Whether you want to give your knees a helping hand or turn your hike into a full-body workout, you may have looked at getting a set of trekking poles to add to your hiking gear.
However, there are a lot to chose from, made from a baffling array of materials and designs…who would have thought there was so much to a pair of poles?
Below is a quick guide to our favorites, while further down you can find our reviews of these and other popular choices.
The Best Trekking Poles in 2020
Comfortable, Balanced and Well Made, these carbon poles are our pick as the Overall Best Trekking Pole
TotalHiker’s #1 Choice
Comfortable and lightweight, these are a really good carbon trekking pole for women
Our Pick For Women
Suprisingly good for such a low price, they even come with a carry case
Our Budget Choice
These are beautifully made, really comfortable, with amazing damping. If you just want the best… get these!
If Money Is No Object…
Ludicrously light, weighing as little as 350g, these carbon poles are still stiff and pretty durable poles
Best Ultralight Poles
Why Use Hiking Poles?
While out on the trail, you’ve more than likely come across a fellow hiker carrying a pair of trekking poles as part of their gear.
A lot of experienced explorers favor poles, especially when backpacking, because they dramatically reduce the strain and pressure on your knees, and improve your balance, particularly when out on steep up and downhill sections of trail with a ton of gear on your back.
Less strain on the knees allows you to hike further and faster, without pain and discomfort. They also take some of the weight off of your legs and help to maintain stability on even the roughest terrain.
They closely resemble ski poles, and are generally sold in pairs. Another option is the hiking staff, which is a single-pole, but the majority of seasoned hikers feel they have experienced the best comfort and most benefits with a pair of trekking poles.
In this review, we’re going to dig deep and give you all of the knowledge you’ll need in order to find the best trekking poles for your next backpacking escapade.
Choosing The Best Trekking Pole
There are several questions you’ll need to answer to find the perfect poles for your needs:
Should I get a Single Staff or a Pair of Poles?
This is based on personal preference. A lot of people carry one pole for short hikes or summit pushes for stability, and two poles for long treks and balancing your weight over steep or tricky terrain.
Twist lock or flick lock?
Flick locks are ideal for trekking in winter, or cold climates. They are easy to adjust for size while wearing gloves, reducing the risk or system failure from the extreme cold.
A twist-lock is easier for making quick size adjustments on poles, but it could be difficult to do this, and thoroughly twist and lock them while wearing gloves in harsh conditions, leaving you at risk for injury. So twist locks are more suited for summer hikes.
Do I need shock absorbers?
If you already have issues or discomfort in your joints or knees, I would highly suggest poles with shock absorbers for your trekking trips.
If you are out backpacking rather than a shorter day-hike, they offer decreased impact strain and pressure on your knees, especially during steep descents.
A small downside to these poles? A slight loss of power on the ascent and decreased stability can affect your balance while descending, due to the internal springs in them.
Telescoping Poles or Folding Poles?
The granddaddy of them all, these poles are the original trekking poles. Telescoping poles are easy to adjust for size and have been around longer than any other style of pole. Generally, these poles are available in either two sections or three sections.
Two section poles are more durable and are best for adventurers who are tough on gear. Think alpine trekking, snowshoeing, those who cross country ski, and other heavy-duty activities. A downside of two-piece poles is their large packed size and generally heavier trail weight.
Of the two options, many hikers feel that three-section poles are best when out on the trail because they are lighter and more compact. Making them easier to travel with, and they can be strapped to backpacks when not in use. Three-section poles are not quite as durable when compared to their two section counterparts. However, they are tougher than folding poles, have more adjustability, and are still preferred over two-section poles by many hikers, trekkers and climbers.
Folding Poles are currently the more fashionable style of pole. These feature a design similar to the poles used for tents. They are equipped with a shock cord linking three lightweight shafts and fold down into a “Z” shape. They are typically lighter in weight and can fold up even smaller than three-part collapsible poles. They’re durable enough for most terrain and conditions but are not quite as durable as telescoping poles. These are best for trail hikers, thru-hikers, split boarders, and those who uphill ski.
