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REVIEW: Black Diamond Distance Z and Distance Carbon Z Poles

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We look at two permutations of a classic folding trekking pole design, from Black Diamond's extensive range.

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1
 Pedro50 04 Jan 2022
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

I had BD fixed length in carbon, much used and really pleased with them. The internal connecting cord snapped. BD said not repairable so for the sake of a 30p bit of cord the poles were scrap. Not really acceptable IMHO. 

1
In reply to Pedro50:

> I had BD fixed length in carbon, much used and really pleased with them. The internal connecting cord snapped. BD said not repairable so for the sake of a 30p bit of cord the poles were scrap. Not really acceptable IMHO. 

That's certainly a shame, as you'd hope that a repair service was available. You'd want something similar if a section broke too. I'll see if I can get an official word on this. Whilst I'm aware it'd likely be logistically complex (these things always are), but in the modern day and age you'd hope to hear that this is the gold standard brands are striving for...

Whilst it isn't necessarily the same, the one thing we hoped to achieve within writing this review was to encourage people to look beyond getting the lightest. Whilst carbon poles are great in this regard, alloy poles are massively underrated. They're still really light, but offer significantly more support and durability. As such, are arguably a better long term purchase.

That said, if the string snaps you're still stuffed, so bear with whilst I get an answer on that!

2
 greg_may_ 04 Jan 2022
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

I've had a set of the Alu. Distance Z for four years now, can't fault them. Work well, definitely take quite a bit of abuse. Used for running and walking. 

In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

I'm still regularly using the Distance Carbon FLZ-AR Trekking Poles that came with the BD Distance tent that I reviewed in 2020. It's now nearly two years since I got them and they are still going strong. If I'm not using the tent, I often think I should take my old z folding Alpkit poles instead but being a bit lazy, I love how light the BD ones are - particularly when popped in my pack when climbing.

https://www.ukclimbing.com/gear/camping/tents+bivvys/black_diamond_distance_tent_with_z-poles-12967

Post edited at 13:20
 Pedro50 04 Jan 2022
In reply to Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing:

Thanks for replying Rob.

The carbon fibre was pretty strong, I once stumbled sideways and whipped the pole in beside me, I saw it flex mightily and the save me from a fall unscathed. 

The handles appear to be glued to the poles so no access is possible to the upper end of the cord to replace it. It just seems a poor design, other outdoor companies are trying hard to make things repairable or serviceable. These are not cheap bits of kit. 

 PPP 04 Jan 2022
In reply to Rob Greenwood - UKClimbing:

Isn't carbon much more durable length-wise, but less durable than alloy when bending?

Saying that, the joints seem to be the first to cause a failure rather than the material itself.

 olddirtydoggy 04 Jan 2022
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

Bought 2 sets of ali FLZ poles for me and my wife last week. A bad knee forced the purchase and must admit the adjustable version was a must for what we use them for. Pretty robust build and the packability is excellent. Good write up and glad we got them now.

In reply to All:

A question for Z pole users, how to you store them on the outside of the rucsac?

I have some old Leki telescopic poles, and it's just a case of shortening them as far as they go, drop the point through a small loop on the base of the rucsac and fasten a velcro loop round the shaft and it's done.

The Z poles certainly fold up shorter, but you then have a bunch of sticks joined end to end that seems pretty unwieldy. You can usually clip the bottom 2 sections together using the cut-out on the basket, but there's still the handle section flopping about as you try and bundle it together to attach it to the rucsac.

Am I missing something or do I need a Z pole compatible rucsac? 

In reply to Ridge:

a Z pole compatible rucsac
 

You’ve spotted a gap in the market!

They come with a little Velcro strap to hold them together, if that matters. I just stash mine through the side compression straps if I’m not bothering to put them inside the pack.

In reply to Ridge:

When climbing I put them (and want them) inside the pack. It's normally easy to stick them in the side compression straps in most packs though, if you particularly want to.

Post edited at 21:40
In reply to TobyA and rsc:

It would appear to be the lack of side compression straps on my walking pack thats got me stumped! Maybe just stash them sideways under the lid.

 shantaram 04 Jan 2022
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

I’ve got a pair of BD Distance Carbon Z poles that I’ve been using heavily for the last  3 years for 4 season fell running plus a few long treks. I probably average 2000 miles per year in the mountains and they have taken a fair bit of abuse. The best lightweight poles I’ve ever used. Unfortunately the metal ring on the handle section that the locking button sits under has split, so the poles don’t lock securely now. 
However I’ve been so happy with these poles that I’ve just ordered myself another pair. 

