Nine-year review: Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles

In spring 2011 I purchased the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles, and used them for about 450 days over the next eight backpacking seasons.

Some of this use was mild (i.e. short days and on-trail) but a considerable portion was not — they probably endured over 1,000 miles of talus and scree, spring snowfields, rough Utah canyons, and Alaskan brush and tussocks.

This review was originally written in June 2015, and it’s been updated to reflect several subsequent years of use, plus one season with an in-stock pair that that was sent to me by Black Diamond.

Review: Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork

At $180 MSRP, the Alpine Carbon Corks are among the most expensive poles in the market, and they will not be a trivial expense for most backpackers. But I still recommend them if you:

  • Can afford the best,
  • Will justify the expense with extended use,
  • Hike on extremely rugged trails, or off-trail and on early-season snow,
  • Are generally hard on your gear, or
  • Will stress these poles with a heavy body and/or pack.

Personally, these poles have won me over with their:

  • Comfortable cork grips and functional foam extension grips;
  • Shafts that are very steady under load, with minimal vibration or bending; and,
  • Locks that do not slip, wiggle, or corrode, and that can be easily operated and adjusted.

If you’re on a budget, don’t backpack often, stay on easy trails, and/or have a petite build and tiny pack, look elsewhere. For most backpackers, I typically recommend the Cascade Mountain Tech Quick Lock Poles (my review), which offer 75 percent of the performance for one-sixth the price; or the niche Ultimate Direction FKT Poles (my review), which are the lightest and stiffest poles I’ve ever used.

Noel on a mid-October backpack hunt with the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Corks. This is the perfect application for these poles: heavy packs and rough conditions.

Design changes

From 2011 to 2019, we’ve seen three generations of Alpine Carbon Corks. The colors, locks, and grips have changed each time, but the intended/optimal use has not. I’m uncertain if the pole shafts have ever changed — it doesn’t feel like it, and it’s difficult to discern by looking at them.

My set from 2011 was mostly black, with some white. The lever-action Flicklocks were made of plastic, and the grips were the “trigger” style.

Upper shafts, grips, and locks on Gen 1

The second-generation is still available from Black Diamond, currently at $153. They’re mostly white, with some black. The redesigned FlickLock Pro was lower profile and made of stainless steel, but many people found them hard to use. The cork grips were straight, save for a bottom flare.

Upper shaft and grip on Gen 2

The latest generation was released in spring 2019, and come in a pleasant matte forest green. The grips have remained the same, but thankfully the locks were redesigned, in both material and shape. They’re now made of aluminum and are easier to operate.

Upper shafts and grips on Gen 3
Comparison of locks, Gen 2 (left) and Gen 3 (right). Users rightfully criticized the Gen 2 version for its sharp edges and for the plastic cover coming loose.


Like with footwear, the weight of trekking poles is especially important because they undergo more movement than your pack or most of your body. Heavy poles are difficult to swing quickly and place where desired, and burn up more energy than lighter poles.

The weight of the Carbon Corks is not ideal, but it’s competitive and explainable. The latest generation specs at 17.1 ounces (486 grams), or 15.6 ounces without the straps and baskets, as I like them. This is in line with my 2011 set, which weighed 17.2 ounces (or 16.0 ounces without straps and baskets).

To get a substantially lighter pole, sacrifices would be necessary. For example:

  • Thinner shafts would be lighter, but less stiff.
  • Fixed-length models will be lighter, but less packable, and will have no adjustment.
  • Removing the grip extension saves some weight, but greatly reduces functionality.


$180 retail, ouch. And since they’re not redesigned every year, it’s rare that they get marked down. This makes the Carbon Corks a good candidate for one of the “20 percent off one full-priced item” sales from REI and the other large outdoor online retailers.

I wish I could suggest a less expensive model that has comparable build quality and specs, but it does not exist. If you spend less, you’ll get something less: heavier, more vibration and bending, less reliable locks, less durable tips, no extension grips, etc.

The author off-trail in northern Yosemite, using the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork

Packed length

The telescoping shafts collapse to 24 inches (61 cm), which is comparable to other models in this category. Folding sets like the Black Diamond Alpine FLZ ($160, 17 oz) do about 30 percent better in this regard, but they use thinner shafts to keep the weight the same.

Grips & extensions

Plastic grips are uncomfortable and slippery. Rubber grips are abrasive on bare hands. Foam grips are nice, but not very durable. Cork grips are the best: they are soft, durable, and slightly absorbent, and they have sufficient friction.

I regularly choke up on my poles for improved balance and leverage, mostly when hiking steeply uphill or side-hilling. The foam extension grips below the primary cork grip on the Alpine Carbon Cork Poles offers a much more secure grip than a slick and narrow pole shaft. In fact, I would consider this feature a must-have for the type of backpacking I do.

On steep and uncertain terrain, the extension grips become very helpful.

