When talking about trekking poles for ultra distance trail running the Black Diamond Ultra Distance Trekking Pole is the pole all others are compared against. The combination of lightweight 100% carbon fiber construction, durability and Z-Pole folding design for compact storage in your hydration vest should put these poles at the top of your list when looking for new trekking poles. Let’s take a look at them in more detail.
Boring Tech Spec Stuff
- 100% Carbon Fiber Shaft
- Interchangeable non-marking rubber and carbide Tech Tips
- 3-section Z-Pole folding design
- Lightweight EVA foam grip
- Left and right specific breathable, moisture-wicking straps
- Kevlar Center Cord with tension adjuster
- 4 Usable Length options: 100cm, 110cm, 120cm, 130cm (see sizing chart)
- Weight Per Pair: 100cm/9.9oz, 110cm/10oz, 120cm/10.2oz, 130cm/10.4oz
As a Real User Here’s What I Think
All that Tech Spec stuff is fine but unless you’re already a trekking pole expert it doesn’t mean much (if you already are an expert you’d own these poles and wouldn’t be reading this review anyway). It surprises me when other runners see my Ultra Distance poles how interested they are in them, if I buy new shoes all I get is “New shoes? Nice, let’s start running”, but when other runners see my trekking poles they get excited and reach out to take one from me. The first thing out of their mouth is “wow that doesn’t weigh anything”! Well, technically it does weigh something, in fact one of my 120cm Ultra Distance poles weighs just 5oz. In comparison my Petzl MYO RXP headlamp weighs more at 5.5oz. Everything I see online about the weight of the Ultra Distance pole lists them as 10oz but the fact that’s for the pair seems to get buried in the fine print or often times not mentioned at all. Since I only carry one pole in my hand at a time I care about each individual pole and not the pair, except for those times I have them both stored in my hydration vest.Being lightweight doesn’t mean the Ultra Distance Trekking Pole isn’t durable. I’m sure someone will say it’s not as durable as their heavier aluminum pole but I’ve put the Ultra Distance poles in some rough situations recently during a Rim to Rim to Rim crossing of the Grand Canyon and climbing Humphreys Peak in Arizona (12,633’ above sea level). Both of these runs were steep and rocky, and I’m not perfect at using trekking poles so tend to bang and clang them into boulders and sometimes get them stuck between rocks where I put a bind on them as my momentum moves me forward but the trekking pole stays lodged in one place momentarily. I’ve yet to break or crack a pole.
When doing research on the best trekking pole for ultra trail running the one and only complaint I found over and over among users was the small size of the basket (these were hikers complaining, not ultra trail runners). The complainers stated it was too small to prevent the pole from going deep into the snow and/or mud. That’s true and why the information provided by Black Diamond states the Ultra Distance is a “3-Season” pole, meaning not meant to be used in the snow. But for trail running having the smallest basket possible is a big advantage in my mind. For me the bigger the basket the more opportunities I’d have to catch it on something like a bush, rocks etc. and get it caught. As it is on a rocky trail more than once I’ve jammed my Ultra Distance Trekking Pole between rocks and caught the basket tight enough I had my doubts if I could dislodge it without breaking it.
What’s the Big Deal About “Z-Pole” Folding Design?As trail runners if we use trekking poles most of us won’t use them all the time, in fact I only use mine on long, steep uphill climbs. So what do I do with them the rest of the time? I simply fold them up, attach them to my hydration vest and forget I even have them with me. The Z-Pole Folding Design allows my 120cm poles to fold down to just over 15”. Compare that to the leading elliptic or collapsible poles that only get down to 24-25” and it’s a huge difference in how you carry them when not in use. When I took the Ultra Distance Trekking Pole to the Grand Canyon in May I had some concerns about how they would carry on my Ultimate Direction SJ Hydration Vest but honestly I didn’t even know I had them when I wasn’t using them. In fact I remember more than once reaching back to see if they were even still there. When fully extended the Ultra Distance Trekking Pole locks in place with a simple push-button release. Pull the handle out until the push-button release pops out and it’s locked and loaded. To fold simple press the push-button release, slide the handle down, pull the sections apart and fold. One thing I don’t like to do is stop on the trail and mess around with my gear. I know over 50 or 100 miles its minimal but it just feels like a huge waste of time. The Ultra Distance Trekking Pole is so easy to use it can be extended or folded while you’re on the move. How easy? I’m more likely to trip and face plant trying to open an energy gel than opening or closing my Ultra Distance Trekking Poles.
Here’s How Easy it is to Extend the Ultra Distance Z-Pole
The Final Word
Have you ever seen that sign behind the counter of a small business that says “Good – Cheap – Fast…pick any two”? In the trekking pole world the same sign would read “Lightweight – Durable – Short Collapsed Length”, but with the Black Diamond Ultra Distance Trekking Pole you really do get all three. I couldn’t be happier with my Ultra Distance Trekking Poles and highly recommend them if you’re in the market for new trekking poles.
Just a Few More Random Photos with the Black Diamond Ultra Distance Trekking Poles
Authors Note: You probably noticed there was no mention of actually using the Black Diamond Ultra Distance Trekking Pole, I did that on purpose. My goal was to impress upon you how good these trekking poles are, not how to actually use them or if you should use trekking poles in the first place. Stay tuned for my follow up post in the very near future where I’ll demonstrate how and when I use the Ultra Distance Trekking Pole, outline the advantages of using trekking poles and give you some tips that will hopefully shorten your learning curve if you’ve never used trekking poles before.