Hands-on Gear Review

Black Diamond Contour Elliptic Shock Review

Black Diamond Contour Elliptic Shock
By: Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jul 5, 2014
Price:  $140 List
Pros:  Super strong and durable, our favorite great shock absorption system, pretty comfortable above average foam grip.
Cons:  Heaviest pole in the review, smaller handed folks feel the grip was too big.
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
81
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 20% 8
  • Locking Mechanism - 15% 10
  • Weight - 20% 7
  • Packed Size - 15% 7
  • Durability - 15% 10
  • Versatility - 15% 7
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Our Verdict

These poles are burly!!!! The Black Diamond Contour Elliptic Shock are straight up the toughest poles in our review in every way, the downside, they are also the heaviest. The Contour Elliptic Shock are unique because they feature a tear drop shaped design (instead of the normal circular design) to add strength and stiffness to the shaft. This helps them hold up to the most rugged off trail travel or heavier users that put more force on their poles. These poles also had among the most comfortable foam grips in our review and were some of the plushest poles we tested overall. Like nearly everything else about this pole the grips are big in diameter and are the best for medium to larger size hands.


Our Analysis and Test Results

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Performance Comparison


Black Diamond Contour Elliptic Shock
Black Diamond Contour Elliptic Shock

Comfort


This is overall the most comfortable pole we tested. We really liked the handles and the foam covered upper shaft. Along with the similarly designed Black Diamond Trail Back, this pole had the most comfortable foam handle we tested but it is best for bigger hands. While most of our testers liked the cork grips better overall, like the ones found on the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork, the Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork or the Leki Corklite, there were a few that loved the feel and the ergonomics of the foam on this pole. If you like the grip but want a lighter pole, check out the Leki Carbonlite which has a similar foam grip but is nearly half a pound lighter.
The Authors hand on the grip of a Black Diamond Contour Ellipic Shock pole.
The Authors hand on the grip of a Black Diamond Contour Ellipic Shock pole.

Locking Mechanism


Big fans of the locking mechanism. BD always leads the pack here.
The Flick lock closure mechanism featured on a Black Diamond Contour Ellipic Shock trekking pole.
The Flick lock closure mechanism featured on a Black Diamond Contour Ellipic Shock trekking pole.

Weight


The Black Diamond Contour Elliptic Shock pole at 22 ounces is the heaviest trekking pole in our review and is heavier than average among the trekking poles currently on the market. All that weight is not wasted because the Contour Elliptic Shock is most certainly the most durable pole we tested, or have seen at this point and it has a lot of extra features like an extended grip and a shock absorber, but still, the heaviest remains the heaviest.

Durability


The Black Diamond Contour Elliptic Shock poles are straight up the most durable poles in this review. This comes mostly from their tear drop shaped shafts that, while heavier, are also stronger than traditional circular shafts. The Contour Elliptic Shock also uses a slightly beefed up version of Black Diamonds normal FlickLock Mechanism that is stronger and designed slightly differently to work with the Contour Elliptics' tear drop shape.
Showing the oval shape of the shaft of a Black Diamond Contour Elliptic Shock
Showing the oval shape of the shaft of a Black Diamond Contour Elliptic Shock

Shock Absorbing system


When it comes to absorbing shock, this pole and the Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock are the best. It's more durable and resists bottoming out better than the rest of the competition.

The shock absorption system on the Black Diamond Contour Ellipic Shock poles
The shock absorption system on the Black Diamond Contour Ellipic Shock poles

Packability


All the shock absorbing poles where among the longest, least compact poles in our review and the Contour Elliptic is no different. It packs down to nearly the worst size in this review; 27" (68 cm). The only poles that were longer are the other shock absorbing poles, the REI Traverse Shocklight (28") and the Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock (27").

Versatility


The Black Diamond Contour Elliptic Shock is ideal for trekkers, backpackers or folks that just want a Cadillac of a pole. Being the heaviest pole we tested combined with its shock mechanism makes it less ideal for climbers or hikers wanting to travel light, but will stand up fantastically to heavy loads and abusive trips.

Bottom Line


The Black Diamond Contour Elliptic Shock is a heavy, burly pole that is best appreciated by bigger, heavier users who will put more force on their poles and won't mind the extra weight for a noticeably extended usable life.

Ian Nicholson

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: July 13, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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  • 5
 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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  • 4
  • 5
 (1.0)

0% of 1 reviewers recommend it
 
Rating Distribution
2 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 50%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 50%  (1)
messing around on the summit of Mt. Adams

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   Jul 13, 2014 - 04:12pm
CDBahl · Climber · Seattle

I'm sorry, but the first line of this review could not be more false. These poles are the opposite of burly. These poles failed on me the very first time I brought them out.

The elliptical shape does add strength when the pole is stressed from front to back, parallel to the major axis. However, this means sacrificing strength when stress is applied from side to side, perpendicular to the major axis. So, if you slip and need to catch yourself with the pole, don't expect it to hold up unless you're able to apply force with the direction of the elliptical shape while you're falling. I discovered this achilles heel while snowshoeing in fresh powder on a ~50° slope. I slipped while switchbacking (so my side was facing uphill), and I planted the uphill pole deep in the snow in attempt to self arrest. When lateral force was applied, the pole merely bent sideways. Fearing it would snap, I let go of it. Once released, the pole shot out of the snow like a missile towards my hiking partner (luckily it missed). I managed to safely arrest my slide not too far down. Upon retrieving the pole, I found it bent into an "S" shape.

Elliptical poles are a nice idea, but they are not safe in practice. Round poles are equally strong when lateral force is applied at any angle. I immediately traded these ellipticals in for a pair of (round) Black Diamond Trail poles, have been happily abusing them for years, and they're still going strong.



Bottom Line: No, I would not recommend this product to a friend.


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