CAMPING & HIKING

Best Trekking Poles: Your Guide to Choosing A Suitable Hiking Pole

Trekking poles review
Jerry Mueller
Written by Jerry Mueller

Looking for a suitable hiking pole to bring along on your trip? When you’re looking for the best hiking poles in the market, there’s quite a few factors to be taken into consideration. Consider these questions when determining what kind of hiking pole you’re looking for: Are you looking for comfort? Or durability? How are you planning on using them?

Hiking poles are the best and most useful gear for hiking. As it helps reduce the impact of hiking on your knee joints and leg muscles, the hiking pole is an essential tool. But you may not be aware of the different kinds of poles and which ones would work best for you. However, you’ll come away from this article knowing exactly what to look for in hiking poles, including the different materials and grips.

Trekking poles for everyone

What is the best set of hiking poles for your hiking trips? We’ve taken a few models and reviewed them. These models are different and varies from their sizes, materials, comfort, weight, durability and packability. We consider the different factors here to help you find out which is right for your specific activity.

Pole Designs

Two section poles

If you’re looking for a strong looking pole, this could be the type that you’re after. It has the strongest design and it is great for skiing.

Two section poles

For those who are hard on their poles, two section poles are the best choice. However, two section poles don’t pack down very much, so they take up a lot more space. They are slightly heavier in weight too in comparison to other hiking poles.

Three section poles

This is the most common design of hiking pole and is more compact than two section poles. It is lighter too, but they are not as strong as two section poles. Three section poles are most suitable for trekking, mountaineering and backpacking. All the three sections can be strapped to a backpack for easy storage. If you’re thinking of going backpacking, this could be the right hiking pole for you.

Folding or ‘tent pole’ style hiking poles

Looking for the lightest hiking poles? These hiking poles fit the bill and are very compact, but are not very durable for most hikers doing  medium-duty cross country travel. These hiking poles are suitable for climbers because of their light weight and easy carry during alpine rock climbs.

Folding hiking poles

These light-duty hiking poles can be approximately 10 to 14 ounces lighter in weight and be about 7 to 9 inches in length. They’re definitely not tough enough for your ski trips, but perfect for normal climbing trips.

Material of Hiking Poles

The material of the hiking poles are just as important as its weight and shape. This part involves more personal preference. Pole handles are usually made of either cork, rubber or foam.

Cork

This is the nicest material, just like your Birkenstocks! Cork is durable, comfortable and smooth. It offers the most comfort because it shapes to your hand overtime. And because it doesn’t absorb a lot of water, you won’t have to worry about sweaty palms!

Rubber

Rubber is slightly better than cork. However, if you’re looking for poles for cold weather or mountaineering use, rubber insulates better and is about the same as cork when it comes to absorbing shock.

Hiking poles

This is the best choice for skiing or any other cold weather hiking activities because it insulates better. However, it might not be the perfect material for summer.

Foam

The lightest of all choices. If you were to go with foam, you’d love how light it is to hold. However, it loses its shape more quickly than the other materials. Foam is actually the most moisture-wicking material, and it is great for desert hikes.

Grip Diameter

Different types of hiking models may have a smaller or larger than average hand grip diameter, so it’s important to choose according to the size of your hands. Are they large or small? If you have a smaller hand, you should go for hiking poles with smaller hand grip diameter. Comfort is an important factor, as you’re going to be carrying these poles for very long distances.

Comfort

In terms of choosing which is most comfortable, it’s best to try them out for yourself before you buy. Nothing beats having a hiking pole in your hand and feeling how the grip molds to your hands.

Comfort for your hands

It may take some getting used to, but if it’s not comfortable from the start, you shouldn’t invest in it. If you do hike wearing gloves, however, this element of comfort may not be that important to you.

Durability

Admit it, there are times when you’ve accidentally broken your poles in the snow, between rocks or just from collapsing the lower section of your pole. That’s why it’s important to consider the construction of the pole and the material used. The most important factor here is the shaft construction. Most hiking poles are either made of Aluminum or Carbon fiber.

Hiking poles made of Aluminum

Hiking poles made of Aluminum can bend and still be functional and use durable, higher grade aluminum, such as 7075-T6 or 7075 grade aluminum. This type of pole is actually heavier in weight, but it’s built to withstand very rough treatment. Not everyone is after a super durable hiking pole and you can actually start with a light-weighted pole, instead of a heavy pole.