Materials & Construction Methods Used In Trekking Poles
Typically, the poles are made of either aluminum or carbon. Carbon poles are lighter, but they can also be a bit expensive and susceptible to breakage. Aluminum is the more durable and economical option, though they may weigh a few ounces more.
An important component to consider when choosing your poles, is the type of grip it has. There are several different styles that cater to a variety of needs.
Foam, cork, and rubber are the most common materials used and many run several inches down the shaft of the poles, allowing you to move your grip higher or lower when on varying terrain. This saves you the hassle of having to stop and make adjustments to your pole at inopportune times.
- Foam is the softest and perhaps the most comfortable, but they absorb water and tend to break down faster when wet so may not be the best option for those who’ll be trekking in wet climates.
- Cork, on the other hand, is moisture-resistant. It also becomes more comfortable with use because of the cork molds to your hand, much like the way Birkenstocks mold to your feet. Cork is naturally antimicrobial so it also resists smell. They can be a bit heavier than foam, and can be a bit pricier.
- Rubber is the least comfortable option, and they can cause chafing on your hands if used in hot weather, especially with all-day use on long trips. However, they’re the most water-resistant, making them a good overall choice for winter activities.
The majority of poles come with carbide tips, but some come with the option rubber ones too. Carbide can be noisy and skid on hard surfaces and some people feel they do more to damage trails.
Rubber tips or covers are quieter and great on hard surfaces, such as asphalt and rock, but are much less hard-wearing.
Additionally they don’t provide the same security on wet surfaces, or on loose ground.
Baskets are designed to be used for warm-weather adventures. They are generally small so they don’t get snagged in the undergrowth while hiking.
Snow baskets or powder baskets make it easier to trek through the snow. Without powder baskets, the narrow tip of a pole using trekking baskets would sink deeply into the snow, and having no firm backstop to push against could be very unsafe for trekking.
Many poles include both types of baskets, making them equipped for use in all four seasons.
Trekking Pole Reviews
The market is flooded with a staggering choice of poles, so finding the perfect set for your next adventure could be tricky if you don’t know what features to look for. So to take the edge off, we’ve gone on the hunt and done most of the work for you.
We’ve compiled our “best” list from researching dozens of poles and combed through hundreds of online reviews about them to discover which ones were the most durable, comfy, lightweight and had the best value.
Now without further ado, our list of the top 10 best trekking poles on the market today and see which you should add to your gear.
Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ Z-Poles
Ultralight, compact and collapsible Z-Pole Technology make these carbon poles our Overall Winner for Best Trekking Poles
With poles made from carbon fiber, these Black Diamond Distance FLZ Z-poles are perfect for those who prefer to travel light.
Along with their adjustability, this makes them perfect unisex poles. The innovative Z construction also ensures these poles are also easy to adjust and stash.
Conventional two or three-section poles collapse one section inside another, but the Z-Series poles are quite a bit more innovative.
With just the press of a spring-loaded button, they pull apart and break down similar to a tent pole using SlideLock technology and FlickLock adjustability.
This means these 3 piece carbon poles are several inches shorter when collapsed than most others, making them easy to stash for climbing.
The carbon fiber construction makes them stiffer and lighter than their aluminum counterparts but they are also built strong enough for most – I am 6’2 and not small and they have no problems dealing with the stresses I put through them up or down
So, to sum up, they are ultralight, collapsible and compact. The Distance FLZs carbon is our favorite and the pick of the overall best trekking poles on the market, and are a mainstay for hard-hitting mountain adventurers.
- Ultralight at just 14 ounces
- Three-section carbon shaft for a convenient and compact carry
- Rubber grip with rib pattern to reduce vibration
- FlickLock provides total adjustability to suit the terrain at hand
- Changeable tips and basket
- Cannot be fitted with powder baskets, making them a less than ideal choice for any winter activities.
- Rubber is not my favorite to hold, especially when it gets hot.
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
The Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork is a traditional telescoping pole that is amazingly comfy to hold. The dual-density handle and padded hand loops along with a foam handle extension ensures your hands will love it any time of the year.