In reply to Ridge:

I'm currently reviewing a light climbing pack with no side compression straps, it can be surprisingly annoying at times not having them can't it? 😆

 wbo2 05 Jan 2022
In reply to PPP: Speaking as an owner of some BD poles in Al, I would not expect them to be anygood at recovering from being bent, and in general Al is not durable when repeatedly bent (it cracks). Having said that mine are a good few years old now, but I climb with people with carbon poles that are even older

I'm surprised noones making poles in artisan steel , so we can appreciate the comfort of it's natural flex

Post edited at 08:18
 PPP 05 Jan 2022
In reply to wbo2:

My understanding is that aluminium will bend whereas carbon would shatter/crack. 
 

I have bent few aluminium poles over lifetime and also broke two BD Alpine Cork FLZ poles as they had a locking mechanism that unlocks itself, making the joint an obvious failure point. I gave up on them after ~18 months. 
 

Leki Micro Trail Pro (carbon), on the other hand, have been brilliant. I only use them for mountain/ultra running though. 

 wbo2 05 Jan 2022
In reply to PPP: i rather think an aluminium tube will 'pinch' or collapse,and also the outer edge will be strained, and be weakened 

CF will certainly bend mote than Al before unbending back, unless you bend it enough to snap it.

 Qwertilot 06 Jan 2022
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

I like the adjustable ones simply because I need the full 140cm. I don't think anyone does that long in fixed size/collapsible.

I had one or two break/seize up, although mostly after substantial use. Currently running through a pair of more normal Leki's, but likely to go back when needed.

The Leki's packed height, combined with mine, puts the ceiling on trains, shops etc at more risk than is really ideal

 DaveHK 06 Jan 2022
In reply to Pedro50:

> I had BD fixed length in carbon, much used and really pleased with them. The internal connecting cord snapped. BD said not repairable so for the sake of a 30p bit of cord the poles were scrap. Not really acceptable IMHO. 

Mine  cracked around the spring locking mechanism rather than cord but either way repair is not an option. Even without the environmental considerations something relatively expensive and relatively fragile should be reparable. I'm now using Mountain King carbon poles for this reason.

The wrist loops also wear very quickly on some BD poles and again, getting replacements can be very difficult. They used to be widely available but I've struggled to source them in the last few years. BD certain could do better at this.

Post edited at 12:24
 greg_may_ 06 Jan 2022
In reply to Ridge:

I just shove them in the pack! I do have a running pack (BD) with some integrated side sleeves that I stick them in, feel quite smug when i whip them out on the start of a climb...pain in the arse to put back in with the bag on though! 

 Harry Wilson 07 Jan 2022
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

I've been using adjustable LEKI carbon poles for some years and found them excellent.  I like the light weigh of them and have mostly treated them kindly! OK it's a faff to extend/retract/adjust but they are pretty rugged.  I snapped the bottom section of one  stumbling on a horrible loose scree in Nepal but was easily able to replace just the broken section on my return.

I looked to replace with BD but couldn't justify the cost.

 r0b 07 Jan 2022
In reply to Ridge:

If you've got a pack with wand pockets and side compression straps they go on the side just like any other type of pole. And when climbing I put them inside my pack.

Had Black Diamond Distance Z poles for 5 years, can't fault them. One has a slight curve after being bent in a fall in snow but it's hardly noticeable.

 jackth 10 Jan 2022
In reply to UKC/UKH Gear:

Good review. I've had the alu adjustable ones for nearly 4 years (didn't know the fixed ones existed). Unlike the reviewer though, I don't find I have to adjust them every time I get them out. Once I've adjusted them, they stay adjusted as you can still collapse and extend them like this. Admittedly it makes them slightly longer than they need be when collapsed but I've never had any issues stowing them on walking or running rucksacks. Perhaps I misread the review or am using older versions...

One thing to note: in nearly 4 years I have had *2 poles* snap on me (!), admittedly on some fairly rough terrain. As others have noted, BD said they were irreparable and that they wouldn't replace them for free, but they did offer to send used individual poles whenever they became available, since which 2 have, eventually. A mixed bag in terms of customer service then and certainly not terrible, although ultimately I still had to buy two pairs of the same poles in this period, which I did because I love them so much. And of course, the two broken poles had to be thrown away, which seems a shame! 

As others have noted, they do flex mightily on occasion but only to a point. NB. I use some battered old poles for fellwalking when weight is less of an issue. 

All in all, great poles, though I agree with others that snow baskets should come with 'em. 

Post edited at 12:59

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