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Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ Review

A lightweight pole that also allows some length adjustment
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Price:  $190 List | $180.89 at Amazon
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Pros:  Lightweight, packs small, adjustable
Cons:  Not as strong, durable, or comfortable as other options
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond Equipment
By Jeff Dobronyi ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 21, 2020
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72
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 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 for some length adjustment. To keep the weight down, however, 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.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Distance Carbon FLZ is light, packable, and useful for a variety of activities. The only difference between this pole and the barebones, unadjustable carbon poles on the market is a small amount of length adjustment.

Performance Comparison


The Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ is a versatile and adjustable pole for activities requiring lightweight equipment.
The Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ is a versatile and adjustable pole for activities requiring lightweight equipment.

Comfort


The Carbon FLZ features a foam handle with a ribbed grip area for extra friction. Foam is a good grip material for hot weather and fast travel because it absorbs sweat better than other materials. The grip continues down the shaft past the normal palm placement, 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 ribbed foam grip and thin strap are comfortable enough  especially for the weight savings they help achieve.
The Carbon FLZ's ribbed foam grip and thin strap are comfortable enough, especially for the weight savings they help achieve.

Weight


The Carbon FLZ weighs 13.4 ounces per pair, making it one of the lightest poles on the market. A minimalistic foam grip, narrow wrist straps, full carbon shaft construction, and tiny trail baskets all help shave grams off the overall weight. These poles are designed for users who are concerned primarily with keeping weight to a minimum, like mountain runners and advanced alpine climbers. If you are looking for a robust cork grip and ultra-comfortable wrist straps, look elsewhere, and be prepared to accept a higher weight. The only area where these poles add weight (compared to the lightest competitors) is in the adjustability realm, allowing for 8 inches (20cm) of length change. This capability adds 3 ounces of weight.

Carbon shafts help keep the FLZ's weight down.
Carbon shafts help keep the FLZ's weight down.

Locking and Adjustability


This pole locks into its extended position by simply pulling the pole sections apart. From there, a push-button snaps into place, preventing the pole from collapsing. A plastic lever lock then allows 8 inches (20cm) of length adjustment. We prefer this type of combination design for most uses, which provides 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 works well.

The locking mechanism is a spring loaded push button  and length adjustment is achieved by a field-adjustable lever lock.
The locking mechanism is a spring loaded push button, and length adjustment is achieved by a field-adjustable lever lock.

Packed Size


The Distance Carbon FLZ packs down to a tiny 15 inches in length, thanks to its foldable design. This is small enough to fit onto the outside of a backpack or inside the main compartment, which is critical when using your hands to move over scrambling terrain or when carrying up and over a multi-pitch climb. This short length is also a nice attribute for poles that will be packed into luggage for air travel or long road trips.

The Carbon FLZ's pack very small  easily fitting inside or outside of a pack without getting in the way.
The Carbon FLZ's pack very small, easily fitting inside or outside of a pack without getting in the way.

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 their intended use in the hands of mountain runners and ultralight backpackers, durability shouldn't be an issue. The same users generally prioritize lightweight construction over durable, heavy materials anyway.

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. They are even compatible with snow baskets for early summer snow and glacier travel. We would, however, 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.

The Carbon FLZ comes with both rubber and carbide tips for use on a variety of surfaces.
The Carbon FLZ comes with both rubber and carbide tips for use on a variety of surfaces.

Value


These poles are expensive, but for those who want the lightest adjustable length pole, the price is justified. If you value a light weight above all other factors, yet want some length adjustability, these are the ticket. On top of that, Black Diamond has a great warranty program to protect your investment. If you don't care about saving a few ounces, and prefer to save money instead, you will find plenty of high-performance options at lower prices.

Conclusion


For the ultralight crowd, there are few better pole options than the Distance Carbon FLZ. They feature a lightweight carbon construction and 8 inches of length adjustability in a 13.4-ounce package. There are lighter options, but none of those offer any length adjustment, meaning that the Carbon FLZ fills a niche for the uncommon user who wants both lightweight performance and adjustability. These are great for mountain runners, climbers, and ultralight backpackers, but the extra three ounces might be a dealbreaker for ultralight users.

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