Trekking and Running Poles
Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ Poles
$210, 12 oz. (110-125cm)
Sizes: men’s/unisex 95-110cm, 110-125cm, and 125-140cm, women’s 95-110cm and 110-125cm
Trekking poles vary widely in weight, packability, adjustability, and durability—and the balance between those competing attributes determines their recommended uses and versatility across activities. Then there’s Black Diamond’s Distance Carbon FLZ poles, which I’ve used for everything from dayhikes and trail runs of up to 15 miles in Idaho’s Boulder and Pioneer Mountains and Boise Foothills; dayhiking the Cory Pass-Edith Pass loop in Banff National Park, about nine miles with a steep 3,400 feet of up and down; and a 10-mile, 3,600-vertical-foot October dayhike on a trail strewn with wet, slippery rocks and mud in New Hampshire’s White Mountains; to five-day backpacking trips of 77 miles on the Wonderland Trail around Mount Rainier and 47 miles in The Maze District of Canyonlands National Park, and in the Wind River Range. Their unique design hits a sweet spot for dayhikers, lightweight backpackers, and distance trail runners. Here’s why.
For starters, ranging in weight from 11 to 13 ounces per pair between the five men’s/unisex and women’s sizes, the three-section, folding, adjustable Carbon FLZ rank among the lightest poles available today, largely due to the 100 percent carbon fiber construction. On hikes and runs—including a 12-mile, more than 2,000-vertical-foot run-hike in the Pioneers and a steep run-hike with 4,000 feet of up and down in the Boulders—I found they carry and swing very much like BD’s lightest model, the 10-ounce Distance Carbon Z—you don’t readily notice that the Distance Carbon FLZ weigh two to three ounces more.
They’re also among the most packable poles out there, measuring just 34cm to 40cm in folded length (depending on the size), short enough to carry unobtrusively when I attached them to the outside of a daypack or running vest.
The poles go from folded to deployed in a few seconds: Just hold the foam grip and the uppermost shaft and pull them apart. An internal Kevlar cord that’s protected within a flexible tube and a tiny pin in the upper shaft instantly lock the three sections into place. When deployed, the pole shafts demonstrate solid rigidity, without any looseness at the section joints. Depressing the pin releases the three sections for quick folding, and a small hook-and-loop strap secures them in the folded storage position.
The Distance Carbon FLZ FlickLock levers—while not quite as burly as the version found on heavier BD poles like the Alpine Carbon Cork and Trail Ergo Cork—never slipped on my hikes and trail runs with the poles. The 15 to 20cm of adjustable range in the three sizes of these poles comes in handy going up and down steep trails, and I found on one local peak with an overall gradient of nearly 1,000 feet per mile, and even steeper sections with pea gravel. The tension on the levers easily adjusts using a Phillips screwdriver, found on many multi-tools and Swiss Army knives.
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The EVA foam grips extend down the shaft by a hand’s width, while the easily adjustable, partly mesh nylon wrist straps sport enough width to remain comfortable over hours of use. For brief periods on a hike or run when you don’t feel a need to use the poles but don’t want to stop to fold and store them on your pack, a bar on the upper shaft marks a grip point for holding them balanced evenly in your forefinger and thumb. But the poles are also light enough to run or hike with your hands on the grips and in the straps, without poling, for short distances, too.
The poles come with plastic tips installed, which grip better on rocky trails or Southwest slickrock but skitter on trails of packed dirt, as well as interchangeable carbide tech tips, preferable on dirt trails but which can skitter on rock. Pliars are needed to loosen either tips to unscrew and change them.
The tradeoffs of the Distance Carbon FLZ’s low weight are clear: The lighter materials and construction render these poles less durable than heavier models, from the thinner shafts to the nylon cord attaching the wrist straps to the grips. Plus, under rare stresses, carbon will sheer or snap—I saw one of a friend’s Distance Carbon FLZ poles sheer while backpacking a rocky trail in the Minarets in the High Sierra, without him putting much weight on it. Still, these sticks are tough enough for lightweight or ultralight backpacking and strenuous dayhikes on rocky trails. (If you’re carrying more than 35 to 40 pounds, you might as well get sturdier, heavier poles. See other models in my review of “The Best Trekking Poles.”)
The more-affordable and durable aluminum version is the Black Diamond Distance FLZ Trekking Poles ($140, 15.7 oz.).
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Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ
The Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ trekking and running poles fall on the cusp between the most ultralight and packable poles and models that are marginally heavier and less packable—a nominal tradeoff for the versatility gained through their adjustability. That’s why I rate them higher than any other poles I’ve reviewed. For backpackers, dayhikers, and trail runners who want it all—low weight, packability and adjustability—these poles are a clear top choice.
You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking any of these affiliate links to purchase the Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ trekking and running poles at blackdiamondequipment.com, backcountry.com, or moosejaw.com.
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See my picks for “The Best Trekking Poles” and my stories “How to Choose Trekking Poles” and “10 Best Expert Tips for Hiking With Trekking Poles,” and all of my reviews of backpacking gear, ultralight backpacking gear, and hiking gear.
See also why I almost never hike without poles in my “10 Tricks For Making Hiking and Backpacking Easier,” and my “8 Pro Tips for Preventing Blisters When Hiking.”
NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all my gear reviews at The Big Outside.