9 best trekking poles for any hiking adventure

In the early days of hiking, I was strongly against carrying trekking poles. I’ve seen it as unnecessary, something my parents or grandparents would use. In short, I considered them great looking walking sticks.

I was wrong, of course. Trekking poles are extremely useful for many country adventures, and even if you’re not worried about balance, they reduce stress on your legs and knees by about 30 percent. When you wear a heavy backpack all the time, it means a lot. I especially appreciate the trekking poles for steep descents over shale or slippery ground, but they are also useful for building momentum going upward. If your path includes river crossings, or swampy ground, carrying a pole or pair of poles will help stabilize you and give you a tool to test the ground before finding your footing.

What is the optimal length of trekking poles?

Your elbows should be at about a 90-degree angle when using canes. Adjustable trekking poles will fit most heights, but if you’re over 6 feet, look for a set that’s at least 51 inches tall.

Should I buy collapsible poles or telescopic poles?

Collapsible columns, or Z columns, are often lighter in weight. It comes in three separate sections, connected to each other by wire, and is compact when stored. They are usually more expensive than telescopic poles and are the preferred choice of many fast packers and lightweight backpackers. On the other hand, they are more fragile.

Telescopic poles come as a single unit, or two- or three-piece adjustable sets. I recommend buying two- or three-piece adjustable sets; If you can’t change the length of your trekking poles, they’re going to be bulky and cumbersome and you’ll literally be just a pair of walking sticks.

What materials should I choose?

Trekking poles are mostly made of aluminum or carbon fibre. Aluminum is more durable. It will bend occasionally but rarely break. Carbon fiber is more prone to breakage but is very lightweight.

Grips on poles are usually plastic, rubber, cork or foam. Cork and foam wicks reduce friction better than plastic and rubber.

What else do I need to know about trekking poles?

Trekking poles generally come with baskets, which are a plastic or rubber disc that attaches to the base of the pole, providing additional surface area to prevent the pole from sinking. It is useful on soft ground (sand, mud, swamps, snow). Small baskets are sufficient for most trips. For snow, a basket with a large area works best. You can change the baskets on your trekking poles without having to change the poles themselves.

Now that you know about trekking poles, here are nine things to keep in mind. I’m here to help.

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Collapsible Z poles come in various lengths to suit your height and weigh just over five ounces per pole. The shafts on the black diamond spaced carbon Z shafts are made of 100% carbon fiber and the grips are foam, with moisture-wicking straps. Comes with small, lightweight baskets suitable for mud and sand and removable rubber tips for street walking.

The Leki Sherpa FX is a surprisingly lightweight carbon shaft given its strength, at just over eight ounces per shaft. The upper part is made of carbon with a hollow core, and the lower part is made of aluminum. The hand grips are made of rubber with an angled slant designed to support the wrists. Since they are Z-pillars, they fold small enough to be stowed in a pack, especially good for winter adventures and mountain climbing.

Decathlon always delivers bang for your buck, and the Forclaz A300 Ergonomic Hiking Pole is no exception. They are sold individually rather than as a pair, and are a good choice for hikers who prefer having an empty hand. Made of aluminum, it still weighs only 8.5 ounces per shaft and comes in three sections with a push pin system for easy adjustment. Summer baskets included.

The MSR Dynalock Explore Backcountry Poles come equipped with both winter and summer baskets, and comfortable foam handgrips. The pair weigh 1.25 pounds, so they’re not the lightest, but they’re very sturdy with a secure locking system, and they perform well for winter treks and mountain climbing.

The foam grip on REI Volunteer hiking poles is larger than most, making it a good choice for longer hikers. The telescopic poles come with wide baskets suitable for snow, and the robust locking system is well suited for rough terrain. They are especially good for snowshoeing and mountain climbing.

Montem Ultra Strong Trekking poles are, as the name suggests, very strong and made of aluminum, with foam grips and carbide tips. Given how powerful they are, it’s impressive that they weigh just over nine ounces per shaft. There are wide color options for fashion-conscious hikers, and given the quality, the price is very reasonable.

Finally, some hiking poles designed for the ladies! These adjustable telescopic poles are made of aluminum with a foam grip, and weigh just over eight ounces per pole. Black Diamond has a wide selection of hiking poles, and Trail Trekking Poles feature foam handles and easy-to-interchange baskets for four-season use.

You get all-singing-and-dancing hiking poles made of lighter carbon fiber and an abundance of features, but for occasional hikers, a set of trekking poles that do exactly what they say on the tin is fine. Made of aluminum and cork handles, the Ozark Trail Aluminum Adjustable Quick Lock Shafts aren’t the lightest on the market, but at 10.4 ounces per shaft, they’re certainly not heavy either, and you’d be hard-pressed to find cheaper ones.

Helinox Passport TL120 Adjustable Poles weigh just six ounces per pole and fold down to fit in your backpack. Instead of a carbon fiber construction like most lightweight cruise poles, it’s made of aluminum alloy, so it’s very strong. They come with a five-year warranty. Since they are not the longest when fully extended, they are not recommended for people over 5 feet 8 inches.