The Alpine FLZ is a staple trekking pole in the Black Diamond line up. We were psyched to get our hands on it after reviewing the Carbon version, the Alpine Carbon Z, last year. Although it wasn't an award winner, it still gave a solid performance for those looking for a dependable pole (that we've come to expect from Black Diamond products). It remains one of our higher scoring poles as it has durable aluminum construction, comfortable cork handles, and a Black Diamond's Z style break apart pole style. The Alpine FLZ was one of our more versatile break apart style poles, complete with snow baskets. Combine that with its durable aluminum construction, and we'd venture to say the Alpine FLZ can handle just about anything you throw at it. However, it is on the heavier side of our pole review this year, and at 20.2 ounces, it's the heaviest pole in our fleet.
Black Diamond Alpine FLZ Review
Compare prices at 4 resellers Pros: Rad cork handles, packable design, durable locking mechanism, and relatively versatile
Cons: Heavier than average
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Black Diamond Alpine FLZ is a break apart style pole that features aluminum construction and cork handles. This adds to the durability of the pole but keeps it small for packing away. For this reason, we found the Alpine FLZ to be a versatile pole for some outdoor sports.
The Alpine FLZ features Black Diamond's standard cork grips, the same found on the Editors' Choice Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork. Black Diamond's cork handles are comfortable, and get better with age, just like a fine wine. We still felt that the Leki Corklite DSS Antishock and the Leki Micro Vario Ti Cor-Tec had more comfortable cork grips, not by much, but enough to give them the edge over the Black Diamond models.
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.
Locking Mechanism and Adjustability
The Alpine FLZ features two of Black Diamond's locking mechanisms to help facilitate adjustability, strength, and packability. As with the rest of the BD Z-series, these poles have the updated locking mechanism for the folding section. This new sliding lock replaces the old pin lock, which makes folding up the poles slightly easier. If you're wearing gloves, we found this update to be especially helpful. Once the pole is extended, you can use the FlickLock Pro system to adjust the length to your liking. Unlike telescoping models, the Alpine FLZ only has one FlickLock Pro mechanism, which offers about 20 centimeters of adjustability. As with other poles like the Leki Micro Vario Ti Cor-Tec we found this to be plenty of adjustment.
The Alpine FLZ weighs in at a pretty standard, if not a little heavy, 20.2 ounces. For an aluminum pole with cork handles, this isn't surprising. Although they are one of the heavier poles in our review, we still found that the durable aluminum and comfortable cork handles were worthy additions. What you do get is a more durable version of something like the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z, which was our pick for lightweight poles this year at 10 ounces. The Leki Micro Vario Ti Cor-Tec weighs in almost the same at 20 ounces, which also featured cork handles and aluminum construction.
The Alpine FLZ is break apart style or Z-style (Black Diamond's take on the design) pole. This gives it an edge in packability as it can break down much smaller than a standard telescoping pole like the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork or the Leki Corklite DSS Antishock. This model breaks down to 15 inches, which is pretty standard for our break apart style poles this year.
A small extra that Black Diamond added in, which can be found on some of their other Z-style poles, is the trekking baskets that come with the pole have small cutouts which allow the model to snap into place when broken into its packed state. We found this to be handy to keep the pole together no matter where the pole was: jammed in our packs, strapped to the outside of our bags, or throwing it in a duffle bag.
Due to its aluminum construction, the Alpine FLZ is a durable pole. While it still holds up well in our tests, it is not as durable as the heavyweight Black Diamond Trail Back, which is an aluminum telescoping design, or as tough as the carbon Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork. This is due to the three section construction, plus the addition of a FlickLock Pro mechanism, which adds the potential for breakage. That being said, we also don't think you'll be breaking this pole anytime soon, thanks to its robust construction. Increasing the durability, BD claims that the new 2018 model's reinforced joints are 30% stronger. These poles can handle just about anything you throw at them on the trail, and we'd consider them to be a good choice for most heavy duty trekking and off-trail travel as well.
The Alpine FLZ is a slightly less comfortable model than the Leki Micro Vario Ti Cor-Tec but performed very similarly. With included snow baskets, we think that this pole could be used for just about any hiking, trekking, backpacking, or mountaineering adventure you embark upon. Although they aren't the lightest pole in our review, they make up for it in being more durable and comfortable than other poles.
For its packable size, multiple size basket attachments, and strong aluminum design, the Alpine FLZ is a great choice for anything from day hiking to mountaineering.
At $150 the Alpine FLZ is $10 more expensive than the similar award-winning Leki Micro Vario Ti Cor-Tec, which we found to be more comfortable. However, the Alpine FLZ still a great pole with thoughtful little extras like the baskets that the pole folds into. It features comfortable cork handles that get better with use, packable design, and strong aluminum design.
The BD Alpine FLZ is a great overall pole and was a strong contender in this year's review. We think that it's priced well for the features that you get, and offers lots of options to a multitude of users.
— Graham Williams & Ben Skach