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Black Diamond Distance Z Review

Durable with a short collapsed length, this is a fantastic value for a lightweight pole
Black Diamond Distance Z
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $100 List | $99.95 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, short collapsed length, surprisingly durable
Cons:  No length adjustability, average grip comfort
Manufacturer:   Black Diamond
By Jeff Dobronyi ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Aug 21, 2020
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71
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 13
  • Comfort - 20% 6
  • Weight - 20% 9
  • Locking and Adjustability - 15% 3
  • Packed Size - 15% 10
  • Durability - 15% 8
  • Versatility - 15% 6

Our Verdict

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.

Compare to Similar Products

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.

Performance Comparison


These poles are lightweight  compact  and impressively durable.
These poles are lightweight, compact, and impressively durable.

Comfort


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 lower grip extension, useful for choking up on the pole when traversing steep hillsides or when ascending brief, steep sections of trail. The wrist strap is made of relatively thin fabric that could be more comfortable, but considering that this pole is designed to be light, a thicker strap would defeat the purpose. Overall, we find the comfort to be adequate in a pole that is designed with weight and affordability in mind.

The BD Distance Z has a lightly contoured and ribbed foam grip that we found to provide adequate comfort  especially given the weight savings provided be this grip design.
The BD Distance Z has a lightly contoured and ribbed foam grip that we found to provide adequate comfort, especially given the weight savings provided be this grip design.

Weight


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. The Distance Z poles have a pleasantly light swing weight that we could hike with all day and barely notice the poles in our hands.


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 foam handles and straps are designed for minimum weight.
The foam handles and straps are designed for minimum weight.

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 (10cm) increments. The pole is unfolded and locked into its extended configuration with a satisfying click, and to release this lock, a spring-loaded slider is pulled upwards. This move is easy to accomplish, 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 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.

The updated locking mechanisms on the 2018 model. The improvement is nice  and they are significantly easier to use with gloves on than previous iterations.
The updated locking mechanisms on the 2018 model. The improvement is nice, and they are significantly easier to use with gloves on than previous iterations.

Packed Size


Along with all the other foldable poles we tested, the Distance Z also crushes the traditional telescoping poles in the packed size category. These poles are awesome for any application when you might need to stow them on your backpack, such as 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).


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.

Telescoping poles compared to z-style poles.
Telescoping poles compared to z-style poles.

Durability


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 Distance Z aluminum poles are continually durable enough for everything we've thrown at them thus far.

Versatility


The Distance Z is great for most uses, but trekkers on the gnarliest trails and carrying the most weight would want to use a heavier pole. For everything else, these poles excel. They are compatible with a snow basket (sold separately) that provides some floatation in summer snow, but they are not burly enough for downhill skiing. The standard carbide tips are excellent, and the included rubber tips are perfect for gripping sandstone and pavement while keeping Moab's slickrock pristine.


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.

The poles feature replaceable carbide tips and fixed baskets.
The poles feature replaceable carbide tips and fixed baskets.

Value


These are the cheapest foldable poles in our review and one of the least expensive non-telescoping poles on the market. At such a reasonable price, the low weight and high durability of this pole offer excellent value, earning it the award of Best Value in a Lightweight Pole.

Conclusion


While not quite a do-everything pole, the Black Diamond Distance Z does most things well and is best appreciated by folks looking for a light and very collapsible pole. For most users, this pole is a great option at a relatively low price. If you are looking for a pole for trekking with a heavy pack, or for carrying up and over technical alpine climbs, there are better options out there. But for the majority of single-day and overnight uses, these poles are a great option at a reasonable price.

Jeff Dobronyi