Black Diamond Carbon Compactor Poles Review

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The BD Carbon Compactor Poles were great for packing in my luggage all the way to Japan, and for full days on the skin track.

Black Diamond Carbon Compactor poles were superb for packing in my luggage all the way to Japan, and for full days on the skin track. Click all photos to enlarge.

Lightweight gear is the name of the game for backcountry travel, and as someone choosing to ride a splitboard every ounce counts. Unlike our skier compadres, more of the gear is only used half of the time, and transitions from going up to coming down involve added steps. We willingly take on the added effort for the undeniable enjoyment and feeling of laying down surf-like turns in soft snow. Any piece of gear that cuts down on transition time and streamlines your backcountry kit is incredibly valuable to moving efficiently through the mountains (and keeping our skier friends happily sliding beside us).

The easy deployment is a winning feature for quick transitions.

Easy deployment is a winning feature for quick transitions.

I have found Black Diamond’s Carbon Compactor Poles to be a useful piece of gear to aid in the efficiency of transitioning from the skin track to the slide down and vice versa. For a piece of gear that is only necessary for uphill travel, several features make it an ideal choice for your splitboard kit. These poles check the boxes for lightweight, easy to use, and minimalist gear. Black Diamond did a good job in the design to keep these poles compact enough to fit inside your touring pack. Additionally, keeping gear off the outside of your pack on the descent helps to streamline your kit and keep weight closer to your back, this is a key advantage in my opinion.

Poles fit neatly inside my Black Diamond Revelation Avalung pack

The poles fit neatly in my Black Diamond Revelation Avalung Pack.

Another design feature that I have found to be effective in cutting down on transition time is the quick and easy deployment. The top section of the pole slides up and extends the poles to the fixed length and locks off with a spring pin, a similar action to extending a probe. In ideal conditions this is incredibly fast and smooth. The drawback to this mechanism is the potential for icing up in non-ideal conditions. I have only experienced the sliding section getting stuck once, and even so it only took minor effort to free it. But if the mechanism were to fail in that regard, the pole would be useless.

BD's Z-Fold design

BD's Z-Fold design.

Here you can see the spring pin locking mechanism.

Here you can see the spring pin locking mechanism.

Black Diamond offers two different models of the Compactor pole, the Carbon version is the lighter one (150 grams for the pair vs 165 grams) and is designed to have a fixed length. If you are confident on the length of the pole you want, then the benefit of lighter weight, and easier deployment outweighs any of the potential drawbacks. The Carbon pole comes in lengths from 110 cm to 130 cm in 5 cm increments (I am 5’11″ and have the 125 cm). If you are someone who tends to adjust your pole length for travel through various terrain (ie: steeper uphill, side-hilling, etc) then your options are limited to using the lower grip (which I think is more than adequate). On another note, the spring pin as a locking mechanism on the Carbon version is more prone to icing up and malfunctioning, rather than the flip lock design on their other poles. I have only found this to be an issue once, and like I said it was resolved with minor effort. If it becomes a more consistent issue, I’ll be sure to pass that information on. A potential improvement could be to make the spring pin larger and easier to depress with a gloved hand.

Black Diamond Carbon Compactor poles on sale here.


6 Responses to “Black Diamond Carbon Compactor Poles Review”

  1. Jack March 12th, 2014 12:28 pm

    Nice review. I could see a guide, or a party on a multi-day trip carrying a pair (or even one) of these in case of lost pole/broken pole, etc.

  2. Ryan March 12th, 2014 1:14 pm

    The BD poles use a similar tension system to what they use on their probes. The difference is your probe sees a fraction of the action that your poles see, even if you’re a splitboarder.

    The problem is you’re stretching a cable that once it stretches out too far becomes useless to keep tension on the pole and the pole will no longer stay together. It’ll be interesting to see how this setup fairs from a durability standpoint in poles compared to probes where it’s not really an issue until after years for use.

  3. Coop March 12th, 2014 2:39 pm


    You have a point, and as a splitboarder we are constantly extending and collapsing the poles. I will keep you all posted how it fairs over an extended period of time in the backcountry. From friends who I have talked to who have used these poles extensively, the tension seems to have held up well. Thanks!

  4. Mattd March 12th, 2014 4:11 pm

    The tension on the poles is adjustable, so if after multiple deployments a little slop develops, simply adjust the tension to your liking. In my experience though they have not yet needed adjustment after a winter of use.

  5. Nate March 18th, 2014 2:12 pm

    These poles are great how light they are but they break easily.

  6. Jason March 23rd, 2014 5:25 pm

    If you are that concerned about weight, which is the first you mention as a splitter, the drop from the expedition to the carbon compactor according to BD is 95 grams, or .2 lbs. Its really not that much. I’m interested in seeing how they hold up, but they look pretty easy to break. If you are that concerned about weight, you should look at other options, like hardboots and Phantoms. I saved 328g on my previous setup completely, and 1112g off my feet when touring. Something to consider.

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