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Black Diamond Expedition 3 Review

A good ski pole at a decent price, but there are better options out there
Three-section poles allow plenty of adjustability  and the potential to pack down small onto the side of a backpack. They're versatile enough to use for summer trekking and hiking as well.
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Price:  $110 List | $109.95 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Simple design, good durability, comfortable grip
Cons:  Sluggish swing weight, doesn't pack as small as we hoped
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond Equipment
By Henry Feder ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 20, 2020
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67
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 10
  • Ease of use - 35% 7
  • Weight - 20% 6
  • Durability - 15% 7
  • Packed Size - 15% 6
  • Comfort - 15% 7

Our Verdict

The Black Diamond Expedition 3 is a tough, aluminum 3-section telescoping pole. It has a comfortable foam grip that fits all hand sizes, and a large powder basket that works well. The lever locks are solid and easily adjustable, and in general, the pole is easy to use. Unfortunately, it doesn't collapse as small as we'd like it to, and it isn't super lightweight either. Skiers will probably opt for a 2-section pole, and splitboarders will want a pole that collapses smaller. The upside is that this pole can also be used for trekking and backpacking in the summer. If you want one pole for all four seasons, this could be a good choice.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

In general, this pole works well. The grip is comfortable, the lever locks are solid, and there's a lot of length adjustability. The major downside is that is doesn't collapse as small as it needs to for splitboarders, and skiers will probably just stick to a 2-section pole that is simpler to adjust. This poles might just be stuck in the middle.

Performance Comparison


The Expedition 3  pitted against another pole  in a side-to-side backcountry skiing test.
The Expedition 3, pitted against another pole, in a side-to-side backcountry skiing test.

Ease of Use


The Expedition 3 has some great features that make it a breeze to use in the backcountry. The foam grip is well-contoured and continues down the shaft for effective choking up when sidehilling. It's lever locks are easy to adjust with a key, coin, or small screwdriver, and solidly lock the shaft sections into place. We also like the powder baskets, which provide plenty of floatation and remain soft enough to match the slope angle when traversing steep, firm slopes. The handle has a downturned tip, almost like a hook, which is great for flicking heel risers up and down.

The tip of the Expedition 3's handle acts like a hook and easily captures the toe lock or heel risers on tech bindings for quick transitions.
The tip of the Expedition 3's handle acts like a hook and easily captures the toe lock or heel risers on tech bindings for quick transitions.

The main downside of a 3-section pole for skiers is that there are two lever locks to adjust at each transition, instead of just one per pole. This minor annoyance isn't a big deal, and it allows for a ton of length adjustment. This is nice if you plan on using it as a trekking pole in the summer.

Weight


The Expedition 3 isn't the lightest pole in our test, but it's not the heaviest either. At 19 ounces per pair, it is about average for backcountry ski poles. The three-section design means there are two lever locks on each shaft, which can be felt in the swing weight. Swinging the pole forward with each turn feels slightly more difficult than it should be. This is only a big deal when making tight, steep turns. But when we're skiing deep powder on the best day of our lives, we don't want to be thinking about how heavy our poles feel.

Durability


In general, three-section poles are less durable than two-section poles and are slightly more prone to snapping one of the shaft sections. In theory, more moving parts provide more points of weakness. We didn't encounter any such problems during our testing, and the Expedition 3 showed good durability. The foam grip isn't as durable as other rubber grips, and it developed a few chips and dings during our test period.

The Expedition 3's foam grip is comfortable  but less durable than rubber grips.
The Expedition 3's foam grip is comfortable, but less durable than rubber grips.

Packed Size


The Expedition 3 has a minimum collapsed length of 57 or 62 centimeters, depending on the size you get. This sounds small, but it's actually not small enough to disappear onto the side of a backpack. As such, splitboarders will likely want to explore other options. Skiers generally use two-section telescoping poles because they are lighter and faster to adjust than three-section telescoping poles, as well as offering more durability, all materials equal. The main advantage of a three-section telescoping pole is that it can be used while hiking and trail running in the summer, in addition to backcountry skiing in the winter.

The Expedition 3's locking mechanisms are simple and easy to adjust. We just wished the pole collapsed a little bit smaller for splitboarding.
The Expedition 3's locking mechanisms are simple and easy to adjust. We just wished the pole collapsed a little bit smaller for splitboarding.

Comfort


The Expedition 3 has some cool features that make it a comfortable pole to use. The foam grip is contoured to fit all hand sizes comfortably, and the foam also extends below the grip for easily choking up or down while traversing or side-hilling. The top of the handle features a small rubber pad that adds grip when pushing straight down on the top of the pole during sections of steep climbing. The three-section design distributes some weight down towards the basket, creating a heavy swing weight. This is the least comfortable aspect of the pole.

The Black Diamond Expedition 3's secondary grip is large and comfortable to use while side-hilling.
The Black Diamond Expedition 3's secondary grip is large and comfortable to use while side-hilling.

Value


The Expedition 3 is relatively inexpensive, considering the solid performance that it delivers. Furthermore, it can be used in the summer as a trekking pole, making it one of the more versatile backcountry ski poles that we have tested. Black Diamond has an excellent warranty program, making this pole an excellent value for those seeking a good pole at a low price.

Conclusion


The Black Diamond Expedition 3 is a good backcountry ski pole that can also be used as a trekking pole. It delivers average performance across the board, at an above-average value.

Henry Feder