Like many things in life, it's a hard road to finding the perfect walking stick and while the BD Distance FLZs ticked a lot of boxes for me I think I'm still on the search for Mr Right. One of my pet hates is having to collapse all three sections of my traditional poles and then find the right points to extend them to again when I want to use them. It doesn't take forever but when you're trying to move quickly the whole process becomes a bit tiresome and my hands usually end up covered in mud (I know, nature, get it off me!). With this in mind, I was pretty excited about Black Diamond's new Flick Lock Z poles as the deployment system seemed much more seamless whilst still having a small range of length adjustment. Weighing in at between 440 and 470g depending on size, these were also noticeably lighter than the aluminium poles I had been using previously.
I went for the 105-125cm poles (I'm 165cm tall) and I have them adjusted to the shorter of their range but I've found the length comfortable and suits the steep terrain I'm usually using them for. After initially taking them out of their packaging the first problem I encountered was trying to get them fully extended and locked out. This is actually a very straight forward action as the plastic cones help guide each section into the adjacent pole I just wasn't using enough force on the handle section to pull it out and let the metal catch click into place. Now that I've been using them for the better part of a year I never have an issue but I still remember feeling like I might break them to begin with.
Once locked out the top section is still adjustable which helps when moving from walking uphill to downhill again. The wrist straps are also adjustable with a small velcro tab depending on how tight you want them to be. I found the webbing on these a little uncomfortable until it softened with wear although I never had any issues with it rubbing on my skin and doing any damage. The grips on the handles on the other hand are a bit more unforgiving if you have soft hands like my own. While they're comfortable in the beginning and easy to grip even when you get sweaty, I found they were rough enough to start giving me blisters after several hours of use. This is definitely a trade off as after quite a few trips the grips still look almost brand new and have seen no wear and tear the way previous models I've owned have.
In terms of durability I've found the poles (my husband's set included) have performed well. I've taken them on several multi-day hikes, a few mountain climbs and lots of day walks. They've stood up well to river crossings, being used as a shelter support and generally being thrashed about. I have read some reviews where people had issues with the poles coming apart whilst walking but I've never had this happen yet. All in all I think that if you're looking for a lightweight set of poles that are easy to deploy and withstand a not inconsiderable amount of abuse then these are a solid all-round option. They're not going to win any awards for ultra-lightweight and I wouldn't recommend them for any seriously long thru-hiking but they've lasted the longest out of any poles I've owned in the last ten years and I think the flick lock system is pretty neat.