Best Trekking & Hiking Poles – Your Complete Guide to Choosing

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Article Categories: Gear | Hiking Tips
Article Tags: gear | Hiking Gear

Trekking poles are loved by many hikers and trail runners for their many potential benefits. If you’re still undecided about whether or not you should use them, you should go read our article explaining the science behind the pros and cons of trekking poles, and then come back here to do some comparison shopping! Whether you call them hiking poles or trekking poles, you can bet that with our guide you’ll find the perfect poles to take with you on all of your adventures.

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How To Choose | Best Poles Under $50 | Best Poles Under $100 | Best Hiking Poles Overall

 

How To Choose Trekking Poles

Trekking poles aren’t just walking sticks – far from it. They’re engineered to provide balance and stability while hiking, while at the same time being light, durable, and easy to pack. Even though they might all look similar (there are only so many ways to design a pole, after all), there are several key features that set different hiking pole models apart.

 

Weight

For many hikers, the weight of hiking poles is an important factor in whether or not they use them. The good news is that modern materials and engineering have led to a range of lightweight, durable designs. Even the heaviest metal poles weigh less than a pound and a half (22 ounces, to be specific), which isn’t very much. However, ultralight hikers and trail runners might find even that amount of weight to be detrimental. Lighter poles made of carbon fiber can weigh as little as 12 ounces, which is less than an extra pound of gear. Look for poles between these ranges with the understanding that lighter often means more expensive, but less work is required to carry, pack, and use them.

 

Shaft Material

Trekking poles are made from two main materials: Carbon fiber (sometimes called composite) and aluminum. Both materials make great poles, but there are many reasons you might want to choose one over the other. Some feel that shaft material is more important than weight as a deciding factor because shaft material has a much higher impact on potential safety.

Aluminum poles are more durable than carbon fiber poles. Importantly, they are also not as sensitive to temperature as carbon fiber poles, which means that if you’re hiking in extreme temperatures (particularly extreme cold), you may want to work with aluminum poles. While both types of poles are sturdy and can take a beating out on the trail, small bends and dents in aluminum poles can often be straightened out. Aluminum is also usually the cheaper option. However, aluminum poles are heavier than carbon fiber poles– a lightweight aluminum pole set might weigh twice as much as a comparable carbon fiber set.

Carbon fiber is lighter weight but that’s not the only advantage. Carbon fiber poles are often stiffer than aluminum, which means that there’s less flexing when they hit the ground. This means that they potentially can provide more power than aluminum poles in certain situations. Many trail runners also really like carbon fiber poles because of how much lighter they are. When every second counts in a race, you don’t want to be held back even a little bit by the weight of your poles.

If you’re still not sure what shaft material to look for, check your hiking style against our handy chart.

Activity Shaft Material
Trail Running Carbon Fiber
Ultralight Backpacking Carbon Fiber
Endurance Hiking Carbon Fiber/Aluminum
Camping With Heavy Loads Aluminum
Winter Or Alpine Hiking Aluminum

 

Handle Material

Hiking pole handles are typically made from one of three materials. Cork is the lightest and is often considered the most comfortable. Cork is suitable for all weather, but rubber is best for winter hiking as it helps insulate the hand. However, rubber handles can get uncomfortably slippery in the summer and can also lead to chafing. Foam handles are also increasingly popular for the comfort and cushioning they bring to the hand. Synthetic foam is also usually cheaper than cork and can be manufactured for specific hiking conditions. Foam tends to absorb sweat, which helps prevent slipping and chafing in the summer.

In addition to the handle, some of our most liked poles have a handle extension below the main handle that offers the ability to change grips and heights without adjusting the pole height. We love this feature, though it adds a little weight.

 

Folding Mechanism

Trekking poles that break down for storage are far more convenient than fixed-length poles. There are two mechanisms for this:

  • Collapsible poles collapse into themselves, with each piece of the shaft able to nest inside the others. A major benefit of these is that their height differential capability is often larger than that of tri-fold styles.
  • Tri-fold poles (also known as Z fold poles) are more like tent poles and are corded internally so that they can be taken apart and deployed quickly. Tri-fold poles are typically lighter than collapsible poles but don’t have the same height flexibility.

When choosing either option, it is really just about personal preference. Tri-fold tend to fold into a smaller length, but wider in the pack, where collapsible poles tend to be a bit taller when packed down, but thinner as it is only 1 section left.

