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.
Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork - Women's Review
Compare prices at 4 resellers Pros: Very durable, versatile, comfortable, and lightweight
Cons: Not as small in packed size as the Leki Micro Vario
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
Compare to Similar Products
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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