Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Review | Average Hiker
Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Review
The Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Pole Review describes hiking poles that may not be the lightest carbon fiber hiking poles on the market, but make up for this in durability, comfort, and performance.
Although not the lightest, they are still much lighter than many of their competitors.
My recent hiking poles were aluminum LEKI poles, but after trying a friend’s carbon trekking poles, I was surprised at the difference in comfort and weight. Since I have some upcoming long-distance hikes, and my grips were chewed off by an unknown critter in Colorado, I decided it was time to retire my current poles.
This would also be my switch to Carbon Fiber. I LOVE new gear!
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Why I use Hiking Poles
Hiking poles are important to me for multiple reasons. They are definitely a multi-use gear item.
The primary reason I use them is physical. The poles reduce wear and tear on my knees, and ultimately lessen fatigue. When I have a lot of steep downhill hikes,or I’m climbing steep rocky terrain, they are invaluable.
My poles have saved me from numerous face plants! I hate to admit that several of these have been on perfectly flat tread. My balance is good, but there are some views that are distracting.
Much like a crow, bright objects and awesome scenery easily distract me. My hiking poles allow me to look around more and enjoy the beauty around me.
The hiking poles have other uses also. They are my tent poles, water crossing poles, black bear fighting poles, Snicker stealing raccoon whacking sticks, etc. They are a critical item.
Taking all of these things into account, I targeted the criteria below and began my research.
My Hiking Pole Requirements
Deciding on hiking poles is like all my other gear choices. I decide what I am looking for in the gear, and then begin evaluating all the brands that meet my requirements. Trekking poles are no exception.
- Durability – I use hiking poles for many different functions, as mentioned above, and I use them A LOT. I also like to go off-trail if the opportunity presents itself, so they need to be durable and tough.
- Weight – As I get older, weight becomes more important. My days can often extend over 20-30 miles. It is important the hiking poles have the right balance between weight and durability. This is one of the reasons I am making the switch to carbon hiking poles.
- Comfort – I have used poles with foam and plastic. I much prefer cork for my handles. Cork is more comfortable, molds slightly over time, and absorbs moisture on sweaty hands.
- Price – Price is not always at the top of my priority list, but it is always considered. I use my gear regularly and need it to hold up in harsh conditions. Paying for a pair that lasts multiple years ends up costing me less than purchasing a pair every year.
- Collapse – I travel a lot to hike, so collapsible hiking poles are important. It would be good if they collapse to 24″ or less.
Alpine Carbon Cork Review – Final Choice
After a lot of research, and reading numerous reviews, I settled on the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Hiking Poles. I chose them for a few reasons.
- I wanted carbon shafts and cork grips. There were actually not a lot of choices that had both of these materials, so the list was relatively short. There were also a few inexpensive brands I had never heard of, but I could find no good reviews.
- They needed to have clip or flick locks. I put a lot of weight on these poles, and actually flipped off the AT once when my LEKI clip failed. It was a close call that resulted in some bad bruising.
- Although the folding poles collapse to a smaller size, there are too many moving parts and points of weakness for me. The poles will hold a large amount of my weight on some downhill sections, and also serve as my tent poles.
- The Montem Ultra poles were my second choice, but I could not imagine adjusting bolt locks with frozen hands. Handling small parts in freezing weather is tough.
- The BD Alpine Carbon Cork hiking poles received excellent reviews by long distance hikers I trusted, and some had owned theirs for over 5 years, and put thousands of miles on them.
- The Black Diamond Carbon Cork hiking poles were 25% off at REI!
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Alpine Carbon Cork Review – Quick Specs
Weight: 17.1 oz. (486 g)
Extended Length: 100-130 cm (39-51 in)
Collapsible Length: 61 cm (24 in)
Grip Extensions: Foam
Hand Straps: Fusion Comfort Technology (Same as harness)
Shafts: 100% Carbon Fiber
Locks: Flicklock Pro forged aluminum
Alpine Carbon Cork Review – First Glance
Straight out of the box, I was impressed with the Black Diamond Hiking Poles. I liked the Black and Army Green coloring, and I could immediately see that the hiking poles were made of high-quality components.
The cork handles were comfortable, and the wrist straps were made out of a high-quality absorbent material. Black Diamond claims it is the same proprietary material they use in their climbing harnesses.
Tip: I remove my wrist straps since I do not use them. They are easy to remove on these poles. In the top of the grip there is a pin. You can see the end of the pin on either side of the grip. Remove the pin and slide out the straps.