 

Locking Mechanism

Aside from fixed-length poles, all hiking poles have locking mechanisms that keep the interlocking sections in place while in use. Even non-adjustable length poles have locking mechanisms so that the sections don’t slip. Adjustable poles operate similarly but will have additional mechanisms that let you adjust the length of the interlocking sections to adapt the poles to your height and the terrain.

Most poles use one of four types of locking mechanisms.

  • Lever lock: This type of lock is like a clamp that levers down on the outside of the pole. These locks are quick and easy to adjust, even when you’re wearing gloves. Most high-quality hiking poles use some variation of the lever lock. These also can be further tightened and loosened with a coin, knife, or screwdriver.
  • Twist lock: These use an expander and screw set up to keep the sections in place. We recommend avoiding these locking mechanisms as they tend to break over extended use.
  • Push-button lock: These locks snap into place using an internal button that pops out through a hole in the outer section of the pole. Pushing this button lets you collapse the pole. These are often used in combination with a lever lock on tri-fold style poles and are effective.
  • Combination lock: Some poles use a combination of mechanisms to reduce weight or improve durability, or to have an easier lock type closer to your hand for on-the-go adjustments

 

Even the best hiking pole locking mechanisms can lose tension over time, so you need to double-check that they’re securely locked before you start hiking. For push-button locks, in particular, you need to make sure that your poles are dry and there’s no water trapped in the sections before putting them away. Push-button locks can sometimes be made of uncoated aluminum, which can corrode if left wet.

Lever locks need their tension checked before you hike. If you feel those slipping loose, you may be able to tighten them up with a small screwdriver, a knife, or a coin.

 

Wrist Strap Material

All trekking poles have wrist straps– these straps are an integral part of the pole even though you’ll find many hikers not using them properly. Many straps are made of lightweight webbing. Some of these, like nylon webbing, are known to chafe. Look for nylon with chamois or fleece lining to increase comfort and reduce chafing. You can also find lined or padded straps for additional ease of use. We tend to not have any issue with straight nylon, but if you are prone to irritation, some material that indicates it is softer is a good choice. Here is a video on how to properly use your wrist straps.

 

Packed Size

One of the most convenient things about collapsible and foldable hiking poles is that they pack down to a small size that can be tossed into or clipped onto a backpack. Think about how you plan on carrying your poles. Collapsible poles are generally 23-28 inches long when they are collapsed while folding poles are much shorter– only 13-16 inches long, but a touch wider than collapsible versions.

 

Price

Trekking poles can vary widely in price. Good quality trekking poles can be found to fit almost any budget. In the next section, we’ll show you some of our top picks that will be great, safe choices for any budget.

 

Best Budget Trekking Poles (< $50)

These budget poles are great for people who want to try something new, or for more casual hikers who don’t need to invest in higher-end equipment. One important note when you’re shopping for poles in this budget range: make sure you get poles suitable for your height! Many children’s poles can be found in this price range, and you don’t want a pole that’s too short to use!

 

Trekology Trek-Z 2.0 Trekking Poles

Trekology Trek-Z 2.0 Trekking PolesThese trekking poles come with everything you need to get started using hiking poles. With a variety of tips, these poles would be great for all kinds of terrain. This pole was chosen for its budget-friendly price, solid construction, and cork handles. It can be difficult to find genuine cork handles at this price range, but the Trek-Z 2.0 offers this ergonomic, all-weather comfort option, as well as an EVA foam option with cork texture if you prefer that grip material. This poles are on the heavier side, but still lightweight enough for heavy use, and have literally thousands of quality reviews from happy customers.

  • Weight: 23 oz
  • Shaft Material: Aluminum
  • Handle Material: Cork texture
  • Folding Mechanism: Tri-fold
  • Locking Mechanism: Lever lock
  • Price: $39.99

 

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Trekology

 

TrailBuddy Lightweight Trekking Pole

TrailBuddy Lightweight Trekking PolesThe TrailBuddy Lightweight Trekking Pole uses a lighter aluminum alloy than most other poles at this price point, saving you a bit of weight. That can really add up in the long run, because you might be lifting your poles thousands of times in one hike! They come with a number of accessories to help you through varied trail conditions. These poles also come in a wide range of fun colors, which will help your pole stand out if you drop it.