Recommended alternatives

If you like the performance of the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Corks but can’t or don’t want to spend $180, my recommendation is to buy the Cascade Mountain Tech Quick Lock Poles, which are available from Amazon and possibly at your local Costco in the spring. Every component is inferior, but they cost just $30 to $50 and they’ve survived some of my hardest hikes, notably a yo-yo of the Wind River High Route.

The Ultimate Direction FKT Poles are another recommended option. They’re not collapsible and the carbide tips will need to be replaced, but they’re stiffer than the Carbon Corks and weigh half as much. If all of my backpacking was local, I’d buy the FKT Poles and never look back.

Finally, ultra runners and petite backpackers should consider folding models like the Distance or Distance Carbon, either in the Z (non-adjustable) or FLZ (adjustable) style. They are less durable and steady than the Alpine Carbon Corks, but they’re lighter, more collapsible, and durable enough.

Guide Mary Cochenour uses the Distance Z Poles, which weigh less and are adequately durable for her petite build.

Have questions about the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork, or an experience with them? Leave a comment.

Disclosure. I strive to offer field-tested and trustworthy information, insights, and advice. I have no financial affiliations with or interests in any brands or products, and I do not publish sponsored content

This website is supported by affiliate marketing, whereby for referral traffic I receive a small commission from select vendors like Amazon or REI, at no cost to the reader. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Posted in , on December 13, 2019


  1. Dan on June 30, 2015 at 10:27 am

    The BD ACC poles are a nice product, but I find the weight quite noticeable so I only use them when conditions warrant. My picks are:

    On Trail: Gossamer Gear LT4
    Mixed On-Off Trail: Locus Gear CP3
    Pure Off-Trail/Skiing: BD ACC

    The Locus Gear CP3 poles don’t get nearly enough attention in N. America. They’re only a little bit heavier than the GG poles (~10oz vs 8oz) yet far more robust. They are 3 piece, with flick locks. I have thousands of miles on mine. I’ve broken them doing stuff like stepping on them or crashing on skis, but they remain the best poles for all around usage.

    • Andrew Skurka on June 30, 2015 at 1:57 pm

      I saw the Locus poles for the first time a few weeks ago — a client on one of my trips had them. Indeed, they are very nice poles. I’d probably put them in the same category as the REI Carbon Power Lock Poles: they lack the stoutness and extension grips of the Alpine Carbon Cork Poles, but they’d be a good pick for most users. They’re lighter than the REI poles, but purchasing them is not as easy and the warranty is not as good.

      • ALAN KEEFE on October 15, 2018 at 4:14 pm

        What about now after I’m sure you have seen them more? It is a huge reduction in weight.

  2. DkPond on June 30, 2015 at 10:31 am

    I agree completely. I have been on four 400+ mile Caminos with these poles and they are still going strong. They have saved me from falling numerous times. And at 6’6″ they adjust to a good length for me with no loss in stability. The only thing I would add is that the Leki rubber tips fit nicely over the metal tips — on the Camino, you are often on roads or in cities or villages, and the noise reduction of the tap, tap, tap is almost mandatory.

    Thanks for the review.

    • John on July 4, 2019 at 1:37 am

      Surely caminos involve easy ground and lots of roads. If so then go for the lightest, ie Gossamer-gear.

  3. Katherine on June 30, 2015 at 10:58 am

    great poles. one small annoyance: the edge of the inlet where the strap used to go rubs against my hand. In a perfect world that would be completely smooth. probably an issue for any pole that comes with straps.

    my friend just got the Cascades—she thanks you for the recommendation! great value for when you’re doing that initial gear spend to get started.

  4. Stuart on June 30, 2015 at 1:33 pm

    My wife and I own the 2nd and 3rd generation ACCs between us. The consensus is we prefer the older model. Gen 2 are slightly lighter, not that it makes a real difference when we’re talking ~16-17oz for a pair. The main gripe we have about Gen 3 is that the redesigned flicklocks are the trekking pole equivalent of the Gurkha’s kukri. Every use demands the sacrifice of skin and blood.

    • Andrew Skurka on June 30, 2015 at 1:50 pm

      If you back off on their tightness, will the FlickLocks be easier to operate but still secure?

      • Stuart on June 30, 2015 at 2:24 pm

        Gen 2 have more leeway in adjustments than Gen 3. The latter can go from overly tight to no longer secure in 1/4 turn of the screw. The original flicklocks were mostly plastic, but the new ones have too many metal edges that fingers and thumbs come into contact with, mostly when opening rather than closing the device.

        That being said, the poles are otherwise excellent. Twistlocks always infuriated us over time, BD’s Z poles flexed too much for confidence, and I broke a Gossamer Gear LT4s the first time out. The ACCs are sturdy and this is one piece of gear I don’t expect to have to replace for several more years. We tend to just leave the poles at a fixed length for the duration of our trip, regardless of the terrain.

