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Black Diamond Distance FLZ Review

With less adjustability than other versions, this model is very collapsible.
Distance FLZ Poles
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Price:  $140 List | $104.96 at MooseJaw
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  collapses super small, fairly light, offers some range of length adjustment
Cons:  No snow baskets available, basic handles, light; but not super light
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Ian Nicholson ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Sep 3, 2015
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82
OVERALL
SCORE
  • Comfort - 20% 8
  • Locking and Adjustability - 15% 9
  • Weight - 20% 8
  • Packed Size - 15% 10
  • Durability - 15% 7
  • Versatility - 15% 7

The Skinny

When the first generation of the Black Diamond Distance FLZ came out it was the most innovative pole we have seen in a long time. It primarily filled a small niche well: it is the perfect pole for people who want a lightweight pole and are obsessed with having the most compact pole when collapsed. Now the Distance FLZ or FlickLock Z pole is the marginally adjustable version of the Black Diamond Distance Z and the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z. While it doesn't offer as much range of adjustment as most telescoping poles, it does offer a length adjustment range of 20 cm which is fine for most folks who adjust the length of their poles depending on the angle of the terrain they are traveling on.

They and not as versatile as our Editors' Choice award winner, the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork, but they are lighter and pack down smaller. This isn't a pole that can do everything. If, however, you are looking for an innovative, light and compact pole, give this a try.

This product is part of the new Z-Series line of poles. Unlike a traditional two or three section pole that collapses one section inside another, the Z-Series poles pull apart and break down similar to a tent pole, locking together by one of their tried and true FlickLocks and a spring loaded button. The biggest advantage of the Distance FLZ is the packability, being 9+ inches shorter when broken down than any other pole we looked at. This feature makes it a great choice for climbers who might want trekking poles for the descent but have to stow them for the climb up. The Distance FLZ has 20 cm of height adjustment per size and comes in three sizes, 95-110cm, 105-125 cm, and 120-140 cm.


Our Analysis and Test Results

Performance Comparison


Black Diamond Distance FLZ pole
Black Diamond Distance FLZ pole

Comfort


The handle on the Distance FLZ's, which is identical to the Distance Carbon Z and the Distance Z, scored average during our side-by-side comfort comparison. Black Diamond designed the Distance FLZ with a lightweight foam handle rather than a mega comfortable foam grip. Our testers found it comfortable enough for extended approaches and backpacking trips and found it more durable than we expected. It wasn't as comfortable as the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork or the Alpine Carbon Z but was better than most rubber-gripped handles.

Locking Mechanism and Range of Adjustment


The Distance Z uses a combination of a pin pop locking mechanism (like Black Diamonds other Z-series of poles) in addition to a single FlickLock Mechanism near the top of the Pole (hence the FLZ: FlickLock Z pole). This FlickLock gives users around 20 cm of height adjustment to their poles. This ability to adjust the length is the primary difference between the Distance FLZ and the other Distance poles. While 20 cm doesn't sound like a lot, our testers found it is enough range of adjustment for most folks who like to extend their poles going down and shorten them going up.

Weight


At 16 ounces the Distance FLZ is on the lighter side of poles and lighter than most traditional telescoping poles with the exception of the Komperdell C3 Carbon Compact which is a mere 13 ounces. The Distance FLZ is lighter than our Editors' Choice, the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork and Top Pick the Alpine Carbon Z both an ounce heavier at 17 oz. If you're looking for a light pole and don't think you need any range of adjustment, check out the fixed length (but equal in collapsed size) Black Diamond Distance (12 ounces) and Distance Carbon (10 ounces).

Packed Size


Along with all the other "tent-pole" style poles in our review, the Distance FLZ dominates the more traditionally designed telescoping poles in packed size, which makes them a stellar choice for any application that involves carrying or packing your poles. The Distance FLZ breaks down to 15 inches in length with only the Distance Z and Distance Carbon Z packing one inch shorter. Other than the Komperdell C3 Carbon Powerlock Compact which packs down to 21.5", the shortest among telescoping designs, the Distance FLZ packs 8-10" shorter than all other models.

Durability


We abused these poles A LOT and think they're pretty tough. They aren't quite as tough as some of the heavier aluminum telescoping poles but they are plenty durable enough for most users; even those whose trips involve substantial cross-country travel.

Versatility


The Distance Z cannot be fitted with snow baskets which makes it a poor choice for snowshoeing or other wintry adventures. They are great for three-season applications.

Tips


The Distance FLZ come with a rubber and a carbide tip. Our testers found much more use for the carbide tips for nearly every application. Pliers are handy when switching the tips. One user group that might enjoy the rubber tips are Nordic walkers or anyone who uses these poles on concrete.

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.

Best Application


This pole is for folks looking for the most packable pole available but who still want some length adjustment. If you don't mind adjusting the length then buy the Black Diamond Distance and save yourself $30 and 4 ounces. Both of these models are great for travelers, backpackers and trekkers but climbers have the most obvious advantage because of how important it is that the poles not stick out of your pack when climbing. Climbers with arduous approaches and grueling descents easily pack these poles up and over technical routes and break them out for the descents. They fit into medium sized multi-pitch packs, which makes them great for rock and alpine climbers looking to help out their knees or looking for stability on uneven terrain. People who travel with poles also enjoy their space saving advantages and anyone looking for a more compact pole could consider the Distance FLZ. These have a cool niche, but if you are looking for a pole to do everything then look elsewhere.

Value


These poles are pricey, but not outrageous. If you want a very packable pole that still offers some range of adjustment, then look no further. Or if you have a quiver of poles then the Distance FLZ is the one to add.


Ian Nicholson