Over the past couple of years of walking I’ve gone through a fair amount of gear, so I thought I would share some feedback for stuff that’s tried and trusted. Hope it helps.
What is it?: Black Diamond FLZ Cork-handled carbon-fibre trekking poles
How much?: $190 CAD + tax
Where, when, how do I use it?: I bought these in 2018, anticipating that I was going to start doing some long hikes. Since then, I’ve taken them out on several hikes of different lengths, the longest a 200km walk from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Toronto which included about 88km of the Bruce Trail.
I wasn’t really a big believer in trekking poles. I had used borrowed ones before, in particular on a few hikes in Ireland. There, I was using just one pole because the owner had the other. It was useful when climbing bogging hill sides to have the extra “leg” but I didn’t think they’d make much difference on a flatter walk.
That changed when I used them on the Bruce Trail. The Niagara section is actually fairly moderate compared to the northern stretches of the Trail, but I found it a workout when carrying about 12kg in a backpack. Going up and down hills, cliffs, and ravines on rocky, uneven ground is tough, and the poles paid for themselves by saving me a couple of times from taking a header, spraining an ankle, or worse.
If you use trekking poles properly, adjusted for your height, you can transfer a fair amount of the work from your leg muscles to your arms which would otherwise just be swinging. That helps a lot both uphill and downhill. I also found them very useful going down hill on broken rock, to pick out which rocks seemed planted and which were loose.
I like the cork handles on these poles – I was walking in September but it was still in the mid-20s and I was perspiring a lot. Plastic handles would have become slippery, but the cork let you grip without feeling hot. In other seasons, the cork grips are still grippy even with gloves on in winter. These poles are “handed”, meaning there is a left and a right which you need to respect that so that the wrist straps sit correctly without chaffing. You can use them without the wrist straps, but it’s amazing how many times your hand comes off a pole so the straps mean fewer times bending down with a heavy pack on your back to pick them up.
The length adjustment and the folding mechanisms on these poles work pretty well. The pair I have extend to 120 cm, and that works for my height (175 cm). If you were taller, you’d probably want longer poles.
They are lightweight, since they are made of carbon fibre. They are plenty stiff however, and they’ve never bent or felt like they were getting wobbly even when I felt like I had most of my weight leaning on one pole.
I like the tips too. They have a smallish metal tip with a little plastic cap on it that works well on rock and rough ground, and they also come with a rubber cap that you can put on when on sidewalks or roads if the clicking bugs you. The metal tip with the plastic works well on snow, and you can get sharper metal winter tips if you need something even pointier. The standard baskets are fine for most seasons, even winter, but if you are facing deep snow you can get bigger baskets like you’d see on a ski pole.
Overall, I’m convinced. For everyday hikes around the city, I don’t bother with them. But for rough ground, especially with a pack, I’d go so far as to call good trekking poles a life-saver, and these Black Diamond poles fill that role really well. Granted, I’ve never used another pair so I can’t compare them to other makes and models, but these feel right and they work so that’s good enough for me.
Would I buy it again?: Yup. There used to be an advert in the UK for a brand of deck sealant, where the tagline was “It does exactly what it says on the tin”. That’s what I like about these poles – no fuss, they just work.
Disclaimer: This is not a “review”. I don’t go around sampling things, instead this is a summary of my own experience with a product I have used a lot. All opinions contained in this post are my own. I offer no warranties or assurances for your experiences with the same product. I bought the gear with my own money and have not received any form of compensation from the manufacturer. Take my feedback as given – caveat emptor.