The new Black Diamond Z Poles are a lightweight force to be reckoned with. Strong, compactable and superlight, the Z Pole lineup is the next generation of trekking poles, designed for thru-hikers, runners and endurance athletes but sure to be in the hands of savvy hikers worldwide.
With a design similar to that of an avalanche probe, the Z Poles easily break down into three sections (a short bundle you could stash in a pocket) connected by a flexible Kevlar inner cord. Here’s our take on the three models:
Featured in Backpacker magazine’s 2011 Gear Guide, the top-end model of the Z Pole line is an all-around winner. The editors proclaimed in bold print: “Get a grip on the best carbon poles we’ve ever tested,” and then followed that up by saying their magazine weighs twice as much as one Ultra Distance Z Pole. Wow. To top off its full carbon construction, the Ultra Distance includes a lightweight EVA grip with a mini extension for adjusting your grip on steeper slopes, a moisture-wicking hand strap and interchangeable non-marking rubber and carbide tips.
The most versatile Z Pole model, the Distance FL combines all the fancy new features of the Z Pole line with FlickLock adjustability. I love the versatility of an adjustable pole, so this is my Z Pole of choice for the coming hiking season. The 3-piece aluminum shaft weighs a touch more than the Ultra Distance, but I’m no serious ounce-counter.
The base model of the bunch, the Distance Z Pole is a pared down version of the Ultra Distance and Distance FL, yet retains all the top-quality features that are making Z Poles stand out from the crowd this season. Same lightweight EVA grip, same interchangeable tips, the basic aluminum Distance Z Pole is the go-to trekking pole for a budget conscious hiker who doesn’t care about adjustability or going ultra, ultralight with carbon.
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