Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Excellent locking mechanism, durable.
Cons: Average weight, Just okay grips.
Best Uses: Hiking, backpacking, climbing.
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
The Black Diamond Trail Back Trekking poles win our Best Buy award because they scored very high and have many of the same features as poles that are $40 to $60 more expensive. For example, our Editors' Choice winner, the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork, is lighter, has better grips, and scores a little higher but is almost double the price. If you are looking for a solid pole without having to spend a lot of money, look no further. If you are looking for a similarly performing pole that compresses down a little more, check out the Black Diamond Trail Compact.
We love the FlickLock locking mechanism and nice ergonomically shaped grips with quality foam. You can get a shock absorption mechanism on this pole for only $10 more. The Trail Back is a solid versatile pole that will last most people hundreds of days of enjoyment. They improved the grips this year from a basic rubber handle to a nicely shaped EVA foam handle with a nice area to chock down on. While they weren't the nicest handles we tested they where above average. The Trail Backs are a few ounces heavier than many models we tested, but again they are only two-thirds the price.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The Trail Back poles are among the more packable poles in our review. They are one to three inches shorter than most of the other poles we tested, with the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork and Contour Elliptic shock poles being one inch shorter and the Black Diamond Distance Fl Z series poles being a solid nine inches shorter. The Trail Backs were two inches shorter than the BD Contour Elliptic Shock. The Trail Back, along with the other Black Diamond poles, did have the easiest locking mechanism to use of all the poles we tested. We really liked the upgraded handles on the 2011 Trail Back poles. They went from a basic rubber grip to a comfortably shaped foam handle with foam on the upper shaft that was among the best foam grips of all the poles we tested. A handful of people we talked to even liked the foam grip on the Black Diamond poles better than the cork grips. We also thought the Trail Back was durable, the locking mechanism is a time proven design that's super easy to adjust and is just plain bomber. The shafts are tough and would stand up to hundreds of days of hiking, backpacking, and mountaineering.
There is not a whole lot we don't like about these poles, especially since Black Diamond upgraded the rubber handles to foam grips this year. The Trail Back poles are slightly heavier than average, being one once heavier than the similarly priced REI Traverse.
Great for climbers, backpackers, trekkers, snowshoers, split-boarders, and hikers. We wouldn't use these for back country skiing because we don't think they would last super long. You can buy four different sized baskets to put on them. They pack down pretty small and are just a good inexpensive, all-around pole. You can spend $30 more and get a shock absorbing version of the Trail Back called the Black Diamond Trail Shock that is also one of the more reasonably priced anti-shock poles.
At $80 they are $10 more than the REI Traverse pole, but have nicer grips and a lot more durable and easy-to-use locking mechanism. While you can spend $40 to $60 more on poles and get even slightly nicer handles and lighter or stronger shaft sections, the Trail Back remains a solid, functional pole without all the frills but enough to make most folks happy.
Chris McNamara's Review
This is currently one of the best selling designs out there. It is super compact, light, and a great value (there are not many options that are cheaper). While I like it, I overall prefer the Black Diamond Trail Compact because the Trail Back is heavier, does not collapse as small, and does not have the extended foam below the main handle. However, if you are taller, you may want the Trail Back as it is six inches taller than the Trail Compact. The main competitor is the Leki Trail Trekking Pole, which is about the same weight, extends longer but does not fold down quite as small. They are the same price. We like the Black Diamond locking system over the Leki because it seems more reliable and durable. That said, the Leki poles are a little sleeker and lighter. We lean toward the Black Diamond because of the locking mechanism but if you are tall or like longer poles, go with the Leki.
Black Diamond Trail Shock - Same but has a shock and is a little heavier.
— Ian Nicholson
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: August 15, 2013
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