I had been trying to determine if trekking poles were something that I needed to spend money on for some time. Not knowing if I would actually benefit from the use of a set, they were never really high on my gear wish list.
My adventures mostly consist of single day hikes between two and ten miles in length, but after completing my 52 Hike Challenge last year I’ve started looking into some potentially longer multi-day backpacking trips. I felt it was time to really start researching which pair I was going to buy to test out for the longer adventures.
I read dozens of online reviews, traded emails and direct messages with #HikerChat friends from Twitter, but I still wasn’t 100% sure which poles were right for me. I had it narrowed down to three products and made my way to my local REI with some gift cards I received for Christmas (thinking that holding them in my hands in the store would help me make my final decision).
I ultimately chose the Black Diamond Ergo Cork Trekking Poles over the other two options because they felt the most comfortable in my hands and the telescoping hardware seemed the most solid of the group. I picked up a pair of Black Diamond trekking pole tip protectors (walking tips) and a pair of Black Diamond powder baskets as well.I strapped the poles to my daypack and headed over to the Sourland Mountain Preserve – one of my favorite local spots where I test out a lot of my new gear. As a side note: I suggest always taking brand new gear, boots, packs, etc. to a place where you are extremely familiar with the trail system. You don’t want a new piece of gear to fail in unfamiliar terretory.
It took a few miles to get the poles adjusted comfortably, but once I was in a groove with them I really saw the benefit of using them. It’s like learning to walk on four legs, but definitely kept me balanced and planted on steep sections of the trail.
For my second outing with the trekking poles I headed up to Norvin Green State Forest to tackle a section of trail that I hadn’t done before. It had just snowed a few inches and I thought it’d be a great place to test out the powder baskets.
I parked the Jeep, grabbed my gear and started walking down the road looking for the small trailhead for the section I wanted to explore. I decided to start the trail without the poles, or my micro spikes, to get a true feel for the difference the gear made.
I got about 100 yards uphill before I had to throw my katoola micro spikes on. I grabbed the trekking poles and made it another 100 yards uphill before stopping again to put the powder baskets on.
The combination of trekking poles and micro microspikes made hiking through powder and slush a lot more manageable! I was having such a blast that I didn’t notice I had lost one of my spikes. I had to backtrack about a mile, and luckily found it.
At that point I thought I was home free as I made my way back to the trail head. As I was climbing over a section of small boulders, the ice gave way and one of my new poles slid between the rocks. The pole kept me from falling, but unfortunately I bent the lower section of the pole in the process.
I made my way back to the Jeep and headed home. The pole did its job 100% – I put no fault on the gear, as I can’t think of any other trekking pole that would have performed any better with 180 lb. of weight bending the pole between the rocks. What I applaud Black Diamond for is the readily available (and affordable) repair and replacement parts that they offer through their website.
The new lower shaft is working great, and knowing how easy it was to order replacement parts gives me added confidence in the trekking poles I chose.