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Reviews > Trekking Poles > Poles > Black Diamond Trail Shock Trekking Poles > Test Report by Jennifer Koles

Black Diamond Trail Shock Trekking Poles

Test Series by Jennifer Koles

March 12, 2011

Skip to my Initial Report- September 28, 2010
Skip to my Field Report- January 4, 2011
Skip to my Long Term Report- March 12, 2011

Personal Information

Name:  Jennifer Koles
Age:  36
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: Orange County, California, United States


Backpacking Background

After getting into the outdoors scene camping while 4-wheeling and day-hiking, I switched to backpacking in the early 2000's. I have backpacked extensively in Utah, Wyoming and Idaho along with California, Pennsylvania and Nevada. I have slowly been cutting my base weight to be able to go longer in duration and distance. I have done so mainly by using better gear and dumping heavy luxuries. I backpack year round in all weather, and usually take a free standing tent and a gas stove on all my trips. I love trying out new gear.

The author

The author in the Narrows at Zion National Park, Utah.


Initial Report

September 28, 2010

Product Information

Manufacturer: Black Diamond
Year of Manufacture: 2010
Model Tested: Trail Shock (Mountain Series)
Manufacturer Website: www.BlackDiamondEquipment.com


Color Available: Cinnamon
Sizes Available: Regular and Compact. Regular useable length: 27-55 in (68-140 cm). Regular collapsed length: 26 in (66.5 cm)

Manufacturer Stated Weight: 1 lb 4 oz (584 g)

Measured Weight of Poles:

Pair: 1 lb 5.50 oz (610 g)
Each: 10.75 oz (304 g)

Measured Diameter: Upper section approximately 5 cm (2 in). Middle section is approximately 4.5 cm (1.77 in). Lower section is approximately 4 (1.57 in).

Warranty: One year (limited)
MSRP: $109.95 USD


Obtained from the manufacturer's website: "Go longer, more comfortably with our cutting-edge, patent-pending Control Shock Technology. The Black Diamond Trail Shock's progressive four-stage shock absorbs light strikes and heavy hits without pogo-rebounding or bottoming out. A dual-density grip, foam extension and padded strap ensure all-day comfort."

Trail Shock Trekking Poles


Product Description

The Black Diamond Trail Shock Trekking poles have a unique design in my opinion. They are traditional round trekking poles with Black Diamond's patented FlickLock locking system and Control Shock Technology (CST).

They appear to be constructed well. There are no manufacturing flaws that I can find and they appear to be made of quality materials. These poles are made of aluminum and are mostly silver in color with red and orange graphics. The manufacturer calls the color Cinnamon. These poles are a three shaft design that uses a FlickLock locking system to secure the lower and middle section to the desired height. The lower and middle pole sections have incremental adjustment markings of 5 cm (2 in). These markings range from 100 cm (39 in) to 140 cm (55 in). The markings are black on the lower shaft and red on the middle shaft. I can see both colors of markings, however the red stand out more. There is also a stop indicator marking on both the lower and middle pole sections. This indicates where the poles should be adjusted in each section at the maximum length.

These poles have what the manufacturer call Control Shock Technology (CST). It is an external shock and it can be seen in the picture on the right. It is the section between the hand grip and the grip extension. It was placed in this location for optimal swing weight. There are a few sections to this shock. The lower part has what is called progressive shock control. The middle section prevents the shock from bottoming out when there is a great deal of pressure or force. The last component is an internal air valve that serves as the rebound control. This prevents the poles from pogoing back up after the shock is released from compression.

When I push on the handles of the poles I can see the red section spring back and forth. Pretty cool! When I push on the poles with a little bit of force only the top red portion of the shock moves. With more force both red sections of the shock moves.

Handle

Control Shock Technology (CST) and hand grip

The FlickLocks are Black Diamond's patented locking system. It is an external camming mechanism. When the lever is closed it squeezes the pole shafts together to form a joint stronger than the tubing itself. The manufacturer recommends opening the lever on the FlickLock by pushing it open with the user's thumb. The FlickLocks are closed by pressing the lever completely closed.

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. The FlickLocks are not overly tight to clamp them closed and to release them. They just have the slightest bit of tension, and the good thing is I can open and close them with my left thumb that is recovering from a tendon injury.

