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Best Trekking Poles 2018 – [Buyer’s Guide]Last Updated December 1, 2018
Best Trekking Poles of 2018
Many brands have introduced trekking poles on the market. These brands have resulted in a variety for the user. These require that the consumers be well aware of what they are buying so as to make the best choice. We’ve narrowed down our options based on the customer feedback (read positive reviews), functionality, material and size. In other words, we’ve put all fundamentals into consideration to come up with a comprehensive list that suits various needs.
Now, let’s get to the gist of the matter: which are the best trekking poles for the money? There is a wide range of products available on the market today, and below I have reviewed 3 of the very best options.
Test Results and Ratings
|Ease of use||
Why did this trekking poles win the first place?
I am very happy with the purchase. It is definitely worth its money. The product is top-notch! The material is stylish, but it smells for the first couple of days. I really enjoy the design. It is compact, comfortable and reliable. And it looks amazing! I don’t know anything about other models from this brand, but I am fully satisfied with this product.
№2 – »» ON SALE «« New for 2018 – Odyssey Outfitters Trail Guide Trekking Poles – Light Weight – Adjustable – Quick Lock – Cork Handles – TRAIL TESTED STRONG
Why did this trekking poles come in second place?
Seems that the material is good. It has a very beautiful color but I don’t really like the texture. The design quality is top notch and the color is nice. I like this product. For such a low price, I didn’t even hope it to be any better. It’s decently made. I really liked it. It is amazing in every aspect. It did even exceed my expectations for a bit, considering the affordable price.
Why did this trekking poles take third place?
I liked the design. We’ve been using it for 2 months and it still looks like brand new. It doesn’t squeaks nor bents. Looks great in my apartment. I hope that the good reputation of the manufacturer will guarantee a long-term work. This price is appropriate since the product is very well built.
Trekking Poles Buyer’s Guide
TheFitLife Nordic Anti Shock Trekking Trail Poles are made from Six Series Aviation Grade Aluminum material and fitted with a shock absorption mechanism. The shock absorption feature of any trekking pole relieves the shock from your hand, arm and shoulders hence ensuring a painless hike. Moreover, it helps to reduce the shock on the shafts of the trekking poles making them more long lasting.
Lightweight with Unrivalled Performance
With both poles weighing a cumulative total of 15.ounces, these are arguably the lightest walking poles out there. Despite their incredible light weight, strength and performance of these tips are not compromised in any way. Though they are considered latest entrants into the already crowded market of hiking poles, Hiker Hunger Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles have taken their rightful place as the best trekking poles for sparse and serious hikers. Many hikers had since put them through straining terrains with amazing results.
The versatility and ease of use of a trekking pole increase with addition of other accessories in the consignment. The poles come with strong and durable tips made from carbide tungsten as well as trekking baskets. Usually, it is the tips that come into contact with the ground hence more susceptible to damage. It is for this reason that the manufacturers of these trekking poles include tip protectors in this package to prevent wear. Additional pairs of rubber feet and rubber tips are also included in the package so you can always switch from time to time.
Lightweight and Slim
Even with the proliferation of hiking poles today, heavy hikers still find it difficult to purchase a trekking pole that will be able to consistently carry their weight through unpredictable hiking terrains. This should no longer be a problem as TrailBuddy Trekking Poles provide the strongest and toughest trekking poles. The trekking poles are made of aluminum but still considerably lighter and feature an ergonomic cork handle, a tungsten carbide tip and a secure flip lock system. These are the features that make these poles most suitable for heavy hikers.
Sturdy and Secure
The most notable advantage that aluminum trekking poles have over carbon fiber poles is their strength. Well, aluminum poles are sturdy hence capable of carrying more weight. When hiking, you need strong poles that are able to carry your weight when you have to avoid a fall. This is only possible with a strong and sturdy pair of poles that will neither bend nor break when a lot of weight is put on it. TrailBuddy Trekking Poles are made of strong aluminum 707which will not bend or break even with long-term use. Moreover, the flip locks ensure that the poles are secure and will not open up or collapse.
