Winning the best trekking pole award, the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork is strong, comfortable to use and extremely versatile - performing the best out of any pole in the widest range of conditions.
Made from premium grade carbon fibre coupled with classic, yet innovative cork grips, the Alpine Carbon Cork has been a placeholder in the top 10 list for a number of years now. It’s a solidly built, no frills pole that focuses on performance and versatility, making it a true all-rounder.
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Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
Unlike other niche poles, the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork trekking pole is neither the lightest, nor most portable out there, but makes up in durability, comfort and versatility where the pole was consistently in the number one or two position.
In the $150 - $200 range, the pole is by no means cheap but it also isn’t overpriced in a market where paying $150 for professional poles is standard practice.
We liked the fact that for the money you pay for this pole, you can get a lot of use out of it in various terrains and weather conditions thanks to its robust nature.
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Contrary to the notion that carbon poles tend to be less durable than aluminium poles, the Alpine Carbon Cork actually tested more durable than most of the aluminium poles in this year’s line-up.
This is down to the thicker carbon fibre used in the shaft and the fact that it is a telescoping pole as opposed to a tent-style pole which compromises on durability to gain in portability.
While not as durable as aluminium poles designed for off-trail use, the Alpine Carbon Cork can certainly be used for both on and off-trail hiking and the pole has substantial longevity – proved by the fact that many older models of the Alpine Carbon Cork are still used today.
The inclusion of classic cork handles also improves the long-term durability of the pole as cork holds up better over repeated use than foam or even rubber. Along with the tried and trusted locking mechanism used by Black Diamond, the pole is a great investment and is sure to last numerous years of hiking.
The cork handles on the Alpine Carbon Cork differ slightly to those of the older model and other cork handles in the top 10 in that it was less ‘hand shaped’ and smoother. We found this great as it allows you to hold the pole in a variety of positions as opposed to one fixed position.
Together with a foam portion below the cork, the handle proved to be versatile in allowing the user to adjust their grip based on the terrain they faced.
The cork grips mould well to your hands over time, and the lack of any anti shock tech in the pole didn’t affect its feel on the hike at all resulting in a pole that is supremely comfortable and enjoyable to use.
It is clear that Black Diamond didn’t obsess over weight when designing and manufacturing this pole as they were not prepared to sacrifice any performance or strength in order to shave a few grams. At 482g, the Alpine Carbon Cork is modestly positioned in the middle of the poles we tested, behind the tent-style folding poles but above the aluminium models.
It remains one of the lighter telescoping carbon poles and the extra weight on this pole is completely offset by the gains in durability and versatility.
As a telescoping pole, the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork is a far cry from the tent-style poles than can fold down to as little as 36cm. Retracting to a length of 61cm, the pole may (just) fit into some larger backpacks but should have no problems being transported in luggage for any travellers out there.
There is a folding version of this pole available called the Alpine FLZ, but this would definitely compromise some of the qualities we have mentioned above such as durability and overall performance.
The Alpine Carbon Cork was the highest scoring pole in terms of versatility, a category often overlooked by first time buyers. The combination of the low weight and durable carbon means this pole is perfect for a variety of terrains and is by no means limited to on-trail use like some other carbon poles.
The pole can also be used in all four seasons as included snow baskets can adapt the pole into an (almost) ski pole. The ability to do this, as well as navigate rocky terrain and even climbs justifies the pole’s steep price and ensures you get the most out of your money.