Gear Review: Black Diamond Trail Pro Trekking Poles

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My trekking poles have slowly become an indispensable gear item I just can’t hit the trail without. Coming from a running background, I was very slow to adopt trekking poles, and for years convinced myself they would only get in the way of my peak ascents. I completed Camino de Santiago in 2012 without poles, even though I read numerous times online how much of an energy saver they can be. I also went to Peru and completed the Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu and the Ausangate Trek without the aid of poles. It was right around this time that I started to explore the world of backpacking a little more, instead of just focusing solely on hiking. I quickly realized that even a small increase in the weight of my pack lead to an increase in the tenderness of my knees after sustained downhill treks. I also realized my balance was ever so slightly compromised as the size and weight of my pack grew. With much hesitation, I went to REI and picked up the Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Poles.

Support Trail to Peak by purchasing these poles on Amazon using the links below:

Black Diamond Trail Pro

I put close to 1000 miles on the Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Poles before a slip on some ice had me bend the left pole in half. I was coming down Mt. Baden Powell, and used the pole to catch my balance when I slipped. Better the pole than my arm! After that slip,  I was in the market for new poles, and made my way to REI to pick up a pair. I decided on the Black Diamond Trail Pro Trekking Poles without the shock this time, and in 4 reasons I’ll explain why.

  1. The shock mechanism on the trekking poles robs me of energy on the uphill
  2. The shock mechanism adds extra weight to the pole
  3. The shock mechanism gets a little bit of grit and stickiness to it that requires lubing
  4. The shock compression makes the poles less stable when used for tarp shelters.
Black Diamond Trail Pro Trekking Poles
Black Diamond Trail Pro Trekking Poles

The Trail Pro poles come with low profile baskets and detachable carbine tips. They also come packaged with attachable snow baskets. The poles are made of aluminum and extend from 25 to 55 inches (63-140cm). My pair of poles wieghs in at 1lb 7oz. I almost purchased a pair of carbon poles, but decided against it at the last minute. I’m a bigger guy and am pretty tough on my poles. Being that I was prepping for the John Muir Trail, I had a huge fear that a pole would snap mid trek and I’d be out of luck. The aluminum poles aren’t that much heavier, and for that extra weight, I get added durability for a lower price.

Black Diamond Trail Pro Trekking Poles
Adjustable Poles

As much as I loved Trail Pro poles with the shock, I am loving the non shock version even more. It isn’t just the lack of a shock mechanism I’m enjoying, it’s also the upgraded components on the flick lock and wrist straps. The new metal flick locks are functional and dependable. I found the plastic ones on the shock version to freeze up when it was cold. They were also difficult to fiddle with when I had gloves on. The new flick lock not only clasps more securely on the pole, it is much easier to open and close in cold weather and with gloves.

Black Diamond Trail Pro Trekking Poles
Flick Locks

The foam handles of the Trail Pro are very comfortable, but a little thin for my hands. My hands aren’t huge by any means, and I wish there was a little more girth to the grips. Having said that, these are unisex poles, so I’m sure Black Diamond went with a smaller circumference to appeal to both sexes. I might apply some tennis racket grip tape to the handles to make them feel a little more substantial. The only other knock I have on the grips is that the black foam leaves a residue and stain on your hands after longer days. I’ve used these poles for about 400 miles now, and they still leave a little something on my palms after long days. Not a big deal, but not something you have to deal with on a cork handle.

One of my favorite improvements on this model of the Trail Pro is the removal of the foam finger ridge towards the top of the grip. One the old grips, there was really only one way to hold the handle completely comfortably, and other gripping technique would leave a fat lump of foam in the way. These new grips are smooth, and places the grip ridge of foam towards the middle of the upper shaft, to support the bottom of your gripped fist.

Black Diamond Trail Pro Trekking Poles
Foam Grips

The wrist straps on the Trail Pro are comfortable and stay put without haveing to make any alterations or adjustments. After many countless sweaty miles on the trail, they’re still looking pretty good and haven’t developed any funky smells.

Black Diamond Trail Pro Trekking Poles
Wrist Straps

As more hikers move to lighten their load by carrying lightweight shelters, it is important to have a pair of trekking poles that can be used in the support of these structures. The sturdy aluminum pole of the Trail Pro along with the flat top of the grips make these perfect for supporting lightweight shelters. I used the Tarptent Double Rainbow on the Jon Muir Trail, which is supported by a shock-cord pole. I was able to use these trekking poles to configure the tent in a “porch pitch” to maximize living space and air flow. I loved how easy it was to set up and adjust with the dynamic flick locks.

Support Trail to Peak by purchasing these poles on Amazon using the links below:

Black Diamond Trail Pro

If you’re in the market for a set of trekking poles, the Black Diamond Trail Pro are a pretty tough pair to beat at $129.95. There are definitely lighter pairs on the market, but the combination of toughness and adaptability make these a “must buy” for me. Enjoy the photos below of the Trail Pros in action!


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12 thoughts on “Gear Review: Black Diamond Trail Pro Trekking Poles”

  1. Upeita kuvia. Pidän kävelysauvoista, koska olen vanha lady ja sauvat kaksinkertaistavat voimani. Great shots. I like trekking poles, because I am an old lady, the poles me twice stronger.

  2. Hi Drew,

    My question concerns the relative value of the shock. In a nutshell, my spinal stenosis has combined with a general neurological degenerative disorder which, among other things, leads to a substantial loss of balance & strength in all four of my extremities. Physical therapy has had limited success in improving those functions. Given this particular scenario, would you still advise going without the shock absorbing mechanism? I currently can walk unaided with a cane for short distances, but it is taxing. For longer distances, I need my cane but it is not a pleasant experience, I really would like to begin walking decent distances again comfortably, as I used to do regularly fifteen years ago. I’m 74years old now.

    Thanks much, Pete

    • Hello, Pete. I don’t know if I’m the right person to ask about this one. I don’t want to give bad advice based on your medical condition. I think your best bet is to try both in store if you have the opportunity to do so.

  3. Great review, I have the same concerns about the shock absorbers, I have them in an old pair of Leki thaat I’m replacing and looking for something without them, and its effectively a two stage process putting weight on the pole, and then the clicking noise of the shock absorber maxing out is like Chinese water torture. I’ll have to look at more of your reviews.

      • Hi Drew, I went with the BD trail pro, and I really rate them, put many miles in them and they have held up well. The only thing that bothers me a little, is the thin grips. I get on ok with them mostly, but I do sometimes get hand cramps if I’m holding them too long, but I do have large hands. Did you ever put tennis grip tape on them or have you not felt the need?

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