These are lightest poles we’ve assessed – and also have the most compact folded dimensions too. If you need, or just simply want the lightest gear possible, then these are a great choice, but it does come at a price.
Pros / Reasons to Buy
- The lightest poles in this round-up
- The most compact folded dimensions in this round-up
Cons / Reasons to Avoid
- Full carbon construction may present some durability concerns
- Lever lock requires a tool to adjust tension
The Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ is a premium, lightweight folding pole from one of the industry’s major players. Black Diamond have a well-deserved reputation for making high end gear, and these poles are no exception, prioritising light weight and a compact folded size. They are not cheap, though, and in order to hit the low weight point, some concessions have had to be made, limiting adjustability and perhaps long-term durability too. None the less, they are a very attractive product, and if you like to hike light, or even to run on the trail, these could be the perfect choice for you.
Compare to Similar Products
- Leki Black Series FX Carbon
- MSR DynaLock Ascent Foldable Carbon Backcountry Trekking Poles
- Leki Cressida FX Carbon AS
- Overall guide: 12 Best Trekking Poles of 2023
Analysis and Test Results
Black Diamond produce a massive range of hiking poles – indeed, it’s safe to say that for many hikers, they’ll be one of the first names they think of when choosing trekking poles. The Distance Carbon FLZ poles sit close to the top of the range. They are pricey, but that cost buys you state of the art materials and the cutting edge of Black Diamond’s design and manufacturing experience. As such, these are the lightest and most compact when folded poles in this round up – and both by a comfortable and noticeable margin when compared to more mainstream poles. This alone, we think, will make these poles the perfect choice for those who need or simply want the lightest possible gear and they could also be a great choice for trail runners too. These poles may be pricey in absolute terms, but when you consider what you get for the money, we don’t think the cost is too bad and they certainly are a well designed and built premium product.
The Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ are high-end poles that, as the name suggests, make extensive use of carbon fibre in their construction. The poles are very light – at 340g/12oz, the lightest in this round up – and this, coupled with the vibration-absorbing carbon fibre used in their construction will contribute towards their comfort. There’s very limited adjustability – between 110cm/43in and 125cm/49in – and these are actually the least-adjustable poles in this round up, but that’s probably necessary to achieve the light weight.
The Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ poles weight in 340g/12oz for a pair. That makes them the lightest in our rough up by a comfortable margin. Extensive use of carbon fibre will have helped Black Diamond keep the weight low, but the low weight does also come at the expense of adjustability, though it’s worth pointing out that these poles are offered in three length options. We’ve assessed the middle option, but a shorter and lighter version (95cm/37in to 110cm/43in at 312g/11oz) alongside a longer and heavier version(125cm/49in to 140cm/55in at 368g/13oz) are also offered.
The Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ make extensive use of carbon fibre in their manufacture and their shafts are full carbon. Of interest, other folding carbon poles have metal fittings at the joints where the poles connect, but this model from black Diamond has bare carbon in place here. Whilst this will no doubt save weight, over time, you might find the carbon chipping at these joins. Carbon fibre is a great material for poles – it’s not just lightweight, but also dampens shocks and vibration better than aluminium. However, it’s arguably not as durable and hard knocks and bumps to the poles can result in chips and, at worse, cracks whereas aluminium dents and bends.
The Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ poles fold down to 37cm/15in – note that’s for the medium length we’re assessing here. The shorter pole folds down a little shorter and the long version is a little larger. No matter which version you use, though, they have a short packed size and are best in our round up in this regard. This will surely appeal to those who like to take minimal gear with them. One of the down sides of the short packed size is that these poles offer a very narrow range of length adjustment. Now, whilst this definitely helps to save on weight, if you want the optimum comfort and stability from your poles, you’ll want to consider lengthening them on steep descents or if you’re hiking through deep snow. The limited adjustment range could pose a problem here, but we suspect that hikers or trail runner who prioritise low weight – and who we think are really these pole’s target market – will happily make this concession for the lower weight point.
Pole Adjustment Mechanism
This is a three-part folding pole. To extend it, the three sections, which are connected by a strong cable, are loosely connected together, a fixed length telescopic section with a spring-loaded lock extended and then a separate telescopic section with a flip lock used to make final length adjustment. There’s a marked length scale in this section to speed setup. We are big fans of flip locks over twist locks – even if we sometimes catch our fingers in them, but we’re not a fan of the fact that the Black Diamond flip lock requires a small screwdriver to adjust the tension. This is one more thing to have to carry on the trail and other manufacturers – notably Leki – have shown that it’s possible to make a flip lock with tool-free tension adjustment.
These poles are supplied with a small trekking basket as standard, but this can easily be removed or replaced with a wider snow basket to suit your needs.
Grip Ergonomics and Material
The Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ come with a high density foam ergonomic grip with a rubber top. The grip does not extend as far down the shaft of the pole as some others, but it still provides a comfortable surface.
At $209.95/£178.50 at the time of writing, the Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ poles are certainly pricey (though not the most expensive in our round up). However, their light weight and compact folded size (they are best in both categories in our round up) will certainly make that price worth paying to hikers who want to travel light. They’ll also surely appeal to trail runner too.
For many, Black Diamond will be one of the first names that comes to mind when they think of hiking poles. The company makes an enormous range of poles and these Distance Carbon FLZ poles surely sit near the top end, incorporating hight tech material and coming in at an extremely impressive low weight and folded size. These poles will surely appeal to those who like to hike with the lightest possible gear and will also likely appeal to trail runners – even those who might use the poles in competition. The poles aren’t without their shortcomings: They have a more limited range of adjustments than others and they are certainly expensive plus, long term, carbon fibre may not be as durable as aluminium. However, if you need – or just simply want – a set of super-lightweight poles, then these concessions will likely be acceptable, and these poles would make an excellent choice.
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