Black Diamond Distance FLZ - Women's Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Fairly lightweight, packable, adjust and collapse easily, durable for a lightweight pole
Cons: Spendy, only slightly above-average comfort
Manufacturer: Black Diamond Equipment
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Distance FLZ features a burly, but lightweight, foldable construction that collapses and adjusts effortlessly and stows easily in a pack when moving across technical terrain or while rock climbing.
While not the most comfortable poles in our review, the women's Distance FLZ provide an abundance of comfort in spite of light-weight-performance technology. The EVA foam grips on the are plush and super comfortable, and the grip-extension and straps provide barely-there comfort.
Whether hiking technical and strenuous miles in the Sierras or in the red-rock deserts of Utah, our reviewers hardly noticed the straps on these poles. Whether firmly gripping them on technical descents or choking up on the grip extenders, they performed well in terms of comfort.
Weighing in at 16oz per pair (105-125 cm, the larger option), these trekking poles are pretty dang light. Gram-counting, weight-obsessors take note — these are not the lightest in our review. If that's you, you might prefer one of the ultra-light options in our review. While the Distance FLZ aren't designed to be the most feather-weight poles on the market, they more than make up for their weight by being a bit more durable.
These poles are meant to be light enough that you won't notice them if you have to stow them in your pack on a technical ridge, but durable enough that average users won't have to retire them after a season of use. Some of the features that contribute to weight-savings include their foldability, stream-lined grips with EVA foam and surprisingly comfortable cut-outs, small trail baskets, and slim-wrist straps. If you're looking for a trekking pole that splits the difference between weight and durability while being ultra-packable, these little poles might just be perfect for you.
Locking and Adjustability
Perhaps one of the best features of the Distance FLZ is the ease by which these poles collapse and lock into place. Black Diamond Z-series Trekking Poles feature what BD refers to as "Z-Pole" technology, where the trekking poles have silicone-encased Dyneema that enables them to fold-down to a fragment of their extended size. With this iteration of the poles, they feature a "SlideLock" collapsing mechanism for speedy locking as well as easy stow-ability. This feature is much more intuitive and easier to use than other collapsing mechanisms we tested.
With collapsibility you do lose some adjustability, however, Black Diamond designed these poles with upper length adjustability using a "Flick-Lock" quick-release lever to enable you to dial-in the pole length to your height. One of our reviewers was between sizes (she is 5'8") and chose the larger of the two options, this resulted in some loss in adjustability when going up steep hills. Thankfully, there is some extra foam below the grips to choke-up when going up steeps. Keep this in mind when you are deciding what size pole to buy, if you are planning to use your poles on many steep hikes, you may want to size down (and then you'll benefit in some weight-savings, as well).
The Distance FLZ poles earned high marks for their packability because they are folding trekking poles. Folding trekking poles shave weight and decrease packed size by eliminating any overlapping aspects. When fully collapsed, these are 14 in (35.6 cm) long.
These trekking poles can be easily stowed in your pack for movement on technical terrain or when hanging your pack to avoid having critters munch your gear. That being said, our reviewers wouldn't recommend using foldable trekking poles to hang a heavy pack off of a boulder — these poles are beefy for what they are, but without overlapping pole sections, a heavy pack could strain and break them. On the plus side, they will usurp hardly any space in your luggage if you need trekking poles for an expedition or travel.
For a decently lightweight, foldable pole the Distance FLZ ranks near the top of the pack for durability.
To test the durability of these trekking poles, our reviewers took them on two alpine climbing missions in the Eastern Sierra, used them on approaches in Indian Creek and the desert backcountry, hiked a couple of mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park and the Sierra, and generally subjected them to high levels of use with a heavy pack. Contrary to what we expected, they are barely worse for the wear. This is partially owed to their being made from aluminum, which is burlier than carbon-fiber. Unlike carbon, aluminum can bend without snapping and resists chips, dents, and cracking. Additionally, these poles feature reinforced joint construction, with silicone encased Dyneema. That said, these are not the most durable poles in our review. They may not be able to withstand sustained use while wearing a heavy pack, crossing boulder-fields, or applying torsional pressure (either by trapping them in rocks or using them to hang heavy gear). But for most mountain missions, backpacking trips, travel, and day-hikes, the Distance FLZ will do just fine.
The Distance FLZ poles are one of the more versatile options in our review. They excel at hiking, backpacking, cross-country travel, and trekking. They are lightweight enough that you could use them for mountain running or for stowing in your pack on technical terrain or alpine climbs, but durable enough that they would be a worthy companion on a backpacking trip.
The grip-extenders are long enough to increase comfort on steep uphill ascents without having to adjust your pole length, and despite being lightweight the grips are comfortable enough for the long-haul. These poles come with both the standard carbide tips and rubber-tip protectors to avoid scratching sandstone. While the rubber tips have worn down throughout our multi-month review process, they still dampen the sound of hitting rocks when boulder-hopping or crossing scree-fields. These do not come equipped with proper snow baskets, but they are compatible with them for glacier travel and hiking on snow if you want to purchase them separately. That said, while these poles are a great three-season option, but they are not beefy enough to be ideal for skiing.
Sadly, Black Diamond isn't just giving these poles away. However, while the Distance FLZ trekking poles aren't the cheapest poles in our review, they are an excellent value for what you get. These poles strike the balance between comfort, weight, durability, three-season versatility, and packability. They are worth the price if you're looking for great all-rounders that are lightweight enough to stow in your pack or luggage, but durable enough that you can take them on over-night alpine missions or backpacking trips.
Over many months of reviewing, the women's Black Diamond Distance FLZ trekking poles were a favorite of our reviewers for lightweight performance poles that lock into place/collapse easily and stow away in a pack without weighing you down. Over miles of rugged terrain in the Rocky Mountains, Eastern Sierras, and the desert backcountry on the Colorado Plateau, our reviewers were impressed with how comfortable, durable, versatile, and lightweight these excellent poles proved to be.
— Mary Witlacil