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Reviews > Trekking Poles > Poles > Black Diamond Trail > Owner Review by Stephen Chase

BLACK DIAMOND TRAIL TREKKING POLES
BY STEPHEN CHASE
OWNER REVIEW
May 22, 2008

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Stephen Chase
EMAIL: sjchase@roadrunner.com
AGE: 41
LOCATION: Ashtabula, Ohio, United States
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 6' 2" (1.88 m)
WEIGHT: 190 lb (86.20 kg)

I started backpacking 20 years ago. Today, I backpack in the Midwest, spending a lot of time in the Allegheny National Forest. I spend much of my time sea kayaking, mountaineering, biking, snow shoeing and cross country skiing with a lot backpacking included. I spend 3-4 nights per month outdoors. In winter, I typically day hike, either snow shoeing or cross country skiing. I am a mid-weight backpacker, but I do like to mix it up, sometimes using a tent, tarp, or bivy. I do a lot outdoors and expect a lot of performance out of my gear.

PRODUCT INFORMATION

Manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment
Year of Manufacture: 2006
Manufacturer's Website: Black Diamond Equipment
MSRP: US$ 79.95 USD
Listed Weight: 18 oz (516 g)
Measured Weight: 20 oz (567 g) with winter basket
Collapse Size : 63.5 cm (25 in)
Usable Range: 63.5 cm (25 in) - 140 cm (55 in)

From Black Diamond website:
An easy-to-use, comfortable pole offering year-round versatility, the Trail now comes equipped with our new 360-degree padded webbing for all-day comfort. An excellent value, the Trail features glove-friendly dual FlickLocks, a non-slip foam grip with lower extension for choking down on steeper terrain, a Long Flex Tip, and both a low-profile, non-snagging trekking basket and a winter-specific powder basket.

User Impression:
These are a pair of three piece aluminum trekking poles. The hand grips are ergonomically shaped and covered with a dense foam material. The hand grips measure 4.5 in (11.4 cm) in height and 3.75 in (9.5 cm) in circumference. A short tubular section of foam extends from just below the hand grips down the first aluminum tube approximately 6 in (15 cm). The hand grips have a padded adjustable nylon wrist strap. The strap extends to a maximum of 8 in (20 cm).
The lower two aluminum tubes are clearly marked in centimeters from 100 cm to 140 cm (39.4 in to 55.1 in). The two lower sections of the poles are adjusted by what Black Diamond calls a "Flicklock mechanism". This unique locking system has a moon shape plastic piece that functions as a cam to lock each lower pole section in place. (The mechanism is further detailed below with a photograph.)
The baskets provided are a small summer hiking basket and a much larger winter or snow basket. The smaller basket is a solid donut shaped flexible plastic 2 in (5 cm) in diameter. The outer edges of this basket have some slight serrations for added traction. The snow basket has similar serrations along the middle of the basket. The snow basket is 3.75 in (9.5 cm) in diameter with cutouts in a pattern around the circle. The tip of the pole extends 3 in (7.6 cm) past the basket. The end of the tip has a small circular piece of hardened steel attached to protect the plastic.


FIELD USE

Collapsed
Collapsed pole

The first thing I noticed is how compact the poles are when collapsed. I believe the lack of an internal locking mechanism allows the section to have less overlap allowing the poles to collapse further than most. The benefit of this is that collapsed the poles are the shortest I have ever owned. This makes packing them for travel or stowing them on or in a pack much easier.
The hand grips are the perfect size and shape for my hands. I wear XL gloves and mittens and find the strap accommodates my hands without any difficulties. In fact, the straps are long enough to allow me to use them like a typical ski pole strap. I slip my hand up through the loop from below and grasp back down on the strap and hand grip. This gives me a superb grip and these poles seem to be made with that method in mind.

Wriststrap
(Left) Wrist strap and (Right) Closeup of plastic wedge pulled loose.

Adjusting the length of the wrist strap is accomplished in two very different ways. The easiest is shortening the strap. A pull on the lower free end of the strap will tighten the wrist strap. The process to lengthen or loosening the strap is much more difficult. The wrist strap has a small rectangular piece of plastic located between the bottom strap and the loose end of the strap (See the picture above at right). This plastic piece is attached to one end of the strap and acts as a wedge to lock the wrist strap and prevent extension. In order to extend the wrist strap this plastic piece must first be loosened from the handle. I find it difficult to loosen this plastic piece without stopping and giving it my undivided attention.

Flicklock Mechanism Open
Flicklock Mechanism Open (Left), Closed (Right)


The length of the poles is adjustable by use of Black Diamond's Flicklock mechanism (See image above). This is where Black Diamond has revolutionized the trekking pole market. The Flicklock mechanism is the easiest and surest pole adjustment I have ever used. The mechanism consists of a small crescent-shaped piece of plastic that is hinged to act like a cam around the pole. This plastic cam piece wraps around the shaft of the outside pole section clamping the inside pole section in place. The nice thing about the design is that the end of the crescent-shaped plastic piece is exposed so a simple push with a thumb will release the mechanism and allow the pole length to be adjusted.
My old poles would routinely ice up and begin to slip, sometimes collapsing completely at the worst possible moment. The Flicklock adjustment doesn't suffer from this problem. I have used these poles for two winters now without a single incidence of slippage.
The Flicklock mechanism makes the adjustment of pole length so simple that I continually adjust the length to suit the terrain and conditions. I can easily adjust the poles longer on down hills, shorter on up hills, and even different lengths when traversing hills. It takes just a couple of steps to pull the pole up, twist the Flicklock mechanism open and lengthen or shorten the pole.
The baskets slide onto the ends of the pole over a set of ridges. These ridges hold the basket firmly in place. The positive benefit is the basket will not accidentally come off. The negative aspect is that the tight fit makes changing the baskets very difficult; it's for this reason that I only use the larger snow baskets. I have been using winter baskets during the summer month for ten years or more and haven't had any problems. The tips of the poles seem to be wearing at about the same rate as the other poles I have owned.

Usage:
In addition to snowshoeing an average of 4 days a week, I spend several days each year mountaineering and skiing. This winter usage, along with summer backpacking and hiking gives me approximately 200 days of usage since purchasing them in December 2005. I have exposed these poles to rain, mud, freezing river, and snow, from temperatures of -30 F (-34 C) to 90 F (32 C). I have used them on trail and off, and on rock and glacial ice without any significant wear other than some minor cosmetic scratching.
The plastic tips below the baskets have experience the greatest wear. Although, the tip has the most wear, it is an appropriate amount of scratching given the usage. The metal portion of the tip is wearing exceptionally well, with any deformation.
The foam on the handles shows little wear, even after being exposed to sub-zero temperatures for several weeks. The foam has not taken on any funky odors from sweat or started showing any wear imprints from my hands. In fact, the hand grips look almost brand new.
The extended foam below the hand grips look brand new. I have not found any really use for this area of foam. It might be of benefit for a shorter hiker, but does nothing for me. These poles adjust so easy that I would rather adjust the pole length instead of choking-up my grip.

SUMMARY

These are a comfortable and versatile pair of trekking poles and are as good as any other trekking pole on the market. These poles have a big advantage over the rest of the market with their Flicklock mechanism. The security and ease of adjustment of this mechanism makes these the best poles I have ever used.

THINGS I LIKE

The ergonomic hand grips are very comfortable.

The Flicklock mechanism is fool proof.

Very compact when collapsed.

THINGS I DON'T LIKE

The wrist strap is difficult to adjust while on the move.

Baskets are very difficult to switch out. I just leave the snow basket on all the time.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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