Trekking poles can be a tremendously useful addition to your collection of outdoor gear. Many people can benefit from picking up a set of trekking poles, including hikers attempting to limit the damage they’re doing to their joints, serious mountaineers wanting a bit more balance and maneuvering on tricky terrain, and plenty of others.
If you’ve decided trekking poles may be what you need, congratulations! Trekking poles can add so much to your outdoor activities, whatever they may be – hiking, mountaineering, snowshoeing, and even some light cross-country skiing. The next step, of course, is to figure out what the best trekking poles will be for you.
It’s difficult to assess which are the “best trekking poles” overall. Different models come equipped with very different features, often designed to serve different purposes. Some trekking poles are made with carbon fiber, which is exceptionally light, but may not withstand the kind of tough terrain that poles made of aluminum or of some combination of aluminum and carbon fiber can. While the differences between the weights of the trekking poles we’re reviewing are often a matter of mere ounces, given the fact that you’re going to be carrying them and repeatedly lifting them, potentially for hours or even days on end, every ounce makes a difference. Serious hikers and backpackers may need something heavier-duty than pure carbon fiber, but carbon fiber trekking poles can be perfect for those simply in need of additional joint support.
The weight and material of the trekking poles you need are just a couple of examples of the myriad ways trekking poles are made differently from each other. We’ve tried to outline a few of the basic differences between different kinds of trekking poles, and (spoiler alert!) we’ve even picked a winner, to be found at the end of the article. However, if one that didn’t win grabs your attention, it’s probably worth following your gut. At the end of the day, if a set of trekking poles gives you increased stability and decreases the damage outdoor activities do to your body, they’re probably the best trekking poles for you.
That said, read on to find out about some of the most popular kinds of trekking poles!
BEST TREKKING POLES
|1||Montem Ultra Strong||9.6||24 – 55||Aluminum||EVA Foam|
|2||Black Diamond Trail||8.5||25 – 55||Aluminum||Foam|
|3||Montem Folding Collapsible||10.5||16 – 55||Aluminum||EVA Foam|
|4||Mountaintop 3-Section||9.5||24 – 53||Aluminum||Foam|
|5||Cascade Mountain Tech||8.0||23 – 53||Carbon Fiber||Rubber/Cork|
|6||Paria Tri-Fold||8.5||15 – 55||Carbon Fiber||Cork|
|7||Kelty Range 2.0||10.0||27 – 53||Aluminum||Cork/Foam|
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TOP-RATED TREKKING POLES
EDITOR’S CHOICE – MONTEM ULTRA STRONG TREKKING POLES
The Montem Ultra Strong Trekking Poles are designed ultra-light while at the same time being very robust and sturdy. These poles are made up of Aluminum 7075 which is incredibly strong, and they are the same material used in making airplanes. The weights of these poles are 9.6 ounces per pole which are very light indeed for a trekking pole made of aluminum. These lightweight trekking poles are thus very suitable for young and amateur trekkers. The grips are designed in a way that they are sturdy on the surface and tear-resistant while at the same time providing a very comfortable and soft grip.
The grip is made up of dual-density EVA foam and even has a grip area at the lower part of the pole for carrying them efficiently. The poles also come with adjustable wrist straps included and also enjoy the benefit of comfortable padding. As far as looks are concerned, these trekking poles have a very sophisticated look. Learn more here.
BLACK DIAMOND TRAIL TREKKING POLES
Black Diamond is one of the premier manufacturers of a number of products built for outdoor use, including headlamps and trekking poles. Named for the most severe level of difficulty a ski slope can have, the company promises that its Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles are among the best on the market. In this review, we’ll see whether or not their claim holds up. Read on to find out more about Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles!
The Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles are relatively expensive. The Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles are on the pricier end of the budget trekking-pole spectrum. However, a number of higher-end trekking poles regularly go for upwards of $150. If you are uncertain about whether or not trekking poles are the right investment for you, it’s worth mentioning that there are a number of models available for less than half of the average price of the Black Diamonds. However, if you’ve already experimented with trekking poles and are looking for a mid-range set, or if you are pretty certain that you will appreciate the flexibility and balance that trekking poles will afford you, the Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles might be for you. Learn more here.
MOUNTAINTOP 3-SECTION RETRACTABLE LIGHTWEIGHT TREKKING POLES
The Mountaintop 3-Section Retractable Lightweight Trekking Poles come with a number of advertised features. These include a durable strap, an extendable pole design and locking mechanism, adjustable bolts, an I-type sweat-free grip, and a 90-day limited warranty. Made from aluminum alloy and weighing 9.5 ounces each, the light, yet sturdy Mountaintop Trekking Poles come solidly equipped with the basics.
One of the most exciting features about the Mountaintop 3-Section Retractable Lightweight Trekking Poles comes advertised in the name – the fact that the trekking poles come with three distinct sections, including two adjustable middle shafts. These shafts extend from 24 to 53 inches, meaning that hikers and adventurers of a wide variety of heights are accommodated by the Mountaintop Trekking Poles. The fact of this variety is attested to in the reviews, as people both on the shorter end of the spectrum and those who are a good deal taller both say they appreciate the flexibility of the Mountaintops. Learn more here.
CASCADE MOUNTAIN TECH CARBON FIBER TREKKING POLES
One of the more popular options is manufactured by Cascade Mountain Tech, an outdoor company that makes a good deal of mountain and hiking gear. Many people have decided that the Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Quick Lock Trekking Poles are the right purchase for them. Read on to find out more about whether or not they may be the right purchase for you!
