I used these poles for about the 2/3 of an Appalachian Trail thru hike, & found some things I like and dislike about these poles.
I love the fact these poles collapse down as small as they do for traveling. Insert the 3 sections into one another and pull up on the handle until you hear a click, and the poles are tensioned and ready to go. To collapse the poles back down, you simply push the metal tab just below the handle in, and push the handle down, which releases the tension and allows you to pull the 3 sections apart. I like that they become essentially a one piece pole with no locks to worry about sliding out of position. If you are looking for a lightweight pole for casual hiking on well maintained trails, that is collapsible, this is great for that.
Being a cross country ski racer, I was born with poles on my hands, and I apply perhaps more force using my arms than the average backpacker. While I recognize that lightweight backpacking equipment needs to be treated with some care, the following are the issues I ran into during 1,500 miles of use on the Appalachian Trail. The biggest issue I had was the plastic portion of the tip below the basket. These would constantly get fatigued from use and start to bend over until they would completely fold over and become unusable. This happened to me 8 times, and led to hundreds of miles of hiking with only one pole. One time when leaving a town after a zero day, I unfolded the sections and went to tension it and the cord in the middle, which holds the pole sections together broke, rendering the pole useless.
Onto the carbon fiber and it’s durability. Having cross country ski raced with lightweight carbon fiber poles, I have a good understanding of what a pole should and shouldn’t be able to handle. My first test was when I caught my foot under a root, which was covered with leaves. I put my pole out in front of me to catch myself, and the pole hardly provided any resistance and snapped, causing me to roll 10′ down the side of an embankment. Along the way, I broke two other shafts, and got good at splinting them with tent stakes and duct tape. I was always careful to ensure I didn’t bang the carbon fiber on rocks, fall on them, or get them wedged into a crack between rocks to cause these breakages.
During this whole time Black Diamond was very responsive & willing to send replacement parts and poles ahead to hostels along the trail for me, which I very much appreciated. Finally during one of my discussions with their customer support, they recommended switching me over to their Alpine Carbon Cork pole. Even though it was about 50% heavier, I agreed that the Distance Carbon Z pole was not working for me, so I agreed to give it a shot. I was glad I did, as I didn’t have any further problems the rest of the trail.
As I said before this pole is great if you are lightly using it on smooth trails to give your knees a bit of a break. If you use your arms heavily like I do, or tend to go on rougher terrain or off trail, the Alpine Carbon Cork will serve you better.