole shafts together to form a joint stronger than the tubing itself  when it is closed. With the lever open I moved the shaft to the desired length and closed the FlickLock lever to lock the pole in place. There is no warning indicator on the pole to notify me that I was close to pulling the section completely out of the FlickLock mechanism. I did pull the middle shaft completely out of the upper shaft and I was able to easily reinsert them together. The poles have markings in 5 cm (2 in) increments starting at 100 cm (39 in) to 125 cm (49 in). The tension of the FlickLocks can be adjusted by tightening or loosening the adjustment screw. The manufacturer suggests releasing the FlickLock if the poles are going to be stored for a period of time. FlickLock Open
FlickLock Mechanism
Handle
Hand grip and wrist strap
The hand grip of the pole has a 15 degree corrective angle that  is made out of non-slip foam with a grip extension. My hand placement on the grip felt natural and in a neutral position. The foam on the grip feels dense but has a velvety feel. The hand grip measures 11 cm (4.5 in)  long and the grip extension measures 17 cm (6.5 in) in length. The circumference of the grip extension is 8 cm (3.15 in). The circumference of the hand grip measures from 8.5 cm (3.35 in) to 9.5 cm (3.74 in). The base of the hand grip measured approximately 12 cm (4.72 in). The top knob of the pole is made of a plastic material.

The wrist strap can be adjusted by tightening a piece of webbing that is attached to the strap. It is constructed of foam padding for comfort and webbing for adjustment. I found that I was unable to adjust the strap to my desired tightness due to the placement of the foam padding and the webbing. 

The poles have 4 mm (0.16 in) carbide tips and small plastic baskets measuring 3.81 cm (1.5 in) in diameter.


Field Report
January 10, 2007

Field Locations and Conditions

During the past two months these trekking poles have been tested in the following locations and conditions:

Zion National Park, Utah USA: 2 days
Elevation: 4,900 ft to 7,200 ft (1,500 m to 2,200 m)
Average Daytime Temperature: 50-64 F (10-18 C)
Weather on various days: Sunny, partly cloudy, rain, and snow.

Paria River/Buckskin Gulch (Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument), Utah USA: 3 days
Elevation: 4,100 ft. (1,250 m)
Average Daytime Temperature: 60 F (16 C)
Weather on various days: Sunny and partly cloudy during the daytime, rain and snow in the nighttime. In the nighttime the poles were exposed to the precipitation outside my tent and below freezing temperatures.

Wasatch Mountain Range (near Salt Lake City), Utah USA: 5 day hikes, 3 snowshoe hikes, and one x-country ski trip.
Elevation: 6,000-10,000 ft (1,800-3,000 m)
Daytime Temperature Ranges: 17-50 F (-8 to 10 C)
Weather on various days: Snow, sun, cloudy, and rain sprinkles.

Hiking in the Paria River with the Spire trekking poles
Hiking in the Paria River with the Spire trekking poles

Performance in the Field

I must say that the FlickLock mechanism does an excellent job keeping the poles at the desired length I set them at. I have not encountered any slipping of the shaft of the poles or the FlickLocks becoming opened unintentionally. They have not slipped once in the past two months of testing. I am quite impressed. I have used them on inclines, descents, scree and talus fields, mud, quicksand, moraines, mud, ice, snow (powder and crust), stream crossings, river hiking, dirt, and rock crossings. I believe that I used these poles in all types of trail conditions that are typical in my geographic location. Even when the pole was planted between rocks and thick mud the shaft of the pole did not rotate. The pole became difficult to remove from the mud at times, but this did not cause the shaft to rotate.

There is some vibration noted with these poles. I tried to assess the amount of vibration and I found it difficult. However, I did notice that the amount of vibration was less than my traditional round shaft poles. I do not know if this is because of the different components the poles are constructed of or the elliptical shaft of the Spire.

The FlickLocks have been easy to use to lock the shaft into place. I have been able to open and close them with mittens and gloves on. I did find that they are more difficult to open when they are iced over or when the temperatures are below freezing. They were exposed to precipitation that froze over them while stored outside my tent in the night. It took a few attempts to open them due to the ice that was present. They do seem more stiff in colder temperatures.

I have not performed any maintenance on the FlickLocks to use the poles. I did adjust them by tightening and loosening the screw. This was easily done. I just wanted to experiment and see if this adjustment would be difficult.

The Binary Adjusters need some pressure to release. However, this can be done with mittens and gloves on. I can hike and make adjustments at the same time. The Binary Adjusters were exposed to water in river crossings and while hiking in a flowing river bed. The water was seen inside the Binary Adjusters. This made it more difficult to release the adjusters. Some water froze in the Binary Adjusters making it impossible to release. 

The directions were easily understood to operate the FlickLock mechanisms and the Binary Adjusters.

The pole wrist straps fit well with or without gloves on. When I use the pole straps properly (placing my hand through the bottom of the strap then resting it on the pole) the strap fits well on the smallest adjustment. The straps did become wet and they did dry over night. There was no chafing noted when they became wet. They are padded very well and are very comfortable. I did not experience any cutting into my skin on my wrists and my hands from the wrist straps. The straps did become twisted, but I did not find this hindering my grip or comfort level.

