Black Diamond Carbon Z Poles

Review: Black Diamond Carbon Z Trekking Poles

Black Diamond really set the bar for lightweight and packable trekking poles when they came out with the Ultra Distance Carbon Z.  Now while those original poles are no longer available the new Distance Carbon Z poles have improved upon the design of their predecessor resulting in a very functional, ergonomic and packable trekking pole.  Ideal for trips where the poles have to be stashed away in a backpack and weight is critical, like up-and-over type rock or alpine climbs.  Of course there’s always a trade-off and in this case the lightweight design can be a bit fragile as I’ll outline below.

Features:

  • Eva Foam handles, carbon fiber shaft and coated Kevlar tensioning cord
  • Non-adjustable 3-segment construction
  • Interchangeable points (carbide or rubber)
  • Comes in 4 lengths
  • Weight as tested (120cm version, rubber point): 143g each
  • Collapsed length: 405mm
Black Diamond Carbon Z Poles
BD’s Distance Carbon Z pole stashed in small 18L pack.

Because the Distance Carbon Z poles are so short and light they’re easy to pack away when not in use.  They even fit into a small bullet bag and at 143g each the weight is negligible.

Black Diamond Carbon Z Poles
The textured EVA foam handle is quite comfortable and not nearly as delicate as it looks.

While they come in pairs I prefer to just use a single pole.  I find that one is enough to take some weight off my knees and improve balance in tricky terrain.  Besides, I typically have a lightweight mountaineering axe with me for walking on steep snow or crossing glaciers.  The axe goes on the uphill side while the pole goes on the downhill.

Black Diamond Carbon Z Poles
There are two tip options that come with the Distance Carbon Z, a rubber point (a worn out version is shown on the left in the photo) and a carbide tip (right).

To make the Distance Carbon Z poles so lightweight Black Diamond got rid of all the extra material, frills and gimmicks.  This means that the length isn’t adjustable and the poles have a small, non-replaceable stopper baskets.  If you’re willing to carry a little extra weight those features are available in other models.

Black Diamond Carbon Z Poles
The pole is shown in the extended position with the locking pin in place. This part of the pole can be fragile if abused.

The Achilles heel of the Distance Carbon Z poles seems to be the pin locking system.  The hole that’s drilled into the side of the carbon fiber shaft, just under the handles, and locks the pole in the extended position weakens the pole at that location.  In testing one of the Distance Carbon Z poles I fell crossing a creek and broke the shaft at the pin location.  Prior to that I had the shaft split around the steel pin on a pair of the older Ultra Distance Carbon Z poles after a couple of years of use.  Now they’re still great poles, just be aware of this weak spot and treat them with care.

Black Diamond Carbon Z Poles
The Distance Carbon Z pole that I broke falling in a creek. As you can see it broke right at the pin.

Pros:      Very lightweight and packable

Cons:     Fragile at the locking pin

Overall:  An amazingly lightweight and packable trekking pole that works great for any adventure where you may need to stow the pole in a backpack.

Black Diamond provided a sample for testing but this did not influence the review in any way.