Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Tough, comfortable, great locking mechanism, compatible with different tips and baskets
Cons: Not as light or packable as other poles, pricey
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Our Analysis and Test Results
These poles perform well across the board, only coming up short for their packed size and weight. In the era of Z-style, collapsable, thin carbon poles, these stand out for their strength and durability.
The Alpine Carbon Cork uses a cork handle that molds to the user's hands over time. It is minimally contoured out of the box, but still provides immediate comfort that only improves with use. Cork is our favorite grip material for trekking poles for just these reasons. In addition, the thick carbon fiber shafts absorb impacts with solid rock, and there is a foam grip extension below the main grip that is useful for climbing steep hills or for crossing unstable slopes. The wrist straps are wide and comfortable and are even labeled with right and left hand-specific lettering for better wrist comfort.
Weighing in at 17.0 ounces per pair, the Carbon Cork is among the heaviest of the poles in our review. Metal level locks and a cork grip add weight compared to other options, but over the course of the review, we appreciated these touches. As a result, these poles scored higher than many lighter poles in comfort and durability. In the trekking pole field, durability and comfort are generally increased by adding weight.
Locking and Adjustability
The Alpine Carbon Cork uses Black Diamond's excellent FlickLock mechanism, which is entirely metal. In our experience, this mechanism is one of the most robust and secure on the market. It closes with a satisfying snap and holds the pole sections in place without fail. The only downside is that the tightness of the lever locks can only be adjusted with a very small Allen key. This makes on-trail adjustments impossible unless you have the tool, which BD includes with purchase. The tool is small and unnoticeable, which keeps it lightweight, but also makes it easy to lose.
The Alpine Carbon Cork packs down to 24 inches, which is about average in our test, and slightly better than average compared to other three-section telescoping poles. The smallest packing poles in our review feature a Z-design that packs down to around 15 inches long. The packed size of the Carbon Cork isn't a problem for most hikers and backpackers, but if you plan on stowing the poles in a backpack for a technical climb, another choice might be better suited to the task.
These poles are some of the strongest in our review, despite their carbon construction. Thick shafts and metal lever locks, along with a sturdy grip design, make for impressive durability. Over the course of our heavy-duty testing, we weren't able to break or tweak these poles in the slightest. Of course, carbon chips easier than aluminum, so if you deliberately smack them against rocks, they'll wear out quickly. That said, we stuck them in between talus boulders and pulled back and forth, and couldn't get these poles to fail. They are even durable enough to be used for long-duration, heavy-duty trekking to remote regions of the earth. We believe in them that much.
The Alpine Carbon Cork is a relatively versatile pole. We have used it for day hikes, 100-mile treks, rocky alpine approaches, and pitching our tarp tent in the evening. It can also be used for backcountry skiing or splitboarding in a pinch. For climbers and technical scramblers, we recommend foldable poles that are lighter and that collapse smaller. These poles are compatible with rubber tips for better traction and to leave no trace on desert sandstone. They are also compatible with BD's trekking pole snow baskets. Both the rubber tips and snow baskets are sold separately.
These poles are pricey compared to most options, but the durability and strength that they provide are well worth the cost. They're also relatively versatile, providing comfort for every activity from light day hiking to long-distance trekking in rugged and remote environments. Black Diamond has an excellent warranty program to help protect your investment.
The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork are comfortable, durable, and versatile. Other poles may be better for trips that include technical climbing and scrambling, but if those activities aren't on the agenda, these are some of the best you can buy. They will last for many years and are well worth the investment.
— Jeff Dobronyi