Black Diamond’s Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles are three-piece, lever-lock, carbon-fiber hiking poles with cork grips that include removable 38 mm trekking baskets and 100 mm powder baskets for skiing or snowshoeing. They come in a unisex green version, a women’s magenta version, and a unisex blue version with whippet-ready compatibility. The unisex green and blue whippet-ready poles expand to 130 cm whereas the women’s version expands to 125 cm and weighs a few grams less.
Specs at a Glance
- Best use: Hiking, backpacking
- Weight (pair): 17.1 oz (486 g)
- Usable length: 61-130 cm (24-51 in)
- Collapsed length: 61 cm (24 in)
- Grip: Cork
- Shaft construction; Carbon fiber
- Locking mechanism: Lever lock
- Basket type: Trekking
The following is a review of the unisex green Alpine Carbon Cork Poles but is generally applicable to the women’s and whippet-ready versions. Most observations also carry over to older versions of this pole which are almost identical with the exception of the upgrade FlickLock level lock, which I will explain below.
The Versatility of a Three-Piece Pole
Three-piece collapsible poles are better than two-piece or one-piece poles for a few reasons. First, they allow the user to dial in the fit perfectly. Most people adjust their trekking poles so that their elbow is close to a 90-degree right angle before leaving the trailhead. This is very easy to do with the Alpine Carbon Cork.
Three-piece poles also have the advantage of being easier to repair than single-piece poles. If you break one section you can easily order a replacement from Black Diamond without having to buy an entirely new set of poles. If you break a section within the one-year warranty window, they may even send you a new section free of charge.
Three-piece poles are also ideal for dialing in the pitch-height of a trekking pole tent or pyramid tarp. They can also be lashed together with a pair of Voile Straps to accommodate taller tarps, as well. They’re great for packrafting because you can fold them up and stash them so they’re out of the way and you can disassemble them so you can pack them in checked luggage for air travel. Single-piece or two-piece trekking poles are much harder to use in all of these circumstances.
Lever-style vs Twist-style Locks
In my experience, adjustable trekking poles with lever-style locking mechanisms are more reliable than ones with twist-style locks, which have a tendency to slip over time with use.
If you take apart multi-piece trekking poles, you’ll find that they have a telescoping style construction, with thinner segments sliding into the thicker ones, located closer to your hands and higher up on the pole.
A lever-style lock is anchored on the thicker segment and squeezes a thinner segment so it can’t slide up or down inside the thicker segment. It works remarkably well and can usually be manually adjusted if the clamping action loosens up over time.
Twist style locks rely on an internal plastic expander which is screwed onto the top of the thinner pole before it is inserted into a thicker pole. When twisted, the expander widens and prevents the thinner pole from moving up or down inside the thicker one. However, the plastic expander can fatigue with use, or become compromised by dirt and dust, that adheres to the thinner poles and is tracked inside the thicker poles when the pole is collapsed. Both lead to slippage, which can be difficult to fix even if the original expander is replaced. While you can prolong the lifetime of the plastic expander by carefully cleaning and drying your poles after each use, most people don’t have the discipline to do it.
Black Diamond calls the lever-style lock on the Alpine Carbon Corks the “Flick-Lock Pro” and it is durable, reliable, isn’t affected by dirt, and rarely requires any maintenance to use. The latest version of the Alpine Carbon Corks reviewed here uses a new version of the Flick-Lock Pro that is made with aluminum and is more durable than the previous model which was made with plastic and steel. They function identically to the older model but are more robust.
Carbon Fiber Construction
Carbon fiber is an excellent material for trekking poles because it’s very stiff and reduces the amount of vibration you’ll feel in your arms when hiking, compared to aluminum poles. Vibration translates in loss of energy and faster fatigue, so eliminating it is a great benefit.
The carbon fiber used in the Alpine Carbon Corks is exceptionally strong, in part due to the poles’ telescoping design, where the thicker segments shield the thinner ones from being broken by steering forces. This is another benefit of a three-piece trekking pole over two-piece or fixed-length carbon fiber poles which are easily broken if they get caught between rocks or you fall on them.
Cork, Foam Grips, and Straps
The cork handles on the Alpine Carbon Cork trekking poles absorb sweat while maintaining a comfortable feel. I’d say the main benefit of cork handles is that they help me forget that I have poles in my hands. And that’s what good gear does best, it allows the user to not think about it. To turn one’s attention instead to the rocky trail ahead, the shifting clouds, the emerging penstemon, the swirling thoughts.
There is a foam extension grip under the cork which you can grasp when climbing hills, so you don’t have to stop and adjust the poles to make them shorter.
Most people rest their hands in the pole straps, which are fully adjustable but can also be removed. I like how the straps allow me to let the poles dangle from my arms whenever I stop to take a photo or when I have to scramble and need to keep my hands free. I also find that my hands tire faster if I don’t use the straps because I can loosen my grip and still control the poles, without having to grip them tightly.
At just over 17 oz, the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles are not the lightest trekking poles in the world, but they’re not the heaviest either, and they don’t feel cumbersome or heavy at all to me. I think the weight makes sense considering their features and exceptional durability. Yes, you can buy lighter weight trekking poles, but ask around. I think you’ll find that thinner carbon fiber poles break much more frequently than you’d expect. That’s not a big concern with the Alpine Carbon Corks.
Comparable Lever Lock Trekking Poles
|Make / Model||Material||Lock Type||Grip||Price|
|Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork||Aluminum||Lever Lock||Cork||$130|
|Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork||Carbon Fiber||Lever Lock||Cork||$180|
|Montem Ultra-Strong Cork||Aluminum||Lever Lock||Cork||$70|
|Paria Outdoor Tri-Fold Carbon Fiber||Carbon Fiber||Lever Lock||Cork||$59|
|REI Traverse Power Lock Cork||Aluminum||Lever Lock||Cork||$99|
|Cascade Mountain Cork Carbon Fiber||Carbon Fiber||Lever Lock||Cork||$41|
|Hiker Hunger Carbon Fiber 2.0||Carbon Fiber||Lever Lock||Cork||$80|
|Pacerpole Dual Lock||Carbon Fiber||Lever Lock & Pin||Plastic||$130|
|Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock||Aluminum||Lever Lock||Foam||$150|
I’ve been using Black Diamond’s Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles for five years and subjected them to incredible abuse, all over the deserts and mountains of the west. I’ve expanded and collapsed them hundreds of times, I’ve clicked and clacked over scree piles in the Uintas, the weight of my entire body and my pack often supported by a single pole when I start to lose my balance. I’ve crossed countless creeks, relying on them to keep my balance and packrafted with them with salty, silty water pouring over them, and the relentless sun drying them out again.
While Black Diamond’s Alpine Carbon Corks are expensive, I think their durability, reliability, and cork grips make them worth a premium price. I never worry about them breaking, slipping, or becoming uncomfortable. In fact, every member of my family, including my mother, father, sister, and myself own and use the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles!
I would recommend these poles for all uses including thru-hiking, high routes, desert slogging, packrafting, day hikes, splitboarding, backcountry skiing, and snowshoeing. For adventures requiring the crossing of snow-fields, Black Diamond is now also offering a Whippet-Ready version of the Alpine Carbon Corks. If you need even more stow-ability, consider the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Z Trekking Poles which fold up easily for air travel.
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