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Black Diamond Traverse Review

A very durable and practical ski pole at a great price
Black Diamond Traverse
Photo: Black Diamond
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $90 List | Check Price at Amazon
Pros:  Awesome primary and secondary grips, good locking mechanisms, durable
Cons:  On the heavier side, doesn't pack small
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond Equipment
By Henry Feder ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Mar 20, 2020
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67
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 10
  • Ease of use - 35% 8
  • Weight - 20% 5
  • Durability - 15% 9
  • Packed Size - 15% 2
  • Comfort - 15% 8

Our Verdict

The Black Diamond Traverse is one of our all-time favorite backcountry ski poles, and takes home our Best Buy Award for 2020. It's a durable, aluminum two-section pole with great grips and locks. If you don't need a pole that packs small, then this pole has everything that you'll need in the backcountry, and it does it for a great price. We've been using this pole for years, banging snow off tree branches on the skin track and even taking them inbounds for pounding bump runs, and haven't run into a durability issue yet. These are solid overall poles for backcountry skiers, and they cost less than the high-end options.

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Awards Best Buy Award Editors' Choice Award  Top Pick Award  
Price $90 List
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$125 List$59.95 at Amazon
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Pros Awesome primary and secondary grips, good locking mechanisms, durableComfortable grip, lightweight, good featuresSimple design, good durability, comfortable gripEasy to use, feels like a normal ski pole, durableInexpensive, great locking mechanism
Cons On the heavier side, doesn't pack smallNot as durable as some, doesn't pack small enough for splitboardersSluggish swing weight, doesn't pack as small as we hopedExpensive, comes as a single pole, specific useFragile construction, powder baskets are too big, cumbersome grip
Bottom Line A very durable and practical ski pole at a great priceLightweight 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 thereOur top recommendation for a ski pole that also provides some ice axe capabilitiesAn inexpensive option that disappointed us in some key performance areas
Rating Categories Black Diamond Traverse Black Diamond Razor... Black Diamond Exped... Black Diamond Whippet MSR DynaLock Trail
Ease Of Use (35%)
8.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
6.0
Weight (20%)
5.0
8.0
7.0
3.0
5.0
Durability (15%)
9.0
6.0
7.0
8.0
2.0
Packed Size (15%)
2.0
6.0
7.0
5.0
4.0
Comfort (15%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
3.0
Specs Black Diamond Traverse Black Diamond Razor... Black Diamond Exped... Black Diamond Whippet MSR DynaLock Trail
Size Tested 155 cm 140 cm 140 cm One Size 140 cm
Measured Weight Per Pair (oz) 21 oz 18 oz 19 oz 17.6 oz (single pole) 21 oz
Shaft Material Aluminum Carbon, aluminum Aluminum Aluminum Aluminum
Min Length (cm) 105 cm 115 cm 62 cm 100 cm 100 cm
Max Length (cm) 155 cm 140 cm 140 cm 140 cm 140 cm
Pole Design Adjustable Adjustable Double Adjustable 3-Piece Adjustable Two-Piece
Locking Mechanism Flick Lock Flick Lock Dual Flick Lock Flick Lock Pro DynaLock

Our Analysis and Test Results

Year after year, we are impressed by the Traverse, and that's probably because it hasn't changed that much. A comfortable grip, strong lever lock, and durable aluminum shaft sections make this a great pole for the everyday backcountry skier.

Performance Comparison


The Black Diamond Traverse is one of our all-time favorite...
The Black Diamond Traverse is one of our all-time favorite backcountry ski poles.
Photo: David Wise

Ease of Use


The beauty of the Traverse lies in its simplicity. It features an excellent grip and handle design, with a large rounded area on top for pushing down on steep sections of the skin track. Above the forefinger of the grip, the handle creates a small hook, which is useful for everything from locking tech toepieces to lightly gripping the pole during smooth ski descents.


Below the handle, there's a large rubber secondary grip that is very useful while traversing or sidehilling up steep skin tracks. The lever lock is made of plastic, but it is thick and we've never broken one. It can be tightened by either a flathead or Phillips screwdriver, and we've also tightened them in the field with a car key and a credit card. The powder basket is wide enough to provide floatation in powder, yet flexible and easy to use when the skin track gets steep and firm.

A rubber coating on the main pole shaft constitutes the Black...
A rubber coating on the main pole shaft constitutes the Black Diamond Traverse's secondary grip, used for the upper hand while sidehilling.
Photo: sam willits

Weight


The Traverse weighs in at 21 ounces per pair, which is on the heavy side of all backcountry ski poles. This weight can be attributed to the solid aluminum shafts. In the end, our testers thought that the heavier shafts were not too much of a big deal, considering that they are much more durable than carbon shafts.


