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Black Diamond Carbon Compactor Review

The favorite among our splitboarders, this lightweight pole folds down very small to discretely pack away for the descent
Black Diamond Carbon Compactor
Photo: Backcountry
Editors' Choice Award
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Price:  $190 List | Check Price at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Packs very short and slender, lightweight, simple and fast to use
Cons:  Fixed length, not as strong as other poles
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond Equipment
By Henry Feder ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 20, 2020
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76
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#1 of 10
  • Ease of use - 35% 8
  • Weight - 20% 8
  • Durability - 15% 5
  • Packed Size - 15% 9
  • Comfort - 15% 7

Our Verdict

Splitboarders need a pole that will be effective on the skin track, and that will disappear for the descent. The Editors' Choice Black Diamond Carbon Compactor fits the bill perfectly, with a quick-release button that helps break down the pole in seconds, and a small packed size when strapped onto the outside or stowed inside of a pack. It features a comfortable grip and an effective powder basket for easy skinning, and it's lightweight to boot. The only detractions are it's fixed length, which most experienced splitboarders won't mind, and it's durability, which isn't as good as other poles in our review. That said, you'll probably only be using this pole on the skin track anyways, where the beatings are less intense. We recommend this pole for any splitboarder who wants the lightest, smallest-packing pole out there. Skiers will likely want to look elsewhere.

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Awards Editors' Choice Award Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award Top Pick Award 
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$110 List
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$145 List
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Pros Packs very short and slender, lightweight, simple and fast to useComfortable grip, lightweight, good featuresSimple design, good durability, comfortable gripAwesome primary and secondary grips, good locking mechanisms, durableEasy to use, feels like a normal ski pole, durable
Cons Fixed length, not as strong as other polesNot as durable as some, doesn't pack small enough for splitboardersSluggish swing weight, doesn't pack as small as we hopedOn the heavier side, doesn't pack smallExpensive, comes as a single pole, specific use
Bottom Line The favorite among our splitboarders, this lightweight pole folds down very small to discretely pack away for the descentLightweight aluminum and carbon hybrid poles that are packed with elite performance and features for all tours, long or shortA good ski pole at a decent price, but there are better options out thereA very durable and practical ski pole at a great priceOur top recommendation for a ski pole that also provides some ice axe capabilities
Rating Categories Black Diamond Carbo... Black Diamond Razor... Black Diamond Exped... Black Diamond Traverse Black Diamond Whippet
Ease Of Use (35%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
8.0
Weight (20%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
5.0
3.0
Durability (15%)
5.0
6.0
7.0
9.0
8.0
Packed Size (15%)
9.0
6.0
7.0
2.0
5.0
Comfort (15%)
7.0
9.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
Specs Black Diamond Carbo... Black Diamond Razor... Black Diamond Exped... Black Diamond Traverse Black Diamond Whippet
Size Tested 120 cm 140 cm 140 cm 155 cm One Size
Measured Weight Per Pair (oz) 18 oz 18 oz 19 oz 21 oz 17.6 oz (single pole)
Shaft Material Carbon fiber Carbon, aluminum Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum
Min Length (cm) 120 cm 115 cm 62 cm 105 cm 100 cm
Max Length (cm) 120 cm 140 cm 140 cm 155 cm 140 cm
Pole Design Z-Pole Adjustable Double Adjustable Adjustable 3-Piece Adjustable
Locking Mechanism Z-Pole Flick Lock Dual Flick Lock Flick Lock Flick Lock Pro

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.

Performance Comparison


Skinning back to the car with our favorite poles for splitboarders...
Skinning back to the car with our favorite poles for splitboarders, the Carbon Compactor from Black Diamond.
Photo: Ross Robinson

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.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Weight


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.

You'll barely notice the weight of the 18-ounce Carbon Compactors...
You'll barely notice the weight of the 18-ounce Carbon Compactors when they are stashed on your pack for the descent.
Photo: Ross Patton

Durability


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.

Packed Size


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.

The BD Carbon Compactor tucks away most discretely in a...
The BD Carbon Compactor tucks away most discretely in a splitboarding pack.
Photo: Ross Patton

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.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Comfort


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.


The Black Diamond Compactor's grip was comfortable with thick or...
The Black Diamond Compactor's grip was comfortable with thick or thin gloves.
Photo: Henry Feder

Value


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.

Foldable and 3-section telescoping poles are ideal for splitboarding.
Foldable and 3-section telescoping poles are ideal for splitboarding.
Photo: Ross Patton

Conclusion


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

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