  5. Matthew Youngberg on June 30, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    Just wondering what your reasoning is for not using the straps. I use mine just below my wrists so that it takes the pressure off my hands doing all the work. Thanks in advance for your reply.

    • Andrew Skurka on June 30, 2015 at 4:13 pm

      Two reasons. Generally speaking, IMHO they add fuss and offer little in return.

      First, they get in the way when I want to move my hands to other parts of my poles. Like when I want to choke up on one or both poles. Also, when on unstable ground I often hold both poles in one hand (mid-shaft) so that I have one free hand to grab onto things.

      Second, they get in the way when I want to do anything else with my hands: take a photo, get calories or water out of side pockets, check my map, go to the bathroom.

      I like straps when skiing, since grips are difficult to hold onto when wearing big mitts, but for backpacking I cut them off before I even get to the trailhead. I have helped many of my clients remove their straps too, and none of them have regretted it.

      • Matthew Youngberg on July 1, 2015 at 12:37 pm

        Thanks again for the response and spreading your knowledge and experience. I’ll try it out, hopefully I don’t drop one down the side of a mountain 🙂

  6. Aidan B on July 1, 2015 at 6:31 am

    Andrew, do you have a suggested trekking pole for use as the primary supporting poles in A frame tarp shelter systems?

    • Andrew Skurka on July 1, 2015 at 11:54 am

      Any trekking pole should be strong enough to support the loads of an A-frame tarp.

      However, collapsible poles are easiest to use. First, they are widely adjustable (folding poles are not, or have very little adjustment, 5cm or so; and fixed-length poles obviously are not). Second, the shaft intersections serve as convenient stoppers for guylines. On a smooth shafts, guylines will slide up or down, messing up the pitch. As a simple and lightweight solution, you can wrap some electrical tape around the shaft at the height you regularly use. Alternatively, have a really long guyline for the foot end.

  7. Erik Halfacre on July 1, 2015 at 7:13 pm

    I’ve had this exact set of poles since the beginning of summer 2009. I still use them, and like them better than most other sets that I’ve had the chance to handle. I opted to leave my straps on, but they are now in shreds and I don’t really need them so I may, per your recommendation, just remove them.

    The biggest thing I love about these poles is just how stiff and strong they really are. I weigh 275, and frequently carry loads over forty pounds now that we’re packing two kids around in addition to our backpacking gear, and these poles always feel firm and show no sign of wear from the abuse I put them through.

    If they ever do break I will likely replace them with another set of the same thing.

    • Erik Halfacre on July 1, 2015 at 7:15 pm

      Also, now that we have switched from a traditional tent to the Big Agnes Scout Plus, the fact that these poles are adustable has been a huge benefit. I almost ‘upgraded’ to a pair of foldable poles a couple years ago, but decided against it, because I wouldn’t be able to use them as part of my shelter system.

  8. John Hulburd on July 31, 2015 at 1:02 pm

    Andrew- My Mom bought some BD Distance (folding) poles to help her balance (Parkinsons). When she died I inherited them. I’ve used every kind of pole for all kinds of activities over decades, and I’ve found these poles to be the best combo of lightness, rigidity, strength and versatility of all. No; they do not wiggle or rattle (after being severely used). Yes; I have to wrap tape lower down the shaft to have a lower tie point for the tarp in harsh conditions, but I’ve found adjustability to be the great weakness of poles, and unnecessary. I’ve seen several Carbon poles break in downhill or rocky conditions, but never broken an aluminum one, so was surprised to see your love of carbon poles.
    To each their own! As for straps; chipmunks just ate the straps off our poles up in the San Juan’s the other night, and it turns out they did us a favor! Now I completely agree about going strapless.

  9. Paul on February 16, 2016 at 9:13 pm

    Why remove the small baskets? Do you find they aren’t necessary when in loose soil?

    • Andrew Skurka on February 17, 2016 at 8:03 am

      There are three instances in which it makes sense to have baskets:

      1. Soft, winter snow
      2. Arctic sponga, which is capped with a web-like vegetation structure that poles punch through
      3. Beach sand

      Otherwise, in my experience the ground is always firm enough that the pole does not sink so deeply into the ground that baskets are warranted. Plus, sometimes I want the option of sinking my pole into the ground, like to check the strength of a rotting snow bridge, confirm that some quicksand-looking sand is indeed quicksand, or to use my pole as a semi-ice axe in early-season conditions on lingering snowfields.

      • Scott on January 21, 2021 at 4:43 pm

        I recently lost a basket from one of my poles and found it kept digging into soil, making it ‘sticky’ and hard to extract. This was during a summer hike around Mount Taranaki in New Zealand, when the soil was not overly soft. I’ll be keeping my baskets on in future.

  10. Dan on March 4, 2016 at 5:25 am

    Hi Andrew, I was hoping you could explain your preference for carbon fiber poles over aluminum. Thank you.

