Black Diamond Carbon Compactor Review
Cons: Fixed length, not as strong as other poles
Manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment
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Our Analysis and Test Results
We are impressed by the Carbon Compactor's small packed size and ease of use, which make it perfect for splitboarding. The locking mechanism is easy to operate, which helps splitboarders make fast transitions at the top of each ascent. It doesn't have an adjustable length, nor does it feel extremely solid when the shaft sections are extended, which makes it less useful for backcountry skiers. That said, this is a great pole for splitboarders who want a light and simple pole for skinning that will quickly disappear when it's time to shred.
Ease of Use
The Carbon Compactor features a simple design that makes for easy use and quick transitions. It uses a z-pole collapsible design, and the sections lock into place with a satisfying click. The sections then collapse at the push of a button and snap into designated holes in the pole basket so the sections stay neatly folded together. Our team of splitboarders also appreciate the speed at which this pole breaks down — it's easy and takes only a couple seconds, speeding up transition times. Deployment is also super fast. It is our favorite design of all the z-poles on the market.
The grip is well-designed, featuring sticky rubber in an ergonomic design, and more rubber extending down into the secondary grip position. The top of the handle is large and rounded, providing a large surface to push against while climbing steeply. On side of the handle features a hook for easily flipping heel risers and toe locks into place. The powder basket features an asymmetrical design, which allows for use on firm sidehills or traverses.
There is no length adjustment feature, so be sure to pick the right size when you buy. Furthermore, users who have to deal with long, flat approaches and outtracks might prefer a pole that can be extended for Nordic-style double poling.
Weighing in at 18 ounces per pair, the Carbon Compactor is among the lightest poles in our test. This is due to the simple, non-extendable design and carbon shaft components. On the uphill, the weight of the pole is very comfortable. On the downhill, you won't even notice it on your backpack.
Carbon poles are becoming more and more popular, and for splitboarding, we highly recommend carbon construction poles. They are strong enough to use on any skin track or sidehill, and yet won't weigh you down on the descent. We would recommend slightly stronger poles for backcountry skiers, who use their poles in high-force impacts on the descent, but they'll probably be heavier as well.
Typically, when poles cut down on weight, they also sacrifice durability. In general, carbon poles are less durable than their aluminum counterparts, as carbon is more prone to chipping and cracking. In normal use, poles are pushed downwards into the snow along their length, which is actually a very strong orientation for carbon. However, we all know that ski poles take a beating. They get banged on ski edges and tree branches, and they get tossed into the depths of our cars at the end of the day. In general, the Carbon Compactor is subject to these durability concerns.
However, we did not experience any major durability concerns or failures during our testing. One issue we bumped into was the tightness of the shaft locking feature. Even when fully extended and locked, the shaft sections didn't feel completely solid in place and rattled around a bit. This isn't the only z-style pole to have this problem, and in fact, most z-poles we have ever tested, for summer or winter use, share this concern. Most z-poles have also proven to be less durable than their telescoping cousins.
The namesake feature of the Carbon Compactor is its ability to fold down into a very small 41 centimeters (16 inches). This is most important for splitboarders, who usually break down their poles at the top of a run and strap them to the outside of their packs, or even stash their poles inside their packs. Both for style and for utility, splitboarding poles need to break down small, and most two-section telescoping poles won't be useful for spitboarders. Even three-section telescoping poles tend to stick out of the top of a backpack when strapped to the outside.
The Compactor's collapsing and locking feature is very simple and effective. The upper section of the pole features a sliding shaft section, and when pulled out fully, it pulls the lower sections into place. When pulled hard enough, the sliding shaft section passes a spring-loaded metal peg, which snaps into place, preventing the sections from coming apart. When it's time to collapse the pole, simply pushing the metal peg releases the pole sections.
Another feature that keeps the packed size down are small holes in the powder basket for snapping into the carbon shaft sections. When collapsed, each section can snap into the powder basket, which keeps the pole together in one small unit, rather than splaying out into a backpack or across the snow. Black Diamond clearly put in the effort to design this pair of poles sleek and small to slide easily inside a pack, and they nailed it.
The Carbon Compactor's grip is nicely contoured, featuring Black Diamond's classic grip design and rubber. The handle is comfortable to use while gripping the rubber, choking up on the secondary grip, or pushing down on the rounded handle from above. Furthermore, the lightweight construction provides a nice, light swing weight while moving the poles forward with each step.
This is an expensive product, but it also performs highly and checks all of the boxes for the perfect splitboarding pole. There are cheaper options out there, but none of them come close to matching the performance of the Carbon Compactor. It's light, it packs small, it's functional, and it's secure. The durability concerns we have with this pole are not specific to this particular pole, but rather are in response to general trends we have seen in similar pole designs over time. But, with Black Diamond's fantastic warranty program, you can rest assured that your investment will be protected if any undue damage or malfunction occurs.
The Black Diamond Carbon Compactor is a lightweight and collapsible pole that wins our Editors' Choice Award for backcountry splitboarding poles. It accomplishes everything splitboarders need, including ease of use and quick transitions, and does it with a comfortable and sleek construction to boot. Without a length adjustment feature, skiers probably won't be interested, but for splitboarding, this pole is the best on the market.
— Henry Feder