I just completed my IR for the Black Diamond
Elliptical Spire Trekking Poles:
Black Diamond Elliptical Spire Trekking Poles
by Gail Staisil, Marquette, Michigan
October 22, 2006
Name: Gail Staisil
Height: 5' 9" (1.75 m)
Weight: 140 lb (64 kg)
Location: Marquette, Michigan USA
For the last 17 years, backpacking has become a
passion. I am a four-season backpacker and an
off-trail navigator. Although I do take yearly trips
to the American West or Southwest, the majority of my
trips are in Michigan and Canada. My pack weight
varies considerably but my base weight is below 18 lb
(8 kg). I am primarily a tarp camper who averages more
than 50 nights a year backpacking in a huge variety of
weather conditions including relentless rain, wet snow
and sub-zero temps.
Black Diamond Elliptical Spire Poles-- Description
Model Elliptical Spire (Regular Length)
Matte Silver, Orange Graphics, Black Trim
Aluminum Shaft, Dual-Density Plastic, Nylon Webbing
27 in (69 cm)
Length (Usable Range)
41 in (105 cm) to 55 in (140 cm)
1 lb 4 oz (572 g)
1 lb 4.2 oz (573 g)
Model Year 2006
According to the manufacturer, the Black Diamond
Elliptical Spire Poles have the highest fore/aft
stiffness on the market that provides unrelenting
support on technical climbs and descents. Features
include non-rotating elliptical-shaped shafts and
immediate engagement with the Auto Lock Binary System.
An elliptical-shaped FlickLock provides easy
adjustments on the elliptical-shaped poles. Other
features include15 degree corrective angles on the
hand grips, dual-density materials on the top knobs,
non-slip foam grips with extensions, padded webbing
that encircles the entire hand, Short Flex Tips and
low-profile baskets. The poles are available in both
compact and regular sizes.
Black Diamond Limited Warranty:
For climbing and backcountry ski gear we warrant for
one year from purchase date and only to the original
retail buyer (Buyer) that our products (Products) are
free from defects in material and workmanship.
Black Diamond Elliptical Spire Poles--
When the Black Diamond Elliptical Spire Trekking Poles
arrived at my place, my first thoughts related to the
observation that they presented a modernistic-design
approach to trekking poles. Even though I knew that
the shafts on the three-section poles would be
elliptically-shaped, I was surprised that the
appearance was so cool and innovative looking. I can't
help but think that the matte-silver finish with
stylish graphics on the poles also led to my
impression. The poles appear to be beautifully
finished and there were no flaws to the naked eye.
I was especially interested in some of the features of
the poles that I wasn't previously familiar with. The
FlickLock adjustment feature on each of the poles was
new to me. I have only used the more common types of
trekking poles that secure with a twist. The poles
arrived with the FlickLocks or levers in the open
position. These levers (one on each pole) are located
near the bottom edges of the top pole sections and
extend about 1.5 in (3.81 cm) to the side of each
pole. The end of each lever has a series of
Braille-like raised dots that act to prevent slippage
when force is exerted on the levers with my thumb.
Before closing the levers, the middle shaft sections
of the poles can be adjusted to the desired length
just by extending or sliding them. There are
centimeter increments listed in graphics on each pole
in 5 cm (1.97 in) markings. The markings range from
140 cm (55 in) to 110 cm (43.31 in). After
experimenting with the desired length, I closed the
lever on each pole. It took a bit of force but I knew
they were closed when I heard the final snap sound on
each pole. After playing with the levers several
times, they seemed to close easier than the first
attempt. Maybe I was just more confident in closing
them. There is an adjustment screw located on the end
of each lever. Those screws were pre-adjusted in the
factory but they can be re-adjusted if the tension is
too loose or too tight with a quarter or half turn to
Auto Lock Binary System
When extended, the lower portion of the trekking poles
lock in place immediately by an Auto Lock Binary
System. There is only one location or hole where it
locks located at the top end of the lower sections. In
other words, the lower portions of the poles can only
be locked in one position when they are extended. To
unlock the pole sections, I have to depress the clear
soft plastic lock buttons that encase the poles.
The shafts of the aluminum poles are formed in an
elliptical shape. The side profile measures about 0.94
in (2.39 cm) while the front profile measures 0.56 in
(1.42 cm). This feature reportedly allows the poles to
have a tremendous fore/aft stiffness. I do have carbon
fiber cross-country ski racing poles that feature a
similar shape but they are not as pronounced. The
lower portions of the poles are also elliptically
shaped but they taper down and change to round-shaped
sections just above the area where the baskets are
screwed in place.
Hand Grips/Padded Wrist Straps
The top sections of the poles have non-slip foam
rubber-type material almost extending 12 in (30.48 cm)
in length down the poles. The handle portions are
about 6 in (15.24 cm) in length and they are canted at
15 degree angles from the rest of the poles. Below the
canted portions, the extended portions have the same
non-slip material with four indentations for grip.
The top knobs of the handles are made of dual-density
materials. The extreme top portions and most of the
sides are made out of a softer material and there are
harder plastic inserts that cover the area where the
webbing for the wrist straps are inserted into the
The padding on the wrist straps encircles my hands
completely. Although the webbing allows the straps to
be adjusted larger by extending a portion of plain
webbing (without the padding), they cannot be adjusted
smaller. Being that my hands are on the small side,
the padded strap is very loose around my bare hands.
There is quite a bit of open space so even bulky
gloves and mittens will likely fit.
The baskets on the poles are very small or low
profile. They measure 1.5 in ( 3.81 cm) in diameter.