Amazing Accessories for All Purposes
Unlike most trekking poles, the Tri-Fold does not come with dozens of tips. However, the few tips and accessories that come together with these poles will serve you for long and through all terrains. These include hiking baskets for both snow and mud, a ripstop nylon sack and a rubber foot which is ideal for pavement surfaces. That’s not all! These poles can be used anywhere and for all activities including hiking, fishing, backpacking and mountain climbing among others.
By and large, the shaft material determines the weight, strength, resilience and durability of trekking poles. Most trekking poles are either made of aluminum or carbon fiber. As we will find out, both materials have their strengths and shortcomings.
If you are on a budget and want something stronger and more durable, then your choice should be aluminum trekking poles. Trekking poles with aluminum shafts are affordable. When a lot of weight is put on them, they will bend and not break instantly. They are however heavier than carbon fiber hiking poles.
Carbon fiber trekking poles are lighter and slightly more expensive than their aluminum counterparts. However, they are less strong and may instantly break when a lot of weight is put on them. These poles are a favorite option for those who want to hike on something ultralight and classy.
Comfort and Grip Material
The grip or handle is where your body gets into contact with the trekking pole. Therefore, apart from the length of your hiking pole, the grip is another major determinant of how comfortable your pole is. Cork, rubber and foam are the three most common materials used for grips.
Cork has the ability to absorb some water keeping your hands firm and dry even in warmer environments. In addition, cork will conveniently take the shape of your hands with time providing a secure and comfortable grip.
While cork has the ability to absorb water, foam wicks out water making it your ideal grip material for hot environment hiking. It keeps your hands dry during hiking. While it is credited for being the lightest grip material, it is the least durable.
Rubber grips are water resistant and good cold insulators hence great for cold weather hiking. On the contrary, rubber grips are not ideal for hot weather hiking as water gets collected in your hand making it slippery and uncomfortable.
The assumption that trekking poles are only for serious hikers is deeply misguided.
But poles are valuable, as I learned the next day when an early-season blizzard forced us to hike out 2miles through the high, extremely un-flat Sierras in about 1hours. Descending at dusk, dropping thousands of feet via stairstep switchbacks—well, I’d like to say it brought me to my knees, but I didn’t even want to think about my (poor, tired, swelling) knees. By the end of the day, the three of us were staggering to our cars in darkness, wishing we’d had a stick or a pole or even a decent-size branch to lean on and help us on our pathetic way.
That day was extreme, sure, but it’s what got me interested in trekking poles not just as a necessary piece of gear for backpacking trips but also as a useful thing to have around on day hikes. More than that, what if I started using them even on more casual walks around Los Angeles? Would I feel silly sometimes? (Yes.) But also, sometimes, great? (Yes.)
What’s strange is that despite studies like this one and this one, which show how using trekking poles reduces force impact and distributes energy evenly across the lower body, many reviews begin with the idea that poles are “optional” or “not the most necessary piece of hiking gear.” That’s simply not true. Absolutely nothing is necessary to hike—plenty of people hike barefoot, maybe some of those people also hike naked, I’m not sure. But the assumption that trekking poles are only for serious hikers is deeply misguided. Walking with poles more generally, interviewed experts agreed, improves stability, stops falls, and may save lives. Okay—that last claim is a tough one to study, but there’s research supporting every other claim, like this 200study of all the physiological benefits of walking with poles, to say nothing of the studies showing how walking improves mindfulness, promotes creativity, and relieves stress. So walk, use poles. You’ll feel better. You’ll feel good.
Where we tested
I tried the poles in small batches for a series of hikes, some short (less than miles) and some long (about miles), over as many different terrains as California in the late summer and early fall could muster: hard dirt, soft dirt, sand, and sandstone; oaky woods and scraggly chaparral; some desert, some beach, a little jaunt in foothills of the Sierras.
How we picked
Left to right: our picks from Montem, Black Diamond, Gossamer Gear, and Leki.
