Black Diamond Distance FL Trekking Pole Review
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Last summer, I received a pair of Women’s Distance FL trekking poles from Black Diamond. Needless to say, I have put these trekking poles through the paces with day hikes of varying distances and demands, backpacking trips, and a few long runs for steep ascents-descents. The Distance FL’s have been nothing but versatile and seem to match the demands of each activity, while weighing a fraction of my previous trekking poles.
The Distance FL’s are weigh 15.2 or 15.7 ounces per pair (depending on the size). Don’t let their weight fool you, as they have an excellent strength to weight ratio. The Distance DL’s are also easy to set up and use as they feature Black Diamond’s 3 section Z-pole design. What this means is that the Distance FL’s break down into 3 small pieces (photo below) and are kept together by an internal cable. When you are ready to use the trekking poles, simply shake them out and allow them to dangle vertically: then push each section together, so that they there isn’t any of the purple cable showing. Then adjust the top to your desired height utilizing the FlickLock. Honestly, the set up takes a few seconds for each pole and I ju1st used some 100 words to describe the process. There are not two adjustment points, like some competitors telescoping or FlickLock systems which saves on time and eliminates a lock that may fail in the future.
As for attaching to the pack, these poles are kept together by the stopper basket. I typically throw in a rubber band for extra support and to prevent them from coming apart, which some may feel is a pain-yet, I don’t mind this too much. When attached to a pack they do take up more space width wise, yet the 3 sections are shorter than a telescoping type of pole. The decreased length makes the Distance FL’s less obtrusive if wearing a running vest or short pack that does not extend to your hips.
These poles come in two different sizes, and each size allows you to adjust up to 20 cm per pair. For instance, the smaller size can adjust from 95-115 cm, while the larger size (the ones’ I tested) can be adjusted from 105-125 cm. There is some overlap between the sizes and I recommend checking them out in the store to see how high or low you may set yours. I’m about 5’9″ and use the poles mostly around 115-120 cms, depending on the terrain. If you have questions about how to measure and use the Distance FL’s, ask a local shop rep that is well versed on BD products to walk you through the process a bit. If you are taller and need some extra height, the Women’s specific model might not be your best bet. Fortunately, BD does make a Men’s model as well.
The grip is composed of EVA foam and features a moisture wicking strap. I didn’t find the strap to be super plush, like some of its’ competitors. These poles are designed to be lightweight, adding a plush strap would definitely add some weight. I found the strap to be plenty of comfortable and easy to adjust. My only concern is that the Velcro closure tab good fail over time after some dirt and debri soil the fabric (hence, take care of this area to avoid this problem). The foam grip itself is pretty standard, easily fits my hand and didn’t slip with gloves or bare hands. The purple color is kind of fun too. Overall, this section of the trekking pole is pretty no-nonsense and does its’ job without frills.
The Women’s Distance FL’s are feature an aluminum shaft that feels stable on descents and doesn’t shudder with some pressure. I was a skeptic at first of the internal cable-which feels similar to plastic and the streamlined design. However, after 9 months of good use-they perform like day 1. As for traction, these trekking poles feature options, similar to other poles on the market. For instance, you can swap out carbide tech tips for non-scarring rubber tech tips, pending your environment. The carbide tech tips provided excellent traction/grip when utilized on rocky surfaces-such as in the Maroon Bells of Colorado. I have yet to swap them out, as the most encountered conditions in Colorado are best suited to a carbide tip, however I have read some funny stories of how “easy” it is to swap out tips. I will keep you posted on this endeavor as I plan to bring these poles to on an upcoming trip to Costa Rica, where carbide is most likely not needed.
Overall, the Women’s Distance FL have been a great bang for the buck as far as performance and ease of operation. Check out Black Diamond’s website for additional trekking pole options and for more info.