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Black Diamond Carbon FLZ Review

A lightweight pole that also allows some length adjustment.
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Price:  $190 List | $174.26 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, packs small, adjustable
Cons:  Not as strong, durable, or comfortable as other options
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond Equipment
By Jeff Dobronyi ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jan 3, 2020
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72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#5 of 13
  • Comfort - 20% 6
  • Weight - 20% 8
  • Locking and Adjustability - 15% 7
  • Packed Size - 15% 10
  • Durability - 15% 5
  • Versatility - 15% 7

Our Verdict

We love Black Diamond's trekking poles, and the Distance Carbon FLZ is no exception. Here, they have crafted a lightweight carbon pole that packs down extremely small, yet also allows some length adjustment. To keep the weight down, the pole sacrifices some refinement in comfort and durability. These compromises are acceptable to the user who demands lightweight performance and only wants to carry extra weight from the adjustable length feature, and nothing more. This pole is geared towards mountain runners, ultralight backpackers, and alpine climbers.


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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Lightweight, packs small, adjustableLightweight, packs compactly, comfortable grip, easily disassembledComfortable, easy to adjust, small packed size, light, versatileComfortable, durable, great locking mechanismTough, comfortable, great locking, several tips and baskets
Cons Not as strong, durable, or comfortable as other optionsExpensive, may be less durable than some aluminum modelsExpensiveRelatively heavy, doesn't pack as small as othersNot as light or packable as other poles
Bottom Line A lightweight pole that also allows some length adjustment.This pole made of lightweight carbon is our top-ranked trekking pole.This pole is the shortest to pack, is lightweight, the most comfortable, and easy to adjust.These poles are among the most durable tested. They are also comfortable, versatile, and easy to adjust.The Alpine Carbon Cork features durable construction, comfortable cork grips, and different tips and baskets.
Rating Categories Black Diamond Carbon FLZ Leki Micro Vario Carbon Women's Micro Vario Carbon Alpine Carbon Cork Alpine Carbon Cork
Comfort (20%)
10
0
6
10
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10
10
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10
10
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10
10
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10
Weight (20%)
10
0
8
10
0
6
10
0
6
10
0
5
10
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5
Locking And Adjustability (15%)
10
0
7
10
0
10
10
0
10
10
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8
10
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9
Packed Size (15%)
10
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10
10
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9
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9
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7
10
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6
Durability (15%)
10
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5
10
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9
10
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9
10
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10
10
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10
Versatility (15%)
10
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7
10
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10
10
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10
10
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7
10
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7
Specs Black Diamond... Leki Micro Vario... Women's Micro... Alpine Carbon Cork Alpine Carbon Cork
Measured Weight Per Pair (Ounces) 13.4 oz 16.4 oz 16.0 oz 17.0 oz 17.0 oz
Shaft Material Carbon Carbon Carbon Carbon Carbon
Min Length (inches) 13/15/17 in 15.5 in 15.5 in 23 in 24 in
Max Length (inches) 49.2 in 47 in 51 in 51 in 51 in
Pole Design Foldable Foldable Foldable Collapsible Collapsible
Grip Material Foam Foam Foam Cork Cork
Locking Mechanism FlickLock Speed​​Lock 2 Speed​​Lock 2 External Lever Lock FlickLock Pro
Shock absorbing? No No No No No
Baskets? Tip Attachments? Yes, carbide tips, rubber tips, trail baskets and snow baskets (sold separately) Yes, tips and baskets Yes, tips and baskets Yes, rubber tips, trekking baskets, powder baskets Yes, carbide tips, trail baskets and snow baskets (sold separately)

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Distance Carbon FLZ is light, packable, and useful for a variety of activities.

Performance Comparison


Testing the BD Distance Carbon FLZ on a training run.
Testing the BD Distance Carbon FLZ on a training run.

Comfort


The Carbon FLZ features a foam handle with a ribbed grip area for extra traction. Foam is a great material for hot weather and fast travel because it absorbs sweat better than other grip materials. The grip continues down the shaft just a little bit, allowing users to choke up when crossing loose and steep hillsides. However, when choking up, only half of the hand is on foam, and the other half rubs against the lever lock mechanism. This works, but it's not as comfortable as other options. The grip is minimally contoured, and the thin wrist strap is not as comfortable as other straps.