    • Andrew Skurka on March 4, 2016 at 12:36 pm

      * Stronger for its weight
      * Thermo-nuetral, so not cold to the touch in cold temps
      * Better vibration damping
      * Because it is considered better than aluminum, the other features on a CF pole (e.g. grips) will usually be better

      * Less expensive
      * If torqued, it only bends (CF snaps) and thus may remain usable for the duration of the trip

      • Dan on March 5, 2016 at 4:10 pm

        So I’m assuming there isn’t a situation in which you would accept the drawbacks of aluminum just for the added security of knowing the poles won’t snap?

        • Andrew Skurka on March 5, 2016 at 5:40 pm

          I’ve snapped aluminum and CF poles. It’s always been user error, not an issue with the pole. As long as you know when NOT to use your poles, both materials will last thousands of miles, probably more. More specifically, when a fall is somewhat likely (e.g. while scrambling, rock-hopping, or descending a steep, hard-packed slope covered in small gravel that acts like ball bearings) put both poles in one hand (or stow them away) and use the other to grab onto secure fixtures and to catch yourself if you fall.

          • dan on March 6, 2016 at 2:53 pm

            Ok cool. Thanks a lot for clearing that up for me.

  11. JimmyW on March 16, 2016 at 4:11 pm

    This really is a great blog! After many years of hiking without them, a friend urged me to try poles, and I’m hooked! For a starter set, I bought a pair of Alps spring loaded poles. After my first summer, I found that I didn’t care for the “bounce” that the poles presented. I don’t think there’s much of an advantage when it comes to shock absorption, either. I, too, was interested in your dislike of straps, as I’ve found that they’re key to sparing some stress on my knees although transferring it to my forearms. Using the straps for leverage allows me to have a minimal grasp of grips. Otherwise, I’d have to squeeze them to get leverage when ascending. One thing that I found, is that I’d want a pole that holds the straps securely in place. The friction fit on my Alps seems to allow the straps to lengthen from my setting.

  12. Drew on May 16, 2016 at 10:34 am

    Do you know if Black Diamond is officially getting rid of (or seriously reducing the use of) the Flicklock Pro? It appears many of the new season poles, the Alpine Carbon Cork included, have gone back to the original plastic Flicklock. I was under the impression that the metal Pros were a worthwhile upgrade, so I’m a bit surprised that BD seems to be going back a generation.

    • Andrew Skurka on May 16, 2016 at 1:57 pm

      Uncertain. The plastic seemed fine to me, and cheap and light. I know the metal ones were more engineered, but I’ve heard complaints about them being too hard to use, too.

    • Tristan on May 31, 2016 at 8:59 pm

      Hey Drew,

      I was wondering the same thing so I called up Black Diamond this afternoon. They explained that it was due to an issue with their FlickLock Pro supplier not manufacturing enough of them in time to ship, so they’ve discounted the model $10 given that they had to revert. However, I was told that the supplier was able to manufacture enough to fulfill the REI order which has the FlickLock Pro on the 2016 model so you can look there (ended up where I bought mine).

      Black Diamond said by Fall 2016 all of them will again be shipping with the Pros.


      • Drew on June 5, 2016 at 9:41 am

        Ah, thanks! After the tips on my Cascade Mountain Tech poles fell off only the second time out, I decided I didn’t trust them to hold up for my full AT thru next year, so I was looking at upgrading to BD. I ended up getting a killer deal on the Trail Ergo Cork poles with the non-pro FlickLocks that was just way too good to pass up (like 13 bucks out-of-pocket) — looking forward to getting them out on the trail!

  13. Selma on June 13, 2016 at 1:04 pm

    When will they make a lighter weight version of this designed for women? I’m looking for lightweight carbon, with natural cork grip designed for women. I can’t seem to find it? Their women’s designed versions are lighter weight, but don’t have the cork grip—is there someone that designs what I would think would be a high demand item for women hikers?

    • Andrew Skurka on June 13, 2016 at 1:16 pm

      I think the weight difference between men’s and women’s would be minor — maybe a half-ounce per pole, since the only difference would be shorter shafts, and the CF shafts barely weight anything. Most of the weight is in the grips, locks, and tips.

      Plus, shorter shafts aren’t a pure win. Suppose that your shelter requires a 125 cm length, or that you want to use your poles for XC skiing and need them at 130 cm.

  14. Aditya on October 13, 2016 at 11:14 am

    Hello Andrew,

    Thanks for the great review. It means a lot coming from someone as experienced as you. Do you have any thoughts about 2- vs 3-section poles? Also, do you have any experience with carbon fiber offerings from Komperdell? Like the C3 Carbon Powerlock? For some reason, I’m gravitated more toward them (maybe it’s the price?)
    I’m concerned that the cork grips in the Alpine Carbon Cork poles will start falling apart due to weather and general use, although your pictures do not seem to indicate that, though, so that’s very reassuring.

