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Lust: Black Diamond Vapor Carbon 1 Poles

Looking for a fixed-length trekking pole. I have not seen better than the Black Diamond Vapor Carbon 1.

Looking for a fixed-length trekking pole. I have not seen better than the Black Diamond Vapor Carbon 1.

I generally recommend telescopic poles like the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork (long-term review) and Cascade Mountain Tech Quick Lock (long-term review) because they are:

  • Convenient for air-travel;
  • Easily stow-able on the outside of a backpack, for extended talus scrambles; and,
  • Adjustable, and therefore can fit different family members, can be used for different outdoor activities (e.g. hiking vs snowshoeing), and can support shelters with fixed shapes like the Sierra Designs High Route Tent even if the shelter height is different than your preferred pole length.

But there is one more important reason, too: They are commercially available, and can be purchased at any outdoor retail store and even Costco.

But the truth is that for some applications I would MUCH prefer to have fixed-length poles, notably for thru-hikes and for local backpacking trips with minimal scrambles. Fixed-length poles are more finicky, but they will be lighter, less expensive, and stronger than telescopic poles made of the same shafts, grips, and tips.

I have long been searching for fixed-length poles that are commercially available and that I would want to use for backpacking. The only model I know of are the Gossamer Gear LT3C, but I’ve always been scared off by the skinny shafts. I’ve looked at ski poles, too, but they normally have unfriendly rubber or plastic grips (without extension grips) and non-replaceable tips.

Enter the Black Diamond Vapor Carbon 1 Poles.

They must not be new since they are currently available at Amazon, Backcountry, and Moosejaw. But I saw them for the first time last week at Outdoor Retailer.

Features:

  • Extremely stiff shafts, thicker overall than those on the Alpine Carbon Corks;
  • Foam grips with foam extensions, for choking up on the pole in steep and uneven terrain; and,
  • Replaceable carbide tips.

They weigh just 11 ounces (310 grams) per pair, and will be even lighter after removing the wrist straps and snow baskets. A 5-oz pole is a joy to use even compared to a 7- or 8-oz model.

If the Vapor Carbon had cork grips, I would consider them “perfect,” but foam is ultimately okay. The $150 price tag is tough to swallow, too, although less expensive than BD’s premium models like the Alpine Carbon Corks and foldable Distance Carbon Z.


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7 Responses to Lust: Black Diamond Vapor Carbon 1 Poles

  1. Mordecai February 16, 2017 at 4:09 pm #

    In for a penny, in for a pound…

    BD helio fixed length carbon

    About double the price, about an ounce lighter, in each hand.

    Trekking pole tips available.

    Interestingly, no grip other than the carbon, which is blown into a mold, in the shape of a grip.

    I really think you need to buy these, and tell us if they work.

    For the people, Andrew. For the people!

    • Andrew Skurka February 16, 2017 at 4:19 pm #

      I saw those at the show, too, but was far less interested. The weight-savings are offset by the less friendly grip, IMHO.

  2. Daniel Fennell February 18, 2017 at 10:29 pm #

    After obsessively reading your blog, I really like your use of trekking poles. One thing that you always harp on is having the extension grips. On my old poles (Fizan Compacts) I just used some bicycle handlebar tape to make my own extensions. I only used them for a few trips in the Sierras before I stopped using the poles due to durability concerns, but the grip extensions that I made worked perfectly.

  3. Luke Fowler March 16, 2017 at 5:50 pm #

    I almost bought BD’s older one-piece carbon (16oz/pair) since they where on closeout for $60, but talked myself into these instead and don’t regret it. They are as light and stiff as promised, and now I never have to wonder if the GG ones would have been strong enough for me or not.

    • Andrew Skurka March 16, 2017 at 6:25 pm #

      Genuinely jealous. They have any more 120 cm lengths on the shelf? I’d buy ’em.

  4. Steven Chanyi March 29, 2017 at 10:56 pm #

    Any thoughts on the BD Helio Fixed Length Carbon Ski Poles? Significant cost when compared to the Vapor Carbon 1 Ski Poles; however, posted at 9oz compared to 10.9oz for the VC1s on BD’s site for what it’s worth.

    • Andrew Skurka March 30, 2017 at 2:50 pm #

      For backpacking I think those fall squarely in the stupid light category. For another 1.9 oz I will happily use the poles with replaceable tips and foam handle/extension grip.

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