Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork - Women's Review
Cons: Relatively heavy, doesn't pack as small as others
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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