GROUP TEST: Lightweight Compact Trekking Poles

added May/2017, see all Alpkit, C.A.M.P, Fizan, Leki or Black Diamond news & reviews
Reviewed by UKC/UKH Test Team
This review has been read 5,404 times

In search of a trekking pole that's as small and light as possible for carrying in a climbing pack, or your holiday hold baggage, we compare five adjustable-length models at a range of budgets.


From aiding balance on rough ground and taking strain off the legs, to helping prevent injury and even - arguably - to walk further and faster, trekking poles offer many benefits. For winter climbing, walk-ins to summer mountain crags and heavy backpacking trips they are a worthwhile investment. But there are disadvantages too - chiefly their weight and size when carried on or in a pack.

The good news is that poles have become less of a burden, as manufacturers turn to lightweight materials such as carbon fibre, and compact folding designs that collapse to roughly half the length of an old fashioned telescopic model. Stick them in the pack when climbing and you barely know they're there.

photo
Lightweight & compact poles are best for climbing, mountaineering & travelling
© Dan Bailey

Here we compare five adjustable-length poles at the lighter, more compact end of the scale. From weight and collapsed length to durability and price, the differences between them reflect the fact that any design is a bit of a compromise. There is no clear winner, but our ratings in the summary table should help you pick the pole that best matches your needs.

Overall summary

Make and model

Ratings

Alpkit

Compact Ultra

Price: £34 (pair)

Weight: 512g

Collapsed size: 38cm

Made from: aluminium

Compact Ultra prod shot, 24 kb

Weight

1.5 / 5

Collapsed size

4 / 5

Handle

0.2 / 5

Durability

4 / 5

Value

3.8 / 5

Overall

2.5 / 5

C.A.M.P

Sky Carbon

Price: £85 (pair)

Weight: 376g (pair)

Collapsed size: 36cm

Made from: carbon fibre and aluminium

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large, 14 kb

CAMP table final, 51 kb

Weight

4.9 / 5

Collapsed size

5 / 5

Handle

3 / 5

Durability

2 / 5

Value

4.5 / 5

Overall

4 / 5

Fizan

Compact

Price: £55 (pair)

Weight: 356g (pair)

Collapsed size: 58cm

Made from: aluminium

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large, 14 kb

Fizan table final, 14 kb

Weight

5 / 5

Collapsed size

1 / 5

Handle

3.5 / 5

Durability

5 / 5

Value

5 / 5

Overall

4 / 5

Leki

Micro Vario Carbon

Price: £144.95 (pair)

Weight: 454g (pair)

Collapsed size: 37.5cm

Made from: carbon fibre

Best in Test Highly Recommended Large, 14 kb

Leki table, 19 kb

Weight

3.5 / 5

Collapsed size

4.5 / 5

Handle

4.5 / 5

Durability

4 / 5

Value

2 / 5

Overall

4 / 5

Black Diamond

Distance Carbon FLZ

Price: £140 (pair)

Weight: 354g (pair)

Collapsed size: 37cm

Made from: carbon fibre

BD table, 18 kb

Weight

5 / 5

Collapsed size

5 / 5

Handle

3.2 / 5

Durability

2.5 / 5

Value

2 / 5

Overall

3.5 / 5

Alpkit Compact Ultra £34

Trying out the Compact Ultra in the Northwest Highlands, 176 kbTrying out the Compact Ultra in the Northwest Highlands
© Dan Bailey

Handle and leash

In a word: awful. Too thin for our reviewer (with a fairly average sized man's hand) to comfortably grip, and not well shaped to sit nicely in the hand, the nordic walking-style handle of the Compact Ultra is not a selling point. The cork insert feels nice to the touch and reasonably non-sweaty, but the plastic moulding that makes up a large part of the handle is hard, slick when sweaty, and in our sample pair the finish is poor, with some rough moulding that we've had to buff with sandpaper. With no rounded pommel, you can't rest your hand on top of the handle either - when descending, for instance.

Just below the handle, the metal of the shaft has been left exposed - there's no attempt at a lower grip. This is cold on the hands, particularly in wintry weather. If, like many of us, you tend to move your hand up and down the pole as the ground changes beneath, then you could add your own tape grip. A few extra wraps around the handle itself might make it easier to hold too, but it'd become a bit of a bodge.