Its party piece is its ergonomic cork handles, with a 15-degree corrective angle to improve stress on the wrist. This will offer a more optimal hand position. The cork on the Trail Ergo is comfortable and conforms to your hand over time for an even better fit.
These poles use Black Diamond’s patented FlickLock external lever locking system, allowing the telescoping poles to be quickly and safely adjusted to accommodate different conditions.
The Trail Ergo Cork packs down to 29″, making it one of the least packable in our review. It also uses aluminum rather than carbon so it is not especially light either.
It comes with trekking and snow baskets make these poles perfect for all weather, year-round use.
- 3-section telescoping poles extend from 67cm to 135cm
- Natural cork grips reduce sweat and mold to your hand over time, making them very comfortable, with foam extension
- Aluminum alloy shaft provides a 20% reduction in swing weight without loss of strength or durability
- Includes both basket types for year round use
- Simple and fast, FlickLocks external locking system adjustment requires little effort to securely lock pole sections into position
- At lengthy 29 inches when fully packed down, they aren’t ideal for anyone needing something packable.
- 18 ounces per pair they are not that light either
LEKI Legacy Lite Cor-Tec AS Trekking Poles
These Leki CorkLite poles are perfect for hikers, seeking all-day adventure. This shock-absorbing pair of trekking poles provide the best comfort and flexibility for all-day use.
The CorkLite is equipped with Leki’s AERGON Cor-Tec Grip, which is made from a combination of the best natural, ground cork and rubber for maximum durability and comfort.
The SpeedLock mechanism used to collapse and lock these telescoping poles is comparable to Black Diamond’s FlickLock system.
Support straps and carbide flex tips are standard, and you can change the baskets for all seasons and activities. At 26 inches when fully disassembled, the CorkLite is not the most packable, but it makes up for that with its durability.
One of our favorite pairs of poles, they provide you with the durability and reliability we’ve come to expect from Leki, a company dedicated to making the lives of hikers, trekkers, and climbers easier.
- Lightweight for telescoping aluminum poles at 17.5 ounces per pair
- Include SAS-L Antishock on lower body for less impact on joints when used on rocky terrain
- Feature Aergon Cor-tec Grips made from natural, ground cork and natural rubber: comfortable and durabile
- The 3 section shaft adjust from 67-135cm with SpeedLock locking mechanism
- Not as compact as the trendy “Z-style” poles
Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking Poles
Black Diamond’s Distance Carbon Z trekking poles are another high scorer in our lineup.
Black Diamond is a leading manufacturer of outdoor gear and they seem to make an appearance on just about every list of “best” or “top” gear reviews. That’s why it shouldn’t surprise you that they will be making several appearances in this round-up.
The Black Diamond Distance Carbon Zs, are ultra-light, yet sturdy, three-section foldable design. The carbon fiber poles with an EVA breathable foam grip, are engineered for those who like to hike at a faster pace.
Non-scarring rubber Tech Tips lend to the comfort and practicality of the Distance Z poles. These ultralight poles are one of the best choices for trail runners and day hikers.
- Made of ultralight carbon fiber, and at 12 ounces per pair, they are great for ultra-runners and mountaineering
- Three-section foldable design with speed-cone deployment
- SlideLock technology improves ease-of-use when locking
- Breathable, moisture-wicking EVA foam grip and extension
- Offers both rubber and carbide tips
- Snow basket must be purchased separately
Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork
These Black Diamond Alpine Carbon trekking poles are highly versatile, fully adjustable, four-season poles built with premium materials. They are best for and were primarily constructed with mid-winter, alpine backpacking expeditions in mind. But they also function well in many other settings, from day hikes to mountain climbs to 100-mile treks.
The construction is an aluminum/carbon fiber mix and feature Black Diamond’s FlickLock Pro adjustability mechanisms, which allows for quick length changes and securely locks the chosen length in place.
This durable and versatile carbon pole features natural cork grips and dual-density tops. The cork is soft and breathable for all-day hiking, and attached to the handles are 360-degree padded straps for safety and added security.
The Alpine Carbon Cork comes with both carbide and rubber tips to help you better adapt to the terrain you are on, making it versatile adaptable in any environment. This four-season pole also comes with low profile baskets, as well as snow baskets.
