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Reviews > Trekking Poles > Poles > Black Diamond Trail Shock Trekking Poles > Test Report by Don Taylor

BLACK DIAMOND TRAIL SHOCK TREKKING POLES

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TEST SERIES BY DON TAYLOR
LONG-TERM REPORT

INITIAL REPORT - September 27, 2010
FIELD REPORT - January 03, 2011
LONG TERM REPORT - March 07, 2011

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Don Taylor
EMAIL: anfhiker AT yahoo DOT com
AGE: 33
LOCATION: Youngstown, Ohio USA
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 7" (1.70 m)
WEIGHT: 185 lb (83.90 kg)

For the past 13 years I have been camping/backpacking primarily in Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Virginia with the Allegheny National Forest as the most frequented location. My trips are generally long weekends and I try to camp or hike at least once in all 4 seasons with the fall being my favorite. My backpacking trips usually consist of 15 mile (24 km) days and a group of 2-3 other hikers in forested, moderately hilly areas. I consider myself a lightweight, slow and steady hiker. The winter hikes often involve heavy snow and freezing temperatures.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment
Grips
Grip and Shock Absorber

Year of Manufacture: 2010
Manufacturer's Website: www.blackdiamondequipment.com
MSRP: $109.95 US
Listed Weight: 1lb 4oz (584 g)
Measured Weight: 1lb 6 oz (620 g)
Usable Length: 27-55 in (68-140 cm)
Collapsed Length: 26 in (66.5 cm)
Colors Available: Cinnamon
Other details:

  • Dual-density grip, 360-degree padded webbing strap and a foam extension

  • Control Shock Technology

  • Zero Slip Double FlickLock System

  • Traditional round shape

  • Long Flex Tips and low profile Trekking Baskets

  • Carbon Fiber Construction

  • Padded Webbing Straps


INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

Since this is my first experience with hiking poles, I went to the manufacturer's website to read as much
IMAGE 5
FlickLocks
about them as possible. When the poles arrived, they were exactly what I expected from the site.

They appear to be very well constructed with no obvious defects that I can see at this point. The adjustments all feel very secure and adjust very smoothly. I extended the poles to a comfortable height and put pressure down on them. I could feel the shock absorbers depress however the pole adjustments did not slip at all.

The poles are each equipped with two FlickLock mechanisms that allow for two adjustment points. The FlickLocks are very easy to operate with very little pressure, which is surprising considering how tight they hold the poles in position once they are closed.

The straps are adjustable and feel soft but secure to the touch.



READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The instructions that came with the poles are very easy to read and follow. These poles use Black Diamond's exclusive FlickLock adjustments and this feature is where the instructions start. They describe the FlickLock system as an external camming mechanism that squeezes the pole shafts together forming a joint that is stronger than the tubing itself. To open the FlickLocks, the instructions suggest holding the pole in your hand while pushing open the cam lever with your thumb. Once the lever is open, adjust the pole to the desired length and then close the lever so that it snaps closed. If slipping of the joint occurs, the instructions explain how to tighten the adjustment screw located on the FlickLock mechanism.

IMAGE 3
Wrist Strap
The instructions next describe an autolock binary system, however these poles are not equipped with this feature.

For cleaning, the instructions give directions for cleaning cork grips; however these poles are not equipped with cork as they have dual density grips.

The regular inspection and care section of the instructions explains how to inspect the poles before use, store them for extended periods of time, where and where not to apply oil and how to obtain replacement parts.

The warranty is a one year limited warranty from the purchase date which applies only to the original retail buyer. The warranty covers defects in materials and workmanship and excludes normal wear and tear items. If defects are found, the buyer is advised to return the poles to the place of purchase if possible or to the provided address.

The instructions are printed in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish and Japanese.

TRYING IT OUT

IMAGE 4
First Time Out
I took a quick day hike through some moderate hills to try out these great looking poles.

The duel density grips are very comfortable. They seemed to absorb sweat away well and they did not cause any irritation of my hands. The adjustable 360 degree padded webbing straps were very comfortable around my wrists.

One feature that I noticed but did not expect was how well the poles gripped the various terrain. The trail was dry, rugged and root filled. The tips of the poles did not slip on any ground cover that I encountered including a few smooth rocks. I was really impressed by this.

This being my first experience with hiking poles, I was pleasantly surprised about how much the poles helped when I was going downhill. The relief they provided to my knees was incredible. I haven't used them with a pack of any notable weight yet, however to this point I am already sensing that these poles will become staples in my hiking gear list.

SUMMARY

I am really looking forward to using these poles over the next few months. They appear to be really well made and very comfortable to use. They grip the ground very well and I am amazed at how much pressure they take off of my knees while I am going downhill. Once I set the poles to my desired adjustments, they have not slipped at all so far.

Thanks to Black Diamond Equipment and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test these poles.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I have had the opportunity to use the trekking poles on two long weekend hikes and several day hikes. My first long weekend hike was spent on a portion of the Quehanna Trail in Central Pennsylvania. It was a 20 mile (32 km) hike over rolling terrain that included a few steep ascents and descents. The trail was mostly wet and muddy after several rains but it was well traveled and easy to navigate. On this hike my pack weighed approximately 35 lbs (16 kg).

IMAGE 1
Snow Covered Trail
My second long weekend hike was taken in the Allegheny National Forest in mid-December. We camped at a spot several miles from the trailhead on the first night. We woke up to temperatures below 10 F (-12 C) and a few inches of snow. That morning as we drove the short distance to the trailhead we began to notice that the snow accumulation was drastically increasing as we gained altitude. After some treacherous four-wheel driving along unplowed forest service roads, we reached the trailhead to find the trail covered with two feet (61 cm) of snow with much higher drifts along the way. After debating for a bit about whether we should attempt it or not, I adjusted my poles and we hit the trail. This hike was intended to be a short hike with low mile days and a lot of camp time as we had a first time backpacker with us. It turned out to be one of the longest 12 mile (19 km) hikes I ever took and probably the first and only hike our new backpacking friend will do. The trail generally rolled gradually but there were a few quick, steep climbs and descents. My pack on this trip weighed approximately 35 lbs (16 kg).

