Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Light, strong, excellent locking mechanism.
Best Uses: Hiking, backpacking, climbing.
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
This wins our OutdoorGearLab Editors' Choice award. They are light, strong, versatile poles with comfortable cork handles. Climbers and hikers alike will enjoy using these poles on the roughest approaches to simple day hikes. The Alpine Carbon Cork is tied for being the lightest weight pole in our review. While these poles don't have an anti-shock mechanism, the carbon fiber shafts absorb a fair amount of vibration. After extensive testing during off trail travel we actually appreciated the fact that these poles didn't have an anti-shock. The Alpine Carbon corks are strong enough for ski touring and get short enough to be appreciated by split-boarders and snowshoers alike. All and all, if you are willing to throw down the coin on these poles you won't be disappointed.
If you are looking for a light versatile pole and you don't desire a shock mechanism then the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork should be on your list. Even if you are looking for a pole with a shock mechanism you should consider these poles because the carbon fiber shafts offer some dampening. They are tied for being the lightest pole in the review and are one of the lightest poles in the market. they pack down nearly the shortest and they are some of the strongest. Plus after breaking the grips in, we dreaded using other pole grips. So if you are willing to spend around $140 on your poles then the Carbon Corks should be on your list.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
We have used these in the most rigorous situations, from alpine climbing in Alaska to humping massive loads in Patagonia and have been happy every step of the way. They are tied with the Distance FL for being the lightest poles in our review. These poles are incredibly versatile from day hiking to skiing. They come with full-sized snow baskets and are totally suitable for back-country skiing and snowshoeing. They feature Black Diamond's patented FlickLock locking closer system that works fantastically. The FlickLock was our overall favorite locking system because of its ease of use, durability, strength, and how simply the poles can be adjusted. These poles, along with the Leki Aergon poles, had the most comfortable handles. While the Leki pole handles had a slightly nicer feel initially and a larger palming surface on the top for use as a cane, the BD Carbon Corks handles broke in after a little use and ended up being nearly as good.
The main disadvantage of these poles is that they're expensive. Other than that, some might complain that they don't have a shock absorption mechanism. However, our testers actually preferred poles with no shock absorption for rugged and off trail terrain.
These poles will serve any hiker, backpacker, trekker, mountaineer, split-boarder, snowshoer or climber exceptionally well. For skiers, they work as well as any three-section pole can. But we'd still recommend a two-section pole like the Black Diamond Razor Carbon to serious back-country skiers. If you didn't want to buy two pairs of poles then these would be our top choice because of their stiffness and durability.
The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Corks are among the most expensive poles in our review, but you do get what you pay for. They are tied for being the lightest poles in the review, with super comfortable grips and an easy-to-use closure system. If you are willing to spend $140 on trekking poles then these should be on your list.
Tangential Note: Dream Backpacking Gear List
The Alpine Carbon Corks are one of many items featured in our Dream Backpacking Gear List. Check it out to see other top-tier "dream" backpacking items.
— Ian Nicholson
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: June 4, 2013
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