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Black Diamond's New Distance Line Digs Deeper Into Mountain Running

Known for making reliable technical equipment, this Utah-based brand is applying its expertise to packs, poles, headlamps, and apparel for trail runners.

a group of people mountain running on a ridgeline
Christian Adam / Black Diamond Equipment

Established in 1989 primarily as a skiing and climbing brand, Black Diamond Equipment has evolved over its lifetime to represent all types of athletes moving through the mountains. Runners have always gravitated to the company’s light and fast gear, but over the last three years, the brand has committed to creating a complete run collection under the newly-defined “Distance” category.

Trail running as a sport has grown in popularity at a rate of 15 percent every year since the mid 1990s, according to the International Trail Running Association, which estimates 20 million trail runners worldwide. The pandemic only fueled participants’ desire to run not only on pavement, but across ridgelines and through forests.

woman mountain running with a backpack and ski poles
Christian Adam / Black Diamond Equipment

“To be successful, you have to adapt to your users and your athletes to reflect the nature of what they’re doing and how they’re playing in the mountains,” says Paul Leonard, business unit director of mountain at Black Diamond. “More than ever before, we just feel like we have such historical and close alignment to the mountain running community as a whole.”

Currently available and with new additions rolling out over the next few seasons, the Distance line includes packs, poles, a headlamp, shorts, shirts, jackets, and a variety of gloves — all of which coordinate functionally and aesthetically in typical Black Diamond style. Moving forward, mountain running gear will be named under the Distance moniker, Leonard says.

“We really love playing in the mountains,” Leonard says. “That’s why we do what we do and we want to be in a position to help other people share that with us.”

This expansion of running equipment was set in motion in 2019 when the brand released the Distance Pack Series, a line of hybrid alpine running vests/packs in 4L, 8L, and 15L volumes. Black Diamond worked with its team of athletes, taking their feedback to heart; the result is a 22-liter pack made for ambitious overnighters, set to release in Spring 2023.

Hillary Gerardi is one of the brand’s five mountain athletes who is helping shape the brand’s perspective on mountain running gear. Outfitted in Black Diamond’s poles, pack, and apparel, Gerardi set a Fastest Known Time on the Mahoosuc Traverse in the White Mountains, where she first fell in love with fast foot travel.

"I’ve definitely had people say to me, 'Wait, Black Diamond does running stuff?' and I think it’s really interesting because I actually feel like they’ve been sneakily in the running space for a long time, particularly with poles and headlamps," Gerardi says.

a group of people hiking through the mountains
Christian Adam / Black Diamond Equipment
a man hiking on a rocky trail in the mountains
Christian Adam / Black Diamond Equipment

Every Distance pack is designed with efficiency in mind: the shoulder strap harness clips snugly like a running vest. Several stretchy chest pockets hold soft flasks and other quick-grab essentials. A new iPhone model can fit in the zippered pouches on either side. An over-the-shoulder Z Pole carry system allows users to stow their sticks without taking off their pack, and except for the 4L, there’s also dual Z Pole quiver sleeves.

a man wearing a black diamond backpack overlooking a mountain view
Christian Adam / Black Diamond Equipment

The packs are built to fit the brand’s extensive portfolio of Z Poles that fold into three sections, such as the Distance Carbon Z Trekking/Running Poles, which launched last year. With the shafts made entirely out of carbon, this new model weighs just 140 grams per pole. A slimmer diameter shaves weight, and ultralight EVA grips provide cushion to the palms.

"If you have the pack and poles together, that should create something maybe greater than the sum of the parts," Leonard says. "That being said, if you don’t have the BD pack, you can certainly use BD poles. And if you don’t have BD poles, you can certainly run in the Distance pack."

He adds, "When we think about collections, the products complement each other in a way that matches movement through the mountains."

Coming in Fall 2023, new and improved headlamps include the Deploy 325, an urban training and trail light, and the Distance 1500, a super bright ultra distance light. The latter is helmet-compatible and has a removable top strap for additional security on technical terrain. A multifaceted optical lens provides a combination of depth lighting to better spot obstacles and smooth diffused light for consistent visibility.

Other running pieces to look out for include: Sprint Shorts, Deploy Wind Shell, Distance Wind Shell, Lightwire LS, Lightwire SS, Genesis Tech Tee, Rhythm Wool SS, and Flux Wool SS.

During a hut-to-hut field test in New Hampshire’s White Mountains with Gerardi and other athletes, I dressed almost head to toe in Black Diamond’s running gear to run 30 miles over four days. Even though my 22L pack was stuffed with nearly 10 pounds of water, nutrition, and layers, it bounced minimally while running up and down several 4,000-foot summits. The poles slid seamlessly into their sleeves. And even though we didn’t run through the night, the headlamp came in handy during a nighttime game of Catan. Every piece works together in the way it’s designed.

Black Diamond has made it pretty clear it's betting big on trail running. Now, the only piece of equipment that’s missing from its roster: footwear.

Distance 15 Pack

blackdiamondequipment.com
$159.95

Distance Carbon Z Trekking/Running Poles

blackdiamondequipment.com
$189.95
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