    • Andrew Skurka on October 13, 2016 at 3:28 pm

      Re 2- v 3-section shafts. How portable do you need them? Three-section shafts will collapse down more. This is useful when you want to stash them away (e.g. to scramble on extended talus) or fly with them. Two-section shafts will be lighter and less expensive.

      I wouldn’t worry about the cork grips. You have to put a lot of miles on them to wear them down. By then, you’ll feel like you got your money out of them.

      The Komperdell Powerlocks are lighter (at the cost of durability), but they lack the extension grips, which for me are critical. I would buy the Cascade Mountain Tech Quick Lock Poles before I bought the C3’s.

      • Aditya on October 13, 2016 at 3:59 pm

        I completely understand your point about the extension grips, and now that I’ve seen them, I can understand their value. I really like the lower weight of the Komperdells, but your arguments have gotten me thinking.
        Thank you!

  15. Boyan on January 2, 2017 at 4:50 am

    What about the BD Pro Trail? I can get them for around $80 new vs &45 for the Cascade? Still Fliplock pro, but unclear on how else they compare to the Alpine. The BD website is not much help.

    • Andrew Skurka on January 2, 2017 at 9:02 am

      Two big differences between the Alpine and Pro Trail: carbon fiber shafts versus aluminum, and cork grips versus foam. So the Carbon Corks are a little bit lighter, and nicer in the hand. Durability is probably about the same, though you can be even less gentle with the aluminum shafts.

      I generally recommend that if you don’t go with the Carbon Corks, then go with the Cascade poles.

  16. Steve Cosner on March 20, 2017 at 6:49 pm

    Andrew, if weight is a high priority, like it is for me, the 9 oz Black Diamond Carbon-Z poles are especially good. Not adjustable, which is the biggest drawback, but once I settled on the right length, my Carbon-Z poles can’t be beat. The snow baskets are tiny, so when I go on snow, I’ll likely attach some baskets.

    • Andrew Skurka on March 21, 2017 at 3:31 pm

      I have the same pair. I’m willing to use them for long mountain runs and trail hiking. But for regular use, which often involves some amount of off-trail travel, I don’t trust them — the shafts are too thin and the connection points have too much wiggle. If I were a bigger backpacker, I probably would not trust them for on-trail hiking either. For a few ounces more I think the Alpine Carbon Corks (or Cascade Mtn Tech Quick Lock Poles) are better suited for most backpackers.

  17. Dave Bubser on March 26, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    Can you help compare the BD Trail Ergo Corks v the 2016 BD Alpine Ergo Corks (w/ plastic locks)? They apparently weigh the same (1lb2oz) even though the Trail Ergo’s are 100% aluminum. And now the Alpine Ergo’s are discounted so cost slightly less than the Trail Ergo’s. I was just ready to pull the trigger on the Trail Ergo;s when I saw the Alpine Ergo’s on sale, and now a bit conflicted and confused by the weight equivalence.

    • Andrew Skurka on March 26, 2017 at 6:08 pm

      The Alpine Ergo Cork are the same as the Alpine Carbon Cork, except the grip is angled at 15 degrees. Aluminum upper shaft, carbon lower shafts.

      The Trail Ergo Cork is the same as the Trail, except the grip angled at 15 degrees and it’s cork. All-aluminum shafts.

      The equal weight of the Alpine Ergo Cork and Trail Ergo Cork has two possible explanations:

      1. The difference in shaft weight of CF and aluminum is not substantial enough to show up if only two of the shafts are made of different material. The Alpine Carbon should be lighter, but it might be at 1 lbs 1.6 oz and the Trail might weigh 1 lb 1.4 oz, and both of those get rounded to 1 lb 2 oz.

      2. The Alpine Carbon have thicker diameter shafts, and thus the increase in material offsets the weight-savings of the carbon.

      Either way, the Alpine are the better pole. And if they are lower in price, get ’em. I’m not sure about the “Ergo” part but I assume you know what you’re doing there.

      • Dave Bubser on March 27, 2017 at 9:58 pm

        So what is it that makes the Alpine a better pole in your opinion? I’ve never used them before and am a bit concerned about possibly breaking a carbon pole in the Sierra due to ‘operator error’. I have it in my head that CF is more delicate/prone to breakage than alum. So whats the difference between the two in terms of performance and durability between Alpine CF and Trail Alum? I was all ready to go Trail but your informed opinion has me pausing on that decision, especially with the Alpine Ergos now on sale at $10 less than the Trails.

        • Andrew Skurka on March 27, 2017 at 10:04 pm

          I’ve broken CF and aluminum poles. It’s always been user error: using the poles when a fall was likely, and then subjecting the pole to massive torque that it could simply not withstand, e.g. wedged between two talus rocks, jammed underneath a tree root as I was falling down an embankment, etc.

          Poles are useful up to a point. But on semi-technical terrain (e.g. talus fields, hard and steep slope covered with “ball bearing” gravel) you are better served to use your hands — they will get more reliable purchase and more quickly, and you’ll be closer to something (e.g. the ground or a big rock) if you slip or fall.

