Black Diamond Trail Sport 3 Review
Cons: Heavy, large packed size
Manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Black Diamond Trail Sport 3 surprised us all. These inexpensive aluminum poles are comfortable, durable, and despite being one of the heavier poles in our review, they feature a fantastic swing-weight. All this translates to a pair of poles with a great value that are bomb-proof, easy-to-use, and will rarely slow you down.
The Trail Sport 3 features rubber grips with ventilation channels, which at first seem like they would be uncomfortable in action. On the contrary, these grips are surprisingly comfortable. They are also beefy enough to provide ample stability and support on the trail. In addition to increasing grip breathability, the ribbed grips perform double-duty by dampening some trail vibrations. The rubber grip extenders provide sufficient grip below the handles for choking-down on the poles on steep trails. While the straps are fairly minimalist, their pared-down nature didn't cramp our style. The grips and strap provide a fairly comfortable and breathable alternative to lightweight foam or cushiony cork grips. While there are more comfortable options on the market, these poles strike a balance between low price and high comfort.
Weighing in at 22 ounces per pair, the Trail Sport 3 are the heaviest poles in our review. Don't let that necessarily deter you from these trekking poles — what you lose in weight-savings you gain in durability. While these heavy-weight poles aren't ideal for gram-counting through-hikers or alpine climbers, they will absolutely appeal to anyone who is hard on their gear and doesn't mind sacrificing weight for durability. If you're looking for trekking poles that will survive the abuse of a multi-week backpacking trip with a heavy pack and you're on a budget, these poles might be a match made in gear heaven.
Locking and Adjustability
One of the best features of the Trail Sport 3 is the ease of locking and adjustability. These poles are three-piece telescoping poles with aluminum shafts and quick-release levers to adjust the length. Black Diamond's patented FlickLock adjustability makes adjusting the length an absolute breeze. The lever on the FlickLock is easy to open and close for easy length adjustment mid-hike as you move between uphill and downhill terrain. If need be, the tightness of the FlickLock can be adjusted with a flat-head or Phillips screwdriver. You can do this in the field as long as you remember to bring your multi-tool. We definitely prefer lever-lock adjustments that you can dial-in with your thumb, but for poles of this quality and value, we think this is a feature you can skip. The straps are easily adjusted by pulling on the tail to tighten or by pulling on the top of the strap to open the cuffs. Overall, these trekking poles provide excellent adjustability features for trekking poles of any price.
At 25 inches when fully collapsed, the Trail Sport 3 are among the longest packed poles in our review. While our review is heavily weighted toward packed size and weight, these elements may be unimportant to you. The packed length of trekking poles is critical to consider only if you need to stow your poles in or on your pack while crossing technical terrain (4th class scrambling, steep couloirs, or 5th class climbing), when doing a critter-hang while rock climbing, or while transporting your gear during an international adventure. If this is you, we recommend checking out the folding poles in our review.
However, if you plan to use your trekking poles for day-trips, weekend backpacking excursions, and local hikes or peak-bagging, then this metric need-not-apply. If you are interested in these poles because of their excellent durability and you are planning a multi-week backcountry adventure, they do pack down small enough to fit in most large duffels and backpacks (though they may be unwieldy in other types of luggage).
Durability is one of the categories where the Trail Sport 3 absolutely shines. These telescoping aluminum poles are made with more burly materials than many of the other poles in our review. With most outdoor gear, durability and weight-savings are often a trade-off. Ultra-light gear is made to be extremely lightweight, not to be bombproof. Likewise, bombproof gear is rarely lightweight. The Trail Sport 3 manages to be one of the most durable pairs of trekking poles in our review, without being too cumbersome to use on long hikes. This is because they feature aluminum telescoping or overlapping shafts.
Aluminum is much sturdier and less likely to chip or snap than carbon-fiber. With the overlapping shafts, there is more material to reinforce the poles (unless you have them adjusted to full-extension), so when you use these poles to brace your weight on uneven terrain, they are unlikely to bow or break. The shocking thing about these poles is that while they are heavier than others, they also feature an impressive swing-weight, meaning that they manage to be durable yet nimble. A great combination at a great price, if you ask us.
The Trail Sport 3 is a jack-of-all-trades in terms of versatility. This impressive all-arounder features a great swing-weight for nimble mobility on day hikes or backpacking trips and is even a great option for an expedition where durability under heavy loads is key. They come equipped with small trekking baskets but are also compatible with snow baskets so they could be used for all manner of backcountry winter activities. While we wouldn't recommend them as primary alpine skiing poles, they are beefy enough to suffice in a pinch. They would also be great for ski touring where you need to leverage down on your grips while skinning uphill or a fantastic option for snowshoeing. While these poles are designed for hiking, backpacking, and trekking, we find them to be beefy enough to use through all four seasons.
With one of the lowest prices for trekking poles in our review, these beefcakes are a great value. For half the price of many other poles reviewed, you get a pair of trekking poles that are nimble for their weight and incredibly durable, comfortable, and versatile. Unless you are in the market for something lighter-weight or more stow-able, the Trail Sport 3 delivers on a variety of fronts.
The Black Diamond Trail Sport 3 poles offer great comfort and versatility at an unbeatable price. While they are heavier and pack-down larger than other poles in our review, they offer great stability, durability, and manage to be surprisingly nimble for their weight. If you're shopping for a reliable pair of trekking poles for hiking, backpacking, or trekking at a great price, then these are a sure bet.
— Mary Witlacil