Given the inadequate grips, wrist loops are necessary in order to get full control and efficiency out of these poles; yet the nordic walking-style straps on the Compact Ultra are if anything worse than its handle! These comprise a neoprene-and-webbing harness into which you have to strap your hands using velcro tabs, a procedure that's fiddly to achieve and impossible to extract yourself from quickly (in the event of a fall for instance; or just whenever you need your hands for something else). When fitted, the straps become uncomfortable after only a short time, with a plastic buckle that digs into the back of the hand. Furthermore, they would not fit anyone with larger than average hands, and are way too small to use wearing gloves. Lastly, the webbing and neoprene have a cheap poor quality feel. Unsurprisingly, we gave up on the wrist loops after only one walk, and cut them off.

We don't like the handles or leashes, 90 kbWe don't like the handles or leashes
© Dan Bailey

Compact Ultra, folded, 231 kbCompact Ultra, folded
© Dan Bailey

Mechanism

The pole is made up of five short sections, with a simple and effective locking mechanism. Corded together with a tough plastic-coated internal wire, the lower four sections fit together tent pole-style, and are held rigid with a single sprung snap lock housed in the bottom section (most other designs put the snap lock towards the top). The lower part then telescopes into the single upper handle section, where the one length-adjusting clamp is located. This external clip is easy to use, less prone to dirt ingress and slippage than a traditional internal twist-lock mechanism, and after several months of use it seems suitably durable.

Weight and robustness

While carbon fibre predominates in this test, Alpkit have gone here with old fashioned aluminium. For a pole of equivalent diameter this is both heavier than carbon, and significantly more durable. The strength is an obvious advantage, particularly in winter when poles tend to get the most abuse. As a result the Compact Ultra are one of the tougher poles in this review, and we've certainly not felt a need to treat them with kid gloves in the way that you do with lightweight carbon alternatives. That extra weight is of course the downside. At 512g a pair (and that's with the straps already cut off) these are by a considerable margin the heaviest poles in this review. We can't honestly say they feel unduly massive in use, but the extra weight is certainly noticeable, and would be a consideration if you intend to carry the poles a lot - when climbing for instance. Stronger yet heavier, or lighter but less durable? You pays your money - very little in this case - and takes your choice.

Size range and folded length

Ranging in usable length from 110-130cm, the Compact Ultra best suits small-to-average height folk; our six-foot reviewer tends to use poles at about 125-130cm in length, for instance. It's a sensible size range from Alpkit, though for walking steeply downhill an extra 5cm or so would not go amiss - especially since you can't rest a hand on top of the handle to maximise the available length.

With a collapsed length of 38cm, the Compact Ultra compares well with short poles several times its price. At this length they are easily stowed in your climbing pack once you've finished with them on the walk-in, or strapped unobtrusively to the side of a trekking pack. It's a small thing, and something you could easily add to any model yourself, but for holding the poles neat when folded, we like the little velcro retaining straps that come with the Compact Ultra.

Baskets

Made of robust-feeling rubber, the screw-on baskets supplied by Alpkit are on the small side for use on soft winter snow, but a reasonable size at other times of the year.

Summary

It may be heavy, but the Compact Ultra is redeemed by its durability and ultra-competitive price. At this budget the pole section itself is hard to fault, but it's a shame the handle and wrist loop are so awful, and for this reason we've not awarded it the highest value rating despite it being the cheapest model on test.

Alpkit say:

A pair of compact aluminium trekking poles which packs down almost to the length of a school ruler!

The lower sections fit together just like a tent pole, you then pull out the lower section which tightens the internal cable and locks tight with a push button lock. The length of the pole is adjusted by sliding the handle section up and down and is secured into place with a single easy operation snap lock. As there is just one locking mechanism it is easier to maintain.

The Compact Ultras break down to a stumpy 38cm for stashing onto a daypack or even stashing into your hold luggage.

At the business end of the pole the hard tungsten tip provides great grip as well as ensuring longevity, while for more delicate terrains we provide a rubber tip protector. A screw fit rubber basket helps stop you pushing through boggy ground or even getting your poles trapped between rocks.