Other poles on the market feature an aluminum top shaft, including the grip, and a carbon lower shaft. This saves weight overall and also helps keep weight down towards the tip of the pole. A pole with a lighter tip will be easier to flick and swing forward when turning, leading to lighter swing weight. Our testers noted that the Traverse has a heavy, sluggish swing weight. This used to be unnoticeable, but with all of the lightweight, carbon poles on the market today, we can now clearly feel the difference between the Traverse and more lightweight options. This only matters if you know the difference. Most backcountry skiers will feel just fine when skiing downhill with the Traverse in hand.

The Traverse weighs an ounce or two more than other options on the...
The Traverse weighs an ounce or two more than other options on the market. As a result, it feels a bit sluggish to swing forward in comparison.
Photo: Ross Patton

Durability


Our testers have been using the Traverse for years, putting them to heavy use banging snow off tree branches and scraping out kickturns when ski guiding. Among backcountry professionals, the Traverse is legendary for its durability. These things can take a beating for seasons on end and show only surface scratches.


Most of the pole's strength comes from its construction. The shafts are made from aluminum, and the plastic lever locks are low-profile and don't snag or smack against other objects too much. Even the grip and handle can take a beating and show only scratches. We have put these poles through the wringer and can attest to their multi-season durability. In some cases, excessively harsh use has led to the lower pole section becoming slightly bent. For these cases, BD sells lower pole shaft replacements.

Powder days and bony days alike, the BD Traverse is always ready to...
Powder days and bony days alike, the BD Traverse is always ready to go. Some of our testers have owned a pair of these poles for years of dependable, rugged service.
Photo: Ross Robinson

Packed Size


The downside to the Traverse is its large packed size, although this is primarily an issue for splitboarders and not skiers. It collapses down to a minimum length of 37 or 41 inches, depending on the pole size chosen. The two-section telescoping design doesn't leave room for any smaller compacting.


Most backcountry skiers don't need a pole that can pack small. They use an average length pole for the ascent, a short pole for the descent, and a long pole for Nordic-style pushing and skating on long approaches or roads. The Traverse features 50 centimeters of length adjustability, which is unheard of. In the Tetons, where we need short poles for mega-steep descents, and long poles for pushing out miles of flat trail back to the parking lot, we appreciate the massive amount of length adjustment. Because the Traverse can't be compacted below about 41 inches, we don't recommend it for splitboarders who want a pole that can be stowed on the outside of a pack.

The Traverse gets shorter for steep descents, and elongates for...
The Traverse gets shorter for steep descents, and elongates for skinning, with 50 centimeters of length adjustment.
Photo: Ross Robinson

Comfort


We love the Traverse's handle and grip. The grip features a comfortable rubber that is easily used by both gloves and bare hands. The handle is ergonomically shaped for pushing down against the top, and the hook feature above the forefinger of the grip is genius. We can hold the pole with a completely open hand without dropping it.


We also love the Traverse's secondary grip. It features a long, rubber patch that can accommodate an entire hand, and it also features two rubber gaskets on either end of the secondary grip that provide extra leverage to the thumb and forefinger. This secondary grip is our favorite on the market, and while it may add a few ounces to the overall design, we have come to expect nothing less from backcountry ski poles. It truly sets the standard for secondary grip design, which is important in places like the Tetons where you'll climb three or four thousand feet just to get to the top of your first ski run. Even in smaller backcountry areas, the secondary grip is awesome.

Testing out the BD Traverse, a venerable workhouse.
Testing out the BD Traverse, a venerable workhouse.
Photo: Henry Feder

Value


The Traverse isn't the cheapest pole in our review, but it's also far from the most expensive. It provides high-level performance at a price most skiers can afford, which is why we give it our Best Buy Award. It is hard to find a feature that the Traverse lacks. Besides its legendary durability, Black Diamond has an excellent warranty program. Should anything go wrong with your poles, BD will be there to support you and replace the poles if necessary.

Conclusion


The Black Diamond Traverse provides excellent performance, thoughtful features, and a time-tested design at a reasonable price, winning our Best Buy Award. It's not a lightweight pole, and it doesn't pack down very small, but in every other regard, it is a great product. For the majority of backcountry skiers who need a pole that will perform well on the ascent and descent, and need their equipment to last a long time, the Traverse is their go-to.

The Black Diamond Traverse, our Best Buy Award winner, is a great...
The Black Diamond Traverse, our Best Buy Award winner, is a great all-around backcountry ski pole that most skiers can afford.
Photo: David Wise

Henry Feder