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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 | $134.96 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Comfortable, durable, great locking mechanism
Cons:  Relatively heavy, doesn't pack as small as others
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Sibylle Hechtel ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 10, 2019
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78
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 13
  • Comfort - 20% 10
  • Weight - 20% 5
  • Locking and Adjustability - 15% 8
  • Packed Size - 15% 7
  • Durability - 15% 10
  • Versatility - 15% 7

Our Verdict

The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork - Women's poles are among the top poles we tested. They were the most durable, very comfortable, easy to adjust, and versatile enough to take anywhere. While they're not the lightest pole, they are more likely to survive the length of the PCT or the Continental Divide trail than other lightweight options. They don't have the smallest packed size either, but unless you're exclusively using a pole for approaching technical climbs, these will work for most uses. We highly recommend this pole for heavy-duty trekking, long-distance backpacking, or day hikes.


Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Alpine Carbon Women's poles get top marks for durability and comfort, and also score well with 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.

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 Cork's 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 also like the straps that provide padding along the wrist exactly where you want it. The top of the grip is gently rounded, large, and rubbery, which makes it easy to use when pushing down on the pole, such as descending steep trails or uphill skinning on snow.

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 Cork isn't the lightest women's pole at 17.0 ounces, weight isn't everything, and it's often opposed to durability and comfort. The thick carbon shafts absorb shock from the ground, and the cork handle is very comfortable. Both of these additions add weight to the pole, which we didn't mind.

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 lever locks on this pole (and the men's version) were some of the highest quality found in our review. They are made of thick, solid metal and close with a satisfying snap. We leaned on these poles with heavy backpacks during creek crossings with no hesitation.

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 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. However, we never needed to adjust the lever locks on the trail.

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 Women's pack down to 23 inches, which is better than most poles in our test. 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 z-style collapsing pole options that disappear inside a pack.

Durability


Durability is where the Alpine Carbon Cork excels 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 because we couldn't break these poles during our testing, no matter how hard we tried.

These poles also feature a replaceable carbide tip. Pole tips rarely wear out before other parts of the pole break, but 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 Cork as one of the more versatile of the women's 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 day hikes, overnight backpacking trips, cross-country and off-trail treks, and backcountry ski tours. Other poles are lighter and pack smaller, so we wouldn't recommend this pole for climbers or technical scramblers looking for a pole that will fold up and fit inside a backpack.

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

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 trek or through-hike, and consider this pole to be worth the money for serious users. We know users who have used a single pair of these poles for almost ten years. Plus, Black Diamond has a great warranty program if anything goes wrong.

Conclusion


These poles are wonderful. If you need a versatile and durable pole for any kind of hiking or trekking and don't plan on using them for technical climbing, these poles are a great investment. From the John Muir Trail to Everest Base Camp, these poles will do it all with comfort and ease, and last a long time.


Sibylle Hechtel