Black Diamond Distance FL Z-Poles
It’s not my age; it’s my mileage. After many years of hiking, my knees and hips feel tired on occasion, particularly when I trek up or down something steep. But I love to explore the trails near the places I go camping, for the exercise, for the scenery, and for the wild things I see. I first tried trekking poles while writing No. 1 of five guidebooks, and found them to be little more than something extra to carry, drop, then forget and go back for, whenever I took a photograph. But I justified their use for the upper body workout, to ease the stress on my joints and to help me balance while rock hopping across streams. When I needed to shed gear from my pack, my poles were the first to get left in the car. But no more.
The Black Diamond Distance FL Z-Poles are feather-light, 11.6 ounces to 12.7 ounces depending on the size. They’re also compact and easy to stow in their nylon-mesh storage sack. The first trip with them was on a muddy hike in Vermont en route to Stratton Mountain’s historic fire tower. Since then, we’ve climbed 4,000-footers in the Adirondacks and wandered through miles of New Hampshire woodlands. The Distance FL’s are the middle model of three in the new Z-pole line. Black Diamond designed them for fast-packing, trail running and endurance racing, but they are perfect for any hiker who wants to be more sure-footed and who cares about gear weight.
The Flex Z poles are so named because they fold into a “Z”. Each of the three lengths of the “Z” are 14 inches long, making this pole one of the most compact I’ve carried. The corners of the “Z” are connected by rubber joints that look like a cone with an elongated point that attaches inside the next higher piece of aluminum shaft. The only section of pole that slides inside another is very short, just below the grip.
It takes a little muscle to pull the grip section far enough out of the top length of shaft to allow a small push-button on the top shaft section to pop up. This clever feature automatically pulls together and aligns the rest of the pole. Once the pole is straight, positioning the FlickLock to get the pole at just the right length for you within its 20 centimeters of adjustability is easy, and then closing the lever secures it for weight-bearing. To collapse the Black Diamond Distance FL Z-Poles, you open the Flicklock lever, compress the button, pull it apart and fold the pole back into a Z. Black Diamond’s FlickLock is not new. I first tested it almost a decade ago, and I’ve always found it simpler and more reliable than most twist-lock systems on other trekking poles.
The Black Diamond Distance FL Z-Poles have light EVA foam grips with adjustable straps that breathe well in my bare hands. They come with interchangeable rubber and carbide tips. They are also available in four sizes which don’t overlap. If you like to change your pole length for different types of terrain, and you’re at the upper or lower end of a particular pole’s size, the adjustability will be more limited than with other trekking poles, but this was not a factor for me. MSRP: $119.95.
Black Diamond, 801-278-5533, www.BlackDiamondEquipment.com.