I took a few day hikes in Cook Forest State Park in Western Pennsylvania and one on the Minister Creek Trail in the Allegheny National Forest. The terrain on these trails was similar to the trails I took my longer hikes on with the exception of some rock filled areas on the Minister Creek Trail.

I would estimate the poles have been used for 40 miles of hiking.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

IMAGE 2
Poles Near Snow Drift
On all of my hikes the trekking poles performed excellent. This being my first experience using hiking poles, I can't believe I have hiked without them for this long. What a difference these made. Being new to hiking with trekking poles, I adjusted them often to find the right fit. I found that these poles were very easy to adjust, even with my gloves on. The FlickLocks were a snap to use. Once I found the perfect height, I moved along with the poles like I have used them forever.

At several points during my hikes I encountered stream crossings. I used the poles to stabilize myself as I hopped from rock to rock. The poles did not slip on the wet rocks and they held my weight with ease as I landed. At no point did I feel like the poles could not support my weight and I began to trust them more and more as I hiked.

On the steeper climbs and descents, using the poles to shift my weight onto was great. It is like taking several pounds out of your pack. This proved to be invaluable during my hike through the deep snow. I was saved several times from falls because of the poles. In addition to preventing some nasty spills, while hiking over some areas of blow down and rocks covered by deep snow, the poles were a great tool for sticking in the snow out ahead of where I was stepping to make sure there was solid ground underneath. At the end of the hiking days when I reached camp there was a noticeable difference in the amount of knee and ankle soreness that I usually experience. I noticed a difference even on my day-hikes with a very light pack on.

To this point I have found the grips to be very comfortable. I have had hiking partners complain of blisters from their hiking pole grips so I was a little concerned about that on my first trip out. I can report that I experienced no such issues. I have not found a situation where I felt I needed to use the lower grips yet. The wrist straps are a breeze to use and they do not cause any discomfort.

I was surprised at how well the FlickLocks kept the poles at the heights I set them to. Even after a few slips on the ice when most of my weight was on them they held strong. For as light as these poles feel I am amazed at how sturdy they are.

The one thing that I'm not sure about is the shock absorber. I can't say that I noticed it working at all in a good or bad way. If I try to specifically compress it by putting a lot of weight down on it I can feel it move, however for my general hiking use I have not noticed it function. I will pay closer attention to it going forward.

Being that this is my first time using trekking poles I do not have a lot to compare them to however one negative issue I noticed was vibration. When I was hiking on solid surfaces I could feel vibrations ring up the poles as they struck the ground. I will keep an eye on this going forward to see if it continues.

SUMMARY

IMAGE 3
Trying to Find the Trail
So far the trekking poles have been great. They will definitely be required equipment on all of my future hikes.

Likes

  • Extremely sturdy

  • Grips and wrist straps are very comfortable

  • Easy to adjust

  • Great grip on trail surfaces

  • Hold the adjusted height very well

Dislikes
  • Vibration runs up the pole when it strikes hard surfaces

Unsure About Yet
  • Shock Absorbers


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

I have had the opportunity to use the trekking poles on one more weekend trip and two long day hikes.

My weekend trip was taken on the Tracy Ridge trail in the Allegheny National Forest. The terrain on this trail is generally rolling with a few steep climbs. The trail passes over many large rocks that become very slippery in rainy or snowy conditions. The combination of fresh morning snow and afternoon snow melt on this trip made for some very slick traveling in spots. The entire trail was wet and muddy with several steam crossings. The temperatures stayed in the 20's F (-7's C) with overcast and gloomy skies with brief snow showers and a constant wind. We tied in some miles on the North Country Trail on this trip which brought us to a total of approximately 16 miles. My pack weight was approximately 35 lbs (16 kg).

My day hikes were taken in Cook Forest State Park in Pennsylvania. Both trips involved hiking over snow covered trails.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Trail Shocks continue to perform great. During my hike on the Tracy Ridge trail the poles again saved me from at least a fall or two. This was especially true when I was walking across some very slippery rocks and for a few stream crossings. On the steep descents, they continued to do an excellent job of keeping the weight off of my knees. When the temperature permitted, I used the poles without gloves and I can report that I still had no feeling or signs of any blisters forming on my hand.
IMAGE 2
Seneca Point Cook Forest


The FlickLocks continue to operate without issue and I did not experience any slipping of the pole adjustments during my hikes even when I intentionally put a lot of weight down on them. The straps and grips are still in great condition and the tips of the poles show only minor wear and tear. Overall I would say that the poles look almost new despite having been used for over 70 miles (113 km) of hiking.

I can still feel a vibration run up the poles when they hit a hard surface. I am not sure if that is normal or not being that these are the first hiking poles that I have used. It really is not a big deal and I have gotten used to it. I still have yet to notice if the shock absorbers are really doing anything. I can't think of a situation where I noticed them compress.

SUMMARY

I doubt I will ever hike without hiking poles again. I can't say enough about how much strain these poles take off of my knees and back. The Trail Shocks are one of the best new gear additions that I have ever had.

Overall these poles are excellent. It really has been a pleasure testing them.

CONTINUED USE

I plan on using the Trail Shocks on all of my hikes whether I am headed out for a week or a day. Even without a pack, these poles will be with me on the trail.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5 Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.

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