Pole and Baskets:  The poles were able to handle force and pressure while x-country skiing while pushing off. I did not notice the poles bowing. The flex tips have not broken or worn. I have not experienced issues of the baskets snagging. I did purchase Black Diamond powder baskets to use in the snow with these poles. The original baskets were easily removed and the powder baskets were placed on the poles with ease.

There is no anti-shock feature with these poles, which I actually do not mind. The compact pole size is easier for me to store on my pack or in a pocket. I did not notice a difference with the 15 degree corrective angle since my last pair of poles had that same feature. I did not experience any wrist or hand fatigue with these poles. The angle did allow my wrist to be in a neutral position while using the poles.

The original baskets are small and do sink in mud, sand, and snow. The powder baskets did help significantly with flotation in powder snow.

Cleaning: The shafts are easily removed for the a cleaning process. I did wipe the shaft off since it was exposed to muddy water with a lot of sediments. The poles were easily reassembled. I did clean off the flex tips and the baskets with a damp cloth. There has been no noted rusting of the poles or the components.

Fit: The compact size of the poles fit me well. I like the smaller hand grip and the smaller length, since I do not need to use longer poles. The size was adequate for x-country skiing and while 
descending. I find the extended pole grip to be helpful while climbing, since I do not need to re-adjust the poles with this feature.

I get good control while palming the top of the pole on the top knob while 
descending. I have not noticed any slipping of my hands on the grips. I like the fact that the grip of the poles is a gray color and that there is no color transfer onto my hands from the grips. I did not notice my hands sweating from the grips. They remained dry while gripping the poles.

So far no animals have nibbled on my grips as they have in the past when I used poles with a cork grip.

I have not experienced any blisters, excess dry skin, or pressure areas on my hands from the grips.



Long Term Report
March 6, 2007

Field Locations and Conditions

During the past two months these trekking poles have been tested in the following locations and conditions:

Wasatch Mountain Range (near Salt Lake City), Utah USA: Overnight snowshoe trip, multiple daytime hikes and snowshoe trips, and one additional x-country ski trip.
Elevation: 6,000-10,000 ft (1,800-3,000 m)
Daytime Temperature Ranges: -10 F to 40 F ( -23 C to 10 C)
Weather on various days: Snow, sun, and cloudy.

Mount San Jacinto State Park, California: 2 days hiking/snowshoeing and exploring.

Elevation: 8,000-9,300 ft (2,438-2,835 m)

Temperature Ranges: 20 F to 40 F (-7 C to 10 C)

Weather: Sunny

Skiing with the poles

Using the poles while x-country skiing in Utah

Performance in the Field

I have really enjoyed using these trekking poles for the past four months. They are my favorite poles of any that I have owned. They are comfortable, collapse small, and perform well in various types of terrain.

There have been no issues encountered of the poles slipping or the Binary Adjusters/FlickLocks becoming disengaged. I have put my full weight on the poles while attempting to get out of deep powder and the poles did not bow or slip at all.

The poles performed well in the powder snow with the snow baskets attached. They only sank about 5 in (13 cm) into the snow while I was thigh deep in snow. The poles definitely have good flotation properties in powder snow. In some lighter powder they did sink more.

I found that these poles are slightly too short for me to use while x-country skiing. I personally prefer to use longer poles. However, I was able to see how much force I can put on these poles while pushing off. They never slipped or bowed with that excessive force.

I still encountered the Binary Adjusters and the FlickLocks freezing while exposed to cold temperatures. The FlickLocks became difficult to open at times in the cold temperatures. I really did not need to make many adjustments to the poles while hiking or snowshoeing so this really was not an issue for me. I used the extended grips while climbing uphill and therefore I did not need to adjust the poles. Basically for the entire testing period I kept the poles the same length.

The pole tips perform well on ice and rocks. While using the poles on icy terrain I found that my footing was more confident since my upper body was supported by the poles. I had some minor foot sliding on ice, but it would have been more pronounced if I was not using the poles. There is a slight vibration felt in my hands when using the poles on rocky and icy terrain, but it is much less than other poles I have used in the past. It is very minimal and is not a nuisance. I actually can barely feel it. This only happens when the pole tips come in contact with a very hard surface such as ice or rock.

I have not experienced any blisters or chafing of my hands during the test period. I do like the fact that the rubber grips did not transfer any color to the skin on my hands. There has been no hand fatigue or wrist pain while using these poles, thus I believe that the poles keep my hands in a neutral position while gripping the handles.

I have not performed any maintenance to the poles except for cleaning them with a damp cloth. I still have not needed to adjust the FlickLocks. The components of the poles have not rusted during the past four months.

Things I Love

  • The compact size
  • There is no slipping of the pole or twisting of the shaft
  • They are very comfortable
  • Durable
  • The FlickLocks are easily used for adjustability
  • I do not need to adjust them for ascending

Things I do not Care for

  • This is difficult- I love these poles
  • The original baskets are very small

Remarks

This concludes my test series of the Black Diamond Spire.

Thank you Black Diamond and BackpackGearTest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test the Black Diamond Spire Trekking Poles.




Read more reviews of Black Diamond gear
Read more gear reviews by Jennifer Koles

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