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Reviews > Trekking Poles > Poles > Black Diamond Trail Shock Trekking Poles > Test Report by Kurt Papke

Black Diamond Trail Shock Trekking Poles

Test Series by Kurt Papke

Initial Report - September 30, 2010

Field Report - January 10, 2011

Long Term Report - March 10, 2011

Tester Information

Name: Kurt Papke
Age: 57
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 4" (193 cm)
Weight: 225 lbs (102 kg)
Email address: kwpapke at gmail dot com
City, State, Country: Tucson, Arizona USA

My backpacking background is a combination of the Minnesota area, where I have lived most of my adult life, and Southern Arizona where I moved a little more than a year ago to Tucson to take a new job.  I am a diehard trekking pole user; I rarely hike without them.  They relieve the strain on my knees, and have saved me from falling many times.

Initial Report

Product Facts

Product Information
Manufacturer
Black Diamond Equipment, LTD.
The Poles
Manufacturer website
http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com
Year manufactured
2010
Model
Trail Shock
Color tested
Cinnamon (only color currently available)
Size tested
One size only
MSRP
$109.95 USD
Weight
specs: 20 oz (584 g)
measured: 21 oz (594 g)
Usable Length (specs)
27-55 in (68-140 cm)
Collapsed length (specs)
26 in (66.5 cm)

The Trail Shock trekking poles are a member of Black Diamond's "Mountain" series of gear.  Features from the manufacturer's website include:
  • Control Shock progressive four-stage shock absorber
  • Dual-density grip
  • 360-degree padded webbing strap
  • Foam extension: this is an extension to the grip, allowing the user to "choke up" on the poles on uphills or uneven terrain
  • Double FlickLocks: these enable/disable telescoping the poles

Initial Inspection

Packaged polesInstructionsThe poles were received with packaging suitable for a hanging display as shown at left.  Removing the packaging required cutting three cable ties for which I did need a diagonal cutter.  The instructions (shown at right) were tightly packaged inside the wrapped cardboard section with the manufacturer's name, and required a bit of extricating.  The instruction sheet explains clearly how to use the FlickLocks, and how to adjust them if needed.  The instructions appear to be generic for Black Diamond poles, as they also show how to use the autolock binary system which is not present on the Trail Shock poles.

On close inspection I could find no evidence of manufacturing defects: no glue drips, burrs on metal, or improper assembly.  The FlickLocks were properly adjusted: the opened and closed with a reasonable amount of effort, and they held the pole sections in-place with no slippage when I applied my weight to them.

I found the cinnamon/sliver color combination attractive and pleasing.  These are good-looking poles.



Shock absorber illustrationThe poles came with a label that illustrates the action of the shock absorber as shown at left.  The shock absorbers are also visible in the packaging picture above, located just below the handle.  I like where Black Diamond has placed the feature: it is as close as possible to my hand, so the additional weight it adds to the pole should not impact the dynamics of how I swing my arms and the poles.

I leaned on the poles to see if I could replicate the compaction of the shock absorber shown in the illustration, and I could certainly see the difference, but not as much as pictured.  My guess is I would have to really put some serious pressure on them to do so, such as I might do in preventing a fall while hiking.


First Impressions

I adjusted the poles to my favored length.  I am accustomed to using another Black Diamond model pole where the lower section is a fixed length, and the pole length markings on the upper section read out the total pole length.  On the Trail Shocks the two sections are independently adjustable and have independent length markings, so I had to add up the two lengths to get the total.

Slipping my hands into the straps was easy, and the straps came adjusted nicely to my hands with no gloves worn.  With heavier winter gloves, say for snowshoeing, I would likely have to let out some slack in the straps.  The straps are nicely padded and felt good on my hands.

I took the poles for a spin around the driveway.  They feel well-balanced and comfortable.  I will adapt to them quickly.

The most intriguing feature is of course the shock absorber.  I have never used this type of pole before, so I will be very interested to see how they feel on the trail, and how much benefit I perceive from the feature.