Alpine Carbon Cork Review – Components/Materials
As already mentioned, the quality of the pole components was noticeable. I have used many hiking poles and the Alpine Carbon Cork poles are more durable than most I have used.
Black Diamond states the straps are made from the same material as their climbing harnesses. They use a proprietary material that is comfortable and does not absorb much moisture.
I removed hiking pole straps after a 22-mile hike, only because I do not like hiking straps, but while I wore them they were comfortable, and the quality of the material stands out.
Lu tested a wrist strap while I was not paying attention. For the short time she tested the strap it held up well to sharp bulldog teeth!
The grips are made from 100%, hard cork. I have used some poles with a slightly softer cork but prefer the harder cork. The handles have a slight forward curve and are flat on both sides. This style fits my hand nicely, and I find the straighter grips more comfortable.
One of the features I appreciate is the foam extensions under the cork grips. When hiking fast uphill, or climbing steep grades, I often slide my hands down the poles instead of stopping to adjust them. The extensions allow me to maintain my grip on the hiking pole shafts.
The black and army green shafts are a natural color that I prefer. The shafts themselves are rigid with a stiff, durable carbon composite. Durability is at the top of my priority list and these pole shafts exceed my expectations.
I use my hiking poles as the tent pole for my Zpack Altaplex, and in high winds this rigidity is needed in the tarp-tent pole.
Crossing creeks and rivers with fast currents is also best with a very rigid pole. I often have to search for branches, but I’m hoping these poles will eliminate some of the branch searching.
Related Post: Zpack Altaplex Review
I really like the Flicklocks. They were a little tight out of the box, so I adjusted them and found this easy with the small Allen wrench. The locks have a firm, solid click that is reassuring. These shafts are not going to slide easily unless I move them.
While I do understand one reviewers desire for a small screw instead (It would be very easy to lose the Allen wrench in the field), I also like the minimalist design of the poles with less “parts” to snag or replace. Still, small screws would be better for long distance hiking.
Tip: When adjusting the tightness of the locks, extend your hiking poles to your preferred length first. Once the hiking poles are at the length you want, adjust them to the tension you need. Also, always carry your Allen wrench with you when you hike.
The tips are rugged carbide tips that can be replaced easily, but the poles came with no rubber tips. At this price point, it would have been nice not to have to purchase rubber tips separately. Rubber tips are good for road walking and when walking consistently on rock.
The small rubber baskets are a thick rubber/plastic material. Some hikers take these small baskets off, but I like that they stop the poles from sliding into crevasses and cracks, so I leave them on the poles.
Snow baskets need to be ordered separately, and again it would have been nice to have these included at this price point. I’ve purchased LEKI poles for less money that include the larger snow baskets.
Alpine Carbon Cork Review – Performance
I have been using the Black Diamond Alpine hiking poles here in the Northeast, and they have performed as well as I expected them to perform. The terrain where I have used them has been classic New England terrain – forest, rocky, boggy swamps, and a lot of up and down climbing – like a rocky roller coaster.
My longest day so far has been 22 miles, and the light weight and reduced hiking pole vibration has resulted in less upper body fatigue. The poles are easier to strap onto my Day Pack when I am not using them on long road walks and they do not pull the pack back against my shoulders.
Because the poles are so light, they are quick and easy to place as I climb through rocky areas, and where I really appreciate this is when I am picking my way down steep rocky slopes.
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Black Diamond Carbon Cork Review – Final Thoughts
The durability of these hiking poles, and the quality of the components is unmatched by any other hiking poles I have used over the years. They are light, but not too light, minimal, and provide a high level of confidence in this piece of gear.
There is attention to detail that I appreciate, like the small textured thumb grips, crisp neat component edges, etc.
These poles are hiking tanks. They are not flashy and do not have a lot of moving parts, meaning there is less to go wrong. They may be slightly heavier, but they are still ultralight and for me slightly more weight contributes to their durability.
These hiking poles have a high price point and offer no extras, as do other hiking pole offerings at lower price points. At a minimum it would have been nice to have the rubber tips provided with the poles.
My Zpack Altaplex tarp-tent requires a longer pole (56”). These hiking poles are 53”, so I will require an extension. This is not necessarily a negative, but it would be nice to have had slightly longer poles.
There is a lot to like about these hiking poles, and I look forward to using them more, later this year, on both Colorado and Arizona Trail hikes.
If you choose to purchase these poles, please consider purchasing them at the links below. Thank you