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The Best Hiking Poles Help You Go Further on Every Trek

Whether you’re hiking, snowshoeing, or trail running, these poles make any adventure better.

hiking poles
Staff, Courtesy of REI Co-op

Hiking poles are valuable tools for hikers and adventurers across the world, no matter the trekker’s age or physical condition. Whether you’re hiking a few miles, thru-hiking, trail running, snowshoeing, Nordic walking, mountaineering, or backcountry skiing or snowboarding, trekking poles help. They aid in balance, reduce fatigue in your knees and hips and even help reduce swelling in your hands when they hang lower on your body. They’re also great for other purposes, like serving as a tent pole for ultralight setups or being used as a splint after an accident in the backcountry.

What to Consider

Trekking poles are great, if not essential, pieces of gear for all sorts of activities. As such, their design and utility varies greatly. While some hiking poles are fixed length, like ski poles, many others are adjustable and have one or two telescoping sections. When you’re thinking about your needs on the trail or path, here's what to consider.

Fixed-Length or Adjustable

The first being to consider is whether you want an adjustable trekking pole or a fixed-length trekking pole. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. A fixed-length hiking pole is lighter and stronger than an adjustable-length trekking pole. If you want a fixed-length hiking pole, you’ll want one that puts your elbows at a 90-degree angle when the tips are on the advantage.

Adjustable poles usually come in two sizes: shorter ones for women and longer ones for men. Since they’re adjustable, they can adapt to people of varying height, and the needs you're likely to have on specific treks (you might want them higher when climbing and lower when descending). They’re great to use as poles for ultralight shelters, which can help make a thru-hiker’s pack a little lighter. Adjustable poles can often collapse down to about two feet or less, making it easy to stow them on the side of a backpack.

Collapsing trekking poles have two or three sections that lock into place. Some sections are unrelated via a mechanism like a cable. Others, particularly those on adjustable poles, lock into place either by a twisting mechanism or external clamp that locks the segment at the chosen length.

Materials and Cost

Hiking poles are generally made of two materials: carbon fiber or aluminum. Carbon fiber is more expensive, lighter and more brittle, while aluminum is more durable and less expensive. Some are made of both for a combination of light weight and durability.

Weight

Most hiking pole sets weigh in somewhere close to a pound. Lighter poles are thinner and generally more prone to damage. However, with careful use, they’ll last for years.

Grips and Wrist Straps

Grips are generally made out of cork, foam, or rubber. They’re all very comfortable in hand. Rubber and cork are better at absorbing vibrations but rubber can cause friction blisters in warmer months. Foam is also soft but typically absorbs more moisture than other materials.

It’s important that the wrist straps on your poles are comfortable and adjustable. Sometimes you’ll want to rest your wrists in them rather than holding the poles themselves. They should also be easy to put on and take off.

Accessories

Most hiking pole accessories are doneonpurpose to attach at the bottom of your pole, but some poles come with grip accessories as well, like binoculars, a whippet attachment, or an insert to use the trekking pole as a monopod for photography.

Hiking poles can also come with interchangeable baskets. Bigger baskets are great for snowshoeing and winter sports. Smaller baskets are better for hiking in warmer weather or muddy conditions.

Pole tips, which are usually made of carbide or steel, may be covered with plastic or rubber tips or walkers to reduce the vibration when you’re using them on a road or paved surface.

Anti-Shock Features

Some trekking poles have a strike-dampening mechanism—basically a small shock absorbing system—that helps reduce vibration. This adds cost and weight to the poles, but some people like it.

How We Evaluated

We’ve used and tested multiple sets of trekking poles for over a decade on all sorts of adventures—climbing mountains, multiday treks, front-country hikes and trail runs, backcountry skiing and snowshoeing, and more. We’ve used that knowledge and supplemented it with research to find the best trekking poles for your needs today and into the future.