- Weighs 17 ounces per pair
- Extremely comfortable cork grip with non-slip EVA foam extension
- 3 section 100% carbon fiber shaft
- Dual Flick Lock Pro adjustability with length ranging from 63-130cm
- Carbide tech tips, low profile and powder baskets for deep snow gives it great adaptability
- These poles don’t have an anti-shock mechanism, but I didn’t feel they needed them, even during off-trail travel.
Montem Ultra Strong Hiking Poles
Montem is a fledgling outdoor gear company with quality products at consumer-friendly prices. During their short time in this arena, they have become known for these Ultra Strong poles, their best selling product.
Made of 7075 aircraft-grade aluminum, these strong and durable poles were made to last and can take a beating, regardless of the terrain, carbide tips for help with traction, ensuring good security on soft and uneven surfaces.
Montem Ultra Strong poles are designed for use in all seasons, EVA foam handles make these poles comfortable for all-day adventures, and padded wrist straps add extra comfort and security. There are also bolts on the shaft for easy adjustments.
They aren’t the best option on our list, as far as weight, but if you’re looking for a sturdy set of budget poles, Montem’s Ultra Strong Poles may be a great option for you.
- Adjustable shaft from 61-135cm using quick locks.
- Crafted from durable 7075 aluminum
- Easily fits in backpacks, duffle bags and carry on luggage
- Includes rubber tip protectors, pole connectors, and mud baskets.
- Adjustable bolts on shaft for easy adjustments
- A little heavy at 19.2 ounces per pair
- The locking mechanisms sometimes need to be tightened to keep the telescoping sections secure
- The handles are foam despite having the appearance of cork
LEKI Legacy Cor-Tec Lite Trekking Poles
With over 60+ years experience in manufacturing outdoor gear, Leki is one of the best, popular and well-respected brands around.
The Legacy Cor-Tec Lite features innovative Evocon COR-TEC grips made of 80% natural ground cork for a more durable, and comfortable bio-mechanical design.
The rounded-top design of the handles provides a comfy and secure hand-hold, especially on descents. The grips on the Leki Legacy Core-Tec Lite poles also feature a built-in 8-degree angle to keep your wrists in a neutral position.
The aluminum construction delivers tons of strength and durability without adding too much weight, although not as light as the carbon counterparts.
The Speed Lock + system gives you an adjustable range of up to 14 inches while ensuring a safe and secure lock.
At the base, the carbide Flextips provide a secure hold on all terrain and surfaces for years of adventure.
A variety of different baskets can easily be screwed on for different climates and seasons.
Overall, these are great all-around poles if you don’t need the ultra-light carbon poles. Otherwise, they are perfect for day hikes, weekend backpacking trips, and even the harsh conditions of alpine trekking.
- Adjustable height from 100-135cm
- High-tensile strength aluminum shafts
- Comfortable and grippy Evocon COR-TEC grips
- SpeedLock + lever locking mechanism offers quick, reliable length adjustments even with gloved hands
- A little weighty at 17. 2 ounces per pair but not bad even compared to some carbon poles
- Powder baskets need to be purchased separately for alpine hikes
Black Diamond Trail Pro Trekking Poles
These Black Diamond poles are another set of poles that frequent gear reviews as a top choice for many outdoor enthusiasts. These are a more basic offering compared to others in the Black Diamond range, but they are great for maneuvering through slippery creeks, mushy swamps, or fighting your way through backcountry.
The Trail Pro tough aluminum shaft is composed of three collapsible sections, and their FlickLock technology allows for adjustability at both ends, making assembly faster and easier.
They also include low-profile hiking and powder baskets with plus both rubber and carbide tips to keep you steady and sure-footed no matter the terrain.
At the top you’ll find a non-slip, dual-density foam grip, with EVA foam extensions. This is not my favorite material, but it is grippy, even with gloved hands and well designed to make on the fly adjustments are needed on rough, uneven ground.
The wrist straps are padded for added comfort as well as security. These Trail Pro Poles might be relatively basic in terms of aluminum construction and no shock absorption etc, but they still make great all-around poles.