When I released the FlickLocks to compact the poles for storage I noticed that Black Diamond has corrected one of my gripes with a prior model of pole: there is a stop when pushing the sections together that prevents the FlickLock from overlapping the next section and making it difficult to close.  With the older model I had to be careful to not contract them too far, but with the Trail Shocks they come to a hard stop at the right spot.

Kudos:

  • Good handle & strap comfort
  • Easy pole length adjustment

Concerns:

  • None at this time

Field Report

Field Use

Date
October 16, 2010
October 17, 2010
& November 1, 2010
October 27, 2010
November 7, 2010
November 14, 2010
November 28, 2010
December 5, 2010
& December 12, 2010
December 18, 2010
Location
Catalina State Park, Northwest of Tucson, Arizona
Saguaro National Park, West of Tucson, Arizona
Picacho Peak, Northwest of Tucson, Arizona
Pusch Wilderness in the Santa Catalina Mountains Northwest of Tucson, Arizona Coronado National Forest, Santa Catalina Mountains
Tortolita Mountains, Northwest of Tucson, Arizona Ragged Top Mountain in the Silverbell range in Ironwood Forest National Monument Northwest of Tucson, Arizona Saguaro National Park, West of Tucson, Arizona
Trail
Romero Canyon
Esperanza, Hugh Norris
Hunter Trail
Linda Vista + Pusch Ridge
Pima Canyon
Alamo Springs
None, bushwhack
Safford Peak
Terrain
Santa Catalina Mountain canyon, trail was mostly hard granite with large rock steps
Tucson Mountains (Wasson Peak) ascent, sandy trail with 100's of small steps
Picacho Mountains, steep ascent of the North face on a rocky trail
Linda Vista: desert bajada
Pusch Ridge: steep mountain ascent
High desert canyon with lots of trees and brush along the trail, path is combination of granite and sand
High desert canyon and sandy wash
Very steep and rocky desert mountain ascent
Very steep and rocky desert mountain ascent
Distance
5.2 miles (8.4 km)
7.4 miles (11.9 km)
5.9 miles (9.5 km)
2.1 miles (3.4 km)
2.7 miles (4.4 km)
8.3 miles (13.4 km)
6.7 miles (10.8 km)
1.6 miles (2.6 km)
3.3 miles (5.3 km)
3.7 miles (6 km)
Weather
75-80 F (24-27 C), no breeze, a bit humid at the start, sunny 75-85 F (24-29C), no breeze, sunny
Trip 2: Sunny, dry, calm at the base, breezy on the ridgeline, 80 F (27 C)
Sunny, dry, calm, 75 F (24 C) Sunny, dry, calm, 70 F (21 C)
Sunny, dry, calm, 55-70 F (13-21 C)
Partly cloudy, windy,
50-55 F
(10-13 C)
Sunny, dry, calm, 70 F (21 C) first trip, 40-65 F (4-18 C) second trip
Partly cloudy, mild breeze out of the south, 55-65 F (13-18 C)
Altitude Range
2700-3700 ft
(820-1130m)
2960-4420 ft
(900-1350 m)
2000-3100 ft
(610-945 m)
2700-3700 ft
(820-1130 m)
2900-5100 ft
(880-1550 m)

2700-3900 ft
(820-1190 m)
2400-3700 ft
(730-1130m)
2200-3400 ft
(670-1040 m)

Romero Canyon

This is a common training hike for me, as it is only 10 minutes from my house and starts climbing right after the trail leaves the parking lot.  The reward at the top of the ascent is a rest in the cool shade of the Romero Pools, and maybe a little stream water splashed on my face.

At the outset of this first hike with the Trail Shocks I experimented a bit with the length to fit my height.  I was a little unsure how much to extend the upper versus the lower portion, and ended up with something near the middle of the range for each.  With the two adjustable sections it was a bit of an effort to get both poles extended exactly the same length, but no big deal.