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1
Best Ultralight Trail Running Poles
Distance Carbon Z
Black Diamond

  • Ultralight
  • Pack up compactly

  • Expensive
  • Not adjustable
  • No extra features

Key Specs

  • Pole Material(s): Carbon fiber
  • Grip: Foam
  • Adjustable: No
  • Length(s): 100 centimeters (39 inches) to 130 centimeters (51 inches) in 5 centimeter increments
  • Packed Length: 33 centimeters (13 inches) to 44 centimeters (17 inches)
  • Claimed Weight: 10.2 ounces
  • Unique Features: Among the most compact when folded

Designed for distance trekking and trail running, the minimalist Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z poles are among the lightest we’ve seen. The 115 centimeter set has a claimed weight of 10.2 ounces—less than a can of soda. They also fold down into some of the shortest segments we’ve seen, making it easy to stow them in a small pack or vest like those worn by distance and trail runners.

These poles don’t have many bells or whistles, they’re just made to go fast. As such, they don’t have many features and aren’t adjustable. Distance hikers will appreciate their lightness, since they add little to no weight to the hand.

However, they aren’t adjustable and users need to pick the right size when they buy them. Thankfully, they’re available in women’s and men’s versions, going up in length by 5-centimeter increments.

2
Best Inexpensive Carbon Poles
Tech Carbon Fiber Quick Lock
Cork with foam extension
Now 31% off

  • Inexpensive
  • Carbon fiber
  • Great accessories

  • Heavier than others
  • Not very compact when collapsed

Key Specs

  • Pole Material(s): Carbon fiber
  • Grip: Cork with foam extension
  • Adjustable: Yes
  • Length(s): Maximum of 137 centimeters (54 inches)
  • Packed Length: 66 centimeters (26 inches)
  • Claimed Weight: 15.6 ounces
  • Unique Features: Comes with carrying case, boot tips and small tips, as well as mud and snow baskets

These inexpensive Cork with foam extension Carbon Fiber Quick Lock carbon trekking poles cost less than many aluminum trekking poles and come with a host of great accessories, making them ideal for someone looking for their first pole set.

The two sets of rubber tips can cover the carbide steel tips for walking on hard surfaces like roads, while the two sets of baskets—one for mud, the other for snow—help increase the versatility of these great poles, allowing you to use them for trekking throughout the year and even for snowshoeing in the winter.

While lighter than most aluminum poles, they are heavier than other carbon options, but for the price, these are hard to beat.

3
Most Durable
Trail Ergo Cork
Black Diamond

  • Ergonomic cork grips
  • Easy to adjust
  • Interchangeable accommodation
  • Durable
  • Good value

  • Heavier and not as compact as other options

Key Specs

  • Pole Material(s): Aluminium
  • Grip: Cork and foam extension
  • Adjustable: Yes
  • Length(s): Men’s: 100 to 140 centimeters (39 to 55 inches); Women’s: 100 to 125 centimeters (39 to 49 inches)
  • Packed Length: 27 inches
  • Claimed Weight: 1 pound, 2 ounces
  • Unique Features: Ergonomic grip

This is the trekking pole that makes you wonder: “Why didn’t someone come up with this before?” With the Trail Ergo Cork, Black Diamond angled the grip at 15 degrees to the rest of the trekking pole, making it more ergonomic for hikers, a feature raved about by customers and testers alike. The cork grip is comfortable and absorbs some vibration.

Made of aluminum, the Trail Ergo Cork is also known for its durability. It’s only a few ounces heaver than its carbon fiber counterparts, too, and its click lock is both easily adjustable and known for staying in place.

At about $140, these are a great value and users can change tips and baskets as needed to meet the needs of the seasons.

Buy Men's

Buy Women's

4
Best for Smaller Hands
Cressida AS Trekking Poles Women's
Leki

  • Handles and straps sized for smaller hands
  • Good range of accessories

  • Heavier than other models
  • Best Wireless Earbuds

Key Specs

  • Pole Material(s): Aluminum
  • Grip: Foam
  • Adjustable: Yes
  • Length(s): 90 centimeters (35 inches) to 125 centimeters (49 inches)
  • Packed Length: 64 centimeters (25 inches)
  • Claimed Weight: 1 pound, 1 ounce
  • Unique Features: Smaller grips for women’s hands, anti-shock system

The Leki Cressida AS Trekking Poles are designed for women and have smaller handgrips and hand straps than Leki’s other unisex trekking poles, making it easier for small hands to grip them. These poles feature an anti-shock system helping reduce vibration when striking pavement or rocks. These durable aluminum poles have lever locks that are easy to adjust and firmly lock the poles in place. Leki also offers these in carbon aluminum hybrid options.

