Nothing is done without a lot of thought over here in the Diorite workshop, and the grip materials we offer are no exception. For those familiar with our trekking pole manufacturing journey, the Vertex, our original pole offering, came with an EVA handle. This is due to Minimal Gear founder Gilad’s personal preference to EVA poles - in his mind, EVA is the peak material and you can read his unfiltered thoughts upon the release of our carbon fiber telescopic trekking poles under the Cnoc brand here.
While we've offered both cork and EVA grips for as long as we've offered poles (including in our original pole, the Vertex), our grip design has evolved significantly over the years, especially when it comes to our cork grips. We put a lot of thought into the design of them and they are unique among cork trekking pole grips. They are fully compressed cork - most cork grips use cork sheeting, which means there's a layer of cork over an inner mold of EVA foam. We chose not to go down that route for reasons that can be read about here. But this decision further exacerbated the difference between our grip materials by adding weight, sustainability, and improved hand feel to our cork grips.
The choice between our two grips will always be personal preference but we know a lot of our customers love a technical deep dive. So let's dive into the wide world of grip materials a bit more:
Cork is a natural material; more specifically, it is a layer of internal bark of a specific species of oak. While light and buoyant, it is hydrophobic and impermeable, meaning it will not absorb any liquids such as sweat or rain.
It is elastic, and therefore tends to form into specific shapes with pressure. Most significantly for consumers who try to shop thoughtfully, it is also a sustainable and renewable material.
Cork as grips for poles
The use of cork as grips for poles started with fishing rods - the lightness and hydrophobic nature meant they would float while staying dry when fishing. The idea worked well and seasoned fishers found that the grip started to take the shape of their hands over time, which made them more comfortable.
The use of cork for trekking poles came as an alternative to the original rubber handles and proved comfortable, light and soft.
Foam (specifically EVA)
EVA (or Ethylene-vinyl acetate) is a polymer that can be made in a variety of ways based on the ratio of Ethylene-vinyl to Acetate. When it comes to what we want to look at, EVA is made in a foam form with a high ratio of VA, making it firm (compared to low VA, which is what makes cling-film).
EVA creates a material that is light and strong, with a high crack and abrasion resistance. As a foam, it is hydrophilic but dries extremely fast. It is soft yet holds its original form over time.
EVA as grips for poles
EVA was introduced as grips for lightweight (aluminum made) poles fairly quickly as it is light and strong. While we aren’t sure which poles first used EVA grip specifically, they started as a technical item, so we expect that they were first used by mountaineers.
EVA foam came as a replacement to the sticky, heavy and uncomfortable rubber grips of the past by offering a light and comfortable alternative.
Cork or EVA, the reality
So what do most customers choose? Cork is our best seller and we understand the allure: it has a lot of positives over EVA, not the least of which is its sustainability as a material, which is important to us and a big driver of our design process. That said, we think EVA is a little slept on. EVA is lighter than cork, less abrasive, retains its shape, tends to deteriorate slower, feels warmer to the hands and is much cheaper to make.
Our party line will always be the choice is yours and whichever choice you do make is the right one - we hope this material breakdown helps inform that choice for you. If you’re interested in how a few specific folks made their grip decision, you can find a breakdown of the Diorite staff’s grip preferences here.