The Santa Catalina Mountains are made of granite, and the trails are very hard and rocky with steep steps from the boulders that are naturally in the trail path or were placed there to prevent erosion.  They are an ideal spot to test shock absorbing poles as the tips more often than not are planted against solid rock.  The steep trail steps give lots of opportunities on the ascent and descent to observe how well the poles help with large steps.

I was quite pleased with the performance of the poles.  They seemed light in my hands, sturdy when hefting my large frame up and down big steps, and my hands felt comfortable on the handles and straps.  I am not sure I could notice a huge difference from the shock absorbers, but I can say I had no aches or pains in my hands, elbows or shoulders after the hike.  Overall, it was a pleasant first experience.

Wasson Peak

Saguaro National park is split into two units, on the East side of Tucson the park comprises the Rincon Mountain range, and on the West side of the city it contains the northern half of the Tucson Mountain range.  The Esperanza trailhead is about 2 miles (3.2 km) down a gravel road, and about a 15 minute drive from my house.  This was my first-ever hike on this trail.  This whole hike was very different in character than the day before: the steps were much smaller, the incline less steep, and the trail was mostly sand instead of rock, as illustrated by the photo below.
Hugh Norris Trail

The above picture was taken looking back down the trail at about the halfway point.  The sandy trail is visible at left in the photo and in the distance on the far ridgeline.

On this hike I noticed quite a bit more vibration in the poles, particularly when I held the handles very loosely in my hand, which I often do.  The vibration was horizontal, as if the poles would flex on every ground strike and vibrate at a resonant frequency.  Perhaps I am just spoiled, as my old poles do not do this.  The vibration has no real impact on performance, I could not hear the vibration, and I wasn't concerned they were going to break, but it is quite visible.  I will keep my eye on this to see if it causes any issues.

This hike took the better part of a morning, and I was surprised when I was done how little fatigue I felt, particularly in the arms and shoulders.  The Trail Shocks are lighter than my other poles, and seem to use less energy.

About two weeks later I returned to this trail with several friends in tow, and we covered a little less ground that afternoon than I did alone, but the views were spectacular.  I have nothing to add to my observations of pole performance from the second visit.

Picacho Peak

This mountain, just 45 minutes from my house, is becoming one of my favorite little hikes.  In the past I have always taken the Southern route to the saddle point, which is a longer hike and more gradual.  On this trip I hiked with several compatriots who wanted to make the attempt from the Hunter Trail on the North face which is a much shorter route to the top, but a lot steeper.  The following picture shows me and the poles taking a breather beside a very large Palo Verde tree:

Picacho Peak
Descent of Picacho Peak
Photo courtesy of Jackie Daniels

It was on this trip that I really noticed the effect of the shock absorbers on the descent.  When I leaned forward to make a steep down-step and put most of my weight on the poles, I could really feel them snap back when I took my weight off on the landing.  Though I cannot tell how much stress they are reducing in my wrists during this type of use, it must be quite a bit for me to be able to feel the relaxation of the "springs" in the poles.

Linda Vista/Pusch Ridge

Pusch RidgeThe Linda Vista trail is a local favorite of mine. It is a nice little loop on the bajada that descends from the canyon behind Pusch Ridge, and I normally just do the loop.  This time I decided to do as much of the ridge ascent spur trail as my legs would allow, as I had already done a good run at daybreak.  The trail turned very steep, at times requiring me to hold both poles in one hand and use the other to grasp the rocks for a handhold.  The picture at left shows the view back down the canyon.

The poles did a great job gripping both the rock and gravel on the trail.  They did not slip once.  On this hike I extended the lower segment to the maximum length, and extended the upper pole segment just enough for comfort.  I experienced less vibration of the poles when striking the ground this time.  I am going to have to play around with different amounts of extension of the upper and lower segments to see where the maximum and minimum vibration points are, but certainly a longer extension on the lower segment greatly diminished the horizontal vibration I had noticed before.