Alpkit info section, 47 kb

  • Weight (pair): 512g (our measure)
  • Folded length: 38cm
  • Size range: 110 -130cm
  • 5 section aluminium construction
  • Durable tungsten tip
  • Continuous internal wire tensioner and snap lock
  • Screw-on rubber basket

For more info see alpkit.com

C.A.M.P Sky Carbon £85

Sky Carbon  - perhaps a bit delicate for the rigour of Scottish winter, but light and compact for climbing, 178 kbSky Carbon - perhaps a bit delicate for the rigour of Scottish winter, but light and compact for climbing
© Dan Bailey

Handle and leash

The foam handles are a nice texture to grip, soft enough for comfort without being too spongy. With a fairly large all-foam 'pommel', it's possible to rest a hand on top of the pole when descending. C.A.M.P describe the handle as ergonomic, but in comparison to some they feel pretty basic. Because - unlike the Black Diamond, Leki and Fizan models - they lack any kind of grip rest to support the base of the hand, when you're not relying on the wrist strap you have to grip fairly hard, which after a long day could lead to tired hands. There is no secondary grip below the main handle, so in winter in particular the DIY addition of some extra tape around the exposed shaft might be welcome for non-wristloop-wearers. If you are a fan of wrist leashes then the loops supplied here are excellent, being comfortably padded and easily adjusted.

Mechanism

In order to be as short as possible when collapsed, these poles come in five sections. The upper three are telescopic, sliding into one another, while the lower two pieces are corded. Rather like a washing line, this cord is plastic coated for strength. Assembling the pole is very quick and easy: as you slide the lowest of the telescopic sections down, the two corded pieces automatically pop into position. This fixed length of pole locks in place via a little sprung button. The length of the whole pole can then be adjusted by sliding the top two telescopic sections, which lock via a single external plastic clip, the clip being robust and easy to use when wearing gloves.

photo
Sky Carbon in Ardgour
© Dan Bailey

photo
Collapsed, with cams for scale
© Dan Bailey

Weight and robustness

We reviewed the Sky Carbon and its tougher (heavier) counterpart the Sonic Alu in 2016 (see here). To save weight the Sky Carbon is built largely of carbon fibre - we make them 376g for the pair, including wrist straps and small baskets, which makes these the third lightest poles on review (and there's really not much in it). Narrow gauge tubing is employed throughout the pole's length. These are the thinnest poles our reviewer has used, and as a result there's a considerable flex to the shaft. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but actually gives you a nice springy feel when you're powering along, and a bit of shock absorption when planting the tips. However carbon fibre poles are not known for their longevity, so on the Sky Carbon C.A.M.P have sensibly used harder-wearing aluminium tubing for the bottom section, the thinnest point and the one most vulnerable to damage. Still, for heavy winter abuse you should expect this pole to have a limited lifespan, something we recently managed to prove by stumbling awkwardly in deep snow and snapping one. The aluminium bottom section survived fine: it was the lowest carbon link that took the hit. In hindsight we'd save the Sky Carbon for lighter summer use, which tends to be easier on your kit, and take the all-aluminium Sonic Alu (448g/pair) on gnarlier winter days. This unfortunate incident aside - a risk you'd run with with any carbon pole - both versions have a well-built feel.

Size range and folded length

The length can be quickly and easily adjusted from a minimum of 115cm to a max of 135cm. This makes them a little longer than most of the poles on test, both at the lower and the upper end of their range. You'd have to be very tall to routinely use the full 135cm length on level ground, but for descending very steep ground it is a useful length, albeit that the pole extended this far does become rather more vulnerable to damage. Meanwhile for shorter users, the minimum length of 115cm might prove a bit much. When collapsed, the Sky Carbon's 36cm is the shortest in the review, making these a really compact model that stows easily in even a small day pack.

Baskets

Sky Carbon poles come in their own mesh bag for storage and transit. As standard you get rubber ferrules that slip over the tips, and elastic loops for holding everything together when the poles are folded. In addition C.A.M.P generously supply three sizes of basket - tiny for weight saving, medium for everyday hillwalking use, and large for snowy conditions. Top marks there!

