Mrs TentLife has an inoperable spinal condition and relies heavily on walking poles, she even uses them around town when she isn’t using her walking sticks. She can’t afford to fall over and has to have faith that when she puts all her weight through whatever she is using, they are not going to fail, slip, collapse or break.
She has used cheap walking poles in the past with very bad experiences. They don’t retain their length as the adjustable height clips are either not strong enough or designed very badly. If one of these was to fail on her, the outcome could be very serious and quite possibly result in her being unable to move and requiring the emergency services / mountain rescue.
She feels mortified at the mere thought of people (often volunteers) having to come and help her, and feels it is her responsibility to ensure she is as safe as possible and using suitable gear.
Also, as she uses her poles all the time she needs them to be lightweight and pack down small. Sometimes she uses just one pole so the other is usually stashed away on the outside of her rucksack so it needs to be small and light.
This is why after a little trial and error with other brands, she has finally found some that she would recommend. She uses Black Diamond Trail Pro Womens 2018 poles with the Flicklock Pro closures.
We will talk about these poles shortly, but I just wanted to quickly mention why I have also got my hands on some Black Diamond poles too.
I only normally use poles when on a long hike or know that I have a significant hill descent to tackle. I have experienced a cheap pole failing on me and never want to have it happen again. We were descending Moel Hebog, a 783 metre hill near Beddgelert North Wales on our way for a date with a few pints of ale. One of my cheap poles very kindly decided to completely snap whilst I had my full weight on it. Luckily I didn’t sustain an injury, but was in quite an inhospitable place and wouldn’t like to imagine what could have happened if I had sprained an ankle or worse.
Just before our 96 mile hike along the West Highland Way I decided to also acquire a pair of Black Diamond walking poles, predominantly because of Mrs TentLifes positive experiences (and faith in them). The Black Diamond poles I’ve been testing are the mens Trail Pro Trekking poles with SmashLock technology.
Quick note about the WHW
Many people walk the West Highland Way without using walking poles. I was undecided as to whether I needed them or not, so I turned to Facebook where there are a couple of large group dedicated to advice on walking the WHW. I ask the question of whether to use poles or not, and the answer was a resounding YES. They gave many good reasons as to why a set of poles would make the 96 mile hike a more pleasurable experience. Having walked the Way, I would also recommend getting some decent poles especially if you are doing it over 5 days like we did. Walking on average 20 miles per day I felt that the walking poles really helped to make sure we completed our charity task. During the times that they weren’t used, the poles were attached to our backpacks so it was a relief that the Black Diamon poles were so lightweight.
What is FlickLock?
Both of the poles we have make use of what Black Diamond call FlickLock, which is the cam mechanism that clamps each pole section at the required length. The ‘Trail Pro Womens 2018’ have 2 FlickLocks on each pole and my ‘Trail Pro Trekking poles’ have one FlickLock and one SmashLock (see below).
Through all of their use, the FlickLock clamps have been very robust, handled some serious terrain and have had a lot of force put through them. Mrs TentLife has been using her poles for over a year and they have been faultless. Saying that though, a nifty feature of the FlickLock cams is that they can be adjusted so if they do work loose and require a stronger clamping force then it’s just a matter of
They are easy to use and operate, being easy on the hands and not requiring much force to get them to clamp very firmly into place. This is ideal for both young and old, maybe less strong in the hand or perhaps have arthritis etc.
What is SmashLock?
My poles have SmashLock, and how they work is rather clever. Instead of having 2 FlickLock cams to lock everything in place, the lower section uses something called a SmashLock. The lower section doesn’t have incremental adjustment, it’s either fully extended or fully closed. Sound terrible? Well no it isn’t because it’s not really essential for the lower pole section to be fully adjustable. You just fully extend it and then do your finer length alterations with the top section, it’s so easy.
When you fully extend the lower section, you hear it click securely into place. I’ve put all my weight (and there’s plenty of it) through these SmashLocks and they are rock solid. Then just open the FlickLock, adjust to the desired length and close the FlickLock again.
When it comes to packing away your poles, just release the upper FlickLock, grab the top (handle) and bottom of the poles and ‘smash’ it all closed. It all collapses down to it’s shortest length and then just close the FlickLock again – simple.
As the SmashLock system is so quick and easy to use, these poles can be quickly packed down small and stowed away, and deployment of the poles is just as quick too as you only dealing with one adjustment point/clamp and not two.
More Pole Stuff
Both poles have nice easy feeling ergonomic grips with adjustable straps. We’ve used these poles over long periods and haven’t experienced any rubbing, hard skin or aching hands.
My poles are of a black and red design, but I really ove the finish on the womens ones. They are a graphite colour with aqua FlickLocks and other detailing.
Moving onto the other end, with the metal tips appear to be very hard wearing and are showing no signs of needing to be replaced.
Like all good manufacturers, you can buy replacement wear parts and not have to scrap the entire walking pole.You can purchase replacement carbide tips and other accessories for these poles.
We’ve used cheap walking poles and poles from other reputable brands, but as we have explained above, we settled on these poles for a number of very good and important reasons.
Between the two of us, we’ve given both pairs of Black Diamond poles some serious workouts and there’s plenty more to come.
We will be reviewing other poles, but for the meantime the Black Diamond poles we’ve tried have set the benchmark for other to beat.
Thanks Black Diamond for keeping us safe whilst we enjoy the outdoors.