Having been frustrated for some time at my old twist-lock poles I finally got my hands on a pair of Black Diamond poles in late 2008. After five months use I am more than happy with them, and recommend them to anyone who was thinking of buying new walking poles.
This model is the Compact Trail, which I bought with an eye on the lightweight side of things. The poles measure 58.5cm when closed, and extend to a maximum of 125cm, and have a declared weight of 500gms. I weighed them at just nudging over 520gms with snow baskets fitted, and around 40gms less when the snow baskets were removed.
There is a longer version available, the Trail pole, which extends to 140cm. It is basically the same, with slightly larger handgrips.
With many poles the bottom section is brought out to it’s maximum, then the main height adjustment is done on the upper section. On These poles are different, in that on these poles identical graduations are found on both the bottom and middle section. After a bit of testing I found that the ideal height of these poles for me was 115cm. In this case I set the bottom section to 115cm, then the middle section to the same. I would imagine this keeps the pole in correct proportion. The adjustments are easily made, with the flick-lock system being easy to use. After a fair bit of use the poles have not slipped from their set positions once, and all the graduations remain clearly marked. In the past I’ve seen the markings on twist lock poles disappear as they are rubbed off.
The handles are comfortable, with a grey foam which runs partially down the top section of the pole. This gives a variety of high and low hand positions, and helps reduce the need for repeated changing of pole lengths when ascending/descending. I did have some trouble with the wrist straps however. Easily tightened, I could see no mechanism for releasing the straps, and was stuck for some time with fully tightened straps. The retailer was unable to help, and contacting Black Diamonds UK distributor brought no response. The supplied instructions did not even mention this, but eventually an answer came from an online forum. Releasing the straps involves pulling one of the straps upwards, which one is not immediately apparent, and takes some experimentation. One other negative point to these is that I noticed when dropped or laid down in snow, the snow had a tendency to stick to the foam, and wasn’t easily dislodged. Not a huge problem though, more a minor niggle.
The poles came with a pair of snow baskets. I usually leave these in place as I find them useful when crossing any soft ground, but they are easily removed, and will save a few grams in weight.
All in all I found these to be a very reliable pair of poles. Their compactness is a good feature, especially when scrambling, when they can be folded away quickly, and easily stowed. In use, they do flex a bit more than some other poles I’ve used, which I found worrying at first, but have stood up to my weight (which I shall not divulge!), and they look as though they will last for many years to come.