          So, in terms of CF or aluminum, I don’t think it matters. I’ve used CF poles for thousands and thousands of miles with no problem, until I used them when I shouldn’t have.

        • Scott on January 21, 2021 at 4:48 pm

          The ‘ergo’ poles are Black Diamond’s attempt to emulate Pacer Poles. They haven’t done a very good job of it because they aren’t bent forward far enough and there’s not enough support for the wrist. Pacer Poles are much more efficient at supporting weight vs. the Alpine Ergo Cork (or the Alpine Carbon Cork, for that matter).

      • David Barndollar on January 20, 2023 at 6:30 pm

        I have the 2nd generation poles
        The mid shift broke during a fall. Which replacement part do I order? The FLZ, Wr or something else?

  18. Maria on April 22, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    Hi Andrew, thanks for the review ( and all your other resources btw, we loved your guide for the SHR when we did it). Do you have any issue with the flick locks allowing the pole to shorted over time? Every adjustable pole I’ve owned has had slip in the locks, leading me to try the z-poles. However, the aluminum z-pole bent while hiking off trail.

    My other concern was: if I put enough pressure to bend the aluminum, would the carbon have snapped? I’d rather have a bent but usable pile than a snapped unusable one for the remainder of a long trip


    • Andrew Skurka on April 22, 2017 at 9:40 pm

      The Flick Locks have proven extremely reliable. If they are slipping, you may need to tighten the screw, but so long as that’s done they will not slip.

      The Z-Poles and the Carbon Corks are different beasts. The Carbon Cork shafts are thicker in diameter, and therefore stronger.

      In my experience, breaking a pole is normally a function of user error, not the pole material. I have broken aluminum and CF, and always because I put too much torque on the pole, normally by using it when I should not have, like in a talus field or while descending a steep creek bank that was loose and had ball bearings on it. I have also used aluminum and CF poles for thousands of miles and multiple months.

  19. Mateo on July 18, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    Andrew there’s a review on REI nine months ago that says when the poles are in the collapsed position the lower section is loose and could potentially be pulled out when stored on a pack. Does this make sense on your version?

    • Andrew Skurka on July 27, 2018 at 9:12 am

      A section cannot slip out unless the lock is open. If you close the locks after collapsing the poles, sections will not slide out.

      Also, lash the poles to your pack tips-up.

      • Elke on September 6, 2018 at 9:17 am

        late response here – but I just nearly lost the lower section of my poles. due to the tapering, the lock doesn’t close and the lower section did slip out while on the trail. I happened to find it on the return of the out-and-back. I don’t know if mine are defective or if this is just a design flaw.

        • Boyan on January 20, 2023 at 7:27 pm

          This is a design issue of both the aluminum and CF BD poles. The simple solution is to pull out the bottom section 2 inches so the lock can grip the thicker portion of the shaft. Or just lash the poles tips up.

      • Elke on September 6, 2018 at 9:19 am

        late response here – but I just nearly lost the lower section of my poles. due to the tapering, the lock doesn’t close and the lower section did slip out while on the trail. I happened to find it on the return of the out-and-back. I

  20. Mateo on July 27, 2018 at 4:16 pm

    Rcvd mine afew days ago. It is true on this 2018 version, the lower section, if you push it all the way into the main tube and lock it, the lower 3” portion remainsi loose. Remedy is easy. Just extend the lower portion until the lock can catch and then lock it Down. Kind of a strange design. Also I’ve always stored my poles tip down because of the surf rack effect. Fins forward and upside down when on a cars surf rack straped down The wider section will have a hardertime sliding through straps … also it leaves room for my Tenkara rod!

  21. Mateo on July 27, 2018 at 4:18 pm

    Forgot to add I embed a small piece of plastic into the lower section of the left and right frame pocket so the tips don’t go to the fabric. It works beautifully on the Skurka Series pack. I finally retired my jam 50

  22. Mateo on September 4, 2018 at 2:40 pm

    Post trip report. Wow, my comments above have no merit… something tells me you knew that as soon as you read it. Even though the lower section of the new version has an insecurable fastener when completely colllapsed, it would take a hell of a fall with the pole in the stowed position to dislodge the lower from the upper main pole.

  23. Brad R on December 15, 2019 at 8:17 pm

    I’ve been using the Locus Gear CP3 poles since 2013 and have really like them. My lone problem is the tips are now worn to nubs and they don’t sell replacement tips (only lower sections). I’ve read where people have replaced the tips with another brand (I can’t remember if it was Leki, Black Diamond, or Komperdell) and I think I’m going to try that. The “flick lock” style mechanism is far superior to any screw type mechanism I’ve used.

    • Andrew Skurka on December 16, 2019 at 5:49 am

      Here’s a quick guide on replacing your tips. If your tips are as worn as you say they are, you should definitely do this. Sharp tips makes a big difference in performance on more treacherous terrain.

