These are solid poles from industry giant Black Diamond – and they have a unique feature in their angled hand grips, which could make these poles the perfect choice for those with mobility issues in their hands or wrists, or those who simply don’t get on with standard poles.
Pros / Reasons to Buy
- You might love the angled hand grips
- Solid build
Cons / Reasons to Avoid
- You might hate the angled hand grips
- Not so compact when folded
The Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork poles are a unique proposition. On the one hand, they are a fairly regular three section telescopic pole, but they also have a unique selling point in their angled ergonomic hand grip. Many users may be baffled by why this is a big deal and we’re sure that in practice, many hikers will either be indifferent to, or at worse, actively dislike this feature. However, for certain hikers – either those with mobility issues in their hands or wrists, or those who simply don’t like regular hiking poles, these could be something special. They are a niche product for sure, but one that we think might find a very grateful market.
Compare to Similar Products
- Black Diamond Trail Back Poles
- Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork
- Leki Sherpa
- Check out our overall guide: 12 Best Trekking Poles of 2023
Analysis and Test Results
The Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Walking poles are outwardly fairly conventional three-section, telescopic aluminum hiking poles. But look closer and you’ll see that they have a unique feature: angled hand grips. Compared to most other poles, the hand grips on the Trail Ergo tilts subtly, but noticeably forward. Now, this could be a divisive feature and we think that some potential buyers may even actively dislike it. However, we also think that this unique feature – and we say unique because we can’t find any other hiking pole that matches this – could make these poles a really attractive choice to those who experience mobility issues in their hands or wrists or those who simply don’t find more conventional poles comfortable. However, whilst the grip is the headline feature, there’s more to these poles besides: they are solidly built and offer a good range of adjustability all at price that we think is reasonable for the quality. On top of this, Black Diamond are a trusted brand in the outdoors industry who offer user-fittable spare parts for their poles, so there’s no reason why these shouldn’t last a very long time indeed.
The first thing that will strike you about the Black Diamon Trail Ergo Cork poles are the handgrips: these are not like other hiking poles and the grips are gently, but noticeably angled forward rather than broadly straight like on most other poles. First off, this means that the poles will be a bit more awkward to carry when they are collapsed and lashed on to your backpack, but this small inconvenience could well be worth it if you find the grips more comfortable. And that’s a big if! For some buyers, these poles could well be a revelation: if you don’t ‘get on’ with regular hiking poles or if you have mobility issues in your wrists or hands, then these poles just might be exactly what you need to make hiking more comfortable and, if that’s the case, then buying them makes perfect sense. However, the angled grips could just as easily annoy you, or you could simply be indifferent to them. Our best advice if you think these poles might benefit you is to see if you can get some hands-on experience with the product. Beyond the angled grips, these poles feature a natural cork grip at the top with foam making up the lower part and are adjustable between 100cm/39in and 140cm/55in. The pole shafts are aluminum and there are no specific shock absorbing features in the pole, so you can expect them to transfer more vibration to your wrist than some others.
The Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork poles weigh in at 512g/1lb 2oz for a pair. That puts them roughly in the middle in terms of product weights in this round up. It’s interesting that whilst these share many key stats with the Black Diamond Trail Back Poles we’ve assessed elsewhere, they are also a little heavier – we wonder how much the angled hand grip and choice of cork for the grip material contributes to this?
The Black diamond Trail Ergo Cork poles utilize a largely aluminum construction. This is the classic walking pole material and whilst carbon fiber is appearing in more and more models, there’s still a lot of reasons why aluminum is a great choice for hiking poles. For one thing, it’s typically cheaper and it’s also likely to be more durable: Carbon fiber can chip and crack, and even become brittle at extremely low temperatures whereas aluminum will bend before it breaks.
These Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork poles use a fully telescopic design and pack down to 69cm/27in. That gives them the second longest packed size in this round up and it’s worth noting that the poles with the longest packed size – the Leki Sherpa – also extend longer than these. The angled grip clearly has a part to play here as it means that the telescopic sections can’t retract as far up the pole as in others with a more conventional design. However, if you find the angled grips more comfortable, this will be a small price to pay. Telescopic poles will never be as compact when collapsed as folding poles, but they make up for this by generally offering a greater range of length adjustment – and this can be very handy if you regularly do steep descents or hike in deep snow. In both these circumstances, it can be handy to lengthen your poles over their ‘regular’ length to improve comfort and stability.
Pole Adjustment Mechanism
Aside from its angled grips, the Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork poles is a fairly conventional three-section telescopic pole. It uses flip locks, which we prefer to the increasingly uncommon twist lock to secure the pole sections into place. Black Diamond’s flip lock does require a small screwdriver to adjust tension on the flip locks. This is something you’ll have to do on the trial at some point, so it’s another item to remember to bring along. This is a pity as other brands have tool free adjustment of this part.
These poles come with Black Diamonds basic, small trekking basket. This can easily be removed completely or replaced with a range of different baskets including a wider snow basket.
Grip Ergonomics and Material
The angled grip is the Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork’s main selling point. We think there’s a certain group of hikers out there for whom the angled grip could prove to be a real revelation, greatly improving comfort on the trail. We also think you’re just a likely to not like it! Our best advice here is that if you think you might benefit from these poles, to try to get some hands-on time with them to see if they are right for you. Beyond the shape, the grips are made form natural cork, which some prefer to the high-density foam you se eon most poles as it will mold to the user’s hand shape with time.
At the time of writing, the Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork poles cost $139.95/£135.19 – far from the cheapest poles in our round up, but also not the most expensive either. However, we do think that comparing the price of these poles to others in the round-up isn’t really the point here: Thes poles have a unique selling point in their angled ergonomic hand grips and, frankly, we are not aware of any other pole out there that offers this. Many buyers will be indifferent towards this unique selling point and there will surely even be those who actively dislike it, however, we think there’s a certain group of hikers who could find this different grip position to be far more comfortable and if you fall into that category, then, frankly, you don’t have many alternatives!
The Black Diamond Ergo Trail Cork poles are a great set of hiking poles. They have the rock-solid build you’d expect from a respected brand like Black Diamond and spare parts are available if anything ever does get broken or damaged. There’s no reason why these poles shouldn’t last a very long time indeed. As mentioned elsewhere, the main selling point of these poles are the angled hand grips and, whether you’ll get any benefit in terms of comfort from these is down to the individual. We’d say that if you already get on well with more conventional poles, then there’s little reason to look at these Ergo Trail Cork poles as you do pay a premium in terms of weight, folded size and price for them – you could consider the Leki Sherpa or Black Diamond’s Trail Back or Alpine Carbon Cork as an alternative. However, if you experience mobility problems in your hands or wrists, or if you’ve found conventional hiking poles uncomfortable in the past, then these poles could just be the solution for you, and if that’s the case, they could be an invaluable addition to your kit.
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