So here I am going to compare three different sets of heavy duty trekking poles in successive posts. Why trekking poles? Well, I probably don’t need them as much now as when I started, but hiking poles take a lot of weight off the knees, ankles, and hip joints. On steep downhills, I had some discomfort in both of my knees and my right hip. As I didn’t want to end up with knee or hip replacements when I was 70, so I figured I’d take steps to save my cartilage and bone now. Another factor to consider if how much weight we’re lugging during a hike. Up in the Santa Monica mountains where I hike several times a week, it can get super hot, even in winter. That means carrying up to a gallon of water on half day hikes, in addition to other supplies such as duct tape, first aid, knife, toilet paper, food, etc. Most of the trails I hike can be pretty treacherous, as if truck had dumped a pile of differently size sharp rocks on the trail. No shoe, no matter how good the grip, is going to prevent you from slipping on loose rocks. Trekking poles here offer stability, effectively making us quadrupeds. Poles offer a huge bonus to those with good upper body strength. I’ve noticed that I benefit from poles significantly more than my wife does. Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork The first pole I am going to go over is the Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork (the red one). The pole is collapsable with the shafts made out of aluminum. At about $100, it’s definitely not cheap. The length can be adjusted from 75-140cm. (General usage of trekking poles will not be discussed here). The Ergo moniker refers to the angled grip which follows the natural angle of fingers in relation to the wrist. I much prefer this arrangement, probably because I am used to it, over that of straight grips. The grip is made from cork, which is also my preference. Foam feels a bit too squishy for me to get a good grip. Foam also gets kind of gross after sweat or wet conditions. However, the area just under the grip is lined with foam to allow the user to choke up (actually down) on the pole when climbing rocks or greater inclines. The nice thing about cork is that it subtly molds to your hands after extended use. The not so good thing is slightly higher cost or in many instances lack of availability with certain models and manufacturers. One last thing I should mention is that the straps are padded and of top notch quality. The design of the straps is unique to left and right hands. I wished there was a red strip or something similar to denote which side was which. If one wants to start out with a premium adjustable pole, then this (or the non ergo one) is the one that most people should start out with. The aluminum feels solid. I haven’t bent anything yet - trust me, I’ve gotten this pole stuck deep into gopher holes without accidently snapping it. I actually feel confident enough with its strength that I’ve used it for bushwhacking on trails that I frequent often - I hate running into the same twigs that slap into my face hike after hike. The locks are easy to use and have not failed me (no unintended collapses of shafts at the set length of the pole). The locks can be adjusted with a screwdriver to arrive the at proper clamping force. From the factory, it was set perfectly. Supposedly the locks will loosen over time, but I haven’t had to adjust anything yet after over 160 miles of hiking in the past two months. The downsides to the Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork is that they could be lighter; they weigh 510 g (1 lb 2 oz), really not too bad. But this the tradeoff for what seems to be an almost indestructible pole. I am not the type of person who is kind gear. BTW, a few ounces can be shaved off by removing the trail baskets. This might have a more significant effect than we might initially think because the baskets are at the bottom on the pole - think momentum and pendulum effect. The trail baskets are next to useless where I hike because the ground is mostly baked dry and solid and the gopher holes too big for the baskets to catch.