      • JohnH1 on December 17, 2019 at 12:52 pm

        If you are in the field with no pliers and no handy rock to wedge the sticks in, you can cut the tips off. I have done this twice on carbon poles – go easy near the carbon!

        This is where you discover that the little Swiss Army Knife that everyone carries looks great on the spreadsheet, but is in fact useless when it comes to serious cutting. So I found out the first time I tried this (before I learnt about putting it in boiling water). Fortunately I was near a hut (Pyrenees) and could borrow a sharp bladed diy knife. I later upgraded to a Spyderco Ladybug, not so cute perhaps, but far more practical.

  24. Alex on December 17, 2019 at 12:00 am

    Andrew, great article, this got me to buy these poles over a year ago and they’ve held up well so far. I don’t really know when to use the metal tip and when to use the rubber tip, what surfaces should I be using the rubber vs metal on?

    • Andrew Skurka on December 17, 2019 at 7:45 am

      If you were walking on a lot of smooth pavement, the rubber tips work better than the carbide. But otherwise go with the carbide all the time.

      Honestly, the rubber tips go straight into the trash can when I get new poles. Along with the straps and mud baskets. (Snow baskets, to the contrary) are entirely worth holding onto.

      • Steve C on December 17, 2019 at 9:30 am

        Seriously… you remove the straps? That’s got to be a hand-tiring operation to hike and hold the poles tightly with your fingers wrapped around the handle. Look up “how to hold ski poles” to see how the straps cradle your hand when you put your weight on the pole. You barely need to squeeze the handle, since the straps do most of the work! I would throw poles away that didn’t have straps!

        • Andrew Skurka on December 17, 2019 at 9:41 am

          Yes, I do. Full explanation,

          Hiking is not skiing. On a nice trail, sure, use the straps — they’re definitely a plus. But when you’re on rugged trails (e.g. big rocks, tall staircases, overgrown) and even more so when you’re off-trail (side hilling, scrambling, bushwhacking, very steep ups, slick downs with fall-on-your-butt potential), the straps are nothing but a liability, since you’ll want to be choking down on the shafts and holding them in one hand for as much time as you use them normally.

  25. Boyan on January 12, 2020 at 4:18 pm

    The latest generation of these poles is currently $120 at Amazon.

    They also have the previous (white) for the same price. Not sure why the heavy discount, they are $180 everywhere else.

    • Andrew Skurka on January 12, 2020 at 7:13 pm

      The seller is VETTORA, which I’m doubtful is an authorized BD dealer. Looks like they somehow acquired a bunch of BD items and are dumping them on Amazon.

  26. Mary on February 4, 2020 at 4:28 pm

    I am an athlete that lifts 3-4 days a week and a cyclist. I am starting to add trails. I started last year doing a few Dances With Dirt.
    I was looking at trekking poles and each site was a different one they prefer when I do a search for best women’s trekking poles.
    I am 5’1” and weight is 102 pounds looking for a suggestion…?
    Here are a few I have been looking at Black Diamond Women’s Alpine Carbon Cork, Black Diamond Distance Plus FLZ, and REI Women’s Carbon Flash..

    Your input would be greatly appreciated..
    Enjoy your journey in life… 🙂

    • Boyan on February 4, 2020 at 4:59 pm

      Andrew’s feedback to this question has been fairly consistent – if you are not going to spend money on the BD Cork then save mongo $$$ and get the CMT ones from Costco.

      • Mary on February 4, 2020 at 5:05 pm

        I am surprised to hear that response since the picture of Mary Cochenour in your article has her using Distance Z Poles

  27. Mike Crosby on February 6, 2020 at 7:00 pm

    Hey Andrew I enjoyed your article, thank you!

    One question I have is what are your opinions on the Alpine carbon Cork WR trekking poles compared to the ACC poles??


    • Andrew Skurka on February 6, 2020 at 10:12 pm

      ACC poles?

      • mike Crosby on February 6, 2020 at 10:32 pm

        Alpine carbon Cork WR trekking poles compared to the Alpine carbon cork trekking poles.

  28. Scott Angel on September 27, 2020 at 1:03 pm

    We are probably headed to Yellowstone winter to met long lost family and hopefully do a little snowshoeing. I really don’t want to spend $100+ on 1 pair of poles, but yet want quality. If the first set works out, then I’ll buy a second set for myself, although I’m a little more hardcore than she is. Working my way up the ultramarathon chain, with 30k’s under my belt, and 50k’s scheduled. Right now I’ve narrowed my selection down to 3 different poles. Hiker Hunger Carbon Fiber, Paria Tri Fold Carbon Cork and Black Diamond Trail Back. Any thoughts.

  29. Scott on October 11, 2020 at 2:27 am

    Hi Andrew,

    Have you used Pacer Poles?

    I tried some on my 3000km Te Araroa through-hike and won’t go back to traditional straight poles.