Holding poles from the topOn descents I have made very effective use of the shape of the top of the pole handles.  I use the poles almost as "crutches" to minimize the strain on my knees when stepping down from very high steps or rocks.  With the straps around my wrists, and using my smaller fingers to hold the handles as much as possible I can walk almost indefinitely using the poles as shown in the photo at right.  In the photo I did not have the straps around my wrists, as I had removed them to use both hands to access my camera, but in normal use I would have the straps on.

This technique has been very effective for me on descents, as I can switch my hands to the top of the handle without breaking stride.  This gives me maximum extension of the poles, and allows me to put most of my weight directly over them.

The foam extension below the shock absorber has been less useful to me so far.  I have tried using them when ascending steep areas, but I don't like taking my hands out of the straps as I have to break stride to do so.  Most of the trails I have been on do not have long enough stretches of steep inclines to warrant using the extensions.  I will continue to look for opportunities to use them.


Pima Canyon

Slipped :(I seem to be returning to Pima Canyon about every six months, and did so with the Trail Shock poles in mid-November.  It is a trail that screams out for pole use: lots of elevation change, large boulder steps, and areas of gravel and scree that make it easy to lose footing.  On the flip side the brush impinges constantly on the trail, making it difficult to swing poles without catching on something.

During the ascent the FlickLock on the lower segment of one of the poles slipped several times, indicating that I really should have tensioned the phillips-head screw before the hike, or brought a tool that had such a screw driver with me.  Unfortunately for me, I had done neither of these tasks.  The photo at left shows the two poles after a few slips, where the difference in length is about the size of the pole handle.

On the descent things got worse.  As stated above I often use poles as "crutches" on descents and put a lot of my weight on them.  By the time I returned to the trailhead I had to re-adjust the pole length about a dozen times.  In several cases the slip occurred when I had my full weight on the poles, causing me to lurch forward, not something I like to do.

By the time the hike was completed I was feeling very aggravated.  I was angry at myself for not being better prepared with a multitool on the hike.  I was angry with the manufacturer for designing a product that required me to be prepared with a tool.  In my opinion, the FlickLocks should either have a thumbscrew on them that allows me to tighten them without a tool, or a small phillips screwdriver should be embedded in the handle or some other location so that the user always has the means to tension the FlickLocks.

On the descent I also used the foam handle extensions.   I began my descent by extending the upper and lower segments of both poles to their maximum length to minimize my forward lean.  When I encountered a trail section where it looked like I had to ascend for 30+ steps, I removed the wrist straps and choked up on the poles using the handle extensions.  When I completed the short climb, I re-inserted my wrists into the straps.  This worked just fine, but I found as time went on I had a tendency to just tough it out on short ascents and simply stretch my arms out in front of me using the straps & handles.  I am accustomed to this type of motion from many years of cross-country skiing, where long poles are the norm.

Alamo Springs Trail in the Tortolitas

This time I came equipped with my trusty Swiss Army knife with its phillips screwdriver.  At the beginning of the hike I tightened up the set screw until I could no longer close the FlickLock that had been slipping, then backed it off a bit so it functioned properly.  I had no more issues with slippage in that section.  However, at the very end of the hike I had one last hill to climb and used the poles aggressively to propel me up as my legs were getting really tired.  Another section slipped!  Before I set out on my next hike I am going to take the time to tension all the FlickLocks.

Other than that issue the poles performed flawlessly.  The Tortolitas are smaller mountains on the Northwest edge of the Tucson valley, just a 15 minute drive from my house.  I had never taken the Alamo Springs trail before, but it's a sweety with nice elevation, lots of statuesque saguaro cacti, and a soft and easy return down the Wild Burro wash.  I was very pleased with the poles in the sandy wash area, allowing me to keep a good pace in the soft ground despite my fatigued legs.  I found that extending the poles a bit longer than usual gave me maximum propulsion in the level sand.

