In this Black Diamond Distance FLZ Review, I share my experiences with this innovative and game-changing pair of trekking poles that really changed my attitude towards using trekking poles in general.
Prior to using the Black Diamond Distance FLZ, I had been using twist-lock (telescopic) trekking poles for the better part of nearly 17 years.
And my go-to pairs over this stretch of time had primarily been the Leki Super Makalu Cortec and the Leki Ultralite Titanium. Both of these poles had pretty much formed my opinion towards using trekking poles.
If you’ve read my article “Do Trekking Poles (Hiking Sticks) Really Help?“, you would have seen that I developed a love-hate relationship with using them.
In fact, I’ve often wavered between abandoning their use (and dealing with the consequences of not having them) versus using them regardless of wherever I hike (and dealing with the inconveniences that come from that).
As a result, when I came across the Black Diamond Distance FLZ pole and finally had an opportunity to buy and use it, that’s when I realized that I may have finally found my best go-to pair of trekking poles to date.
I’ll explain why throughout this article.
What Are The Black Diamond Distance FLZ Trekking Poles?
The key distinction with the Black Diamond Distance FLZ trekking pole versus conventional telescopic twist-locking poles is that it collapses into a Z shape (hence the “Z” in the “FLZ” labeling).
This ultimately makes the collapsed length about 1/3 of its uncollapsed length (as opposed to roughly 1/2 or more of the uncollapsed length of telescopic poles).
It’s worth noting that the Black Diamond Distance FLZ trekking poles are just one flavor of Black Diamond Z trekking poles in general, and it is designed primarily for three-season use.
Another model of the Black Diamond FLZ trekking poles that I’m aware of is the Black Diamond Alpine FLZ trekking poles, which is more geared towards rugged four-season use in addition to climbing and mountaineering.
The “FL” in the labeling of the Black Diamond Distance FLZ trekking poles stands for “flick lock”, which is the system that allows for height adjustability.
Because I’m 5’10”, I bought poles that have a maximum height of 125cm, but it can adjust to a minimum of 105cm so women like my wife and my mother (both about 6-8 inches shorter than me) can use it.
There are two other sizes of poles – one for taller people (with a range of 120cm-140cm) and one for shorter people (with a range of 95-110cm).
Something to be wary of is that if you see cheaper Black Diamond Distance trekking poles, chances are that it’s the Z model as opposed to the FLZ model, where the cheaper model comes in fixed lengths and thus lacks adjustability.
Finally, if you must have the lightest trekking poles available, then they have a Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ model, which is made of carbon-fiber instead of aluminum.
For that model, you’re trading the even lighter weight of the trekking poles for a little less durability (since carbon-fiber tends to be more brittle and less bendable than aluminum).
How Does The Black Diamond Distance FLZ Trekking Work?
While there’s no mystery behind what trekking poles are and how they work, the Black Diamond Distance FLZ trekking poles’ novel design and functionality requires a little more of a learning curve to get used to.
This is best shown in the following tutorial video.
To further reinforce what was shown in the video, here’s the steps that I usually take to lengthen the pole quickly:
- Let the pole dangle
- Push up on the unlock mechanism (there should be an unlock with arrow pointing that way) and at the same time pull down on the shaft extending below it
- Keep pulling in opposite directions until the lower two sections of the pole are both in place
- Let go of the unlock mechanism and now pull up on the shaft above it while at the same time still pulling down on the shaft below the unlock mechanism until you hear a snap (which should happen shortly after the “locked” icon appears)
At this point, the trekking pole is ready for use just as any other trekking pole.
In order to collapse the pole again, here’s the steps that I would typically do:
- Push up on the unlock mechanism and at the same time push up on the shaft extending below it towards the unlocking mechanism
- Pull apart the joint connecting the top two sections revealing the underlying kevlar cable
- Pull apart the joint connecting the bottom two sections revealing the underlying kevlar cable
- Fold up and secure (I use the included-but-easy-to-lose velcro to accomplish this) the trekking pole for stowing
Why Use The Black Diamond Distance FLZ Trekking Poles?
Now that you know what the Black Diamond Distance FLZ trekking poles are and how they work, we’re now in position to explain why they have become my go-to trekking pole which I take everywhere with me (regardless of whether I need them or not).
My love-hate relationship with trekking poles boils down to the following:
- Long collapsed length limiting portability
- Slow and mistake-prone setup
The long collapsed length prevented me from bringing it on international trips since its length exceeded carry-on allowances.
