Hiking poles have traditionally been seen as a Euro thing. Along with fluoro tights and headbands. But as time has gone by they’ve become increasingly popular in events the world over, as have the bright tights. In Australia there’s a noticeable amount of folks using them at events like Ultra-Trail Australia and the Buffalo Stampede where there’s considerable vertical gain. There’s actually a nickname for them – cheat sticks! It’s perfectly apt too as they can have a big impact on your performance, if used correctly.
This particular make is one of the most popular you’ll come across. The Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ Poles are at the more expensive end of the spectrum. However it’s worth spending a little more on poles as it’s a once in a decade expense. What makes them costly, and also very good, are multiple features. Firstly, they’re extremely lightweight and in ultra running every gram counts. Secondly they’re compact. They fold into three equal length pieces so you can easily pop them out of the way in your pack when not being used. Next you have the ease of use. The quick snap locking system means that with one press of a button just below the grip you can retract the poles in a flash. Then when extending them they snap into place just by unfolding them and pushing down on the top-most section.
Another key feature is the comfort. The grip is made of moisture-wicking Eva foam that is comfortable in your hand all day long. It’s grippy and ergonomically designed to sit perfectly in your hand with a slight ridge at the bottom to prevent slipping. Added to the grips are wrist straps that provide a more secure handhold and another point to push down on when hiking. Then there’s the interchangeable tips that you can swap out as they wear or you go from a dirt trail to snow or ice.
The poles come in three different lengths so no matter how tall or short you might be there will be something to suit.
Price: $220 – $270
Here’s a few tips for using them:
– When going uphill reduce the pole length by holding the very bottom of the grip.
– On descents lengthen them slightly for better balance and control.
– On flat terrain your forearms should be parallel to the ground.
– Practice makes perfect! Use them a lot in training so you get use to them and also get plenty of practice with extending, folding and stowing them in your race pack.