Ragged Top

Trail shock pole as inclinometerI can't believe I have lived in Tucson for a year-and-a-half and  just finally made it to Ragged Top.  The Ironwood Forest National Monument is fairly new, receiving its designation at the end of the Clinton administration.  It is one of the most biologically diverse areas of the Sonoran Desert, including what is believed to be one of the two remaining herds of desert bighorn sheep in southern Arizona.  The good news: I saw their scat on this trip.  The bad news: I didn't see the sheep (yet!).  Ragged Top is the highest mountain in the Silverbell range, and is scalable without climbing gear with some moderate scrambling.  This is not a hiking area for people who are afraid of heights.

I would normally not have used poles on a hike like this.  As can be seen from the photo at right with both the pole and the saguaro cactus as inclinometers, I would judge the majority of the climbing was at about a 45-degree angle, typically conditions where I would want to use my hands to grab rocks or shrubs to steady myself.  I decided to hike with the poles to test them under the most extreme conditions I thought I could safely handle.  I didn't make it all the way to the summit, as I was hiking alone and was concerned about the descent; if I fell there was nobody around to pick up my carcass.

The Trail Shocks performed well on this hike.  They bit nicely in the scree, and did not slip on me even once.  One of the things I really like about these poles is the sturdiness; I can put all my weight on them during descents and not have any mental anguish about them bending or giving way under my prodigious weight.  I had no problems with any of the FlickLocks slipping; I think I have them well-tightened now.

A week later I returned to the mountain determined to make it to the top.  There is a popular loop hike that takes the North gully on the way up and descends on the South face.  When I hit the steep part of the gully I had to stow the poles on my lumbar pack, where I lashed them horizontally to the front of the pack.  I appreciated how small these poles do compress down with the three sections.  They protruded a bit off to my sides and snagged several times on brush, but never pulled out of the lashings.  I retrieved the poles after descending to flatter ground on the North side of the mountain, and used them to pick my way down the remainder of the bajada.

At the end of this hike the pole handles had several cactus spines embedded in them.  There is no real trail at Ragged Top, and I was constantly walking through Jumping Cholla, picking up quite a few on my pants legs.  I will have to go over the handles with needle-nose pliers to make sure I have all the spines pulled out to avoid irritating my hands.  This is not a negative reflection of the pole design; any kind of padding will pick up cactus spines.  I would rather remove them after the hike than not have sufficient padding on the pole handles.

Safford (Sombrero) Peak

Another combination of hiking & climbing.  I used the poles for about 2/3 of the trip, and strapped them to my lumbar pack for the remainder of the ascent to use my handles to scramble.  I used them more on the descent to help save my knees.  Once again I could really feel the effect of the shock absorbers, feeling them bounce back when I took my weight off the poles on the descent.  My wrists were a little sore after this hike from using them so much to support my weight, and I don't think with all the pressure I was putting on them that the shock absorbers could have prevented it.

This was the first hike that I really appreciated the foam handle extensions.  On the descent I went off-trail and followed a contour line for quite a distance, with a side slope of about 45 degrees.  I choked up on the left (uphill) pole for the whole section of the hike, and appreciated not having to raise my uphill arm so high to dig in to the ground.

Summary

Overall I am very happy with these poles.  When the FlickLocks are properly tensioned I trust the poles to support most of my weight.

Things I like about the Black Diamond Trail Shock poles:

  • Shock absorbers were quiet and effective
  • Comfort on my hands and wrists
  • Well-designed handle tops allow me to use the poles as "crutches" on steep descents
  • Sturdy: I never felt any concern about bending or breaking the poles
  • FlickLock adjustments are easy to use
  • With the three sections the poles telescope down into a compact size
  • Foam handle extensions are handy when following a contour with a steep side grade.

Opportunities for improvement:

  • FlickLock tension should be either adjustable without a special tool, or the tool should be provided and stored within the poles.
  • I feel conflicted whether I like the ability to adjust both segments of the pole lengths or not.  It certainly allows more flexibility, but I found it a bit of a pain to get the two poles to exactly match up, and I had to keep four FlockLocks properly tensioned instead of two.
This concludes my Field Report.

