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.
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 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.
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.
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 performs well.
Foldable 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 travel. Users expecting to stow their poles during travel in technical terrain will appreciate the packed size of the Carbon FLZ.
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.
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. 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. On top of that, BD has a great warranty program to protect your investment.
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.
— Jeff Dobronyi