I used to love running and leaping down hillsides when I was young. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to see downhill walking as the laborious part of a hike. I’ve also come to realize that my upper body strength is completely wasted on uphill climbs without poles. Even still, I never bought trekking poles until I decided to switch to a trekking pole supported tent. I’m big on dual-use, so this was a no-brainer.
I’ve been using the Black Diamond Alpine Ergo Cork Trekking Poles for a few months now. Having no prior experience with poles, I can’t really compare them to another brand. Still, there are things I like and don’t like about the poles. Even with some complaints, I’m a convert to trekking pole hiking now. The idea of doing frequent elevation without poles seems foolish—if not dangerous—to me now.
- The cork grips are very comfortable and durable. They absorb shocks and don’t leave any residue on my hands.
- The poles are relatively light compared to other brands/models. It’s still a half-pound in each hand, but I’m putting a lot of my weight on these poles at times. They must be reliably strong.
- The tips have some flex in them. Every now and then, a tip of one of my poles will find its way into a crack. I’m always amazed that the pole doesn’t snap in half. The tip bends just enough for me to make an adjustment and dislodge the pole.
- The locks are simple to use. I’ve only had a lock pop open and readjust on me once while hiking, and it was mostly my fault. I was sweeping the poles through overgrowth while bushwhacking.
- These poles (and most others) can double as a selfie stick. You just need a StickPic (size #3) and a universal smartphone mount.
- The straps aren’t lockable. Other brands let you lock the straps at a certain length. These straps slowly loosen as you walk. There’s no chance of the straps coming off or anything, it’s just annoying to have to continually tighten them so they fit correctly.
- The lower locks pop open when the poles are collapsed. This might not seem like a big deal, but it is. My pack has a stow-on-the-go feature built into the left shoulder strap. When these poles are collapsed and the locks are set, the lower locks pop open at random, releasing the lower thirds of the poles. I was bouldering up some rocks using a rope once, and the lower parts of my poles fell out. It was like an expensive game of pick up sticks. I had to scramble to catch them—while holding onto the rope—or else they would have bounced all the way to the bottom of the cliff. Now I have to stow the poles tips-up in the mesh compartment of my pack when they’re not in use.
- The lower, black grips on the poles just seem to add unnecessary weight. Black Diamond bills these as secondary grips you can use on uphill climbs without adjusting the poles, but they’re worthless if you’re using the straps.
I bought these trekking poles on a whim when they were on sale for $100 at Amazon (summer 2016). They’re usually priced around $145 on Amazon and around $175 at REI. I’m not hesitant to recommend them, but I’d prefer a model with locking wrist straps.
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