Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Incredible weight-to-solidity ratio. Ergonomic strap, and for sure the best fold system that we tested. Overall durability is only slightly less than the Micro Stick, at nearly half the weight.
Cons: Only one possible basket configuration (small). For heavy handed or clumsy hikers, carbon is more likely to break than aluminum if accidentally kicked or fallen on.
Best Uses: Climbing, backpacking, hiking, BASE jumping.
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
The Black Diamond Ultra Distance was the clear winner for the Best Lightweight Trekking Pole and gets our Top Pick award. In terms of weight, it is significantly lighter than the Leki Micro Stick, with not much (if any) compromise in durability. Although it is bulkier and heavier than the Raidlight Foldable Trail Pole, its vastly greater durability more than made up for the weight. Also, we found that the slightly elevated rigidity and strength was an asset on the trail and mostly outweighed the hassle of a slightly longer folded length and bulkier handle when compared to the Raidlight.
Overall Black Diamond has really scored with this pole, and I'm looking forward to a second full season of use with mine. The feel on the trail is very solid, with almost no rattle (similar to the Leki, and vastly superior to the Raidlight), and provision of a very stable platform of support.
View our complete Trekking Poles Review.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
Grip & Strap
The asymmetric hand straps are very comfortable and add to the feel of support. The grips are average and feel a bit too featureless compared to the Leki (even if they are far superior to the Raidlight). I would have preferred a better form or texture on the grips, but it's a small niggle in light of the overall design quality.
More and more of my outdoor gear is becoming carbon as the years go on, and for good reason. BD seems to have chosen an ideal diameter and thickness for these poles. They have a solid feel and a pleasant swing weight.
Fold & Lock System
The folding system is space-age compared to either the Leki or Raidlight and lasted an entire summer of use with little sign of wear. The poles lock into hike position with a very solid and reassuring click, and switch back and forth from folded to extended faster and easier than the other poles tested. BD has years of avalanche probe design experience to apply here, and they did a good job of it.
This pole is not adjustable. You need to pick the right length and you are then limited to that.
Poles come standard with both a rubber and a carbide tip, which is great. I have little use for the rubber tips and switched straight to carbide (pliers needed to make the change) for all applications.
The baskets are not interchangeable, which limits the pole's use to three seasons – plenty for most of us.
These poles are pricey, but they aren't outrageous.
The plain Black Diamond Distance ($100) comes in 10cm increment sizing from 100-130cm and has no range of adjustment. It is $50 less but 33 percent heavier.
The Black Diamond Distance FL ($120) have a FlickLock mechanism and 20cm of adjustment range. They are 50 percent heavier than the Ultra Distance.
Tangential Note: Dream Backpacking Gear List
The Ultra Distance Poles are one of many items featured in our Dream Backpacking Gear List. Check it out to see other top-tier "dream" backpacking items.
— Matt Gerdes
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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: October 11, 2013
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