Weighing in at a mere 10 ounces, the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z wins our Top Pick for Best Lightweight pole. Although they are not as robust or durable as the other z-style poles in our review, they surprised us with their durability, especially when you consider the weight. For users who want the lightest poles on the market for fast uphill travel or for approaches to technical climbs, these are the best poles out there. However, for the weight savings, you'll sacrifice adjustability and durability. They come in four sizes (100 cm, 110 cm, 120 cm, 130 cm), which are sufficient for a variety of hikers.
Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Review
Compare prices at 3 resellers Pros: Super lightweight, packable, and is surprisingly durable
Cons: Only one basket and tip type, non-adjustable
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Our Analysis and Test Results
With a fixed length and carbon construction, this pole is the lightest and smallest in our review. Not surprisingly, they don't score well in adjustability but still score highly in durability, versatility, and comfort.
The BD Distance Carbon Z features ribbed foam grips that are shared by other BD foam gripped poles. We found these grips to be relatively comfortable, but nothing special. The foam wicks away sweat, and the ribbed construction allows some airflow. In general, we prefer cork grips, but foam allows these poles to shave some weight. Carbon fiber shafts absorb more shock than aluminum shafts, and although the difference isn't always obvious, we noticed it.
We found these to be slightly more comfortable than the traditional foam grips found on many trekking poles. Although they aren't as comfortable as cork grips, we appreciated how comfortable they were after many days of use, especially considering their weight. The wrist strap is made of thin fabric and isn't as comfortable as thicker padded wrist straps, but again, for the weight, they are just fine. These straps are not comfortable for users expecting to carry a heavy pack.
Locking and Adjustability
The length of the Distance Carbon Z is not adjustable, which will immediately dissuade some hikers. That said, once we sized the pole correctly, we enjoyed the light weight afforded by leaving out an adjustment mechanism. For light use like mountain running and ultralight backpacking, the lack of length adjustability is not a problem. BD offers four sizes (100 cm, 110 cm, 120 cm, and 130 cm) to fit a variety of hikers.
The locking mechanism is a very secure push-button near the top of the pole. This makes the pole easy to extend and provides a secure lock, but it is slightly trickier to disassemble if you are wearing gloves. Furthermore, the velcro wrist strap adjustment is limited by a very thin and short section of velcro that prevents a wide range of adjustment. For most hand sizes, it will be fine. On the whole, these poles lock well, but their adjustability is the only major downside.
Weight is the metric where this product really shines. The pair comes in at 10 ounces, which is one of the lightest poles we've ever tested. Every feature of this pole is designed to shave grams, but somehow, none of the other metrics suffered too badly. This pole is lighter than other options by at least two ounces, which might not be important to most hikers, but to the dedicated few who cut the tags off their clothes to save weight, it matters.
Ultralight hikers and backpackers rejoice, this pole is the answer to your prayers. Some womens' specific poles come close to being as light as these poles, but since they come in small sizes, both men and women will find correct size options in these poles.
If you are dubious about the lightweight revolution, but are interested in the energy savings (and the resulting increase in enjoyment) that lightweight gear might provide, we highly recommend these poles. If you ever plan on carrying your poles on your pack instead of in your hands, you will immediately appreciate their light weight.
The Distance Carbon Z, like most of the tent style poles, dominates the packability metric.
However, with most of the tent style poles, there isn't a massive difference in the overall packed length of the tent style poles that we tested.
These poles pack down to 13, 14, 16, 0r 17 inches, depending on the length you choose. This is plenty small to disappear onto the side of a day pack or into a climbing pack after a long approach. They will also fit effortlessly into luggage, and are a great option for intercontinental travelers and backpackers wandering from country to country.
Generally speaking, when cutting weight, you usually sacrifice durability. However, the Distance Carbon Z was surprisingly durable in our tests. BD keeps improving the strength of the pole's joints, which we found to be adequate for most uses.
Although we still don't think you should use them for heavy duty trekking and bushwhacking, these poles will hold up most on-trail usage. If you're hard on your poles, we would suggest a beefier pole. Even the aluminum version of this pole feels a little stronger. If you are carrying a heavy backpack or expect lots of talus and loose terrain, you might consider getting a slightly heavier pole. That said, for most uses, these poles are plenty durable.
The Distance Carbon Z is a decently versatile pole. It is compatible with BD's snow baskets, and comes with both rubber and carbide tips. Those features make these poles versatile enough for mountain running and fast hiking through most of the year. They are not strong enough for the heaviest backpacking and trekking, and shouldn't be used for skiing or splitboarding.
The majority of users need poles that will perform well on the trail, for both day hikes and overnight missions. These poles perform well in those uses. They are also perfectly geared towards the ultralight and long-distance mountain runner, and many alpine climbers use them when carrying up and over technical climbing routes.
These poles aren't cheap. They cost the same as other high-performance heavy-duty trekking poles, and yet provide less versatility. However, if counting ounces or packability is important to you, then these are worth the money. BD has a great warranty policy, making these poles a safe investment. If you like these poles but don't need to save the extra few ounces, there are other less expensive and more durable poles out there.
Without a doubt, our testers believe that these are one of the best ultralight poles on the market. They weigh 10 ounces, are surprisingly durable, and will serve most 3 season on-trail hikers well. If you fall into the niche user groups of ultralight backpacker, mountain runner, or alpine climber, these poles should be at the top of your list. They easily win our Top Pick award for Lightweight Poles.
Dream Backpacking Gear List
The Distance Carbon Z Poles are one of many items featured in our Dream Backpacking Gear List. Check it out to see other top-tier "dream" backpacking items.
— Graham Williams and Ian Nicholson