Trusty, adjustable backcountry poles |

Trusty, adjustable backcountry poles

I’m hardly a hard-core backcountry skier. In fact, my tours barely qualify as backcountry lite, but the el-cheapo adjustable poles I was using for such outings turned out to be even wussier than I am.

It’s not like they ever self-adjusted (i.e. collapsed) while my life hung in the balance, but leaning hard on a pole, only to have the length-adjustment mechanism fail, is annoying, to say the least. A pole that’s suddenly little more than knee high isn’t terribly useful, except as an excuse to curse. Worse, the mysterious inner workings (they were the sort of poles one twists to adjust) might or might not be made to function properly again after one of these episodes.

A pair of Black Diamond adjustable poles was a welcome gift and I’ve reached for them regularly this winter. The model is called the Boundary, and the manufacturer touts them as affordable, adjustable polls that “get the job done without breaking your bank.” They’re listed for $79.95 at – I’ll let the consumer make the call on what breaks the bank.

My pair can be adjusted from 90 centimeters to 140 centimeters (about 35 to 55 inches) with what Black Diamond calls the FlickLock. It’s basically a simple, heavy-duty plastic locking mechanism that’s easy to operate and understand.

The tightness of the FlickLock is controlled with a screw, so it can be adjusted in the field if need be. My complaint is that it’s a recessed Phillips-head screw, so I’d need the proper tool in my pack to make such a repair. I have a friend who owns an older pair of Black Diamond poles that use a flathead screw in the FlickLock and it’s not recessed. She can adjust it with a credit card in a pinch.

Also, her poles can be fitted together to form an avalanche probe; mine can’t. I’m not sure why a maker of backcountry gear wouldn’t make all of its backcountry ski poles with this feature built in. (Perhaps it increases the cost?)

Nonetheless, the poles have proven dependable so far this season – no slipping, no cursing (about the poles, anyway), and I like their grippy handles.

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