- Adjustable length from 63-140cm
- Smash Lock quick Release technology for rapid collapse and quick deployment
- New Flick Lock Pro adjustability
- Durable aluminum construction
- Carbide Tech Tips
- Low profile baskets
- 17.2 ounces per pair is not bad for aluminum poles
- Ski ferrules for snow are extra
Hiker Hunger Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles
Hiker Hunger is a small New England-based company, with a growing reputation for producing some of the best high-quality, and durable poles at low prices. Their Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles a heavy-duty, 4 season pole for the price of many aluminum poles.
The carbon fiber used to create these poles act as a natural anti-shock material, and the collapsible design is sturdy even in harsh conditions. The grip is EVA foam, with an extension below.
They also include a carrying bag with zippered pockets to hold all the accessories; tips, powder baskets and mud baskets.
These three-section poles feature the FlipLock locking mechanism, making it easy for you to securely extend these poles from 61 to 137cm, giving you a wide range of adjustability.
These carbon fiber poles can handle a day hike, weekend of backpacking or mid-winter expeditions and will work in all terrains, and at this price, a really good deal. Our favorite budget pick.
- Size adjustable from 61 to 137cm
- Great price
- Made of heavy-duty carbon fiber
- Mud baskets, and a variety of pole tip and powder baskets included
- Includes a helpful bag to conveniently carry your pole and all of its accessories
- 22 ounces per pair is not light, especially for carbon fiber
- Nylon wrist straps can be uncomfortable after rubbing against the skin during extended wear
Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Quick Lock Trekking Poles
If you’re planning for a rigorous and challenging hike without much concern for weight, then Cascade Mountain Tech poles are one of the best low-cost options for you.
This pair of adjustable poles are made from carbon fiber, and securely locks into place using a two-flick lock system.
The top of the pole features comfy, hand-conforming cork grips. This reduces the vibration with each step and wicks away sweat. An EVA foam extension sits just below the cork handles, allowing you to quickly adjust on unsteady terrain.
They are also fitted with adjustable wrist straps for added safety. The Cascade Mountain Carbon Fiber Quick Lock poles also include several baskets, making them an even better deal.
- Adjustable from 66 to 137cm
- Shafts made of 100% Carbon Fiber
- Cork handle with foam extension is very comfortable
- QuickLock locking mechanism
- Comes with 4 sets of additional tip covers: Boots, Mud Baskets, Snow Baskets and Small
- At 24 ounces per pair, these poles are literally double the weight of the lightest poles in our review, which is amazing for carbon poles!
Which To Choose?
Trekking into the unknown can be a bit rough and rugged at times, so many hikers prefer to travel with as much comfort as possible. Trekking poles can be an indispensable companion on these long, difficult hikes, providing you with stability and support, while relieving pressure off of your knees or joints.
They also have a variety of other uses such a doubling as a make-shift tent pole, promoting good posture, and even as a means of protection while out in the wild.
These poles are also handy in clearing a path, helping you to move safely along the trails. Whether you’re out on the alpine trail, an uphill hike, or sloshing through water over slippery rocks to cross a river, trekking poles are a great piece to own for any outdoorsman or woman.
No matter what kind of adventure you seek, you’ll be sure to find the perfect pair of hillwalking sticks for you.
- 1 The Best Trekking Poles in 2020
- 2 Why Use Hiking Poles?
- 3 Choosing The Best Trekking Pole
- 4 Materials & Construction Methods Used In Trekking Poles
- 5 Trekking Pole Reviews
- 5.1 Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ Z-Poles
- 5.2 Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
- 5.3 LEKI Legacy Lite Cor-Tec AS Trekking Poles
- 5.4 Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking Poles
- 5.5 Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork
- 5.6 Montem Ultra Strong Hiking Poles
- 5.7 LEKI Legacy Cor-Tec Lite Trekking Poles
- 5.8 Black Diamond Trail Pro Trekking Poles
- 5.9 Hiker Hunger Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles
- 5.10 Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Quick Lock Trekking Poles
- 6 Which To Choose?