FlickLock Open

FlickLock open

FlickLock Closed

FlickLock closed

The hand grips are made of black foam that feels hard and dense when I press against it. The foam has a soft and velvety feel against my hands and fingers. The hand grip has a small molded ridge that serves as a resting place for my index finger. There is also a larger ridge towards the base of the hand grip that serves as a resting place for my pinkie finger. The hand grip measures approximately 15 cm (6 in) long. The circumference of the hand grip measures 10 cm (4 in) just below the index finger ridge. The top knob of the pole is made of a dense rubbery material. Below the shock is a contoured extension grip. The extension grips are made of the same foam as the hand grips and measures almost 6 in (15 cm) in length.

The padded hand straps measure 3.5 cm (1.4 in) in width (at the widest point) and they taper toward the adjustment straps. The inside of the padded straps have a gray mesh material and the outside of the straps appear to be a nylon webbing type of material.

The poles have 4 mm (0.16 in) carbide tips and small plastic baskets measuring 3.81 cm (1.5 in) in diameter. The poles have Long Flex Tips which measure (from the base of the basket to the tip) 3 in (8 cm) long.

The poles were supplied with only the low-profile trekking baskets. I have a set of Black Diamond powder baskets that I would like to try with these poles when I see some snow.


Initial Impressions

I referenced the manufacturer's website prior to receiving the poles. What I really liked about the website is there is an in-depth video on the CST (Control Shock Technology) system. There is also some general information on the characteristics of the poles and some more detailed specifics. A set of instructions came with the poles and the same instructions are available on the website as a PDF file.

So far I am finding the Trail Shock Trekking Poles to be easily adjustable and they feel comfortable in my hands. I have yet to use them to get a sense of the Control Shock Technology, but that is what testing is all about.

Now it is time for me to head to Utah with the Trail Shock Trekking Poles.


Field Report

January 4, 2011

Testing Locations

Bryce and Zion National Parks, Utah: The Trail Shock poles were used here on day and evening hikes for a total of 3 days of the trip. The temperatures ranged from the 50's F (11 C) to the mid 30's F (2 C). The weather was not ideal for hiking as it was windy, raining, hailing, and there was even some snow.

Mt. San Jacinto State Park, California: A one night backpacking trip, camping at an elevation around 9,000 ft (2,750 m) on the snow. The low temperature was in the 20's F (-7 C).

Southern California: Day hikes in Cleveland National Forest after the recent flooding. There was no precipitation on these hikes/outings, but there were many stream crossings. I also used the Trail Shock Poles on day and evening hikes in Limestone and Red Rock Canyon. The temperatures were in the mid 40's F (4 C) to the low 50's F (10 C).

Bryce Canyon Utah

Finally saw some sunshine in Bryce Canyon, Utah


Performance in the Field

Over the past three months the Trail Shock Poles were used in Southern Utah and Southern California. On my first outing with the Trail Shock Poles in Limestone Canyon I was fiddling with the height of the poles and the FlickLocks. The tension was perfect on the FlickLocks and I had no difficulty opening or closing them, even with my injured left thumb that is slowly recovering.

While in Utah the weather was not ideal. There was flash flooding, large amounts of rain, hail, wind, and some snow. That did not stop us from getting out and enjoying nature. However, the trails were icy and muddy. I was glad to have trekking poles with me on that trip as I was sliding on the trail. The Trail Shock poles preventing me from falling several times and they also helped me high step over rocks and mud without a loss of balance.

The Navajo Loop trail in Bryce Canyon was a complete mess. There was lots of mud and rocks were falling down. Lucky for me, I was the last person up the Wall Street trail that day; except for the forest service workers that were closing the trail at the bottom. I was surprised that when the Trail Shock Poles were placed in mud or when I had pressure on them to prevent myself from falling; they did not collapse. But, walking down the trail on the ice and the rocks I felt vibration. I was surprised to feel the vibration in the poles since I thought the Control Shock Technology would help alleviate it. However, I will say that there is less vibration than some of the other poles I have used. While hiking up and down the muddy trails, I was trying to feel the Control Shock Technology working. With a normal stride and amount of pressure on the poles I really could not feel any compression from the shock. When I pressed down hard when hiking over large fallen rocks or while preventing myself from sliding I could feel the shock compress slightly. When the shock compressed and pressure was let off, there was a gentle rebound. After my Utah trip the poles had mud caked on them, but it was easily cleaned off by using a cloth and some hot water.

