Gear Review: Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Trekking Poles
Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock
$140, 1 lb. 5 oz.
Length: 27 to 55 ins./68 to 140 cm, collapsed length 27 ins./68 cm
On a 13.5-hour, roughly 18-mile, mostly off-trail dayhike in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains in July, I encountered the kind of terrain that makes a hiker wonder why humans ever thought walking upright was a good idea: steep, sliding scree, talus, firm snow that was slick on its surface, exposed ledges carpeted in sand and pebbles, and several thousand vertical feet of up and down on severely angled earth. It was the sort of day where you’d appreciate having four legs—or, short of that, a pair of sturdy, reliable trekking poles, which is why I was glad I had BD’s Trail Pro Shock with me.
I also used these three-section, adjustable poles on a three-day, 41-mile backpacking trip on the Timberline Trail around Oregon’s Mount Hood, where we made several fords of fast-moving, thigh-deep creeks; and for nine days of trekking on the Alta Via 2 through Italy’s Dolomite Mountains in July, where I ran into a lot of snow and some wildly exposed trail that looked at times more like a goat path. These sturdy but relatively lightweight poles, designed for four-season use in any terrain, score high for several reasons. But the biggest is that the FlickLock Pro adjustability levers never, ever slip, no matter how hard I lean or stumble on them. They also adjust quickly and intuitively by simply flipping the lever open and snapping it shut—easy to accomplish even with gloves on.
Unlike lighter poles, I could fall on these burly aluminum sticks and not bend the shafts. The built-in shock absorber has progressive absorption that dampens even the hardest landing, so the absorbers never bottom out or bounce. The dual-density foam grip and padded straps were comfortable on my bare hands on that 13.5-hour hike in the Sawtooths and long days on the Timberline Trail. I like the extended-length grips for holding the shaft lower when climbing really steep terrain without having my hands gripping a metal shaft in cold or wet conditions. The carbide tips and baskets are interchangeable. The women’s models have customized straps, grips, and length ranges.
NOTE: I’ve been testing gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See all of my reviews by clicking on the Gear Reviews category at left or in the main menu.