Hiking poles made of Carbon fiber

Any hiking pole that is made of Carbon fiber is definitely lighter. Aluminum may be more durable in comparison, but carbon fiber is definitely much sturdier. It is stiffer to use, but once they crack or dent, they’re pretty much done.

Carbon fiber hiking poles

In order to make your choice easier when it comes to the weight of your poles, it’s any hiking pole that weighs below 13 ounces should have its durability in question. Sure, it may be easier to carry, but you’ll have to worry about replacing them in the future when they break.

As a tip for shopping for hiking poles, the steel tips of the hiking poles may provide traction and the carbide may wear a little, so it is best to get one with protection. In the market nowadays, you’ll be able to find most hiking poles with rubber or plastic tip protectors which are very useful and are good for storage traveling.

Baskets

Most manufacturers make two or three sizes of baskets. A small basket will help out with mud and won’t get tangled up on bushes or branches, but is not suitable for cold weather, especially snow as they’re more likely to bend and snap. Snow baskets may help in this case, but they tend to get hung up more often.

Weight

Backpackers may find this factor the most important to be taken into consideration, but light poles tend to have a lack of adjustment. However, as long as you’ve purchased the right size, this may not be that big of a deal.

Hiking pole weight

On another note, consider the type of activity you’re planning for. The weight of the hiking pole is important if you’re planning to travel on a multi-day expedition where every ounce matters; you should then consider ultra-light hiking poles. If you’re looking for a hiking pole that is good for packing and light in weight, then the folding or ‘tent pole’ style hiking poles are your best options.

Packability

You would want your hiking poles to be easily pack away so you can bring them anywhere with you without having to worry about them taking up too much space.  Whether you’re after a compact hiking pole or a hiking pole which you can easily pack inside a duffel for traveling purposes, you’ll have to consider the packability of the pole. This factor is especially important for climbers, mountaineers and backpackers.

Hiking poles packability

Backpackers all want to travel with a hiking pole that can be easily strapped to their back when they hike, that is why choosing the type of hiking pole that is shorter in length is better in this sense. Unless you’re not planning to pack your hiking poles, you may want to consider a much more compact hiking pole.

Find out which hiking pole is suitable for your activities

Everyone needs a different hiking pole for a different purpose. Depending on the type of activity, not everyone would go for a super durable hiking pole. Hikers going on a normal climbing trip during the day may only need a very light hiking pole while backpackers need to have strong hiking poles. Consider all these different factors and think about what type of hiking pole may be the one suitable for your trip so you can buy accordingly.

Accessories

When it comes to hiking, you’ll also have to consider the weather. Under snowy conditions and cold weather, its best to change the baskets on your hiking poles to snow baskets.

Hiking poles with snow baskets

Many of you may wonder if there is an advantage to twist lock style poles? Well there is an advantage, as twist lock style mechanisms are much lighter than other poles, and also need less adjusting over time. The SpeedLock is the most functional at the moment and have been proven to be the easiest external locking mechanism to adjust the tension of.

 

Product reviews:

Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Trekking Poles

Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Trekking Poles

 

Weight: 0.99 Pounds

Dimensions: 4.33 x 33.86 x 2.36 inches

Specific features: The Black Diamond’s Alpine Carbon Cork poles feature 3 compact carbon fiber shafts, dual FlickLock Pro adjusters and a natural cork grip. For an added comfort, you’ll be able to find the 360-degree adjustable Nubuck wrist straps that consist of padding and are left- and right-hand specific. It consists of a Carbon tone and is Carbon Cork in colour.

It has a non-slip EVA foam grip extension and is constructed with 100% carbon fiber. Besides that, it also has a natural cork grip with dual-density top. The Alpine Carbon Cork pole also features interchangeable baskets allowing it to be cold-weather friendly and perfect for snowy conditions, however this may be sold separately.

Best use: The Alpine Carbon Cork pole is best for backpackers who are after a strong hiking pole, as it is quite strong and has a comfortable grip. It also has superior packability and is perfect for backpacking. Mountaineers and climbers would find the Alpine Carbon Cork pole very useful and perfect for their trip.

It is also the most durable among most hiking tools. It is the most versatile of all Black Diamond’s Z-series poles and was a strong contender for an award winner. Small-handed users favour this type of pole, with its respectable weight and overall durability.

