Gearathon: Black Diamond Carbon Cork

When I started gearing up for the PCT, I did research into what I thought looked good and didn’t give much thought to alternatives.  I was actually a stubborn ass about it and had to eat my words a couple times when I had people say “I hate to tell you I told you so”.  Oh old me, you so crazy.

Despite that, a few items made the cut, and these Black Diamond Carbon Cork trekking poles are one of them.  These poles and I have been through a lot together, and they’ve held strong.

The Good

  • We’ll get this out of the way first:  They weigh 8.8 ounces.  I don’t know if this is outstanding as far as other trekking poles sold by smaller companies go, but they were the lightest damn things I could find on the shelf.  So, we’ll coin a phrase here:  They are ‘REI light’, meaning in comparison to what you can find at the store, they are lightweight.  I’m 100% sure an online outdoor gear manufacturer has championed lighter poles, but I’m not going to fuss about it too much.
  • My hands don’t change colors.  Rubber handled trekking poles are notorious for leaving black residue on your hands, the only mess on my hands after using these is dirt.  It’s not like I care, but someone might?

  • The cork handles manage sweat well.  If it’s hot out, or I’ve been using the poles for a while, my hands don’t slide around on account of perspiration.  I can maintain a firm grip regardless, and I think this is great.

  • Easy to setup/extend.  The flick locks are hassle free, but remain very secure.  I can whip out my poles in a matter of minutes and be good to go, and I don’t have to worry about them sliding back into the storage position while I hike.  I haven’t had an issue with something (let’s say a branch) hitting the locks and undoing them, they have a very firm grip on the pole when you set it in place.

  • The tips have lasted longer than I would have anticipated.  Despite scraping up against rock after rock after rock for the last year, they’re still about where they were when I bought them.  Either I’m not hiking enough, or I can expect these things to last a while longer.

  • The handles are visibly labeled.  It does ever-so-slightly matter whether or not you have your poles in the right hands.  After you become accustomed to using poles, you notice the difference pretty quickly.  It’s nice to have a visual indicator hanging there off the pole.
  • Adjustable wrist straps help you keep a secure grip on the poles.  Having the straps tight around your wrist is a tremendous help while you hike with them, it increases the amount of leverage you have on the pole as opposed to when you leave it slack.  It’s a great feature that has some faults.

  • The included snow baskets screw on firmly, stay on, stay strong, and are very helpful when snow hiking.  Having these things on is a godsend in fresh/loose snow.  It provides a wider surface for snow to fall into, which keeps the poles on top (relatively) of the snow, giving you more leverage to pull yourself out of an unfortunate post-holing incident.  Do not go out into the snow without them, seriously.
  • They stay strong under pressure.  I’ve used them to set up my tarptent on numerous occasions and wasn’t worried about stability.  Likewise I’ve leaned on them left and right without any issues.  More on this in the ‘bad’, but what I have to say on it is word of mouth.  Take it as you will.

The Bad

No

Yes

  • The flick-locks work great, don’t get me wrong.  This is a huge OCD thing for me, but you can’t collapse the pole completely.  The end flick-lock comes undone if you do this, which makes sense since it becomes thinner towards the end.  It just drives me slightly crazy, but yeah, don’t try to collapse the very end of the pole entirely.  Small thing, hardly worth a mention, but you know.  Review stuff.
  • The wrist straps are awesome, and I love how easy it is to adjust them.  However, they do not stay adjusted.. at all.  I get maybe five good minutes from them before I have to tighten them again.  All you have to do is pull one little strap, which can easily be done while hiking.  Even so, I wish it worked better.
  • People have complained about them bending/breaking.  As much as I find it hard to believe (given how well they’ve worked for me, not from a “These are unbreakable!” perspective), it has happened.  I suppose if you were about to fly off a cliff and used it to quickly brace the entirety of your weight at an odd angle, sure, I can see it.  But at which point.. if you’re not dead, I’d say it’s a success right?  All poles have a breaking point.  All I can say is I haven’t had a problem with it, but I’m sure it’s possible.

 

Take a Look for Yourself

 

Alternatives

Because I like these poles so much, and they were my first option, I don’t know what else I’d actually go for sans another pair of these things.  Leki has a great reputation for being a good trekking pole manufacturer.  I’ve been spoiled with this weight really, I wouldn’t want to carry any more on my pack, and I wouldn’t want to have to lift any more than I do with these things.  I’m sure Leki has an equivalent.

You can check them out here:

http://usa.leki.com/

Their website doesn’t work for me.  Nothing shows up when I browse for poles, hopefully you have better luck.

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