7:57 PM EST, March 5, 2013
Name: Distance FL Z-Poles
What they are: Aluminum walking poles made by Black Diamond, one of the nation's leading makers of outdoor and adventure gear. Among the fastest-growing sellers in its business are trekking poles, which speaks to the appeal of poles for both extreme and less extreme hikers and travelers.
How they work: The poles are constructed as three-section foldable shafts; to assemble, fit the bottom section into the middle and the middle into the top. The top section slides up until snapping into place, and then the height can be adjusted with a flip lock.
The good: Walking poles take pressure off the legs, allowing walkers to use their hands more actively while navigating a landscape. Poles are particularly helpful when gaining or losing elevation, but walkers who might want a little extra support also would find them useful. The Distance FL poles are most everything walking poles should be: strong, durable and light. I gave mine a tough workout while gaining more than 10,000 feet of elevation across rough terrain, and they never faltered. A fellow hiker with a different set of poles snapped one at an inopportune moment, but I was never concerned about my Distance FL poles.
The bad: The new models are expensive, which means they had better last.
Cost: The 2012 versions are available online for as low as $65, which is a fine deal; the 2013 versions, which will be released in the coming weeks with a slightly redesigned (and supposedly stronger) flip lock, will cost $129.95.
Available from: blackdiamondequipment.com, as well as other online retailers.
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