Long Term Report

Long-Term Field Use

Date
January 15, 2011
January 30, 2011
February 5, 2011
February 12-13, 2011
February 27, 2011
March 6, 2011
Location
Coronado National Forest, Santa Catalina Mountains Coronado National Forest, Santa Catalina Mountains Tortolita Mountains, Northwest of Tucson, Arizona Superstition Mountains, West of Phoenix, Arizona
Coronado National Forest, Santa Catalina Mountains Saguaro National Park, West of Tucson, Arizona
Trail
Pontatoc Ridge Trail
Pontatoc Canyon Trail
Upper Javalina and Wild Mustang
Reavis Ranch Trail
Pontatoc Ridge Trail Various, but mostly Picture Rocks Wash
Terrain
Santa Catalina Mountain ridge, trail was mostly hard granite
Steep canyon trail, mix of hard granite and soft sand
Rocky high desert
Canyon creek bed, trail was a mix of rocks and loose soil
Santa Catalina Mountain ridge, trail was mostly hard granite Combination of loose sand and rocky areas
Distance
5.2 miles (8.4 km)
7.4 miles (11.6 km)
4.5 miles (7.25 km)
10.5 miles (16.9 km) day 1
3.9 miles (6.3 km) day 2
4.45 miles (7.16 km)
8.5 miles (13.7 km)
Weather
44-70 F (7-21C), no breeze, sunny 50-70 F (10-21C), no breeze, hazy sunshine
60 F (16 C), no breeze, hazy sunshine 35-65 F (2-18 C) with calm sunshine
37-45 F (3-7 C), mix of sun and snow showers
65-75 F (18-24 C) mostly sunny
Altitude Range
3100-4700 ft
(945-1430 m)
3100-5040 ft
(945-1535 m)
2700-3700 ft
(825-1130 m)
4400-5400 ft
(1340-1650 m)
3100-4500 ft
(945-1370 m)
2350-2800 ft
(715-850 m)

Pontatoc Ridge Trail

First time on this trail, though I've been to the trailhead a few times as it's the same for the Finger Rock trail.  I picked this trail for its steep ascent and broad views from the ridgeline, and I was not disappointed on either account.

The challenge for the Trail Shocks on this hike was handling the steep trail profile with its hard granite surface, where trekking pole slippage can be a real issue.  I am happy to report that the Trail Shocks handled the challenge with aplomb, with only one minor slip on a very steep, hard surface, where I would expect any pole would have issues.  The following photo shot looking back down the trail illustrates the steepness and how rocky the area is.  The picture was taken in the WSW direction, that is the city of Tucson below, then Saguaro National park and the Tucson mountains, and off in the distance is Kitt Peak National Observatory in the Baboquivari Mountains.

Pontatoc Ridge
View from Pontatoc Ridge

For me the descents of these steep trails are always tougher than the ascents; it can be easy to turn an ankle or skid with the forward momentum.  I had the poles extended to the maximum for the entire trip down, and there were a couple of spots where I would have liked even a little more length when clambering down from a big rock step, but then this would make the poles harder to stow.

Pontatoc Canyon Trail

This trail begins from the same trailhead as the previous Pontatoc Ridge hike, but follows the base of the canyon instead of the ridgeline.  It is a healthy climb, and gave me a chance to test the Trail Shocks performance on an extended ascent/descent.  The shock absorbers did a good job of protecting my wrists as the pole tips bit into the hard granite surfaces.  On the descent I used the handle extensions on two occasions where the trail dips across the canyon bottom and then ascends for a short distance on the other side.  They worked fine, but my hands really wanted the feel of the straps, and my grip quickly fatigued from having to hold on so tight to the foam handle extensions.

A note on the straps: as I was hiking along I was reflecting on how much I like the straps on the Black Diamond pole handles.  They adjust very nicely, though I seldom find the need to do so, and I really appreciate the way they are padded right where my thumb intersects my hand.  The straps can handle a lot of weight without feeling much pressure on my hands.

