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Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork - Women's Review

These poles are among the most durable tested. They are also comfortable, versatile, and easy to adjust.
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Price:  $180 List | $150.99 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Very durable, versatile, comfortable, and lightweight
Cons:  Not as small in packed size as the Leki Micro Vario
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Sibylle Hechtel ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 10, 2019
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89
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 18
  • Comfort - 20% 10
  • Weight - 20% 8
  • Locking and Adjustability - 15% 8
  • Packed Size - 15% 7
  • Durability - 15% 10
  • Versatility - 15% 10

Our Verdict

The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork - Women's poles are among the two top poles we tested. They were the most durable, relatively light, very comfortable, easy to adjust, and versatile enough to take anywhere. While they're not the lightest pole — that goes to the REI Flash Carbon - Women's — they are more likely to survive the length of the PCT or the Continental Divide trail. They don't have the smallest packed size (the Leki Micro Vario does), but unless you're exclusively using a pole for technical climb approaches, these are less expensive and more durable. This would be the one pole to go anywhere, though less specialized than some others.


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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Star Rating
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Pros Very durable, versatile, comfortable, and lightweightLightweight, packs compactly, comfortable grip, easily disassembledComfortable, easy to adjust, small packed size, light, versatileTough, comfortable, FlickLock mechanism is stellar, and long lastingSuper lightweight, packable, and is surprisingly durable
Cons Not as small in packed size as the Leki Micro VarioExpensive, may be less durable than some aluminum modelsExpensiveNot as light or packable as other polesOnly one basket and tip type, non-adjustable
Bottom Line These poles are among the most durable tested. They are also comfortable, versatile, and easy to adjust.This pole made of lightweight carbon is our top-ranked trekking pole.This pole is the shortest to pack, is lightweight, the most comfortable, and easy to adjust.This is one of the top ranked poles in our review thanks to strong, durable construction, and its comfortable cork grips.The Distance Carbon Z is built for through hikers and trail runners who need a lightweight pole that they can pull out when needed.
Rating Categories Alpine Carbon Cork Leki Micro Vario Carbon Women's Micro Vario Carbon Alpine Carbon Cork Distance Carbon Z
Comfort (20%)
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
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10
10
0
10
10
0
7
Weight (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
8
10
0
10
Locking And Adjustability (15%)
10
0
8
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
8
10
0
5
Packed Size (15%)
10
0
7
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
0
7
10
0
10
Durability (15%)
10
0
10
10
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9
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
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7
Versatility (15%)
10
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10
10
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9
10
0
9
10
0
10
10
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6
Specs Alpine Carbon Cork Leki Micro Vario... Women's Micro... Alpine Carbon Cork Distance Carbon Z
Measured Weight Per Pair (Ounces) 17.0 oz 16.4 oz 16.0 oz 17.0 oz 10.4 oz
Shaft Material Carbon Carbon Carbon Carbon Fiber Carbon Fiber
Min Length (inches) 25 in 15.5 in 15.5 in 24 in 13/14/16/17 in
Max Length (inches) 51 in 47 in 51 in 51 in 39/43/47/51 in
Pole Design Collapsible Foldable Foldable Collapsible Foldable
Grip Material Cork Foam Foam EVA foam EVA foam
Locking Mechanism External Lever Lock Speed​​Lock 2 Speed​​Lock 2 Dual FlickLock Pro Speed Cone deployment
Shock absorbing? No No No No No
Baskets? Tip Attachments? Yes, rubber tips, trekking baskets, powder baskets Yes, tips and baskets Yes, tips and baskets Yes, Only Baskets No

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Alpine Carbon Women's poles get top reviews for durability and come close to the top ratings for comfort, weight, and versatility. While they may not be the lightest pole, they offer more in terms of a comfortable grip with a lower grip extension, solid, thick carbon construction that lasts for your entire trip, and are one of the only poles to provide the option of a replaceable carbide tip.

This is one pole that you could take anywhere. Whether you're going trekking in Nepal or climbing in Patagonia, this pole will stand up to the abuse on a serious climbing trip, and it is light enough for everyday use near home.

Performance Comparison


Sibylle field testing the Leki (right hand) and Black Diamond (left hand) trekking poles at about 10 000 feet on Colorado's Ptarmigan Peak in December  with the Gore Range in back.
Sibylle field testing the Leki (right hand) and Black Diamond (left hand) trekking poles at about 10,000 feet on Colorado's Ptarmigan Peak in December, with the Gore Range in back.

Comfort


The Alpine Carbon Corks namesake cork handle consists of contoured real cork and gives a softer, more pleasant feel than the imitation cork used in other poles. Whether cork or foam is preferable is a matter of personal choice — some hikers prefer the moldability of a cork grip, and others prefer foam. Either way, this is a very comfortable grip.

The Black Diamond pole grips are left and right-hand specific  allowing them to curve subtly to fit the inside of your palm very nicely.
The Black Diamond pole grips are left and right-hand specific, allowing them to curve subtly to fit the inside of your palm very nicely.

