Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Lightweight, packs small, adjustable
Cons: Not as strong, durable, or comfortable as other options
Manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment
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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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
— Jeff Dobronyi