Recently we received a set of the new Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ Trekking Poles. We were first introduced to the Black Diamond trekking pole line while working as media at the annual “The Running Event” (TRE) held every year in Austin, Texas. This is the event where the top name manufactures showcase their apparel and products for the upcoming year. Black Diamond had a booth and so we were really interested to see what they had. To be honest we were mostly interested in their head lamps and just came across their trekking poles by accident.
I had used trekking poles when doing the Leadville 100 and seeing the Black Diamonds poles really sparked our interest.
Now for those that might be unfamiliar with trekking poles, they are poles used to help “trek” and/or hike over rough terrain. Now of course you can also use them on pavement, which we love, but you will want a special rubber tip. By using trekking poles one can significantly reduce stress on the knees, lower back, heels and feet. The poles help transfer some of your body weight and backpack weight to the poles. Over extended hikes, this transfer usually equates to fresher legs and various body parts.
Today’s trekking poles usually come in two flavors, Carbon or Aluminum. The advantage of Carbon is they are light and a little more forgiving. Aluminum poles tend to be more resilient and cost less. Our preference is to go carbon all the way. They are generally sick light and just plain look good.
Trekking poles usually come broken down into 3 segments. The segments are usually joined together by flip locks or twist locks. Black Diamond however has developed a super cool technique called their Z-Pole Rapid Deployment System. By pulling on the shaft, away from the handle, the poles magically come together locking in place. The key to this concept is Black Diamond’s Speed Cone technology. It’s a protective, flexible tube covering a Kevlar® center cord. When the cord is pulled the poles come together locking in place.
Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ Trekking Pole Overview
- Lightweight, EVA foam grip with breathable, moisture-wicking grip
- Non-slip EVA foam mini-grip extension
- Three-section foldable shaft with speed-cone deployment and FlickLock Pro adjustability
- 100% carbon fiber construction
- Interchangeable, non-scarring rubber Tech Tips and carbide Tech Tips
- Stopper basket with shaft catcher to secure folded sections
- Weight Per Pair :
- [95-110 cm] 345 g (.75 lb)
- [105-125 cm] 355 g (.8 lb)
- [120-140 cm] 365 g (.8 lb)
- Usable Length :
- [95-110 cm] 95-110 cm (37-43 in)
- [105-125 cm] 105-125 cm (41-49 in)
- [120-140 cm] 120-140 cm (47-55 in)
- Collapsed Length :
- [95-110 cm] 34 cm (13 in)
- [105-125 cm] 37 cm (14 in)
- [120-140 cm] 40 cm (15 in)
- Retail – $179:95
Z-Pole Rapid Deployment System
- Concealed inner cord
- Single push-button release to collapse the pole
- One-pull, Speed Cone deployment
Speed Cone technology comes from Black Diamonds expertise in avalanche probe design—a key component of Z-Poles’ stiffness and fast deployment. Simply grab the grip and the first shaft section, and pull them away from each other. The pole will snap into place and lock. Each Speed Cone guides a shaft section into place, and stiffens the joint when the pole is locked. Protective, flexible tube ends cover the pole’s Kevlar® center cord when folded.
The image above shows the trekking pole’s push-button release. When the push-button is engaged the poles are locked and ready for trekking. During our first two test walks, we were absolutely clueless about how the poles locked together. Initially we thought you simply inserted the poles into the adjoining ends and that was that. As we walked, occasionally one of the pole sections would suddenly dislodge. It didn’t make sense to us that these high end trekking pole should fall apart like this, but we continued our walks anyway. After coming back from the second outing, I thought there had to be more to it. I got on the Black Diamond website and looked at the diagrams for the FLZ. Bingo, it was like a rush of enlightenment. There was a push-button locking mechanism that when engaged kept the poles together. OK now that is super cool. No twisting, no flip locks, simply pull and poles engage. Talk about lighting fast, these poles set up even faster.
Here is a look at the FLZ pole’s push-button release next to a LEKI Twist Lock. I will take Black Diamonds approach over a twist lock any day.
Here is a closer look at the Speed Cone technology. The yellow looking cord encased inside the protective blue surrounding is made from Kevlar® and is extremely strong and durable. This is what really makes these poles unique and honestly great to look at. When engaged the poles are extremely streamlined. Nothing sticks out beyond the small basket near the base of the pole.
Above is a carbide tip that comes standard with the poles. The poles also come with a rubber tip. Black Diamond also sells a trekking tip protector. We highly recommend buying these if you plan on walking on pavement. At $4.95 they are a bargain. When changing from the carbide to the rubber tip or vice versa, you will most likely need a set of pliers to loosen the tip as they can tighten over time.
The baskets on the FLZs are small and are perfect for dry conditions or the occasional mud situations. If you’re going to venture in the snow or sand, I would recommend a larger basket size. Black Diamond offers various choices, but since we haven’t tested these, you may want to contact Black Diamond directly to get a better idea as to which to use.
From left to right: Trekking Pole Tip Protector, Tech Tip – Rubber and Tech Tip – Carbide
The FLZs come with a Fliplock to adjust the size of the pole. Ours came in the medium size allowing adjustment from 105cm to 125cm. The Fliplock is it is super easy to adjust on the go. Simply flip up to unlock, slide the handle up or down depending on the elevation and flip it back down to lock. The pole has lengths displayed, making it super easy repeat a measurement.
Normally when measuring pole you want to adjust on a flat surface. Pole length is typically measured from the top to the tip of the pole. If you can achieve roughly a 90-degree-bend your about right. You may adjust it in either direction depending on your preference. Both Kathleen and I are somewhere between 5’9″ – 5’11” depending on shoes. Our preference for settings is a 120cm – 125cm or somewhere in between.
The following is a good rules of thumb for pole measurement.
- Uphill: 5-10 cm shorter, depending on steepness and inclination
- Downhill: 5-10 cm longer, depending on steepness and inclination
The FLZs come with a lightweight EVA foam sliced grip, which may or may not be comfortable for some. I found them to be very comfortable, but Kathleen preferred the solid grips of the LEKI’s. Black Diamond does offer a similar model with natural cork grips called the Alpine FLZ Trekking Poles. They also sell the Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles, which we are hoping to test out and see how the Fliplocks perform.
The straps are adjust by pulling on a tab and then velcroing the strap to tighten or releasing the tab to loosen.
These poles are basically the bomb. If you are looking for a go to set of trekking poles, you will not be disappointed with the Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZs. They ooze innovation and are simply crazy good poles to trek with. The ease of use, the light weight, the great looks make these poles an outstanding choice.
The only negative we could find with the FLZs is they seemed a little louder using them compared to another set we were testing out. It appeared to us that there might be a little play when the poles are fully engaged. I am not sure if the Kevlar cord can be adjusted to get a tighter fit. It does look like the poles have sort of a barrel adjuster, but we weren’t exactly sure if that was what it was for.
To get the full scoop, check out the Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ Trekking Pole and other great Black Diamond products.