Hands-on Gear Review

Compare trekking poles ratings side-by-side >

Black Diamond Trail Back Review

   
Best Buy Award

Trekking Poles

  • Currently 4.2/5
Overall avg rating 4.2 of 5 based on 3 reviews. Most recent review: August 15, 2013
Street Price:   Varies from $50 - $80 | Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Excellent locking mechanism, durable.
Cons:  Average weight, Just okay grips.
Best Uses:  Hiking, backpacking, climbing.
User Rating:     
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (4.5 of 5) based on 2 reviews
Recommendations:  100% of reviewers (2/2) recommend this product
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
Review by: Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor, OutdoorGearLab ⋅ May 7, 2011  
Overview
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.

Compare top rated competitors side-by-side >

  • Photos
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge


OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review

Likes
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.

Dislikes
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.

Best Application
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.

Value
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.

Other Versions
Black Diamond Trail Shock - Same but has a shock and is a little heavier.

Ian Nicholson

Compare this product side-by-side to top competitors >

Where to Buy?


Thinking about buying some gear we've reviewed? Help OutdoorGearLab out if you do. Just click on any of the above seller links and if you make any purchase, the seller will contribute a portion of the sale to help support this site. It won't cost you anything extra, and it's a simple way to help us fund our gear reviews. Thanks!

*Most retailers free shipping offers apply only to lower 48 US states using ground/economy shipping. See retailer's website for details.


OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: August 15, 2013
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:   
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
 (4.5)

100% of 2 reviewers recommend it
Rating Distribution
3 Total Ratings
5 star: 33%  (1)
4 star: 67%  (2)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)
Sort 2 member reviews by: Most Recent | Most Helpful
Write a Review on this Gear

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Aug 15, 2013 - 01:37pm
CDBahl · Hiker · Seattle
I've had these poles for a few years now, and they have withstood a lot of abuse. When faced with a descent that's got steep sections to scramble, I'll often just toss the poles to the bottom to free up my hands for the climb down. This is certainly not something I'd try with a carbon pole, and it saves a lot of time and hassle collapsing and stowing the poles in your pack.

If you're looking for a reliable, rugged, fully featured trekking pole, regardless of price, you'll be hard pressed to do better than these. The cheap price is just gravy on top.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
   Feb 13, 2012 - 09:04pm
Ron · TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES
I can't believe this… These are the same trekking poles I bought from Walmart a few years ago. I'm sure that there Chinese in origin as a lot of Black Diamonds stuff is now days. But the set I bought are marketed under the name, "Outdoor Products". I haven't noticed them in Walmart lately so I suspect that Black Diamond has bought up the manufacturing rights on them. Same grips, straps, and locking mechanism. Their great. Took them to Costa Rica for almost three weeks and not a single issue or problem. Since Costa Rica they have received steady use here in the desert's of the southwest too. The locks are bomber and have never slipped. I almost rated them a clean 5 star but have had some bad luck with Black Diamond customer support on other products lately due to their offshore production. They couldn't tell me the length of a Deluxe Cliff Cabana pole I had lost due to the fact that it is manufactured in the Philippines and their warranty and repair division had no idea or way to order a replacement, or give me the size to make my own….. if product support isn't a big issue, and on a pair of trekking poles there really isn't much that can fail, I'd give a big thumbs up on these. I still use mine and they have to be at least 2 to 3 years old now. Wish they still had them at Walmart as they were less than half the price…. but I'd still pay the full price on them now as they really are bomber.

Bottom Line: Yes, I would recommend this product to a friend.
Help other readers find the most helpful reviews
Was this review helpful to you? 
Yes
 
No


Have you used the Black Diamond Trail Back?
Don't hold back. Share your viewpoint by posting a review with your thoughts...

Write a Review on this Gear
Click to enlarge
Black Diamond Trail Back Trekking pole
Credit: Bdel.com
Where's the Best Price?
Seller Price
Amazon $49.95  -  38% off!
Backcountry $79.95
REI $79.95
Compare prices at 4 sellers >

*Help support OutdoorGearLab. If you click on one of the seller links and make a purchase, a portion of the sale helps support this site
Related Best-in-Class Review
The Best Trekking Pole Review For Hiking and Backpacking

The Best Trekking Pole Review For Hiking and Backpacking

What is the best trekking pole for hiking and backpacking? We took eight of the best poles and tested them head-to-head to find out.
Video video review
Helpful Buying Tips
Get More OutdoorGearLab
Follow us on Twitter, be a fan on Facebook!
Subscribe to our Newsletter