We like also like the right and left-specific wrist straps, with padding along the wrist exactly where you want it. We also found the strap length easy to adjust.

We found the primary improvement of the new, 2019 model to be the top of the grip, which we notice when supporting ourselves with them on a steep descent or when skinning uphill. The older model had edges on the cork grip that made holding the top uncomfortable. The new model has a smoothly rounded grip top that is much more pleasant to hold.

Black Diamond makes two separate versions of its cork grips  - one for the right hand  another for the left hand.
This Black Diamond pole grip is subtly curved to better  more comfortably  fit your hand.

Weight


While the Alpine Carbon (17 ounces) isn't the lightest women's pole (that's the REI Flash, at 13.2 ounces), it comes in about even with the Leki Micro Vario (16.2 ounces), and the REI Traverse (17 ounces). Of course, weight isn't everything, and it's often opposed to durability. The lightest pole, the REI Flash, lacks the durability and comfort of the Alpine Carbon poles.

The Dual- FlickLock Pro adjustment system allows rapid and simple length changes. The levers flick open easily  even with winter gloves.
The Dual- FlickLock Pro adjustment system allows rapid and simple length changes. The levers flick open easily, even with winter gloves.

Locking and Adjustability


The three collapsing pieces of the Alpine Carbon adjust easily and quickly. The FlickLock Pro adjustment system helps you find the perfect length for your poles on every portion of your hike. We could operate the FlickLock levers in winter even wearing thick gloves.

The Alpine Carbon Cork pole lengthens in two separate phases. Each piece adjusts to a demarcated length  and a "stop" mark tells tells you how far to go in the adjustment.
The Alpine Carbon Cork pole lengthens in two separate phases. Each piece adjusts to a demarcated length, and a "stop" mark tells tells you how far to go in the adjustment.

Unfortunately, if the FlickLock levers need adjustment, that is, if they need to be tightened or loosened to better grip or release the pole, you'll need a tool. They don't have a thumbscrew that you can tighten by hand. This is a little disappointing. But, overall, they work quite well.

Here we show the Alpine Carbon Cork poles at there full and collapsed length.
Here we show the Alpine Carbon Cork poles at there full and collapsed length.

Packed size


The Alpine Carbon Cork poles come in about average in packed size, at 25-inches. They're not the shortest collapsed pole, but they're short enough to fit in most backpacks. Their compact size worked well enough for us in all circumstances, but we still appreciate the smaller packed size of the Leki Micro Vario.

Durability


Durability is where the Alpine Carbon poles excel as the most robust of the carbon poles. Since the pole shafts are made with a slightly thicker carbon, these poles are as strong as many of the aluminum options available. We awarded them with the highest rating in our durability metric.

These poles also feature a replaceable carbide tip — the only carbon pole we've tested that has tip replacements. Should the tip wear out after ten years of Himalayan treks — it's easy to buy and screw in a replacement.

The Alpine Carbon Cork women’s pole features a lower grip extension made of Non-slip EVA foam that’s especially useful for choking down on the pole when traversing steep hills.
The Alpine Carbon Cork women’s pole features a lower grip extension made of Non-slip EVA foam that’s especially useful for choking down on the pole when traversing steep hills.

Versatility


We rated the Alpine Carbon as one of the more versatile of the women-specific poles. With its options of rubber tips, trekking basket, or powder baskets, it's ready to go anywhere. We'd take this pole on a trek to Nepal (and take along a spare carbide tip, and spare baskets).

One of our testers was on the 1988 Wyoming Centennial Expedition to Everest (via the Northside). She brought along poles to help with carrying loads from base camp to the higher camps — Camp 1, at 19,000 feet, Camp 2, and Advanced Base Camp at 21,000 feet. If we went on this trip today, we'd take the Alpine Carbon Cork pole. The REI Flash may be lighter, but also more liable to break.

The Alpine Carbon Cork features an interchangeable tip and baskets.
The Alpine Carbon Cork features an interchangeable tip and baskets.

Best Applications


This pole works well for short hikes, week-long treks in the Himalaya, approaches to alpine rock climbs, and when setting up your tent at camp. We could use it for back-country skiing, but at this price, we'd rather save it for hiking and use a cheaper dedicated ski pole, with sturdy aluminum shafts, for skiing.

Value


While it's one of the more expensive poles, you get what you pay for. We would want a pole this sturdy on any serious climbing trip or trek and consider this pole to be worth the money for serious users.

Conclusion


These poles get the top rating in durability and are close to the top in comfort and versatility. They're about even with other poles in adjustability, weight, and packed size. What you buy depends on where you plan to use the poles. If you want a pole for short day hikes near home, a less expensive pole will work fine. If you're planning on a trek to Nepal, this pole will be worth every penny if it holds up the entire trip. We had one friend whose pole broke in Nepal, and she bought a pair of the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork poles as soon as she returned.


Sibylle Hechtel