The Carbon FLZ's foam grip and thin wrist strap.
The Carbon FLZ's foam grip and thin wrist strap.

Weight


Weighing in at 13.4 ounces, the Carbon FLZ is one of the lightest poles in our review. Carbon fiber shaft construction, foam handles, tiny baskets, and minimal features all help this pole shave off extra mass. For users who really care about weight, such as mountain runners and alpine climbers, even more weight could be saved by opting for a pole without an adjustable length option. The fixed-length version of this pole is 3 ounces lighter. But for the small group of users who want the lightest option available that is still adjustable, the Carbon FLZ comes at a great weight-to-performance ratio.

Thin carbon shaft sections help the FLZ remain lightweight while providing strength.
Thin carbon shaft sections help the FLZ remain lightweight while providing strength.

Locking and Adjustability


This pole locks into its extended position by simply pulling the pole sections apart, and a push-button snaps into place preventing the z-designed pole from collapsing. A plastic lever lock then allows 8 inches (20cm) of length adjustment. We prefer this type of combination design, allowing a light weight with plenty of adjustment potential. For the ultralight crowd, this adjustment is unnecessarily heavy, while other users might want more adjustability, especially those newer to using trekking poles. The lever lock can be tightened with a screwdriver and performs well.

The FLZ's locking mechanisms: a push-button that locks the folding sections into place  and a lever lock for length adjustments.
The FLZ's locking mechanisms: a push-button that locks the folding sections into place, and a lever lock for length adjustments.

Packed Size


Tent-style trekking poles collapse and extend without any overlapping sections, shaving weight and keeping packed size small. This pole folds down to a length of 15 inches, which is among the smallest in our review. It easily fits onto the side of a backpack or inside a climbing pack. It can also be stowed in luggage without taking up precious space on long distance travels. Users expecting to stow their poles during travel in technical terrain will appreciate the packed size of the Carbon FLZ.

The BD Distance Carbon FLZ (left) has a smaller packed size than the smallest telescoping pole  the Komperdell Explorer Compact (center).
The BD Distance Carbon FLZ (left) has a smaller packed size than the smallest telescoping pole, the Komperdell Explorer Compact (center).

Durability


Carbon fiber poles are usually less durable than their aluminum counterparts because aluminum doesn't snap, chip, or crack as easily. That said, we had no problems with the Carbon FLZ during our testing. Over time, the joints between the pole sections may begin to wear down and crack or chip, and these poles won't stand up to heavy abuse in boulder fields or being dragged along rocks while strapped to the sides of a backpack. But for its intended use in the hands of mountain runners and ultralight backpackers, durability shouldn't be an issue.

Versatility


We found these poles to be relatively versatile, exceeding our initial expectations. They are great for the most lightweight pursuits, and are also good for light hiking and ultralight backpacking. We would reach for heavier and more durable poles for extended backpacking trips, rugged cross-country travel, and international treks. These poles come with both rubber and carbide metal tips, for different rock and trail types, and are compatible with BD's snow trekking baskets, allowing 3-season use on glaciers and snowfields.

This pole comes with small baskets  rubber tips (shown)  and carbide metal tips. It is also compatible with BD's Z-Pole Snow Baskets (sold separately).
This pole comes with small baskets, rubber tips (shown), and carbide metal tips. It is also compatible with BD's Z-Pole Snow Baskets (sold separately).

Value


These poles are expensive, but for those who want the lightest adjustable length pole, it's worth it. Overall, there are less expensive poles that perform better, but not by much. If you value a light weight above all other factors, yet want some length adjustability, these poles are the ticket. BD has a great warranty program to protect your investment.

Conclusion


For the ultralight crowd, there are few better pole options. These feature a lightweight carbon construction and 8 inches of length adjustability, in a 13.4 ounce package. Other poles are lighter, but none offer any length adjustment. These are great for mountain runners, climbers, and ultralight backpackers.

These are great poles for mountain runners and other gram-shaving enthusiasts.
These are great poles for mountain runners and other gram-shaving enthusiasts.


Jeff Dobronyi