Summary

Superbly lightweight, and tiny when collapsed, the Sky Carbon are the most compact and one of the lightest poles in this review. The price is reasonable and the quality is high, but if you want them to last then the very thin carbon fibre tubing does require gentle handling. For harder use it may be worth considering C.A.M.P's slightly heavier aluminium alternative.

C.A.M.P say:

These ultralight, foldable trekking poles pack down to just 36cm in length and come with a handy storage bag. The ergonomic handles with adjustable leashes guarantee comfort with gloves or bare hands in all conditions.

The inner cord is plastic coated for fluid assembly and disassembly and features a micro-adjustable tensioning system to guarantee a tight assembly with each use. The upper segment features a functional locking system that allows the poles to be adjusted from 115 to 135cm with ease and locked securely in position. For the Sky Carbon poles, carbon fibre is used in the 4 upper segments for lightweight rigidity and aluminium is used in the lower segment for critical strength where the poles contact the ground.

With three baskets to suit all conditions and durable carbide tips, these poles are the perfect companion for everything from trail running, hiking or mountaineering.

  • Weight (pair): 376g (our measure)
  • Folded length: 36cm
  • Size range: 115 - 135cm

CAMP table final, 51 kb

  • Pole Material: Carbon Fibre & 7075 Aluminium
  • Segments: 5
  • Tip Material: Carbide
  • Baskets: 35, 50, 85 mm

For more info see camp.it

Fizan Compact £55

Out in the snowy Peak District with the Fizan Compact poles, 160 kbOut in the snowy Peak District with the Fizan Compact poles
© Toby Archer

Handle and Leash

Fizan have gone for a simple lightweight classic ski pole style handle and leash. The part you grip is pleasant firm EVA foam, not too sweaty in summer, and it doesn’t seem to freeze up too readily in winter either. With a decent sized grip rest, holding these poles without using the wrist loop is relatively easy on the hands, while the large plastic top of the handle makes a good hand rest when descending (for those who like that). The one drawback is the lack of any secondary grip below the main handle, which makes for cold hands on the aluminium shaft; a few turns of tape would be a reasonable DIY solution. The strap is a simple hand loop, with easy adjustment and comfortable neoprene padding.

Mechanism

These are traditional three-piece telescopic poles, the only non-folding model on test. Uniquely in this line-up, the tightening mechanism is the old fashioned internal “twist to tighten” type: a plastic expander is mounted on a threaded spike on the top of each of the lower two sections of the pole. Inside the next bit of pole, this expands when twisted and grips the pole. This has worked flawlessly so far. We have had problems with this style of tightener in the past, but only on cheap poles - in our experience, decent quality twistlock mechanisms can last years or even decades. The Fizan mechanism certainly gives the impresison of being well made and should last well; they just need a bit of TLC such as keeping them free of grit, and making sure the sections dry out properly after a wet day.

photo
Fizan Compact, extended
© Toby Archer

photo
Their collapsed length is longer than the others on test
© Toby Archer

Weight and robustness

Fizan quote a figure of 158g per pole, claiming these to be the world's lightest three-part aluminium trekking pole. We make them 178g per pole (with basket fitted), or 356g per pair. Whatever the exact figure the Fizan Compacts are wonderfully light, lighter even than all but one of the carbon fibre poles in this review. Given that they are made out of 7001 aluminium, rather than carbon fibre, that is quite an achievement. In comparison to other aluminium poles, they feel remarkably light. Obviously there must be some tradeoff in robustness in comparison to heavier poles, but perhaps not so much as you'd get with a carbon fibre equivalent. Weight has been saved by not having bulky locking mechanisms, complicated handles or plastic endings to each tube. The metal itself doesn’t seem particularly thin. You can break most things if you try hard enough, but so far the Fizans have coped admirably with all we’ve thrown at them, including walk-ins to winter routes over scree fields and snow covered bog. In purely strength-to-weight terms, they have to be considered the best in this review.

