The Black Diamond Distance Z is a lightweight and durable pole that packs down to a small size. It also is the most affordable of the lightweight poles in our review, earning it an esteemed Best Buy Award. Other affordable options are more adjustable, but weigh significantly more, while the Distance Z is geared more towards the lightweight mountain running and technical climbing crowd. This is the aluminum version of the Distance Carbon Z, a carbon version that is two ounces lighter but costs almost twice as much. The Distance Z is a great pole for a majority of users looking for a simple, lightweight pole that won't break the bank.Editor's Note: This trekking pole review was revised on November 1, 2022 to share details on an updated version of the Distance Z.
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Lightweight, short collapsed length, durable
Cons: No length adjustability, average grip comfort
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Black Diamond Distance Z
|Price||$97.46 at Backcountry|
Compare at 2 sellers
|$170 List||$146.95 at Amazon|
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|$140 List||$43 List|
$42.99 at Amazon
|Pros||Lightweight, short collapsed length, durable||Comfortable grip, locks securely, packs small, highly versatile||Comfortable grips, versatile, packable, relatively affordable||Huge length adjustability, highly durable, locking mechanisms can be tightened without a tool||Durable, comfortable grip, packs small|
|Cons||No length adjustability, average grip comfort||Carbon is less durable than aluminum, on the expensive side||Difficult locking mechanism, heavier than comparable poles||Long collapsed length, not packable, heavy, limited versatility||Heavy, less versatile due to weight|
|Bottom Line||Durable with a short collapsed length, this is a fantastic value for a lightweight pole||A simple, elegant, and well-built trekking pole with versatility for all uses||Burly folding trekking poles with comfortable grips that are great for everything from hiking and backpacking to climbing and mountaineering||These poles are durable and adjustable, perfect for long treks in remote areas||A highly affordable pair of poles with all of the features of more expensive models|
|Rating Categories||Black Diamond Dista...||MSR DynaLock Ascent...||Leki Jannu FX TA||Leki Makalu Lite||Trekology Trek-Z 2.0|
|Locking and Adjustability (15%)|
|Packed Size (15%)|
|Construction Quality (10%)|
|Specs||Black Diamond Dista...||MSR DynaLock Ascent...||Leki Jannu FX TA||Leki Makalu Lite||Trekology Trek-Z 2.0|
|Measured Weight (per pair)||12.5 oz||17 oz||19 oz||16.5 oz||26 oz|
|Shaft Material||Aluminum||Carbon fiber||Aluminum||Aluminum||Aluminum|
|Collapsed Length||13/14/16/17 in||14.25 in||15 in||26 in||15 in|
|Max Length||39/43/47/51 in||47 in||47 in||53 in||47 in|
|Grip Material||EVA foam||Rubber, plastic, foam||Aergon Cor-Tec||Aergon Air Thermo||Foam|
|Locking Mechanism||Speed Cone Deployment||DynaLock||Speed Lock plus||Speed Lock plus||Lever lock|
|Baskets/Tip Attachments?||Yes, rubber and carbide tips||Yes, winter and summer baskets||Yes, trekking 2.0 basket||Yes, trekking 2.0 basket||Yes, powder and trail baskets, boots, and narrow tips|
|Size Tested||110 cm||100-120 cm||One size||One size||100-120 cm|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Distance Z scores in the middle of the pack amongst the best poles on the market. While it isn't adjustable, or nearly as comfortable or featured as other poles out there, it offers lightweight durability and packable strength at a reasonable price.
The Distance Z features Black Diamond's ultralight trekking pole grip, which is constructed from soft, lightweight foam. It has a small amount of contouring to fit most hand sizes and easily compresses to fit the shape of each unique user. It also offers ribbed cutouts that shave weight, allow airflow to the palm, and provide some added friction.
In general, this grip design is less comfortable than a robust cork grip, which we tend to prefer. However, we understand the design of this handle because of the major weight savings it provides. We didn't like to use this grip when carrying a heavy backpack, but for most on-trail use, the comfort is just fine. There is a small secondary grip extension, but it isn't useful for choking up on the pole because it is only 2.5 inches long. The wrist strap is made of a thin fabric that is also comfortable. Overall, we find the comfort to be adequate for a pole that is designed with weight and affordability in mind.
At 12.5 ounces per pair for the 110 cm length, the Distance Z is one of the lightest poles on the market and feels shockingly lightweight in the hands. It's not quite as light as the carbon fiber version, but shaving those extra 2 ounces will double the cost of your poles. Lighter poles have less swing weight, which is the effort required to swing the pole forward with each step. And over time, that extra weight adds up for mountain runners and speed hikers.