5
Best Lightweight Aluminum
Makalu Lite AS Trekking Poles
Leki

  • Comfortable handgrips
  • Good range of accessories

  • Heavier than other models
  • Best Wireless Earbuds

Key Specs

  • Pole Material(s): Aluminum
  • Grip: Foam
  • Adjustable: Yes
  • Length(s): 100 centimeters (39 inches) to 135 centimeters (53 inches)
  • Packed Length: 67 centimeters (26 inches)
  • Claimed Weight: 1 pound, 2 ounces
  • Unique Features: Anti-shock system

The Leki Makalu Lite AS Trekking Poles are the unisex version of the Cressida and feature an anti-shock system that helps reduce vibration when striking pavement or rocks.

Durable and made from aluminum, these poles have lever locks that are easily adjustable and firmly lock the poles in place. Like the Cressida poles above, Leki also offers these in carbon aluminum hybrid options.

6
Best Lightweight Carbon
Flash Carbon Trekking Poles
REI Co-op

  • Lightweight
  • Durable
  • Comfortable hand straps
  • Affordable

  • Foam hand grips aren’t as comfortable as other options
  • Not short when collapsed

Key Specs

  • Pole Material(s): Carbon
  • Grip: Foam
  • Adjustable: Yes
  • Length(s): 105 centimeters (41 inches) to 140 centimeters (55 inches)
  • Packed Length: 64 centimeters (25 inches)
  • Claimed Weight: 13.6 ounces
  • Unique Features: Foam grips, locking mechanism, replaceable basket

The REI Co-op Flash Carbon is an affordable, lightweight trekking pole with a comfortable foam grip. It’s also available in a compact size for women and smaller people. The Flash Carbon poles also have a secure locking mechanism.

The Flash Carbon trekking poles have easily replaceable baskets and are among the lightest adjustable and collapsable models. However, they don’t collapse into as compact of a unit as other options do.

We’ve had an older model of these for over a decade and still haven’t broken them, so we’d dare to say they’re pretty durable for a carbon hiking pole.

7
Best Adjustable Carbon
Distance Carbon FLZ Trekking Poles
Black Diamond

  • Ultralight
  • Very compact
  • No extra features

  • Expensive
  • Shorter range of adjustability than other poles
  • Not as durable

Key Specs

  • Pole Material(s): Carbon
  • Grip: Foam
  • Adjustable: Yes
  • Length(s): 95 centimeters (37 inches) to 110 centimeters (43 inches); 110 centimeters (43 inches) to 125 centimeters (49 inches); 125 centimeters (49 inches) to 140 centimeters (55 inches)
  • Packed Length: 34 centimeters (13 inches), 37 centimeters (15 inches), 40 centimeters (16 inches)
  • Claimed Weight: 11.6 Running Shoes & Gear
  • Unique Features: Adjustable and folding

Geared towards alpine climbers and trail runners who want an ultralight, extremely compact hiking pole with adjustability, the Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ Trekking Poles come in three sizes.

However, each size only offers about 6 inches of adjustability, much less than most other collapsable trekking poles. The hand straps are comfortable but not adjustable.

8
Best for Kids
Tarn Trekking Poles - Kids
REI Co-op

  • Durable
  • Designed for children up to 5 foot 5
  • Adjustable

  • Heavier than some adult poles
  • Not as compact as other trekking poles

Key Specs

  • Pole Material(s): Aluminum
  • Grip: Rubber
  • Adjustable: Yes
  • Length(s): 90 centimeters (35 inches) to 110 centimeters (43 inches)
  • Packed Length: 65 centimeters (26 inches)
  • Claimed Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Unique Features: Smaller trekking poles for kids

If you’re bringing the kids out on a longer trek or want them to feel a little more grown-up with their trekking poles, the REI Co-op Tarn Trekking Poles are a great buy. They’re relatively lightweight and collapsable with just two sections. Made out of aluminum, they should be able to take a bashing, too.

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