Hands-on Gear Review

Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Review

The Distance Carbon Z is built for through hikers and trail runners who need a lightweight pole that they can pull out when needed.
Distance Carbon Z Pole
By: Graham Williams and Ian Nicholson  ⋅  May 14, 2018
Price:  $170 List  |  $149.96 at Amazon - 12% Off
Pros:  Super lightweight, packable, and is surprisingly durable
Cons:  Only one basket and tip type, non-adjustable
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
76
OVERALL
SCORE


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

Our Verdict

Weighing in at just a mere 10 ounces, the Black Diamond Distance Carbon wins our Top Pick for Best Lightweight pole. Although it's not as robust or durable as the other lightweight tent-style poles in our review, such as the Leki Micro Vario Carbon (14.6 ounces), it surprised us with its durability, especially when you consider the weight. We think that they make excellent lightweight poles for on trail and cross-country use. They aren't adjustable but come in four sizes (100 cm, 110 cm, 120 cm, 130 cm) which are sufficient for a variety of hikers.

Looking to save some money?
The Black Diamond Distance Z won our award for best value in a lightweight pole (these are $70 less, at a superb $100). They're a few ounces heavier than the Carbon Z and are similarly non-adjustable, coming in lengths from 100 to 130 cm. These could be an ideal pole to consider as an intro to trekking poles before diving in deep with an expensive (though excellent) product like the Distance Carbon Z.


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Our Analysis and Test Results

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Performance Comparison


These poles are perfect for a day on the trails when traveling light is key to your adventure.
These poles are perfect for a day on the trails when traveling light is key to your adventure.

Comfort


The BD Distance Carbon Z features siped foam handles that were unique to our trekking pole review this year. Although other poles like the REI Co-Op Flash Carbon and the Leki Micro Vario Carbon also featured foam grips, they lacked the incuts that the Distance Carbon Z had.


We found these to be slightly more comfortable than the traditional foam grips found on many trekking poles. Although they aren't cork handles like the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork or the Leki Corklite DSS Anti-shock, they are far from uncomfortable.

The BD Distance Carbon Z features a light weight foam grip.
The BD Distance Carbon Z features a light weight foam grip.

While overall they scored somewhat average, especially up against mega-comfortable cork grips, they more than make up for it in the weight category.

Locking Mechanism and Range of Adjustment


The new 2018 model features new locking mechanisms. It's not a massive change, but the new mechanisms use a sliding lock, which we found slightly easier to use. The most significant advantage that we noticed is that the new mechanisms are much easier to use with gloves on. So if you'll be using your poles in cold weather, this might be a plus for you.


BD offers four sizes (100 cm, 110 cm, 120 cm, and 130 cm) to fit a variety of hikers. So long as you measure correctly (see our Buying Advice for how to size trekking poles correctly), you shouldn't experience any issues with adjustability. Another downside to fixed length poles is you can't easily share them with shorter or taller friends.

The easy to use sliding lock makes these trekking poles a breeze to set up.
The easy to use sliding lock makes these trekking poles a breeze to set up.

If you're looking for a lightweight tent style pole that does have adjustability you should look at the Black Diamond Alpine FLZ or the Leki Micro Vario Carbon with the sacrifice of a bit of weight and packability.

While an inability to adjust a trekking poles overall length is a minor disadvantage, we don't think it should be a deal-breaker for most users. Some of our testers like to adjust their poles when the terrain changes, but they had no problem using Black Diamond's non-adjustable poles. However, if you know that you prefer an adjustable pole, then this is something to consider.

The Distance Carbon Z's are fixed length poles.
The Distance Carbon Z's are fixed length poles.

Weight


Weight is the metric where Black Diamond truly knocked the Distance Carbon Z out of the park. The pair comes in at 10 ounces, which is one of the lightest poles we've ever tested. It beat out every other lightweight and packable carbon pole by at least 4-5 ounces, like the Leki Micro Vario Carbon or the Leki Micro Vario Ti Cor-Tec. The DistanceZ was the only pole that weighed within three ounces of this incredibly light option.


