I recently picked up a set of Black Diamond Z-Poles Ultra Distance trekking poles on clearance. These fixed-length carbon fiber poles are probably the lightest poles available from a major manufacturer. This review will basically just be an “unboxing”, but I have used the aluminum version of these poles in the past.
On my scale, the 120cm (47″) size weighs in at a scant 10.0oz (5.0oz/pole). The poles do not have any sort of adjustment (although a slightly more adjustable version is available in aluminum). Unlike most trekking poles, these poles do not collapse telescopically. Instead, they are split into 3 sections and connected by a strand of Spectra cord. The poles fold up sort of like a tent pole. The poles can be reassembled in mere seconds, which is very nice in areas that may require you to do some scrambling. You can stow and redeploy these poles very quickly, without even breaking stride.
I’ve had decent luck using these poles with my ZPacks Hexamid Solo Tarp (requires a 122cm pole) and also with a 6’x8′ flat tarp. Most trekking pole tents and tarps require an adjustable pole, so not everyone will have the same luck that I have.
Drawing from my experience with the aluminum Z-Poles, I’ll give you a quick list of pros and cons.
- Poles will not collapse while walking, like twist-lock poles often do.
- The lack of adjustment mechanism saves weight, and also provides for a more comfortable “swing”.
- Very fast deployment: a quick tug of the handle is all it takes! There’s no need to waste an extra minute setting them to the proper length.
- Interchangeable plastic and carbide tips are less goofy than the rubber feet that many poles come with.
- Lack of adjustment may make them difficult or impossible to use with your shelter.
- Length cannot be adjusted for climbs or descents.
- These poles cannot be used with snow baskets.
- No ergonomic grips.
All in all, I like this style of pole, but I question whether the carbon fiber shafts will hold up to my rough use. Only time will tell. The aluminum version are very rugged, and I would not hesitate to switch back if the carbon fiber doesn’t cut it. Check back here for periodic updates!
Update: As I feared, these poles were nowhere near as durable as the aluminum ones. 1-mile up the Airline Trail in the White Mountains, and one of them slid out sideways on a wet rock. Pole was broken before I hit the ground….
**I am in no way affiliated with Black Diamond, I bought these poles with my own money, and I wrote this review of my own volition. The opinions here are mine, and mine alone.