Size range and folded length

The poles extend up to 132cm, which is long enough for pretty tall people. When collapsed, this telescopic style pole is 58cm. This is significantly longer than all of the other folding-style poles on review here, but shorter than many other three piece telescopic poles; and a crucial difference with their collapsible rivals is that the Compacts are usable right down to the lower limit of their range, which is good news for kids or smaller adults. When collapsed, they fit reasonably neatly on the side of a day pack, but for climbing we tend to prefer putting them inside the pack, which means pulling them apart into three pieces. This works fine with a little 30 litre pack, though it's a bit more faffy than just collapsing a pair of folding poles. Theoretically, doing this could lead to the expander widgets getting lost but it does not seem to be be a real problem. Overall then, the Compacts are a lot less compact than their rivals; but if you like the simplicity of this old fashioned telescopic design then this need not be a deal breaker.

Baskets

The poles come with some tiny baskets which are not much use for any soft ground; they also have some slightly bigger baskets which we have used more. They are not exactly ski baskets, and not ideal in deep snow, but they do stop the poles going as far into mud and bog. A third larger set would have made sense for winter use.

Summary

At first glance these are a rather traditional, three piece, screw to tighten, aluminium pole; but there's more to it than that. They may not collapse as short as the rest, and they aren't made of snazzy carbon fibre, but Fizan have stripped away everything unnecessary to create the second lightest poles on test. At this price and quality they represent unbeatable value!

Fizan say:

The Fizan Compact is the world's lightest aluminium 3-section telescopic trekking pole weighing in at only 158g each [nb. we say 178g]. It packs down to just 58cm and has a maximum length of 132cm. The tough 7001 aluminium sections and carbide tip stand up to the toughest conditions whilst the EVA handle and neoprene strap make for a comfortable and secure grip. With two baskets and a rubber tip, they’re perfect for any terrain.

Fizan Compact prod shot, 49 kb

  • Weight (pair): 356g (our measure)
  • Size range: 58 - 132cm
  • 7001 aluminium 3 Sections (17 / 16 / 14mm)
  • Flexy locking system
  • Moulded EVA grip
  • Adjustable padded neoprene strap
  • Carbide tip
  • 50mm & 35mm baskets
  • Rubber pavement tip

For more info see fizan.it

Leki Micro Vario Carbon £144.95

Mammut Rime Pro jacket, 210 kbThe Leki Vario Carbon on steep rocky terrain on Kinder

Handle and leash

The handle is described as 'edgeless and ultralight Aergon Thermo grip for a comfortable fit in every hand'. This manifests as a padded foam-style grip for the main part, with raised sections to locate fingers and the base of the hand, and a plastic head with a rubber top. It is all smoothly aligned, hence 'edgeless'. The fit for our reviewer's above average-sized hands is extremley comfortable and solid. The bulbous egg-shaped top section also gives an alternative grip method for those who like holding their poles from above - sometimes useful on descents. In addition, Leki have included extra foam padding below the handle, which is great in particular for people who don't use their leashes and like to be able to move their grip up and down the pole. Top marks for the handle.

The leash system is a thin nylon fabric-style strap (not the more conventional webbing) described as ultra-lightweight, breathable and fast drying. It has a slightly unobvious adjustment system which involves pulling the strap upwards with some force in order to release the strap locking. Some indication on the strap adjustment plastic lock would be beneficial here since you have to pull it quite hard which makes you think it isn't the correct way to adjust. For those who use their straps simply as a loop around the wrist so that you don't drop the pole, these are ideal straps since they are light enough to keep out of the way and easy to thread when you start using the poles. If you prefer to use the strap actively inside the palm of your hand as extra push down support, then they are slightly less good. They are a little awkward to get properly aligned and untwisted and the edges do end up cutting slightly into the skin if you aren't wearing gloves. It is a minor issue, but people who are very keen on actively using straps to their maximum when walking may prefer slightly thicker, better-padded leashes.

Leki Micro Vario Carbon Speedclip2 system, 86 kbThe Speedlock 2 system

Leki Micro Vario Carbon and bag, 185 kb

Mechanism

The poles consist of five sections which compress and fold into three sections with a tidy length of 37.5cm. The lower four sections are joined by a tough plastic-coated cable with the top two sections retracting inside the handle. Setting up is a straightforward procedure by simply pulling the bottom three sections down until the button clicks on the fourth section. The handle and the top section can then be adjusted using a simple slider system and a locking clip dubbed 'Speedlock 2'. As with the other external clips in this review, the strength of the lock can be fine-tuned using a bike wheel-type twist mechanism.