Ultralight hikers and backpackers rejoice, this pole is the answer to your prayers. This is the reason why you buy a pole like the Distance Carbon Z, for the weight, or lack thereof.

The Distance Carbon Z trekking poles win our Top Pick Award for their packability and weight-savings.
The Distance Carbon Z trekking poles win our Top Pick Award for their packability and weight-savings.

Packed Size


The Distance Carbon Z, like most of the tent style poles, dominates the packability metric.


However, with most of the tent style poles, there isn't a massive difference in overall packed length of the tent style poles that we tested.

The Distance Carbon Z in collapsed form.
The Distance Carbon Z in collapsed form.

Between the three tent-style poles that we tested, there was only a couple of millimeter difference between each pole. This can be seen in the Leki Micro Vario Carbon at 43 mm and the Black Diamond Alpine FLZ at around 40 mm. The most prominent difference you'll notice between most poles is weight.

Durability


Although generally speaking, when cutting weight, you usually sacrifice durability; but the Distance Carbon Z was surprisingly durable in our tests. What's more, the 2018 model features reinforced joints, which Black Diamond claims are 30% stronger.


Although we still don't think you should use it for heavy duty trekking and bushwhacking, these poles will hold up most on trail and cross-country usage. Additionally, if you're hard on your poles, we would suggest a beefier aluminum pole like the Black Diamond Trail Back or the Black Diamond Alpine FLZ. Even the aluminum version of this pole, the Black Diamond Distance Z, is only two ounces heavier but feels a little tougher.

The reinforced joint of the Distance Carbon Z.
The reinforced joint of the Distance Carbon Z.

Tips


These poles come standard with both a carbide and a rubber tip. Unless you're using these poles extensively on asphalt, we found little need for the rubber tip and ended up opting for the carbide tip for most of our testing period.

These poles are easy to take out on occasion in steep or rocky terrain.
These poles are easy to take out on occasion in steep or rocky terrain.

Baskets


The baskets are not interchangeable on the Carbon Distance Z, which limits this pole's use to three seasons — plenty for most of us.

The lowest section and rubber coated tip option of the BD Distance Carbon Z.
The lowest section and rubber coated tip option of the BD Distance Carbon Z.

Versatility


The Distance Carbon Z is not a very versatile pole. Although we wouldn't say that it fills a niche, it is geared more towards the ultralight and long distance hiker. Its small size and light weight make it great for those looking for a pole to pull out on occasion for special uses or those looking to shave weight in their backpacking kit. The lack of powder baskets further adds to the lack of versatility, limiting this pole to three season usage.


Best Applications


We think that the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z's are a great choice for ultralight backpackers, thru-hikers, and trail runners. We wouldn't use them for heavy duty trekking, and although we think that they would hold up alright in standard backpacking scenarios, we think that there are better poles out there for those uses.

We think these ultralight poles are perfect for cross-country and trail use.
We think these ultralight poles are perfect for cross-country and trail use.

Value


These poles aren't cheap. At $170, they cost around the same as other mid-weight poles, like our Editors' Choice award-winning Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork. However, if counting ounces or packability is important to you, then these might be the ticket. However, they're cheaper than some of the higher end lightweight carbon poles on the market nowadays. If you like these poles but don't need to save the two ounces and want to save some money, check out the Black Diamond Distance Z (the aluminum equivalent) for $60 less.

Conclusion


Without a doubt, our testers believe that these are one of the best ultralight poles on the market. They weigh 10 ounces, are surprisingly durable, and will serve most 3 season on-trail hikers well. So much so that we added them to our Dream Backpacking gear list for lightweight backpackers, see below.

The Distance Carbon Z's are our favorite ultralight poles.
The Distance Carbon Z's are our favorite ultralight poles.

Tangential Note: Dream Backpacking Gear List


The Distance Carbon Z Poles are one of many items featured in our Dream Backpacking Gear List. Check it out to see other top-tier "dream" backpacking items.

Graham Williams and Ian Nicholson

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Most recent review: May 14, 2018
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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 (5.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
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5 star: 100%  (1)
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