In just over the last decade, trekking poles have gone from a seldom seen item to near mandatory. The majority of everyone from day hikers to seasoned mountaineers now use them. There are many advantages to using hiking poles, the main reasons being that they offer better balance during more challenging and rugged backcountry travel and reduce stress on your body during both the descent as well as the ascent. If you need to learn about different hiking poles, we have reviewed them here.
Serious hikers have known the great benefits of trekking poles for decades. Aside from providing stability while hauling a heavy load or moving over technical terrain, trekking poles have distinct advantages even on easy trails. They significantly reduce load and impact on hips, knees, and ankles when going downhill.
Trekking poles can be costly and many people buy them only to try them once, discover they don’t them and then they sit in a gear closet or garage. To avoid wasting money you can get the the BAFX anti-shock poles or if you want to spend a little more the, Jesban VOROSY trekkings poles. They offer a very good introduction to the world of trekking and hiking poles without much investment.
Best 10 Trekking Poles
|Rank||Brand & Model||Shaft||Our Rating||Price|
|1||Montem Ultra Strong Trekking Poles||Aluminum||$$|
|2||Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Trekking Poles||Aluminum||$$$|
|3||Montem Ultralight Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles||Carbon Fiber||$$$|
|4||Leki Corklite Trekking Poles||Aluminum||$$$$|
|5||Bearios Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles||Carbon Fiber||$$$|
|6||Leki Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles||Carbon Fiber||$$$$|
|7||Montem Folding Collapsible Trekking Poles||Aluminum||$$$|
|8||Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles||Carbon Fiber||$$|
|9||Hiker Hunger Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles||Carbon Fiber||$$$|
|10||Foxelli Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles||Carbon Fiber||$$$$|
Trekking poles shouldn’t be considered an essential item, but many lightweight backpackers love to hike with them for a variety of reasons. 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 trekking 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.
Many ask, why use them? Think for a few seconds about the last stream you crossed, or snowbank you traversed… difficult, right? With hiking poles, your stability and balance are increased, making these traverses a piece of cake.
That’s reason enough. But if you need to know additional advantages of hiking poles…
- Joint Protection – While hiking downhill with poles, anti-shock reduces impact on your knees
- Endurance – While climbing a mountain pass, your shoulders and forearms bear more pack weight, increasing your endurance
- Rhythm – Hiking staffs help you establish a rhythm
- Tent Poles – Ultralight backpacking tents use hiking staffs as tent poles. Way cool
Frankly, you’re hard pressed to find many drawbacks, but the few disadvantages are significant. One of the most apparent is cost. With the exception of a Walmart hiking staff or a generic walking stick, great poles cost $50 – $100. The best hiking poles can cost upwards of $200. Remember, the best hiking poles are not the most expensive poles!
The next disadvantage is weight. If you read trekking pole reviews and decide to purchase antishock to lessen the beating your joints take while hiking, your poles will weigh quite a lot. If antishock isn’t important to you, Komperdell are super lightweight, negating this disadvantage.
Finally, there is the disadvantage of carrying large walking poles. However, this is only perceived by hikers that don’t use nordic walking poles. All of the best hiking poles these days are compact and collapsible.
Telescoping and Folding Telescoping poles are your traditional two and three-section models that can be used for day hikes or long treks with a heavy pack. Each piece has a locking system that can be opened for adjustment and secured while on the trail. Three-section poles are preferred for packability, and, to help the adventure travelers out there, we’ve included the collapsed length to see if they’ll fit in your suitcase or pack. In this category, we prefer the lighter poles with simple feature sets—secure locking mechanisms, quality construction, and comfortable grips.
The weight of the trekking poles should be your second biggest consideration (first is comfort). A pole that weighs less will not fatigue your arms as quickly, which is a big benefit on long treks. For moving light and fast, the lighter the better, with a caveat that durability diminishes once you get into the superlight category. The small diameter and thin shaft materials have a greater tendency to bend, snap or break. In general, poles that weigh under 1 pound fall into this ultralight category.
Outside of purchasing an ultralight folding trekking pole, chances are you’ll be eying one with some sort of locking mechanism. The classic style used a twist lock, where you twisted each section either open or closed to adjust and lock into place. These poles were haunted by inconsistent performance, with hikers either over tightening to the point of seizing, twisting them too loose resulting in perpetual issues with collapsing, or using them correctly and still impaling themselves on their cork handle. Needless to say, the twist lock is getting out of vogue.
Generally, trekking poles are made either from aluminum, carbon fiber, or a combination of the two (a 2-section pole may have an aluminum upper and carbon fiber lower, for example). Carbon poles are lighter and the material “gives” a bit more than rigid aluminum, hence absorbing shock a bit better. The trade off is that carbon is prone to breakage (and when carbon fiber breaks, it breaks; aluminum may just bend and still be usable).
Many trekking pole grips are made of EVA foam that provides a measure of shock absorption while retaining grip. These grips perform especially well in the summer months by absorbing sweat while retaining a comfortable feel. Our personal favorite is the cork grip, which also wicks moisture well. More, the firm but comfortable grip will conform to your hand over time and is the best choice for long-distance trekking. Rubber is the third option, but we’ve found these grips to be best for cold weather activities, because while they insulate well, they lack the sweat absorption and hand feel in warm weather of foam and cork.
Uncomfortable foam, cork disintegrating into your hands, wrist straps chafing your hands, frail locking mechanisms collapsing. Need we go on? A poorly made cheap trekking pole is just not worth it. Now we’re not saying you have to spend $150 to feel safe and secure; there are a number of poles under $100 that we still highly recommend.
Trekking poles and hiking staffs are standard equipment for many walkers, hikers, trekkers, backpackers and snowshoers. The reasons why are simple: They enhance your stability and provide support on all types of terrain. If you need more help deciding, please contact us or continue checking out our hiking and trekking pole articles.