Get access to everything we publish when you sign up for Outside+.
Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking Poles
Weight (per pair/120 cm): 10.5 oz
The original Carbon Z poles have been around for a several years now, and have proven themselves as one of the most popular models for trail runners. Look at any steep ultra’s start-line photos and you’ll likely see a fair representation. Upon first grasp, fellow editors’ unfailing first comment: “Wow, those are really light!”
Constructed with 100-percent carbon (hence, the lightness), the poles are a three-section, collapsible design that come in only fixed lengths (100 cm, 110 cm, 120 cm and 130 cm). To deploy the poles from collapsed mode, you simply grasp the top section and pull it down till the sections pop together and the locking mechanism makes its satisfying click. To fold up the poles, press the button at the top of the pole to release. Updated in 2018, the new Distance Carbon Zs are touted to be 30-percent stiffer (due to increased joint support) and more durable (due to reinforcements in the upper shaft), attributes we were not able to test. The grips are composed of comfortable EVA foam and extend about three inches below the main grip for choking up. The 1 1/4-inch-wide wrist strap is a lightweight nylon material that feels good on the back of the wrist (grip trekking poles like ski poles) and adjusts with a pull-tab hook-and-loop system.
On most other trekking poles, the first thing I do is remove what are typically too-large, catch-on-everything baskets, but the Z poles feature trim, unobtrusive baskets. Like most, they come with interchangeable rubber and carbide tips (the second thing I do is replace the rubber tips with the carbide tips, the latter of which provides better grip on most all surfaces).
On the trail, the most noticeable attribute of the Carbon Z Poles is their stiff and responsive feeling—and, of course, feathery lightness. The deployment/collapsing system is especially well-engineered and a joy to use. Collapsed, the streamlined poles pack easily into most hydration packs. All in all, the Carbon Z Poles seem a top choice for steep ultras or backcountry fastpacking missions. Also in the BD trekking-pole line are the adjustable-length, aluminum-construction Distance FLZ ($140; 18.0 oz/105-125 cm) and Distance Plus FLZ ($150, 15.7 oz/105-125 cm, supports both trekking and powder baskets) models, which offer greater versatility but also more weight and a less stiff, responsive feeling.
—Mike Benge is the Editor of Trail Runner Magazine