Black Diamond Alpine FLZ Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Great cork handles, packable design, durable locking mechanism, relatively versatile
Cons: Heavier than average
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Alpine FLZ is a foldable pole that features aluminum construction and cork handles. Durable and highly packable, we find the FLZ to be a versatile pole for most uses. It is a great alternative to our Editors' Choice winner, at a lower price.
The Alpine FLZ features Black Diamond's standard cork grips. They are very comfortable and get better with time because the cork eventually molds to the shape of your hands. There are more comfortable grips in our review, but not by much. As with many high-end Black Diamond poles, these also feature a lower foam grip beneath the cork handle to facilitate "choking down" on the pole in rough and variable terrain or for steep climbs.
The Alpine FLZ weighs in at 18 ounces per pair. For an aluminum pole with cork handles, this relatively heavy weight isn't surprising. Although they are one of the heavier poles in our review, we still find that the durable aluminum and comfortable cork handles are worthy additions. For heavy-duty uses like long-distance trekking and cross country travel, this weight is worth it. For users seeking a lightweight pole for mountain running, we'd suggest other poles, but for most activities, users won't necessarily lament the heavier weight.
Locking and Adjustability
To lock the folding pole sections into place, there is a sliding spring-loaded lock that replaces a classic push-button lock. This sliding piece makes it easier to unlock and fold the pole sections if you are wearing gloves or have trouble with small, dexterous tasks. Once the pole is extended, the FlickLock Pro lever lock system adjusts the length of the pole. This design allows 8 inches (20cm) of length adjustability. Poles that feature this combination of foldable collapsibility with one lever lock for length adjustment have been our favorite poles so far. They pack down small and offer plenty of adjustment.
The Alpine FLZ is a foldable pole. This gives it an edge in packability as it can break down much smaller than a standard 3-section telescoping pole. The FLZ breaks down to 15 inches, standard for this style. The trekking baskets that come with the pole have small cutouts that allow it to snap into place when broken into its packed state. We found this to be handy to keep the pole together no matter where it was: jammed in a pack, strapped to the outside of a bag, or thrown in a duffel. It also allows the folded shaft sections to be packed very closely together.
Aluminum construction means the Alpine FLZ stands up well to on-trail abuse. Whether you're putting all of your weight on your poles during sketchy creek crossings or brushing water droplets off branches in front of you while bushwhacking, the aluminum shafts will stand up to the test. That said, the 3-section foldable design is inherently weaker than the telescoping pole design. Furthermore, the cork grip is somewhat susceptible to damage. When we threw these poles in the back of our car and piled gear on top of them during a road trip, we found the cork grips had been shredded in one place from the pressure. But with proper care, these poles should last a long time and are suitable for use on heavy-duty missions.
The Alpine FLZ stands out for its versatility. A small packed size, comfortable and solid handle, durable aluminum construction, and powder basket options allow it to be used for everything from mountain running and steep, light hiking to overnight backpacking, rugged trekking, and even backcountry skiing and splitboarding. This pole is our first choice to throw in the car for a long road trip where we'll be running, hiking, alpine climbing, and playing Polish Horseshoes along the way. These poles will support your weight in the gnarliest cross-country travel, then fold up and disappear into your pack when the terrain requires you to use your hands.
The Alpine FLZ is a relatively expensive pole, but given its versatility, the price is fair. It is constructed with high-quality grip materials and secure locking mechanisms, and we expect the pole to last a long time. Black Diamond also has an excellent warranty, making them a safe investment.
The Black Diamond Alpine FLZ is a great overall pole and a strong contender in our review. We think that it's priced well for the features that you get, and offers lots of options to a multitude of users. Furthermore, it is built to last. If you need a strong pole that also breaks down small, and that can be used for a wide variety of activities, this is a great option.
— Jeff Dobronyi