Welcome to our Hiking Gear Guide that covers the best trekking poles on the market. Add some stability to your trek! People who hike are healthier and happier, it’s no wonder more people are hitting the trails. There is a common misconception that hiking is some niche hobby that only physically-fit and outdoorsy people can enjoy and/or benefit from. Hiking and backpacking are firstly all about the journey.
The perks of falling utterly in love with wildlife, plants, and the Earth and toning your body are just icing on top.
First of all, you don’t need to be some marathon man to start hiking and backpacking. All you need is a few basic pieces of gear, a simple goal in mind, and maybe an iPhone app or two. Your first piece of hiking-specific gear should be a trekking pole.
If you don’t know which one to get, we’ve got you covered. These are the best trekking poles for hiking at all levels of experience:
Best Trekking Poles for Hiking 2018
This buyer’s guide will cover trekking poles for all budgets and sizes. For the sake of brevity, our picks cover both men and women’s trekking poles. Some brands offer their own gender variations for height differences.
This is not your grandpa’s trekking pole. Leki’s top model is the Corklite DSS Antishock. Its patented design is made to reduce the impact on your hands from long treks. The frame itself absorbs vibrations and the cork handles, too. These aren’t the lightest trekking poles, but they sure are some of the most comfortable.
The weight becomes pretty negligent after you notice how easy it is to hold this model. The antishock features bode well for older hikers with knee issues.
If lightweight poles are a must, then you should consider going carbon. Black Diamond really outdid themselves with the Distance Carbon Z. You’re looking at under 10 ounces for the pair. The lightweight carbon fiber shaft, plus foam grips, and streamlined design makes it almost featherlike. The best part is that these things are strong and will never feel like a liability.
The downside to this model? It’s not adjustable. You’ll need to make sure you buy the right size if you’re interested in buying the Distance Carbon Z poles. This is something for an experienced hiker who has handled a lot of different hiking gear.
If you want to sacrifice a little weight for adjustability, go for these Black Diamond trekking poles. They’re made of aluminum and weigh roughly double the Carbon Z’s. Honestly, the weight difference is only noticeable after picking up the lighter Carbon Z’s. The cork grips are not only comfortable, but they’re also easy on the wrists. This is thanks to an adjustable angled joint that flexes to keep your wrists centered.
Can’t quite afford the high-end Black Diamonds or Leki poles? Another great option is from Kelty. These poles hit the sweet spot at the 50-60 dollar range. These are also aluminum poles, plus Kelty has their own proprietary anti-shock system.
We haven’t directly compared them with the premium Leki poles, but we think the anti-shock is going to rely mainly on the cork grips. The cork grips have an additional add-on foam that serves as an alternative grip when changing elevation. Overall, the Kelty Range 2.0 Trekking poles fair well over various terrain, especially for a mid-low price point.
For something a bit higher-end, but not quite in the luxury range of trekking poles, Mountainsmith Carbonlite is a name you’ll be seeing a lot. The Pro model is made of a hybrid of carbon and aircraft grade 7075 aluminum.
What does that mean? Well, you get strength and anti-shock properties that make for a very durable frame. Comes with a twist lockout double-cam adjustment and three telescopic sections. The combination of the cork grips and carbide tips makes climbing over uneven rocks a breeze. You’ll get many years out of the Pro.
Montem is the new kid on the trail. This brand is trying to squeeze every ounce of value at the $50 mark. While using their Ultra Strong set, we noticed the distinct lack of anti-shock protection after using the others.
And, while the name says “ultra strong”, we didn’t find them all that durable as the frames were put under stress during heavy descents. Although, that isn’t to say they weren’t comfortable, just a bit rattling. Adjusting Montem’s trekking poles is easy and the straps fit snug. Probably best to get these poles for someone with moderate hiking experience.
This last pick would be tied with Leki’s for the best trekking poles for your buck. You’ll find that REI’s Co-op Flash Carbon is attractively priced for a high-end pole. They’re lightweight and very attractive. The first thing you’ll notice, probably, is the decision to go with EVA foam grips, not cork.
While we do favor cork, whatever REI is doing with these foam grips is superb. They’re soft, yet durable, they sweat efficiently, and never lose their grip.
The carbon composite frames are indistinguishable from other top brands. Very good anti-shock and strong power-locking mechanism. The only small flaw to the Co-op Flash Carbon’s are the snow baskets. They’re a bit too light for heavily snowed-in trails.
This high-end light-weight trekking pole is a delight to use if you can afford it. Grossamer is a well known outdoors brand, making some of the best backpacking gear out there. The LT5 weighs only 10 ounces and are fairly durable.
The price may be outside your average hiker’s range, but they compliment any ultralightweight collection. Traveling in full Gossamer Gear is a totally different experience, shedding multiple pounds from the average gear setup.
The Micro Vario’s are definitely one of the most compact trekking poles out there. Their size, lightweight, and shock absorption features make them a really strong companion to any hiker. Even with the foldability, the lever locks hold strong and can be tightened easily by hand. The ease of use and lighter weight make them the best womens trekking poles.
A budget trekking pole set that can hold its own. Cascade’s carbon fiber poles come in both foam and cork grip options. The build quality is respectable, especially for beginner to intermediate backpacking adventures. Of course, these poles aren’t made to last, so you might end up with problems bending or breaking sooner, rather than later. This can be an excellent learning tool for light treks.
Types of Trekking Poles
There are two main types hiking assistants on the market that you can use on your hikes.
Walking sticks and staffs are best for flat hikes, and for those who like to keep one hand free. They are thicker and usually taller than trekking poles. Typically you will only use one and hold it in your dominate hand to help assist your less dominate leg throughout your hike.
Trekking poles are made for the more serious hiker, going longer distances and up steeper terrain. You will use one in both hand. They will most likely have wrist straps to make it easy to free up your hands if you need them.
Features of the Best Trekking Poles
Here are some of the features to look for when you start shopping. The best trekking poles for the money are going to give you a lot of great features matched by a fair price.
Length: Adjustable and Fixed
Some trekking poles are not adjustable, so you will want to make sure you are more than comfortable with their length. REI has a great chart to help you determine the height of trekking poles that you need.
Adjustable trekking poles are our preferred type of trekking pole because it can be helpful to reduce length on steeper terrain to give you better leverage.
Make sure the grips fit your hands well, and are a material that you are comfortable with. Consequently, test them out with gloves and without. Additionally, test out the straps while your at it.
If you are a more intense hiker, or need extra support going downtown, you should consider buying trekking poles that have a shock absorbing feature to them. Standard poles won’t have shock absorbing abilities, but they might weigh less.
Foldable trekking poles are the most convenient type, because they will not only take up less room in your pack, but also when you put them away for longer term storage.
As mentioned before, weight can be impacted by the additional features of your poles. Shock absorbers add more weight. There are also ultralight poles out there for long distance hiking. The material used in the poles can impact weight- but remember that it also can impact quality.
The best trekking poles for women will be lighter weight.