Hiking poles, otherwise known as walking sticks or trekking poles, fall into that category of gear that appears dorky and superfluous when you first see it, but becomes essential the first time you get it in your mitts. For quickly making your way across steep trails, over streams, and up rocky terrain, these increasingly technical aluminum or carbon fiber poles provide crucial stability and balance. They also displace some force onto your upper body for fewer injuries and better endurance over long treks. With some recent tent models, they perform double duty as a tent pole. The more you hike, the more likely you are to use them, according to Appalachian Trail Conservancy, which estimates that over 95 percent of thru-hikers use them, compared to 15 percent of day hikers.
At the end of the day, trekking poles are still glorified walking sticks. I think that gets lost when you start reading about some of the cool German, Swiss, or Austrian innovations that go into them. Prices range from $50 to $225, with poles on the high end featuring designer carbon fiber shafts with sophisticated locking mechanisms. Most poles adjust to your height, and break down into a small package for stowing. Some have internal shock absorbers and some have quick ways to switch out the carbide tips and the baskets to protect the surface and vegetation on trails. There’s a movement to minimize the environmental harm from trekking poles on trails, and it’s clear that the manufacturers welcome this as another engineering challenge to meet head-on.
After the jump, we’ll look at a range of new trekking poles with the latest tech designed to keep your hikes smooth and safe.
Best Trekking Poles
|Brand & Model
|Montem Ultra Strong Trekking Poles
|Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Trekking Poles
|Montem Ultralight Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles
|Leki Corklite Trekking Poles
|Bearios Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles
|Leki Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles
|Montem Folding Collapsible Trekking Poles
|Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles
|Hiker Hunger Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles
|Foxelli Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles
Top Rated – Montem Ultra Strong Trekking Poles
The top rated and best seller hiking poles are the Montem Ultra Strong Trekking Poles. These lightweight Montem Ultra Strong Trekking Poles are designed for all-season on-trail/off-trail versatility. The three piece, ultralight, narrow diameter aluminum shafts, reduce weight without sacrificing strength. Claimed to be built from the same form of aluminum used in airplanes, we gave it a test, and it definitely holds up with a sturdy weight bearing system capable of supporting roughly 350lbs of weight. Dual FlickLock pole locking mechanisms allow for easy length adjustment. Clamping force is adjustable allowing for customization down to the finest details. The poles also feature extended grips allowing for hand placement adjustments in uneven terrain.
The largest benefit to trekking poles is reduced impact on your knees, especially on long uphill and downhill sections of trail. For that reason among others, the majority of thru-hikers use trekking poles to hike the long trails.
If you’re new to trekking poles and you think you might enjoy them, we recommend borrowing or renting a pair to try them out. You could also consider purchasing an inexpensive pair to see where your preferences lie before making a bigger investment.
If you want to go ultra-inexpensive, you might be able to find cheap options at bulk retailers like Amazon for very low cost, but you will get what you pay for with hiking poles. Lighter poles generally cost more money, but we recommend staying away from costly extras like shock absorption, which add cost but not value.
The weight of your trekking poles is an important consideration. Just like with lightweight footwear, heavy trekking poles will waste energy with every step. Lightweight poles feel incredibly different compared to heavy, clunky models, but they’ll usually cost more too.