Related: Alpine Carbon Z

LEKI Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles

LEKI Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles

Weight: 0.91pounds

Dimensions: 110-130cm adjustment, 15-inch pack size

Specific features: LEKI Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles features a 100% HM Carbon Shaft along with an AERGON Thermo Extended Grip. The grip itself features a slightly larger than average foam grip that is great for warmer climates because of its stellar wicking capabilities.

Just like any other one of Leki’s other poles, you’ll find the Micro Vario Carbon smooth and great to hold onto. The pole consists of an external lever locking mechanism on the top of the shaft and a simple push-pin style mechanism to lock the lower three sections in place. The best part of this is that you don’t need anything to adjust it, but you can just use your hand to adjust the tension of the lever.

It has an extremely awesome packability which breaks down to a 15-inch packed size that is nearly half the length of other models. Consider it to have a better packability in comparison with the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork which breaks down to a 25-inch packed size. Constructed with carbon, it is the most durable hiking pole in this list.

Best use: The LEKI Micro Vario Carbon Trekking pole has the most comfortable foam grip and is the lightest among most hiking poles. It offers a good range of adjustment and is extremely packable. This is great for hiking, mountaineering and backpacking as well. It remains a top choice for most hikers with its packable size and minimal weight.

Related: Leki Micro Vario Ti Cor-Tec, Leki CarbonLite

Leki Carbon Ti Trekking Pole

Leki Carbon Ti Trekking Pole

Weight: 0.93pounds

Dimensions: 135cm, 26.5-inch(67cm) pack size

Specific features: Leki Carbon Ti Trekking Pole features AERGON Thermo XL grips, the most comfortable form of grip along with aluminum upper section and two lower carbon fiber sections with an interchange basket that makes it a capable hiking pole for snowy weathers.

It functions with a new and improved locking mechanism, featuring the SpeedLock which is more durable and reliable.

Best use: It may not be the toughest pole but it is durable enough for all on-trail use and nearly all heavy duty off-trail use. The Leki Carbon Ti Trekking pole is great for trekking, day hiking or snowshoeing.

It does not have great packability as compared to the LEKI Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles, but it’s not a big deal for trekkers or backpackers who are going to be holding onto these poles most of the time. Perfect for cold weather use, you can bring this trekking pole with you on your snowy trips.

Related: Leki CarbonLite, Leki Micro Vario Carbon

Men’s Leki Micro Vario Ti Cor-Tec Trekking Pole

Men's Leki Micro Vario Ti Cor-Tec Trekking Pole

Weight: 1.15pounds

Dimensions: 135cm(53-inch), 15.5-inch(39cm) pack size

Specific features: This product has a newer folding style rather than the traditional telescoping design. It uses a combination of a SpeedLock lever lock style system on the upper section of the shaft and a “push-pin” style adjustment on the lower three sections.

It features a comfortable grip, with a more articulated and ergonomic design. Also, it has 20cm of length adjustment, as well as interchangeable baskets for a strong shaft.

Best use: The Leki Micro Vario Ti Cor-Tec Trekking Pole is very versatile, considering its lightweight and modern folding design. It would be suitable for climbers or hikers who may need to pack their poles regularly. As these type of poles are very durable, they’re great for day trips on both cross-country terrain and trails.

 

Black Diamond Distance Z Z-Poles

Black Diamond Distance Z Z-Poles

Weight: 0.9pounds

Dimensions: 14 x 5 x 3 inches; 14.4 ounces

Specific features: Constructed with aluminum shafts, the versatile Black Diamond Distance Z Z-Poles feature a three-section folding design with speed cone deployment. The special part of it includes the Z-Pole technology, which allows the poles to have an extremely short pack length, making them very compact.

The poles consist of a non-slip EVA foam mini grip extension for secure choke ups. Other than that, it also features a moisture-wicking, hand specific wrist strap, making it convenient for hikers. The Distance Z Z-Poles also include interchangeable, non-marking Z-pole Rubber Tips, Z-pole Carbide Tips and stow bag.

Best use: Overall, the Black Diamond has really scored with this pole, with its amazing light weight and versatility.  With the stable and modern Z-Pole technology, the pole is suitable for backpackers, hikers and trail runners. The pole can be easily snapped into place and locked. Breathable and moisture-wicking, it is perfect for warmer climates.

