User Review: Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $159
Lightweight, stable trekking poles with tons of versatility and comfort.
- Modular tip design
- High quality materials
- Bulk inappropriate in brush
My estimation is that these trekking poles are about as close to perfect as a pair can get. There are only two considerations against them:
- The locking mechanisms are bulkier than other poles; and can be inadvertently unlocked in thick brush.
- These poles sacrifice some weight in order to include more features; cork handles, and a lower grip for ascents.
Other than that, there is only upside to these excellent tools.
The straps on these poles are fully adjustable with a wide range of length adjustments. The adjustable portion of the nylon strap is a thin piece of webbing that passes through a lightly padded cradle. At the end of the webbing strap, where you grip it to adjust, the strap flares outward to provide more surface area and a better grip. The end result is the overall straps are small, with a lot of surface area to cradle your wrists at the point of contact, and the straps are easily adjustable with gloves on.
The poles are fully adjustable with markings for between 100 and 130cm. Each section of the pole is marked with length grades; so once you've dialed in your correct pole length, it's easy to collapse the poles and then expand them to just the right length again. The locking mechanism is a camming lever at the joint of each section which locks the lower section in the upper section. The tension on these locks is fully adjustable with a flathead screwdriver. The wrist straps are fully adjustable for a variety of wrist diameters; you can easily loosen them when you want to change wrist positions for ascents.
The locking mechanisms are highly secure and very easy to engage and release. The manufacturer recommends storing the poles collapsed with the locking mechanism disengaged when outdoors to avoid the locks freezing, I have not yet had a problem with this. In thick brush it's possible to catch the levers and disengage the locks. This is one of the only two downsides to this pole, but for trail use or open wilderness hiking, the locks are excellent.
These poles are rigid body and do not have any shock absorbing mechanism. The carbon fiber making up the pole body has a degree of flex to it, and does absorb some impact as the pole is planted.
The poles come with carbide tips, which in my limited testing have done well in penetrating packed dirt and providing traction. The tips are modular and replaceable. I have replaced the tips on my poles with Black Diamond's rubber tips to reduce the marking the poles leave while hiking on rocks and other surfaces. These rubber tips also provide excellent traction in dry conditions, but slip some in wet environments.
The poles come with two baskets, small low profile ones for warm months, and larger ~2 inch diameter baskets for snow. The baskets screw into place with molded plastic threading and stay in place securely.
The poles have a modular tip system, which means instead of placing a rubber boot on the end of a metal tip, a rubber tip can be swapped out. I think this is good for muddy areas, and it reduces the footprint of the pole.
Ease of Use:
The locking mechanism is the only significant feature of these poles, and it's much more consistent and apparent than twist locking mechanisms. The lever tension is adjustable, and it's easy to both know when they are positively engaged and when they are disengaged.
These poles are sturdy, in some extents enhanced by the flex present in the bodies. As other reviewers have noted, you can catch the tips and bend the pole without them snapping or forming a creased bend. The handles hold up well to abuse, and overall the design is well thought out and sturdy.
I've been using these poles over the past year in warm environments on dirt, mud, and rocky trails. They've been particularly useful in stream crossings after major rainfalls.