These are some of the easiest poles we have used to set up and adjust quickly. The feel of the pole as everything clicks into place is of a quality well-designed product with absolutely no rattle on the poles and an extremely ridgid feel. We had several occurances during testing of the lower section of the poles popping (ie. the sections collapse as the button slips in) when used slightly aggressively. Having contacted Leki we were informed that this was a known problem on the early production models and the angle and length of the button has now been changed. We can't comment on whether this new system works but it does sound like such an adjustment would do the trick.

Weight and robustness

At 454g for the pair, these are not the lightest of carbon poles, but we feel certain that (in relative terms) they make up for this in robustness. As mentioned, once set up they form an incredibly solid feeling ridged pole with no rattle. There is some minimal flex which you do need for a bit of suspension and give if the bottom of the poles get stuck somewhere as you move forward. In the period of testing we have used them quite aggressively on steep and rough terrain and they feel as good now as when new. For poles of this price, this is to be expected for sure - but if treated right, they certainly inspire confidence that they will still be in good shape in a few year's time.

Size range and folded length

The usable size range is from 110cm to 130cm which is fairly standard. Those taller than 6 feet/180cm may wish for an extra 5cm when descending but the afforementioned egg-shaped handle tops do allow you to grab them from above and gain some extra reach on steep ground. They fold down to a compact 37.5cm long and come with a nice red carrying bag and stoppers for the tips so that you can easily include them in your luggage without compromising the bag fabric, or stash them away in or on your pack after the walk-in.

Baskets

They come with only one fixed basket described as a Nordic Walking basket, although they are removable so you could use other baskets if they were similar internal diameter. For a pole of this quality, an extra wide wet ground or soft snow basket would have been nice. You can buy padded tip covers for solid ground but these are not included with the poles; given the price tag, all the extras should arguably have come as standard.

Summary

Superb and well-designed poles with very good handles and reasonable straps, an exceptionally solid feel (for carbon fibre) and a brilliantly designed mechanism. On the downside they come with a very high price tag, the thin straps may not be to everyone's liking and the omission of any additional baskets is ungenerous.

Leki say:

With your foldable carbon companion, you're ready for any terrain.

Thanks to the push-button release mechanism, you can assemble and disassemble it at lightning speed and it even fits in your hand luggage due to its small pack size.

  • Weight (pair): 454g (our measure)
  • Folded length: 37.5cm
  • Size range: 110 - 130cm
  • 5 section carbon construction
  • Continuous internal wire tensioner and Speedlock 2 system
  • Single removeable basket
  • Carrying bag

For more info see leki.com

Leki table, 19 kb

Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ £140

The tiny fixed baskets aren't ideal for use in snow, unless it's frozen hard, 174 kbThe tiny fixed baskets aren't ideal for use in snow, unless it's frozen hard
© Dan Bailey

Handle and leash

With a grip-friendly slightly curved shape, and a pronounced handrest, the Distance Carbon FLZ poles feel natural in the hand. Their EVA foam has a good density, neither too hard nor too soft, and doesnt seem to get too sweaty. For resting your hand on when descending steep slopes, the top of the handle is soft foam too. Below the grip rest is a secondary grip for those who like to move their hands around the pole; this is a welcome addition, though an extra couple of cm length would have been good. The foam of the main handle is ridged for grip and coolness - however, with their square-angled edges we find those ridges do feel a little harsh on the skin after a few hours of use. Another downside is the small diameter of the handle; if you've got large hands you'll find it harder work to hold onto.

If you like to use wrist straps then these unfussy leashes are good. Instead of the standard fiddly mechanism housed inside the handle, they are just stitched onto a loop of cord. Length adjustment is via a simple velcro tab, which is easier to operate than the straps you find on the majority of poles. The open weave of the webbing helps keep it unsweaty. Our only complaint is that, in the absence of any padding, the wide strap does tend to dig into your hand a bit after a few hours of use.