It appears that the baskets are twisted in place. With
the basket attachments being round it would be
interesting to find out if larger baskets for deep
snow, could be used on these poles to make them more
versatile. The tips of the trekking poles are encased
in Short Flex Tips. The flexible rubber tips encase
short carbide tips for grip on rock or ice.
Black Diamond Elliptical Spire Poles-- Test Plan
My scheduled fall and winter backpacking trips in
Michigan include a four-day trip to the Hiawatha
National Forest in November, a four-day trip to the
Pigeon River State Forest in December, a five-day
winter sledge trip in January in Michigan's Upper
Peninsula, and a nine-day winter sledge trip in
February to Ontario, Canada. In addition, I am very
prone to taking last-minute trips.
The next four months in the Great Lakes area of
Michigan and Canada will produce many wild, windy,
rainy and snow-filled days and nights. The Great Lakes
create their own unique weather system, so I would
expect rapid sudden drops in temperatures and much
precipitation in the form of rain and snow during this
time period. The testing conditions will be at low
elevation or low altitude 600 ft (183 m) to 2000 ft
(610 m), with mostly cold conditions and mid-to-high
range humidity (50-100 percent).
Testing location temperatures in Michigan will range
from the average low in January of 3F (-16C) to the
average high of 35 F(2 C) in December. These are only
averages, I have been on several trips where the
temperatures dipped to a low of -20F (-29C) in January
and a foot or more of snow has fallen in a short
amount of time. Average precipitation for the Michigan
trips is approximately 13 in (33cm) during this time
period, however average snowfall for the winter totals
at least 185 in (470 cm) in some of the areas that I
will be camping.
My February trip to Ontario, Canada could produce lows
of -40F (-40C) with the average low being -19 (-2F) In
addition, snowfall for the month of February averages
21 in (54 cm) with an average snow depth of 26 in (67
cm). Again, this is an average, there is frequently
over 6 ft (183 m) of snow on the ground during the
All of these trips will be taken to hilly boreal or
deciduous forest. Most of the trips planned are of the
bushwhack variety, so in addition to the above, I will
also be traveling across flat, frozen, windy lakes
during the January, and February trips.
I will test the Black Diamond Elliptical Spire
Trekking Poles with the following considerations in
Ease of Use:
-Are the FlickLocks harder to open in frigid weather?
-Can I adjust the FlickLocks and Padded Webbing Wrist
straps with one hand? While wearing gloves?
-Are the poles easy to collapse when I want to put
-Will I find the elliptical shaft shape that can't be
twisted to be a bonus instead of the traditional round
- Will the elliptical shafts make engaging the
Auto-Lock Binary System easier?
-Will the elliptical shafts make adjustments while
under way quicker?
-Will the straps on the poles be easy to adjust? This
can be a source of frustration for me.
-Will the FlickLocks require special maintenance to
keep them operating correctly?
-If any parts of the FlickLocks crack - the lever or
housing - can these be replaced?
-Will I have to oil any parts of the FlickLocks
-If the tension on the FlickLocks needs to be
adjusted, is this easily accomplished?
-Do the poles have to be stored in a special
manner-FlickLocks open and collapsed or closed and
-Will the poles need special care after they have been
used in the field during wet weather? How about care
after being in dirt and mud?
-Will the top knob, padded webbing, Short Flex Tips
and Trekking Baskets need any special maintenance to
keep them functioning through the test period and
-Is every part of the pole replaceable?
-Will the poles with their 15 degree corrective angle
make a difference while hiking? - My current trekking
poles don't feature a corrective angle so I am really
interested in the possible merits of this
characteristic for trekking. (I have used XC ski poles
with this feature for skiing).
-Will the FlickLocks design feature keep the pole
sections from slipping? I frequently have a slipping
problem with my twist poles when I exert pressure on
-Are the hand grips comfortable to use with bare hands
and with gloves or mittens?
-Are the hand grips ergonomic so that they fit my
-Will the non-slip hand grips stay that way or will
they become smooth after extended use?
-Will the padded webbing straps stay where they are
adjusted or will I have to frequently re-adjust their
-Will the poles be stiff enough so that they don't
elicit or waste too much of my energy when force is
exerted on them? After countless years of performance
xc skiing, I believe I have some insight into the
qualities of an ideal pole for repetitive use.
-Will the poles hold up to much of my weight leaning
on them when I am going through difficult areas of
-Are the Short Flex Tips long enough to secure their
position on ice and rock?
-Will the trekking baskets be only sufficient for
barren turf or will they float over snow as well? Are
snow-specific or backcountry baskets available for
-Are the poles easy to stow in the side pockets of my
pack if needed? I often transport my pack and both
poles this way if I am taking a ferry to an island or
while I am bushwhacking, I stow one of the poles so
that I can have one hand available to push brush out
of the way.
-Will the non-slip hand grips stay that way or will
they become smooth after extended use?
-Will the padded webbing fray with regular use?
-Will the poles withstand ordinary handling and
-Will the FlickLocks hold up to frequent adjustments?
-Will the FlickLocks keep the pole sections in place?
I once lost the bottom section of my twist pole in
steep, forested and difficult terrain as it simply
twisted out without me realizing it.
I will gladly address all these issues and any
additional pertinent concerns as I test the Elliptical
Spire Trekking Poles. Thanks to Black Diamond and
BackpackGearTest for this great opportunity during the
next four months.
This concludes my Initial Report. My Field Report
should be completed after two months of testing.
**There is a pleasure in the pathless woods** - Lord Byron
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