A pretty common question we get over here in Diorite Gear land is “Hey, what’s the difference between cork and EVA? Which one should I get?” and our answer is: 1. There’s a couple and 2. It really depends.
Ethylene-Vinyl Acetate (EVA) is a closed cell foam and you’ll find it in lots of different sports equipment - think exercise mats, bicycle seats, padding in shoes, etc.
Cork is a material derived from a specific type of oak tree and you’ll find it in a huge variety of places - I likely don’t need to give you an example. This is an incredibly untechnical and quick breakdown of the materials - for a full write up, read Cnoc founder Gilad’s post here. Come for the material breakdown, stay for Gilad's extended feelings on the EVA vs cork debate.
The thing they have in common? Trekking pole grips. We offer both options in our store. Both materials bring different pros and cons to the grip party and which one is right for you is really going to come down to personal preference. To give you an idea, I’ve rounded up some personal preferences - specifically those of the Cnoc staff.
Gilad: I'm EVA all the way, no straps, as they are the lightest, fastest to dry and will last much longer than other materials. I also like the soft feel of the foam.
Mika: I like the EVA grips better - they are smoother and lighter than cork. They are what I have always used, and I'm happy with them!
Adrian: I use EVA in the snow as it doesn't freeze, it's lighter on my back when I have more gear typically plus the mountain goats don't like them as much.
I use cork in the summer because they just feel good - it manages my sweat better at a slight weight penalty. I use straps on the cork, I removed them from EVA.
Kyle: Let's talk trekking pole grips! I use both EVA and cork grips, depending on the season and activity. In the summer, I tend to use cork as it wicks away sweat more efficiently and feels more natural directly on my skin. In the winter, I tend to use EVA as it's lighter and I carry heavier gear, but I'm also usually wearing gloves so the texture of the material isn't as much a factor. I also remove the straps in the winter, as it's safer when skiing in the trees or recreating in avy terrain (Becky’s note for non mountaineering/snow recreating folk: avy = avalanche). Another way to think about it is if I'm hiking, I'm most likely using cork. If I'm skiing or mountaineering, I'm most likely using EVA. But YMMV.
Becky: I both have cold hands and a supreme distaste for reapplying sunscreen, so I backpack in gloves year around - just a question if they’re big warm gloves or thin sun gloves. As a result, grip feel doesn’t matter to me much and I use EVA year round as they’re much lighter. I also appreciate that they seem less appetizing to wildlife - as a lifelong EVA user, my first impression of cork grips is how many of them seem to have some critter’s dental impression on them.