It’s been a while since I’ve posted any gear info …honestly I’d rather write about running and dogs. But I just got a question about trekking poles and figured I’d post some useful information here.
For the past year, I’ve been using the Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork trekking poles. But just last week, I finally broke down and bougth the new Black Diamond Ultra Distance Z-Poles. All the cool kids where using them at Bighorn and I was envious of how light and compact they were.
This last weekend I took them out for a test run up Pikes Peak and for fast and light trail running, I loved them. The weight is barely noticeable. Both of the carbon Ultra Distance Z-Poles were about the same weight as just one of my aluminum Trail Ergo Cork poles. I worried that the 3 section fold would be a bit of a hassle but they strapped onto the back of my Ultimate Direction Wasp pack perfectly. And taking them off my pack and snapping them together was super fast and easy. The sections just snap together like tent poles and there is just one lock button under the handle. It was much easier than extending, adjusting, and clipping in the 2 sections of the Trail Ergo poles. On a normal day, the difference isn’t critical but in the middle of the night on a 100 mile run, I think I’ll appreciate the simplicity of the Z-Pole.
Here’s a side-by-side comparison of the compact size of both sets of poles on two UD Wasp packs:
The downside to the Z-Poles is that the length isn’t adjustable. They have a lower grip on the handle but that’s it. So you really need to know what length works for you before you buy them. I went with the largest 130cm poles which by Black Diamond’s size recommendations would be for someone over 6ft tall. But I like to extend my reach and pull through with my full upper body like freestyle cross country skiing. And longer poles are helpful to reach down for stability on steep, technical drops. So it would be a good idea to test out some adjustable poles to figure out what length you like best before you buy the fixed length Z-Poles. And if you plan to use poles to pitch a shelter on an overnight trip, the adjustable poles would probably be best.
Another drawback to carbon is that when it does break, it will shatter. Aluminum can kink and bend and you can just bash it back into shape. The carbon Z-poles seemed sturdy and stable enough for running and hiking on steep hills but if I needed something to dig into a snow field to stop a fall, I think I’d prefer my sturdy aluminum Trail Ergo Cork poles. (Although Eric just made a good point that if you really are worried about falling on a snow field, you should use the proper tool and have an ice axe.) The Z-Poles don’t have interchangeable baskets either so the Trail Ergo would be my choice for an all purpose running, hiking, snow shoeing trekking pole. And the aluminum model is much cheaper so for general use, I think the Trail Ergo Cork model is the best value. I’ll definitely be taking the Ultra Distance Z-Poles with me to Hardrock. If you want the fastest, lightest, easiest trekking pole to use for trail running, I think these are definitely worth the extra money.
I just bought my new Z-Poles from Backcountry.com – they’ll take returns on anything, anytime which is nice to know if you test them out and end up hating them. Black Diamond rarely goes on sale so you might be able to use your next member coupon at REI to try to get them cheaper.