Mechanism

For compactness the Distance Carbon FLZ comes in five parts, the same basic arrangement shared by all the folding models in this test (the exception being the all-telescopic Fizan). The top sections are telescopic, while the bottom sections are strung together for folding. Deploying the poles is very easy - you just pull the lower sections away from the handle until they click into place. The connecting cord is plastic-coated for durability, and makes use of 'Speed Cone technology' - a fancy way to describe the cone-shaped arrangement that helps guide each section into place. Pole length is then adjusted via the single external 'FlickLock' mechanism, which is again the same basic design shared by all the folding poles in this review. Black Diamond's version is compact, sturdy and easy to operate wearing gloves.

photo
Distance Carbon FLZ
© Dan Bailey

photo
Distance Carbon FLZ, folded
© Dan Bailey

Size range and folded length

The Distance Carbon FLZ comes in a choice of three usable lengths: 95-110cm (folded length 34cm), 105-125cm (37cm) or 120-140cm (40cm); we went for the medium size. Compared to the other poles on test, the medium size has a slightly shorter maximum length, which in part accounts for its lighter overall weight (see below). When walking on the flat our six-foot reviewer finds this long enough at full 125cm extension, but a few cm more would occasionally be nice when descending very steep slopes. The fact that you can rest a hand on top of the pole does somewhat mitigate for the shortfall. The folded length of the medium sized pole is a very respectable 37cm, just a fraction longer than the shortest in the review. This makes them highly packable for stowing in your luggage when travelling, or for slipping into a small climbing sack.

Weight and robustness

At only 177g apiece (354g the pair), our medium-length Distance Carbon FLZs are the lightest poles in this review, just undercutting the Fizans. Shorter people could save a fraction more weight still with the smaller version (345g), while for the very tall the longer model weighs 365g - which for an extra 15cm length seems fair enough. Whichever you go for, this pole feels incredibly light in the hand. A lightweight handle and leash, tiny baskets and a relatively small locking mechanism all contribute to its lightness, but perhaps the biggest factor is the all-carbon construction. There is no getting away from the fact that carbon fibre tubing is more delicate than aluminium, and while the sections on the Distance Carbon FLZ are noticeably thicker than those of the C.A.M.P, and build quality is equally good, there is a certain delicate feel to the pole. Several reviews online mention damage to the carbon shaft at the point of the spring-loaded clip, and after several months of not particularly kid-glove treatment there are signs of wear here on one of our pair. It may be super light, but this is not a model we would pick for long term heavy abuse. Black Diamond do make aluminium alternatives.

Baskets

These poles do not come with the standard removable/replaceable rubber basket. Instead it is a tiny rigid plastic version that's permanently fixed to the bottom of the pole. Yes this helps keep the weight and packed size down, but on the downside being so small the basket does not work well in snow or boggy ground, when the tips tend to sink in too far. Though we have used them in winter this definitely does limit the pole's use in softer snow. Instead of removable baskets you get replaceable tips - either the standard hard carbide, or a soft rubber alternative. The rubber tips stand in place of the usual much bigger slip-on rubber caps, but unless you're walking all the time on tarmac (in which case a pole is redundant) a rubber end of whatever sort is unlikely to see the light of day unless you're packing the poles in a bag to travel. Giving you replaceable tips instead of a choice of basket sizes is a curious decision from Black Diamond.

Summary

The lightest poles on test, and among the most compact when collapsed, the Distance Carbon FLZ are a good bet if you're saving every last gram. The handle and leash are good, if not great, and build quality is decent too, but this is not the most durable model - which at this price is quite a consideration.

Black Diamond say:

When the ounces matter on light and fast hikes or mountain runs, the lightweight, highly adaptable Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ delivers 100% carbon construction, FlickLock adjustability and a three-section foldable shaft. Combined with interchangeable, non-scarring Tech Tips and a lightweight EVA foam grip, your grasp and traction will be solid.

  • Weight (pair): 354g (our measure, medium size)
  • Folded length: 37cm (medium size)
  • Size range: 95-110cm, 105-125cm or 120-140cm
  • Lightweight, EVA foam grip with breathable, moisture-wicking grip
  • Non-slip EVA foam mini-grip extension
  • Three-section foldable shaft with speed cone deployment and FlickLock adjustability
  • 100% carbon fiber construction
  • Interchangeable, non-scarring rubber and carbide tips
  • Stopper basket with shaft catcher to secure folded sections

BD table, 18 kb

For more info see eu.blackdiamondequipment.com

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