  • Weight: 19.4 oz
  • Shaft Material: Aluminum
  • Handle Material: Cork
  • Folding Mechanism: Collapsible
  • Locking Mechanism: Lever lock
  • Price: $39.99

 

Buy on Amazon | Buy on TrailBuddy

 

Best Trekking Poles Under $100

A step up from the budget-friendly poles, these trekking poles introduce more comfortable features such as higher-end wrist straps and extended handles.

 

Foxelli Trekking Poles

Foxelli Carbon Fiber Trekking PolesThese collapsible poles have many thoughtful features for your comfort. The handle has an extended EVA foam sleeve for sudden grip shifts during switchbacks, and the breathable wrist straps are padded to keep your wrists from chafing. These poles come with several tip options, including one that protects the ends of the poles while you’re storing them.

  • Weight: 15.2 oz
  • Shaft Material: Carbon fiber
  • Handle Material: Cork
  • Folding Mechanism: Collapsible
  • Locking Mechanism: Lever lock
  • Price: $71.97-$79.97

 

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Foxelli

 

Mountainsmith Halite Trekking Poles

Mountainsmith Halite Trekking PolesBacked up by a lifetime guarantee, these super-tough aluminum poles are a top choice for safety and support in any trail condition you can think of. Their rugged durability is complemented by soft wrist straps, which are designed to eliminate hot spots and pressure points.

  • Weight: 21 oz
  • Shaft Material: Aluminum
  • Handle Material: Cork/Foam
  • Folding Mechanism: Tri-fold
  • Locking Mechanism: Lever locks
  • Price: $79.95

 

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Mountainsmith

 

Best High-End Trekking Poles Over $100

If you’re a dedicated trail runner, endurance hiker, or just someone with a passion for treacherous trails and difficult terrain, you might want to consider investing in a pair of top of the line, high-end trekking poles. Every aspect of these poles is highly engineered for top-rated ergonomics, support, and safety.

 

LEKI Makalu Lite CORE-TEC AntiShock Pole Pair

LEKI Makalu Lite COR-TEC AntiShock PolesThese poles, with their ergonomically angled cork grips, air-textured straps, and shock absorbers, are designed to keep you as comfortable and safe as possible. These poles are ideal for truly rough terrain. LEKI’s unique Dynamic Suspension System neutralizes the shock and vibration of impact to reduce peak impact forces by approximately 40%. The grips have a hollow core construction to reduce weight and eliminate seams on the handles that might irritate your hands. By virtue of being designed considering the angles and sensitivities of the human body, the Makalu Lite poles are designed to make you forget you’re even using them.

  • Weight: 17 oz
  • Shaft Material: Aluminum
  • Handle Material: Cork
  • Folding Mechanism: Collapsible
  • Locking Mechanism: Lever lock
  • Price: $139.95

 

Buy on Amazon | Buy on REI

 

Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ AR Trekking Poles

Black Diamond Distance Carbon Ar Trekking PolesBlack Diamond’s trekking poles are designed with the trail runner and the ultralight hiker in mind, but any hiker will enjoy their sleek, lightweight design and unrelenting support. These poles are sturdy, incredibly lightweight, and have innovative wrist straps that draw from Black Diamond’s harness system for a perfect grip every time. The lightweight EVA foam handles and moisture-wicking strap keep your hands cool and dry while on the trail.

  • Weight: 13.7 oz
  • Shaft Material: Carbon Fiber
  • Handle Material: Cork
  • Folding Mechanism: Tri-fold
  • Locking Mechanism: Lever lock
  • Price: $189.95

 

Buy on Amazon | Buy on Black Diamond Equipment

 

Any of these hiking poles have the potential to enhance the safety and enjoyment of your time outdoors. Whether what you do on the trail is hiking, backpacking, trail running, or something else entirely, there’s a pole out there to suit your needs and make your adventures even more fun and worry-free.

We have only listed a few of the dozens of great options in the market. Be sure to check our our guide to choosing section of this article to help determine if any of the other poles on the market better suit your needs.

Disclaimer: The links above are affiliate links which means we earn a small portion of sales through these links. This doesn’t affect our recommendations in any way as our goal is to provide the most helpful information for the reader as possible. The affiliate revenue helps support the creation of this content.

Max DesMarais
Max DesMarais

Max DesMarais is the founder of Hiking & Fishing. He has a passion for the outdoors and sharing experiences with others. Max is a published author for various outdoor websites and digital marketing websites. You can read more about him here: hikingandfishing/about