    Scott (Jandal)

    • Andrew Skurka on October 12, 2020 at 11:50 pm

      No, and I’m very happy with straight poles, don’t see any reason to switch. But happy you found something that works for you.

    • Andy on June 17, 2023 at 5:23 am

      I use Pacer Poles and love them for summer use. They certainly enable bringing arm and upper body muscles into play and make a real difference on up hills with a big pack.
      But I think those big plastic handles can be a drawback in very cold conditions.
      On a snowshoeing trip I experienced problems keeping my hands and especially my thumb warm despite wearing big down mitts in -20c.
      A Swedish bloke told me that their military had been having problems with soldiers getting frostbite in their fingers despite that being a court martial offence and so studied the heat conduction of ski pole handles and realised that plastic handles were drawing a lot of heat from the hands concluding that cork handles provided the best insulation in severe cold.
      For the next winter trip I bought some Leki poles with synthetic cork ‘Thermo grip’ handles and my hands stayed noticeably warmer even wearing lighter gloves.

  30. Boyan on December 13, 2020 at 7:43 pm

    Recently discovered a few quirks in the latest version of these poles that are annoying, and at times can be downright serious issues

    1) Left the poles in the back of the car where they saw little use over the summer, simply rattling around the trunk. The vibration appears capable of moving the set screws around and had loosened them to the point where they were not gripping sufficiently well and applying weight on them was causing a collapse. Discovered this 2-3 miles into a hike when it was not feasible to turn around. The designs of the adjustment mechanism is such that it requires you to carry a specialty tool around – a small diameter allen wrench. Sure, BD provides you with that tool but it is easy to loose or misplace, and if you need it in the middle of nowhere it is very difficult to replicate with things you may already have in the backpack. This is a serious flaw in the design, to me at least.

    2) The locking brackets easily slide out of position. Not sure what the design intent there was, perhaps so that they can be repalced/serviced when needed. This falls in the annoyance category

    3) It is not possible to fully collapse the moiddle section and still lock the shaft in place. You can only bring the middle shaft in till the end of the black-colored section. If you fully collapse the middle section its diameter and/or stiffness increases to the point where you can no longer lock the lever. Annother one in the annoyance category.

    None of these are present on the el cheapo CMT poles.

    • Andrew Skurka on January 23, 2021 at 11:09 am

      These are ally excellent observations, and would be room for some improvement.

      • dtuckerhikes on February 13, 2021 at 1:01 am

        I’m also experiencing this issue. I’ve owned several parties of both the telescoping and FLZ versions over the years and swear by the telescoping version. Strong enough to survive thousands of miles on a thru. Unfortunately, I had one of the v3 version locks fail on me today. This is the first time I’ve had the failure where the locking bracket continually slides out of place. The inability to fix without a specific allen wrench is particularly concerning. It was annoying being unable to maintain a locked pole coming down a mountain, but the idea of a failure on a pole I rely on for a non-freestanding tent is truly problematic. Hopefully, they’ll go back to a version that can be tightened with a nail file.

  31. Boyan on February 1, 2021 at 12:47 am

    Any recs for a strong aluminum poles suitable for snowshoeing? I would not trust carbon poles for that, since using them to stand up after falling in deep snow involves a lot of stress and torque which tends to snap carbon poles. Plus it is easy to get them caught in buried branches or rocks.

    • Andrew Skurka on February 1, 2021 at 9:08 am

      I’d start by looking at the black diamond versions.

      But I would encourage you to reconsider. I have used carbon fiber poles for snowshoeing and skiing, both cross-country and downhill, and they are not as prone to failure as you seem to think. In my experience, a broken pole is always the results of human error, whereby you did something that put an excessively large load on the pole that no pole could withstand. The best example is falling and landing on the pole. And aluminum pole is not going to survive that either. While it may not break, and aluminum pole with a 45° bend in it is not very useful, and it probably will break if you try to bend it back into place.

  32. David on November 4, 2021 at 1:25 pm

    Hey, I own the white version 2 model. Do you know if the new v3 flicklocks are compatable with the v2 poles? Would love to replace them. Thanks

    • Andrew Skurka on November 4, 2021 at 3:48 pm

      Uncertain. The v3 locks can be slid off the poles very easily, to the degree that they sometimes come loose during transport when they are collapsed. If you can also slide off the v2 locks, you might be able to swap them. Whereas if they are built into the pole somehow, then no.

      Maybe a question best asked of BD customer service.

  33. J.R. on June 1, 2023 at 12:10 pm

    Re: the Allen wrench issue, BD has introduced a clever workaround in their new Pursuit poles, wherein a 1.5mm wrench is built into the interior of one of the sections.

    Handling these in store, they have also put on a new flicklock that appears to be part aluminum and part plastic and seemed less fiddly/liable to slip about when open. Oh, and you can fully collapse the poles and still close the locks.

    Hoping both these improvements come to the ACC in a future edition. In the meantime, I may start simply duck taping the allen key to the interior of the shaft.

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