Before I came across the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z trekking poles, I didn't even know I needed them. It was on a 6-hour hill run that I got the opportunity to try out my friend's poles, and during the first hours I didn't feel the need for using them — I just ran up and down that ski slope quite effortlessly. But then during the last hour, when I was getting tired and a bit fed up with the whole idea of up-and-down-up-and-down, I tried the trekking poles on a long steep uphill, and suddenly felt like I got a new and fresh body. The poles offered great support to help me move efficiently uphill and I felt fast!
So, here goes my review of the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z trekking poles — a piece of gear that works just the way it’s intended to.
With the increased interest in skyrunning and long ultra-trail runs with many meters of ascent, there is also a new and a growing interest for using trekking poles. During UTMB, a majority of the runners used trekking poles, including the winners Xavier Thevenard and Nathalie Mauclair.
Hey, people even used the ones that are originally made for cross-country skiing, but compared to using your old skiing poles, the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z give you a whole other high-tech experience. They're ideal for all trailrunning, fastpacking and day-hikes when you want maximum support but a minimum of added weight.
What feels great about this product
First of all, they’re extremely lightweight. Made out of carbon fibre, they are the lightest series in the range of different trekking pole models that Black Diamond offers. A pair in my size (110 cm) weighs in at just 285 grams and given the comfort and support they bring on ultra-long trail runs, they’re well worth that little extra weight. This particular model comes in a couple of different fixed sizes, depending on your height, and this means they’re non-adjustable.
The models that are adjustable weighs more (about 70 grams extra per pair), and the argument for choosing one of those would be to be able to adjust them for different kinds of angles of the uphill, and for running downhill (i.e. if you’re walking on a very steep uphill, you might want a shorter pole than if the hill isn’t that super steep or if you’re running downhill). I’ve never felt the need to adjust my poles, so I’d pick the ones with fixed size any day of the week, and also, the models with fixed sizes still offers two different grips, so you can easily move your hand down about 10 cm to take advantage of the shorter length, should you need to.
Folding and setting up
One of the major advantages of the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z, is that they’re so fast to fold together and set up again. I thought this would be something I’d have to practice a lot before getting it right, but it only took a few times to get the feel for it, and to be able to do it on the fly. The poles are connected by a Kevlar cord, which creates tension and when you unfold the poles, the three pieces kind of “snap” into place, almost by themselves. You then secure the whole construction by pulling the grip and the top part of the pole apart until you hear a click. Once secured, they feel very stable and not once have they felt the slightest bit wobbly.
Folding them up is also a very quick action, and since they’re so lightweight, once you reach a flat part, I actually prefer to fold them up and run with them in my hands. Putting them away on my backpack takes a little time, but folding them up when you don’t need them, is done in an instant and makes it a lot easier to run efficiently.
They come with interchangeable tips (both carbide and rubber), and I suggest changing to the carbide tips as soon as possible, if you plan on using your poles frequently. The rubber tips have slightly better traction, doesn’t make as much sound on hard surfaces, but will wear down pretty fast.
The only downside I've found so far, is that although the grip is perfect for smaller hands (like mine), the grip may feel a little thin if you’re a big guy with really large hands. The straps are adjustable and feel soft and nice even when you let your whole weight "hang" on the straps, when you're really tired.
Altogether, the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z trekking poles are great value for money (1295 SEK at AddNature) and they're a real lifesaver on ultra-long trail runs with lots of elevation, as well as a great companion when you go fastpacking or on day-hikes!