This is a top pick for general trekking, hiking and backpacking because it has one of the nicest overall grips in our review, is pretty tough, reasonable priced and is the lightest telescoping aluminum pole we tested. It shares many of the same design features as our OutdoorGearLab Best Buy award winner, the Black Diamond Trail Back but has a much nicer articulated cork handle and is two ounces lighter. What the Trail Ergo isn't, is compact, with the longest minimum length in our review that is nearly twice as long as a few of the newer folding, "tent pole style" poles, like the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z, though the Trail Ergo Cork is tougher and more versatile.
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Review
Cons: Least compact pole in our review
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
Our Analysis and Test Results
Performance Comparison of the 2015 Ergo Cork
The Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork has one of our favorite grips in our review, it features a cork handle with fantastic ergonomics and a 15-degree corrective angle for what Black Diamond calls: "optimal grip position". While the last statement is a little bit of a personal preference, all of our testers agree that the Trail Ergo is comfortable and similar to a cork Birkenstock, it only got more comfortable with time. The Trail Ergo's grip is a little larger in diameter than several other poles we tested and while it wasn't a big deal for most, those with smaller hands didn't like it nearly as much. For those folks we suggest they check out the similarly designed Leki Corklite which has a noticeably smaller diameter grip. We did think the Trail Ergo's grip excelled under all types of weather, it wasn't too cold on snowy hikes nor too hot on desert treks, and just plain felt great. Our cork handle did get a little chipped up, but that was after several months of use of heavy duty (and possibly careless) off trail use.
The Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork uses an external lever locking style system that Black Diamond calls their FlickLock. The first to popularize this style of mechanism, Black Diamond, continues to update it and it remains our overall Top Pick among locking mechanisms for its durability and ease of use. The FlickLock used to be better than everyone else's but now we think the Leki SpeedLock, another external locking mechanism, is just as easy to use.
The Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork tips the scales at a surprisingly light 18 ounces, two ounces lighter than its price pointed cousin and OutdoorGearLab's Best Buy award winner, the Black Diamond Trail Back and only two ounces heavier than the Editors' Choice award winner, the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork. The Trail Ergo Cork is a traditionally designed telescoping aluminum pole and compared to other similarly designed aluminum poles, it is among the lightest, with our other Top Pick, the Leki Corklite (another telescoping aluminum pole) being the next closest and only one ounce heavier at 19 ounces. While the Trail Ergo Cork is lighter than average among all trekking poles, it is 3-8 ounces heavier than most newer folding "tent pole style" poles.
The Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork packs down to 29" (74 cm), the least compact in our review. That is 3-8" longer than the minimum length of most of the other comparable telescoping poles in our review. With such a long minimum size, you don't get any longer of a maximum pole length either, with the Trail Ergo Cork expanding to an average size among poles we tested; 5" (140 cm). While that's plenty long enough for most folks up to 6'6" or 6'7", it isn't anything special for having such a long packed length. For most hikers, trekkers and backpackers, the Trail Ergo's 29" minimum length isn't a big deal as long as it will still strap onto the sides of most medium to larger size daypacks and nearly all overnight packs. What the Trail Ergo isn't as good for, is climbers who are going to carry their poles on their packs more often, or frequent travelers who might not always be able to fit the Trail Ergo into their luggage. If a more compact pole is important to you, check out some of the folding "tent pole style" trekking poles like another one of our Top Picks, the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z, which packs down more than 12" shorter.
For its weight, the Trail Ergo Cork is a surprisingly durable pole and was among the tougher poles in our review. After a month of heavy duty off trail use we did get a few dents and chips in the cork handle, that we didn't get in the Leki Corklite, but as a whole we think the Trail Ergo might be a little tougher than the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork, around the same toughness (as far as the shafts are concerned) as the Leki Corklite and Quantum, and certainly a step up in durability from the Black Diamond Ultra Distance or the Komperdell C3 Carbon Powerlock Compact.
Black Diamond calls the Trail Ergo a four-season pole, and while we wouldn't go backcountry or downhill skiing with it, we would do almost everything else. The Trail Ergo is certainly burly enough for snowshoeing or heavy duty off trail use. But what's cool about the Trail Ergo is that it's not too heavy at 18 ounces.
Why would you buy the Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork? Because it is a lighter, traditional telescoping pole that is pretty durable and that features a fantastic comfortable handle that was among the best in our review. You don't buy it because it's the lightest or because it's very packable, again it is the least compact pole in our review, but to most trekkers, day hikers and backpackers that isn't as much of a big deal.
— Ian Nicholson