I got to use the Trail Shock Poles in the snow, and honestly I could not feel any compression from the shock absorber. I used Black Diamond Snow Baskets (not included) on the poles for the trip to San Jacinto State Park and they helped prevent my poles from sinking into the snow. The snow baskets were easily interchanged with the existing small baskets. Threading both types of baskets on and off the poles was a breeze.

I found the grips to be comfortable and I really like the extension grips. The extension grip prevents me from having to adjust the poles while hiking up steep inclines. The grips are "grippy" and my hands felt secure (no sliding) while holding on to the poles with or without gloves. I found it just takes a few seconds to adjust the wrist straps to use the poles with or without gloves.


Long Term Report

March 12, 2011

Testing Locations

Exiting the Wave

Coyote Buttes- Exiting The Wave

Coyote Buttes North, Arizona: The Trail Shock poles were used here on a day hike in sand, dirt, and rock for about 10 mi (16 km). The temperatures were in the 50's F (11 C). The elevation at the Wave was 5,200 ft (1,585 m). I fastened them to my backpack while scrambling to scenic points of interest outside the Wave.

Mt. San Jacinto State Park, California: Two days snowshoeing to an elevation around 9,000 ft (2,750 m). The temperatures ranged from the 30's F to the mid 40's F (-1 C to 4 C). There was hard packed and some powder snow on the trail.


Performance in the Field

The Black Diamond Trail Shock Trekking Poles were used during the past two months while hiking on dirt, mud, rock, and snow. I have been very happy with these trekking poles.

There has not been a time during the testing period that the FlickLocks failed and the pole shaft slid. This is most important to me. I am not a fan of having the shaft of my trekking poles sliding and collapsing while I am hiking, mostly because it can be a safety hazard. I was surprised that I the poles have not collapsed; considering I got them wedged between rocks and stuck slightly in some icy snow. During the testing period there was no need for me to tighten the FlickLocks to keep them working properly and they were not too tight for me to open even with gloves on. Also the FlickLocks are great to easily adjust the poles on the fly while hiking.

The grips of the Trail Shock Trekking Poles feel comfortable both with and without gloves on. The grips are not showing any wear, they actually still look new. The top of the trekking pole grip works great when I place my hands on it (palming) to hike downhill. It is large enough that the poles feel stable in my hands. I also like the grip extension grips for walking up hill. My hands feel comfortable on the extension grips and I can easily adjust my hands between the regular grips and the extension grips.

I had the opportunity again to use the optional snow baskets on the Trail Shocks. I tried to put them on with gloves, but it was too difficult as I could not get a good grip on the snow baskets. Without gloves the snow baskets threaded on and off the poles easily. Plus they provided the poles with enough flotation in the powdery snow I was hiking in.

Even with the Control Shock Technology I am still getting some vibration with these poles. I especially noticed this on my hike in Coyote Buttes when I was frequently hiking on rock. This vibration was minimal and did not cause any discomfort in my hands. During this trip the low profile baskets provided enough flotation while hiking in the sand. Also the poles provided enough stability to prevent me from sliding while I was hiking up and down a steep sandy hill. It is hard for me to notice the shock absorption when I am hiking along. I can only notice it when I am stopped and I deliberately press down on the poles.

I am very happy with the Trail Shock Trekking Poles; they get a thumbs up in my opinion. Mostly because they can be easily adjusted, the FlickLocks secure the poles, and the grips are comfortable. These are a keeper and I will be using them on my future hikes and backcountry adventures.


Things That Rock:

  • FlickLock system
  • Comfortable grip
  • Ease of adjustment

Things That Are So-So:

  • Shock absorber

Remarks

This concludes my long term reporting of the Black Diamond Contour Trail Shock Trekking Poles. Thank you Black Diamond and backpackgeartest.org for providing me with the opportunity to test the Trail Shock Poles.

 

Snow Baskets

 



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Reviews > Trekking Poles > Poles > Black Diamond Trail Shock Trekking Poles > Test Report by Jennifer Koles



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