Wild Mustang Trail

The Tortolita Mountains are composed of metamorphic rock.  The trails are mostly a combination of various sizes of granite boulders and small rocks, making for tough footing.  On this hike I extended the upper (thicker) section of the poles to the maximum allowed, and then adjusted the lower (narrower) portion to give me the correct length for hiking.  I observed a fair amount of vibration in the poles when the tips struck the hard granite surface.  This seems counter-intuitive to me: I would have expected less vibration when maximizing the use of the thicker section of the pole, and more when using more of the lower, thinner section, but that is not what I have experienced.

The poles still performed great in this configuration; I simply noticed more horizontal vibration.

Reavis Ranch Trail

The Reavis Ranch trail is a section of the Arizona Trail that traverses the Southern section of the Superstition Mountains.  I decided to explore this area, which was new to me, on a weekend backpacking trip.  The trail was my first use of the poles in what could truly be considered soil, where the tips sank into the surface.  As expected in such conditions, the tips gave great traction with no slippage.  The small ring at the top of the pole tips did a nice job of preventing excessive sinking of the poles into the soil surface.

I was also carrying a reasonably heavy pack.  Despite the description in the trail guides that Reavis had year-around water availability, in Arizona it is wise not to depend on this, so I was packing 5 L (5.25 qts) of water which weighed my pack down significantly and made me a bit top-heavy.  As a result, I relied more heavily than normal on the poles to keep me balanced and upright, as well as to propel me up and down the mountains.  This is a job they did well; I felt comfortable with the poles on both ascents and descents.

There was a lot of very scratchy brush along the trail, including Manzanita, scrub oak and Juniper.  When I stowed the poles in my vehicle after the trip was over I noticed a few areas where the paint was scratched.  Nothing serious, just cosmetic, but the Trail Shocks no longer look brand-new, which is what I would expect after the use I have put them to.  I do not treat my trekking poles with great care; it is my thought that their purpose is to save wear and tear on my frame, not vice versa.

Pontatoc Ridge Reprise

Headed out on a snowy Tucson morning with several hiking companions to enjoy the rare sight of white powder on the ground in the Catalina Mountains.  We didn't do the scramble up the ridgeline, so the distance and altitude were a little less than last time on this trail.

This was my one experience with the poles in snow.  I didn't bother to bring baskets to use, as I didn't expect the snow to be deep enough to make it worthwhile, and that indeed was the case.  Nonetheless, I greatly appreciated the traction and safety provided by the poles during the descent.

Saguaro National Park

Though Picture Rocks is just 15 minutes from my house, I had not hiked to the petroglyphs there and I needed a Sunday morning leg-stretcher.  The petroglyphs were easy to find:
Picture Rocks petroglyphs
Petroglyph at Picture Rocks - looks like a Desert Bighorn Sheep
Made by the Hohokam Indians about 1000 years ago

This hike was about 50% wash walking, with very loose sand, almost like walking on a beach.  I was happy to have my trusty Trail Shock poles with me, as I really needed the propulsion in the sand.  There wasn't much need for the shock absorbers under these conditions, but they didn't slow me down either.

Summary

Saguaro holding the Trail ShocksThis picture illustrates how I feel about these poles after using them for 4 months, as expressed by the skeleton of a deceased Saguaro cactus: I say "yay", these are great poles.  I don't have much detail to add to the bullet points from my Field Report.  The main data point to add is I had absolutely zero slippage of the FlickLocks once they were fully tensioned.

The conclusion I have drawn is that the FlickLocks are very reliable once they have been properly tensioned, but mine did not come shipped that way, I had to tension them correctly myself.

As to the utility of the shock absorbers, that is very hard to objectively determine.  I certainly had no ill effects to my wrists and hands from the long distances I traversed on very rocky trails.  I certainly knew the shock absorbers were there on the descents.

Subjectively, I liked the shock absorbers.  The "feel" of the poles was a little softer on hard surfaces.

The poles have held up well despite the harsh desert conditions they were exposed to.  I certainly made no attempt to treat them easily.  A few scratches on the paint are the worst they have suffered.

My bottom line is the Trail Shock poles have earned a permanent spot in my kit.



Many thanks to Black Diamond and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.



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