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Field Tested: Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking Poles

I’m not an avid trekking pole user. However, I do always carry them with me due to a history of knee issues. If I’m 20 mile’s in on a hike or run and my patella start barking I’ll pull them out for a little relief on the downhills. I’ve gone through a few pairs of poles over the years. From cheap aluminum to higher end carbon fiber. There are always some pretty big pros and cons to each variation.

What the poles look like in their folded state.

Enter the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking Poles. Boy, that’s a mouth full. These bad boys are insanely light and feature a clever folding closure that allow them to stow away to a compact size.


Black Diamond manufactures a slew of poles in this funky folding category. However, the Distance Carbon Z poles are the lightest of the bunch. These poles also come in an aluminum variation which are a little cheaper and heavier called the “Distance Z” poles. And the “Distance FLZ” which poles add a small telescoping section to fine tune the fit for a small weight penalty. Personally, I liked the simplicity of the Carbon Distance Z poles.

Features:

  • Minimalist EVA foam grip
  • Foldable section design
  • Ultra light 100% carbon fiber construction
  • Replaceable carbide tip
  • Interchangeable rubber tip
  • Integrated mud baskets
  • Locking adjustable wrist straps
  • Handy storage strap included!

Sizing

In use on Mt San Jacinto – California

Whats unique about these poles is the sectioned design. While this allows them to fold down really small and lends itself to being ultra light, it also means that you need to buy the correct size. The Black Diamond Carbon Z Trekking poles come in 4 sizes. 100cm, 110cm, 120cm, and 130cm. If you’re taller or shorter than this, you’re kind of out of luck!

I found that the 110CM size fit my short (5’7″ ish) stature pretty well. I like my elbows to be bent at about 90 degrees when I’m using poles and used this as a baseline for sizing. If you’re looking to size and buy online try measuring the distance from your hand to the ground while in a comfortable “trekking pole” position. The handles of these poles feature a very long grip so if your size isn’t 100% perfect you can choke up on the grip a bit and adjust.

Weight and Packability

weighing in at 9.9 ounces for the pair.

Here’s where these trekking poles shine. My pair of 110cm poles weighed in at just 9.9 ounces! Yes, that’s for both poles! Truly incredible difference for me. My previous poles were nearly double the weight as they were telescopic and made from aluminum.

These poles also collapse down to an extremely compact size. I’m able to stick these in the strechy pouch on the side or back of my running vest and barely notice them there.

In the Field

Testing them out in the snow on Mt Moosilauke.

I found the Black Diamond Carbon Distance Z poles performed at my expectations. The carbide tip bit into everything I threw at them including hard ice, snow, rock, loose dry dirt, and mud. The poles carbon fiber construction also adds a bit of shock absorbing properties. I did notice that these poles had quite a bit of flex to them in the shaft. This could be good or bad depending on your needs. I grew a little concerned that I’d jam the shaft of the pole in between rocks and break the carbon fiber with the momentum of my body weight… however this never happened.

When I first bought these I was worried that I’d miss the adjustability of telescopic poles. This wasn’t the case. I’ve grown to LOVE the Z-Pole design. Pull them out of the pack, yank on the handle until they click and you’re ready to go! Equally as quick to stow away.

One big issue I did find is that there are no compatible snow baskets for the Carbon Distance Z Poles. The mud baskets are integrated and non-removable. I understand, these poles aren’t designed for alpine use. However, for a guy like me who might use them in that application it seems like a no brainer to include it. However Black Diamond offers the “Alpine Carbon Z Poles” for this application.

Still the best “feature” of these poles is when you’re not using them… they hide away in your pack un noticed due to their crazy light weight and small size.

Packed up in the palm of my hand.

Who they are for

I see a few candidates that would want these poles in their gear room. For people like me who carry poles regularly but rarely use them the light weight and small footprint is huge. I could also see these being great for long distance thru-hikers when every ounce counts. Ultra runners and trail runners may also find these valuable for long slogs in the mountains and to keep stowed away for when their legs become fatigued.

What I Liked

  • Super crazy light weight!
  • “Z” folding design was surprisingly functional
  • Foam grips are comfortable and functional
  • Carbide tips work well and seem very durable
  • Small folded size is great for packing
  • Slight shock absorbing properties of the carbon fiber shafts
  • Included storage strap is nice to have

What I didn’t Like

  • Very flexible shaft can be concerning
  • No snow baskets offered
  • Fairly expensive for trekking poles in this category

Buy Them and help support this site!

Hiker, climber, father, and husband. The mountains have become a tremendous source of inspiration, physical challenge, fitness, motivation, and enrichment for me. I love the gear, and technical aspects of climbing. I also enjoy sharing this other type of lifestyle with people who haven't experienced it!

4 Comments

  • David Allen

    May 25, 2017 at 1:17 am

    I have a friend who put snow basket compatible ends on his aluminum Z-poles. He said you just stick the end in boiling water and it will come off then you can slip the regular black diamond ends on and install a snow basket. I have seen them and they are real. It seems to me like it would just be easier to use my regular BD adjustable poles with baskets on them when I need them for deep snow which is what I do.

    Reply
    • mm

      Dave Dillon

      May 25, 2017 at 11:29 am

      Hi David! I’m sure it could be done. I thought about zip tieing my old ones on there. BD does make the “alpine” version of this pole that’s a bit less flexible and supports snow baskets… I think that’s the upsell they hope for if people plan on using them in the winter. Thanks for reading!

      Reply

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