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Aug 18 2010

Black Diamond’s Z-Poles

Despite the absence of winter product at the recent Outdoor Retailer show in Salt Lake City there were still some items worth a closer look. Black Diamond introduced a new line of trekking poles. When I heard the word trekking I tried to avoid them but my friends at BD insisted on showing them. As soon as I saw them broken down for storage my skepticism vanished. These are not an adaptation of their popular Flick-Lock series, but rather an ingenious implementation of the Z-folding design of avalanche probes. The result is a line of poles for trekking called Z-poles that break down into a three section pole about 16” long.

There are three models; the carbon-fiber Ultra-Distance (MSRP $150), the Distance (MSRP $100), an aluminum economy version, and the Distance FL pole (MSRP $120), with an aluminum shaft and a Flick-Lock™ upper section to provide 20cm of length adjustment. The grips are made of EVA foam rubber which is super comfortable with a grippy, spongy rubber with a nice round top for palming and a strap that is easily adjusted with Velcro. At first look it would seem that these poles could be easily adapted to backcountry skiing, especially splitboarding, except for two gotchas. First, BD says they aren’t tough enough to withstand crashing on them sideways, an inevitable occurance with skiing or snowboarding. Secondly, the teeny baskets they come with would need to be replaced with a ski basket. To do that requires replacing the entire tip, not a trivial procedure, nor one BD intends to offer or stand by. Bummer for now, but who knows if/when this concept will migrate to the skiing realm.

The z-pole design allows for compact storage.