I’m very enamoured of my Black Diamond Trail poles, in fact I can’t see how walking poles could be better. They’re extremely reliable and durable, and very simple. I like them. Unfortunately during my last Pennine Way I failed to notice one of the carbide tips had dropped off. I think I know where it happened – the tip caught in some flagstones – but I didn’t check. Had I picked it up I could probably have screwed it back in. Needless to say my spare was sitting in a drawer at home. By the time I got to Kirk Yetholm the plastic remains of the tip section had worn down quite badly.
A great thing about Black Diamond poles is you can buy spares. I did so at once and now, several months later, I’ve got round to sorting it out.
My first problem was that I’d stupidly put the poles away with the clamps shut, and possibly a bit damp too. Don’t do this! If you do, little white blobs and pits of corrosion will form on the shafts, and your clamps will seize up. As I’ve now learnt the hard way – always store your poles loose, dry and preferably dismantled!
As you can see above I managed to smooth off the corroded shafts using a Garryflex block I happened to have for polishing knives. Obviously you must never apply grease or any other lubricant to trekking poles, this would be a complete disaster. The shafts now slide nice and freely again. A great benefit of these external cam locks is that you can adjust their grip by loosening or tightening the screws, this is easily done on the trail with a Swiss Army Knife or whatever you carry.
You’ll see videos claiming you have to soak the tips in boiling water and other palavers to get them off, but this is completely unnecessary, all you have to do is whack them with an adjustable spanner, the heavier the better. A couple of good whacks and they just fly off, so make sure you’re not pointing your pole at the cat or other loved one. Don’t try pulling them off with mole grips, you’ll just be squeezing them onto the shaft.
Then just push the new ones on, it’s that simple. They’re just a friction fit, as soon as you use the poles your weight pressing downwards will fix them firmly.
These things are called Flex Tech Tips, and one thing that wasn’t clear to me is whether when you buy them they come with the screw-in carbide tips included. They do.
You can also get a longer option but with those you can’t replace the carbide tip or swap it for a rubber tip. I have some rubber tips but I’ve never bothered to swap them over, I can’t honestly see the point. If your tips are made of carbide cheese and wear out in a few days, like my Alpkit ones did, you might want to conserve them while hiking on roads, but Black Diamond carbide tips are made of proper stuff and seem to be virtually immortal.
I don’t plan to replace the baskets, either with the old ones or with new ones (which you have to buy separately, these are the 38 mm variant). I don’t see the point of baskets other than in actual snow, I just find them a nuisance catching in vegetation and rocks, and they prevent me from using my pole to gauge the depths of bogs. If you do want to replace them they just screw onto the Flex Tech Tips.
And there we are, nicely cleaned up and re-tipped hiking poles, good and ready for another couple of thousand miles. At least I hope so, as they hold my tent up! I’ll be storing them more carefully from now on.