These are light enough for most uses, including long-distance thru-hiking — only alpine climbers or the fastest mountain runners will want to splurge for more weight savings. For 99 percent of users, these poles provide the best weight-per-dollar ratio of any pole we have ever tested. Usually, lower weights and prices mean a sacrifice in durability was made somewhere along the line, but in this case, we couldn't find one.
The Distance Z is great for most uses, but trekkers on the gnarliest trails and carrying the most weight will want to use a slightly thicker and more durable pole. For everything else, the Distance Z is great. They come with a small snow basket that provides some floatation in summer snow, but these baskets are not wide enough for winter powder snow. The standard carbide tips are excellent, and the included rubber tips are perfect for gripping sandstone and pavement while leaving no trace on delicate sandstone trails.
Overall, we were surprised by the versatility of these poles. Upon first glance, it seems like they are designed purely for mountain running and lightweight hiking, but they are actually perfect for most applications. We prefer them over other poles for everything except heavy-duty backpacking and trekking to remote destinations.
Locking and Adjustability
The Distance Z is a foldable pole with no possibility of length extension. The benefits of this design are weight savings and affordability, but it also requires users to size the pole correctly at the time of purchase. It comes in four different sizes in 4-inch (10 cm) increments. The pole is unfolded and locked into its extended configuration with a satisfying click, and to release this lock, an ergonomic spring-loaded button is pressed, releasing the extension lock. This button is easy to press, even with gloved hands.
A handful of users like to constantly adjust the length of their trekking poles to match the terrain. The majority of hikers and trekkers don't mind as much and just deal with the length of their poles as the terrain changes. If you're one of the majority, or you are new to using trekking poles, you won't mind the lack of length adjustment found in these fixed-length poles. That said, if you want the option, look elsewhere.
Along with all the other foldable poles we tested, the Distance Z also outperforms traditional telescoping poles in the packed size category. These poles are great for any application when you might need to stow them on your backpack, such as moderate alpine climbing or technical scrambling. They also disappear into packed luggage when traveling. The Distance Z collapses down to a best-in-class 14 inches (35 cm) at the 110-centimeter length. The shortest length option, 100 centimeters, packs down to a minuscule 13 inches (33 centimeters) long.
Foldable construction results in the smallest packed size but also eliminates any overlap in pole sections, increasing the tendency of a pole to wobble or bend when weighted. Considering that these poles are designed for lighter uses, they will serve most activities well, although larger folks and those carrying big backpacks might want to choose a heavier telescoping pole.
Despite the lightweight construction (12.5 ounces for the 110 cm size) and noticeably lighter-than-average swing weight, our testers were surprised by the durability of the Distance Z. For its first field test, we took it on a six-day mountaineering adventure that was nearly entirely on cross-country terrain. Two other poles broke, but the Distance Z handled it fantastically. Still, these poles aren't as tough as many of the heavier aluminum telescoping poles, but we think they're plenty durable for all but the hardest users with the biggest backpacks.
Aluminum is more durable than carbon fiber because it can bend without snapping. It also resists chipping and cracking, problems that can plague carbon poles and cause catastrophic failures. The carbide tip and reinforced lower shaft above the mud basket reduces wear in the usual areas. The Distance Z aluminum poles are continually durable enough for everything we've thrown at them thus far.
Should You Buy the Black Diamond Distance Z?
These are excellent poles for most hikers, runners, and climbers, delivering lightweight performance and durability for an affordable price. There are cheaper options out there, but none provide such high-end features as the Distance Z, earning our nod for the best value in a lightweight pole. Only the most specialized users will need a more specific pole — these are a great option for 90% of users looking for a high-performance pole at a great price.
What Other Trekking Poles Should You Consider?
The lightweight and durable Black Diamond Distance Z doesn't leave much room for improvement, but if you are enticed by the weight savings and want an even lighter trekking pole that will disappear into a pack while alpine climbing, the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z shaves a few ounces per pair, and is very similar to the Distance Z, but costs more. If you like the lightweight and compressible features of this pole but want a little more versatility and adjustability, the best-in-class MSR Dynalock Ascent is a great option. If you don't care as much about weight savings and want a more durable pole, our top pick for rugged use and trekking is the Leki Makalu Lite. And finally, budget-minded users can save a few bucks by choosing the Trekology Trek-Z, but those poles don't perform nearly as well as the Distance Z.
— Jeff Dobronyi
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