The Cascade Mountain Tech Trekking Poles come with a variety of features, some of which are more common in vastly pricier models. Some of these features include a “quick lock” for easy height adjustment, which can extend from 23 inches all the way to 53 inches, an EVA grip, and a 100% return guarantee (“return for any reason, anytime!”). Of course, one of the biggest draws is the almost shockingly lightweight carbon fiber construction, which is among the most impressively light on the market – each pole weighs about 8 ounces. In addition, customers interested in the Cascade Mountain Tech Trekking Poles can choose between two different designs – the Blue Graphics with Black Neoprene Handle design and the Royal Blue Graphics with Cork Handle design. Learn more here.
KELTY RANGE 2.0 TREKKING POLES
The Kelty Range 2.0 Trekking Poles are among the higher-end trekking poles offered by the company. They boast a number of excellent features, including a unique internal anti-shock system, padded wrist strap, non-slip carbide tip, a combination cork and EVA foam grip, a twist-lock mechanism for adjusting the length of the poles, and more. Some of the component parts of the Kelty Range 2.0 Trekking Poles are replaceable, including the tips, and there are a number of additional accessories, such as baskets, which are available for purchase. With an aluminum design, the Kelty Range 2.0 Trekking Poles are a couple of ounces heavier than some carbon fiber options, coming in at about 10 ounces each.
Reviewers generally agree that, for many purposes, the Kelty Range 2.0 Trekking Poles are among the better options on the market. Several reviewers specifically recommend the Kelty Range 2.0 Trekking Poles for first-time trekking pole buyers, as they are affordable but well-built enough to give you a real taste of what trekking poles are all about. A wide variety of different kinds of users say that the Kelty Range 2.0 Trekking Poles are excellent for hiking, snowshoeing, light skiing, and more. Learn more here.
PARIA OUTDOOR TRI-FOLD CARBON CORK TREKKING POLES
Manufactured by Paria Outdoor Products, the Paria Tri-Fold Carbon Cork Trekking Poles are another tremendously popular trekking pole option, often considered among the best trekking poles on the market. Retailing for a bit more than many competitors, the Tri-Fold Carbon Cork Trekking Poles are generally considered great poles. Are they worth it? Read on to find out!
Paria Outdoor Products advertises that the Tri-Fold Carbon Cork Trekking Poles come with a wide variety of features. Some of these include adjustable pole lengths (using a single special “flick-lock”), uniquely compact folding design, synthetic cork handle, extremely lightweight (less than 9 ounces), carbon fiber shafts, aluminum connectors, and more. Learn more here.
BASIC HIKING POLE DESIGNS
TWO SECTION TELESCOPING
Two section poles are the strongest and stiffest overall design and thus better for activities like skiing, snowshoeing, or for folks who are just plain super hard on their poles. Two section poles do, however, pack down the least and don’t carry on a pack very well even when shrunk down as short as they will go. Because these poles tend to be designed with the above advantages in mind there tends to be a lot of pole overlap to make them even stronger; so while they only have two sections they are rarely lighter and most often slightly heavier than other poles designs.
THREE SECTION TELESCOPING
Three-section telescoping poles are the most common trekking pole design and are significantly more compact than two-section poles and nearly all three-section options can be strapped to a backpack or put into an average-sized suitcase just fine. Three-section designs tend to be equal to, or most often lighter than two-section poles but aren’t nearly as strong, though they are strong enough for rugged or even heavy-duty backpacking and mountaineering. Three-section telescoping poles are what most people buy for hiking, trekking, backpacking, mountaineering, and climbing.
FOLDING OR TENT POLE STYLE
Newer folding or “tent pole” style trekking poles have only really been out for what’s now going on three or four seasons. These folding poles are some of the lightest and most compact models out there, but they aren’t nearly as durable as most two or three-section telescoping poles. They are durable enough for most climbers and hikers for backpacking trips on trails and medium-duty cross-country travel. For climbers they are specifically nice because they pack up so small you can carry them on, or better yet, inside your climbing pack to carry up and over alpine rock climbs. As a whole, most folding style trekking poles are 7-9 inches shorter than most telescoping poles and depending on how “light-duty” you go, can be 10-14 ounces lighter weight. Several of the folding style poles don’t feature removable baskets. One reason is to lighten the pole further, but the other reason is that several of them are not tough enough for this intended use.
TREKKING POLE MATERIAL
Aluminum and carbon fiber are the two most popular materials used in trekking pole construction. Carbon is lighter, stiffer, and generally stronger, but if they take an impact and get a dent or a crack, they are done. Comparatively, aluminum is slightly heavier but can take a dig or two and keep on trekking.
TREKKING POLE GRIPS
Cork is typically the nicest material used. Cork can shape to your hand with time and is smooth, durable, and continues to wear well even after years of use and abuse. It absorbs very little water, doesn’t take in much sweat from your hand yet feels pleasant, and resists chafing during warm to hot weather hiking.
Rubber is slightly better than cork for cold weather or mountaineering use because it insulates slightly better and is around equal to cork for shock and vibration dampening. Most users don’t find it quite as comfortable during hotter hikes or after years of use when the rubber handle gets worn down and loses its shape some. While we tested, there were always more folks getting chafed hands with rubber grips compared to cork or foam, though depending on the trip, this varied some. Some users noted very little difference in rubbing between handle materials, while others would get the worst rub marks and blisters from rubber grips during warmer to hot hikes compared with cork or foam. If you would consider yourself to have “softer hands” and aren’t using your poles someplace cold, we advise sticking to cork or foam.
Foam is the lightest and most moisture-wicking of the three most common grip materials, but is also by far the least durable. While it was great for desert hikes around the Grand Canyon, most of the foam grips we tested lost their shape the quickest and got nicked and dinged the most easily. A lot of folks will deal with this with their super light poles because the pole is likely to break before the grip wears out.