Black Diamond Trail Back Walking Pole

Black Diamond Trail Back Walking Pole

Weight: 1.24 pounds

Dimensions: 3 x 2 x 26 inches

Specific features: The Black Diamond Trail Black Walking Pole features a very dependable and easy-to-use FlickLock adjustment mechanism, comfortable rubber grips with nicely textured foam for ‘choking down’, and it offers average level durability. The pole is not very light as compared to the Black Diamond Distance Z-Z poles.

In terms of comfort, the Trail Black Walking Pole features a nicely shaped and smaller-than-average diameter ribbed rubber grip with pleasant ergonomics. This model has the most comfortable rubber grips among most poles in our review.

Best use: The Trail Back Walking pole is most suitable for activities such as camping and hiking. It’s a little heavier than average aluminum telescoping poles on the market, but it is very durable. The FlickLock adjustment mechanism is a time proven design that’s super easy to adjust and it is just a plain bomber!

For climbers, trekkers, backpackers, snowshoers, split boarders and hikers, the Black Diamond Trail Back Walking Pole is an absolutely suitable one.

Related: Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork, Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork

Kelty Upslope 2.0 Trekking Poles (pair)

Kelty Upslope 2.0 Trekking Poles (pair)

Weight: 1.19 pounds

Dimensions: 0.25 x 0.25 x 25.5 inches

Specific features: The Kelty Upslope 2.0 Trekking Poles feature a non-slip carbide tip for pole plants on various surfaces. It comes with a padded wrist strap and EVA foam grip for comfort.

It is constructed of lightweight, durable 6061 anodized aluminum and it also features three adjustable sections with reliable twist-lock mechanisms that provide a maximum length of 53 inches and packs down to 27.25 inch in length.

Best use: These trekking poles can help you enjoy your time better on the trail with its telescoping adjustability, and is great for hiking and skiing. The telescoping adjustability of this pole helps you enjoy the hiking or skiing experience when you’re on the top as you can set the pole to a comfortable height. It’s also great for backpacking.

Hikers will find the EVA foam handles with padded wrist straps very comfortable as it secures grip.

 

Conclusion

It definitely isn’t easy to find the perfect hiking poles as there are always pros and cons for each and every type and brand. It all comes down to considering which one is suitable for you in terms of the weather during your hiking trips and the type of activity you’ll be doing. The best choices may include light-weighted poles, but durability is also a factor to consider.

Hiking poles on road

Most people may not go for heavy duty poles and sturdy poles as they may not be suitable for backpacking and are expensive. If you’re just going for a hike in normal weather, a lightweight hiking pole could be ideal. Depending on your budget and the type of material you would prefer, we try our best here to provide you as much information as possible to assist you with your purchase.

Have you got any thoughts on this? Share your thoughts with us and let us know what you think!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jerry Mueller
Jerry Mueller

Jerry ‘Boy Scout’ Mueller spends 99% of his time camping or teaching others how to live in the wild. He became an Eagle Scout which is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouting division when he was 17 and after that he still lives the scout life. Jerry always plans neatly every trip, takes leadership very seriously and if you listen to his tips and stories, you can learn tons of useful things.

  • Elliot Giles

    Just used the Leki Carbon Ti Trekking Pole for the Tour Du Mt Blanc, a 105 mile hike with a cumulative 30,000 feet altitude gain. Great product. Extremely lightweight, easy and fast to adjust, very tough. The handle and the loop feel very comfortable and always dry even with sweaty hands and in the rain. Probably the best poles I ever owned.

  • Jerry Mueller

    Hey there Elliot! Yes, those poles are extremely tough, but so lightweight! The price is just right and won’t break the bank. Enjoy your new toys my friend and I’m happy you like them a lot. Thanks for dropping by.

  • Carl Thompson

    I’ve tried a number of trekking poles and ski poles and have finally found ones that I like, the Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles! I’m a casual hiker with bad knees and really appreciate having these to lessen the impact on my joints, especially going downhill. These have very comfortable handles (the foam feels very conforming without being too mushy). The poles seem to be good quality and feel very sturdy (don’t bend or feel wobbly at all). They also just look high quality. Overall, a great set of poles for hiking.

    • Jerry Mueller

      I have the same trekking poles and what can I say but “good choice!” The handles provide very good gripping points and I appreciate it a lot especially when I’m caught in a sudden downpour. I’ve tested some poles which get pretty slippery when wet. Thanks for visiting the site, by the way and take care of that knee. Make sure you’re in good condition when you go on your hikes.

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