BD Alpine Carbon Cork 2013 v. 2016

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The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork trekking poles have been the rugged hiking pole of reference for quite some time.  They are lightish (~8 oz per pole), stiff, very durable, and quite compact.  They are what I recommend to those who prefer long-term investments, hike off trail, are hard on gear, or value having one set of poles for almost everything.  They even come with snow baskets, though maxing at 130cm they’re generally not long enough for skiing.

The older version (circa 2013, top) was already a good pole.  The 2016 version (bottom) has a few changes which in my book are significant improvements.

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Most prominently, BD has gone away from the metal Flicklock Pro they introduced several years ago, and back to a plastic version which is almost identical to the original Flicklock as it was introduced in the early 00s.  The Pro certainly had extra clamping force, but I don’t think that provided any practical advantage, and the added size and mechanical complexity was a downside.  I broke one years ago, and other folks report them being pried open in thick brush.  The original Flicklock has two plastic pieces and one bolt; a design not really in need of improvement.  Why twistlocks still exist in the face of it makes no sense.

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The grip has also changed, the new version being quite a bit slimmed down and less ergonomic, with a flatter rubber end cap.  I like the new version, but some will prefer the old.

The new strap is similar to the old one, but a bit smaller and less heavily padded.  That it cannot be easily removed is my one beef with the Carbon Corks.  Unless you use a drift pin, the only way to remove the straps cleanly is with a knife.  It’d be great to see a small hex head screw  in this role.

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Overall it seems more relevant to ask why one wouldn’t want Carbon Corks than the other way around.  Weight weenies will sacrifice durability and spend more on Gossamer Gear or Locus Gear.  People who prefer to spend less will opt for CostCo or an aluminum model from BD.  And folks who want a tougher, longer pole for winter will get the BD Boundary.  Simple.

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3 thoughts on “BD Alpine Carbon Cork 2013 v. 2016

  1. I had a pair of Carbon Corks circa 2011??? I recently sold them in favor of their new FLZ aluminum poles (the adjustment is nice for shelters, also for shortening on steep up hills, they also go to 140 which is nice)- they weigh the same as the Carbon Corks- 17 oz.

    I have a pair of their Ultra Distance carbon z poles that I use when I want really light poles (10 oz), but use the aluminum ones when I expect hard use. The only downside is they come with a small trekking tip and you have to replace the entire tip if you want snow baskets (which I do). Replacing tips involves boiling water, vice grips, cursing and then glue.

    Mike

    1. I’m done with the collapsible, tent pole or avy probe style poles. Too many stories of broken or jammed poles. Unless being able to fit your poles inside your pack is a huge priority, I don’t recommend them to anyone.

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