Black Diamond’s Z-Pole Trekking Poles
Ross Russell – Rokslide Pro-Staff
Like most hard core western hunters, I am always looking for ways to shave ounces, become more efficient on ascents and descents and reduce the beating that my body takes while afield. Before I used trekking poles I was skeptical of the benefits they would offer and I wondered if the added weight and hassle would be worth it. Two years ago I tried them while shed hunting and was amazed at the benefits they delivered.
I immediately noticed that the stress on my knees during steep descents was greatly reduced. I had a more efficient stride on long ascents, reduced back strain with heavy loads, and my almost 50 year old body felt less fatigued the day after a tough hike.
Other benefits you will find when using a set of trekking poles are:
1. Reduced stress on the back, hips, knees, ankles, and feet.
2. Overall fatigue is reduced and lower body stays fresher.
3. They increase your speed both going uphill and downhill.
4. They provide excellent stability in steep, rough country and make stream crossings much safer.
5. They increase the distance you can comfortably carry a load.
6. They can be used as a center pole for shelter tarps and as a monopod for glassing or photography.
* (Editor’s note: Trekking poles obviously provide a great triceps workout – check out those GUNS!)
I began using trekking poles with an inexpensive set from Cabelas’. They worked fine, and the benefits were undeniable. However, I promptly beat them to heck and eventually lost one in a stream while shed hunting. I wasn’t about to go without so I recently replaced them with a new set of Z-Poles from Black Diamond. I was initially a bit concerned with their durability since Z-Poles are so lightweight. However, I decided to give them a try after hearing several good reviews and recommendations.
Z-Poles are different than other trekking poles in that they don’t telescope to set the appropriate height. You select one of 4 sizes, 100 cm, 110 cm, 120 cm or 130 cm. I am 5′ 8″ and chose the 120cm model. The poles fold into three pieces and have an inner Kevlar cord that connects the 3 sections together. You simply unfold, push a button to engage fully or to stow and you are ready to use. They feature a non-slip grip system, interchangeable rubber or carbide tips and have 100% carbon fiber shafts. Their most attractive feature to me is the weight. My set weighs just 9.5 ounces and when not in use they fold down to 15.6 inches and are easily stored in your pack.
There are a few different models offered by Black Diamond that feature the Z-Pole design. Materials range from aluminum to carbon fiber, with weights between about 9 oz. and 16 oz. with prices ranging from a little south of $100 to around $160 for the lightest carbon set.
After several shed hunting trips this spring and many hunts this fall, I can vouch for the durability and simplicity of the Z-Pole system. The grip is comfortable and non-slip as advertised. The poles are extremely lightweight and will be with me on my fall hunts. They also can be used in setting up tarps. The only downside to them that I can find is that they are fairly expensive, they do not accommodate a basket for being used on snow, and most models are not adjustable in length. The Distance FL model does have a 20 cm adjustment range in exchange for a modest weight penalty of about 6 oz.
Regardless of brand or model, I recommend trekking poles to any serious mountain hunter. Based on my experience, Black Diamond’s Z-Poles are a simple, lightweight and durable choice for your back country adventures.