When hiking, the long collapsed length of my old poles forced me to strap them to the back of my pack.
That caused a further complication in that I had to unsling the pack to access the poles when needed (e.g. at a stream crossing or on a steep, slippery slope).
Continually unslinging the pack and putting it back on gets old really fast since it breaks the hiking momentum while also wastes time and energy unnecessarily.
On the flip side, if I didn’t want to keep unslinging the pack to get at my poles, then I’d have to occupy my hands to hold onto or use the poles.
This in turn limited my ability to take a picture on a spur-of-the-moment (the poles would keep falling or I’d have to lean them on something) or even limit my ability to access my water bottles on-the-go among other things.
As far as setting up the trekking poles for use, I found the telescopic twist mechanism to be a bit slow and inconvenient.
Not only that, but it’s very easy to twist the poles in a manner such that you end up detaching the individual shafts instead (especially if they’re not tightening)!
Given these issues, I would typically only bring trekking poles if I knew in advance that I needed them, but I would typically err on the side of not bringing them at all!
Solving The Portability Problem
My Black Diamond Distance FLZ can be collapsed to a minimum length of 15 inches (though I often keep the length at 17.5 inches so I don’t have to mess with the flick lock adjustment for even quicker setup in the field).
Compare that to my Leki Ultralite Titanium trekking pole, which has a minimum length of 24 inches.
Therefore, with the 9 inches of potential savings in collapsed length, I can bring my Black Diamond Distance FLZ poles on international trips since it’s small enough to fit as a carry-on.
Moreover, I can also stow it on my on-the-go straps attached to my shoulder strap of my day pack (which is an Osprey Manta 46).
This would allow me to access my trekking poles without taking off the pack, and its compact length would not get in the way of my normal walking motion.
As a result, the Black Diamond Distance FLZ’s portability solves the first of my pain points.
Solving The Slow And Mistake-Prone Setup Problem
It turns out that the Black Diamond Distance FLZ trekking poles also solves the setup problems that I’ve often faced with the traditional telescopic poles.
Once I get used to the Z poles’ locking and unlocking mechanism, I can set up the poles within literally one or two seconds (especially if I don’t mess with the flick lock height adjustments).
However, this quick setup doesn’t include the time I would need to take out the velcro fastener, which I’ll explain later.
With no twisting motion, it eliminates the likelihood of twisting loose and detaching individual shafts of the trekking pole (thinking that I was tightening them).
Thus, the quick and more reliable setup of the Z-shaped pole make me less hesitant to use it, and thus solves the second of my pain points.
What Don’t I Like About The Black Diamond Distance FLZ Trekking Poles?
As much as I love my Black Diamond Distance FLZ trekking poles, there is one pet peeve that I have in its current design.
Basically, when the poles are collapsed, I noticed that the lower sections can “angle” away from the main shaft, which in turn gets in the way when stowed on my on-the-go shoulder straps of my day pack while hiking.
In order to overcome this problem, I make use of the included, easy-to-lose velcro to prevent those lower shafts from angling away from the main shaft.
Unfortunately, that extra step slows down the setup time (typically adding another 3 seconds or so), which kind of defeats its setup advantage over the telescopic poles that I had been used to using.
Finally, while I’ve also seen other people complain that the 20cm adjustment range was insufficient for other situations (e.g. extending it on steep descents or compressing it on ascents) and that the poles don’t come cheap, these weren’t issues for me.
Final Thoughts / Conclusion
The Black Diamond Distance FLZ Trekking Pole featured a novel design that enabled it to overcome my biggest pain points for using trekking poles as a whole.
As a result, I no longer have to figure out if I need to bring trekking poles or not, and I don’t have to deal with complications from bringing the trekking poles if I don’t really need to use them.
Indeed, I can bring the trekking poles everywhere I go, and I can choose to use them on an as-needed basis so I’m less likely to run into situations where I needed them but didn’t bring them, or I wish I hadn’t brought them when they weren’t needed.
Moreover, I can bring them on trips involving flights, where typically I’d never have them available on hikes in distant places (especially internationally).
The bottom line is that the Black Diamond Distance FLZ Trekking Pole changed my attitude towards trekking poles in general, and I highly recommend it for any waterfall chaser (let alone hiker) looking for any advantage they could get in the field!
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