If you don’t use a pole, what good is it? No good. On my treks, even in walks around the city, it’s amazing how many people I’ve seen with poles stowed away, sticking out of their pack, or carried in the crook of their arm, not touching the ground. What a sad pole! You have to use the pole. Don’t be afraid of the pole. In this spirit, usability was by far our main concern and the metric we returned to most often in deciding the best set of poles overall. But it’s also a huge, slightly fuzzy category that covers more concrete factors such as the following.
The locking adjustment mechanisms on our favorite poles.
Adjusting mechanics: How easy is it to adjust the pole on the trail? Or to fold it away quickly into your pack? Generally, the locking mechanism is the agreed-upon easiest and best method for adjustment, but I’d argue that ease of adjustment has a serious downside: More joints where you might adjust a pole mean more places for the pole to fail on the trail. Ultimately, in our experience the easiest-to-use adjustment mechanisms were minimalist. The Gossamer Gear pole uses a twist lock mechanism, which adds to that pole’s overall simplicity. Our other picks all use simple flick locks for adjustments and offer the added benefit of measurements for remembering your preferred height.
Portability: A lot of trekking-pole reviews heavily weigh how quickly and well the poles collapse for packing. We realize some hikers have some extreme portability needs for which these highly collapsible poles are ideal, but for most hikers we think our picks are perfectly portable during travel. Not one of our 30-plus testers had much of anything to say about how packable any set of poles was, because, of course, they were busy using the poles, but if you need something that packs small, our collapsible pick might be the best choice for you. Note that you’ll probably have to check your trekking poles in your luggage, regardless of size, due to new TSA carry-on restrictions; keep that in mind if you’re planning on flying with them. Afterward, however, set them up—that’s the best and surest way to make sure you use the poles. Despite all this, I spent several hours on several hikes swapping between pole sets, collapsing and adjusting, collapsing and adjusting, knowing in my heart of hearts that were I not researching these poles for review, I would not have been engaged in such mid-hike foolishness.
Here’s what I learned: Most trekking poles collapse into themselves by telescoping at two joints—the wider one attached to the handle or grip, the smaller one nearer the ground. The two-joint design means the poles are more packable, as they collapse smaller, but it also means more can go wrong. There’s also the unpleasant possibility of a slight rattling, making a little noise and causing a very minor tremor in the stick. A lot of people aren’t really bothered by the rattle. I was, because I crave as much silence as possible when I hike, except in bear country.
You’ll also find a newer style of collapsing poles where the sections come apart like tentpoles and have a single locking mechanism near the top. If portability is important to you, tentpole-style collapsible poles, like our pick in the category, the Black Diamond Alpine FLZ Z-Poles, are a great option. With a little practice, you can pull them apart and put them back together again in under a minute. In our tests, this type also tended to be quieter and less rattly than the telescoping versions. A bonus.
Comfort and versatility: What sort of options does the pole offer? Can you exchange the baskets or tips for different terrain or weather conditions? Do you have a bunch of different ways to hold the stick?
Aluminum versus carbon fiber: We were skeptical about the difference in feel between a carbon fiber pole and an aluminum pole—we thought the effect had more to do with weight and less to do with feel. Boy, were we wrong! Carbon fiber poles are lighter, of course, but also much stiffer. A downside: “Stiffer” is one way of saying “extremely brittle.” We didn’t have a problem with any of our carbon fiber poles, but plenty of other people have reported that a bad nick can quickly turn into a crumbling seam, causing an entire section of pole to fail. Aluminum is heavier but more malleable, able to survive nicks and scrapes and even bends, and it’s generally a less expensive option. In our experience, we tended to like the feel of carbon fiber more, but plenty of reviewers say they barely notice the difference. We found one upside to carbon fiber, too, in that it tended to be quieter on the trail.
Tips: Carbide or steel tips offer good traction in most natural environments, even on ice. Rubber tips are good for stowing and for use around the house or town, or in sensitive natural areas; some poles have angled rubber walking tips sold separately for asphalt or urban walking.
Strap or no strap: Extremely passionate backpackers have been engaging in a rather intense debate about this, but here’s our two cents: Get a strap, have a strap, use the strap. You can find a lot of poles with removable straps, but why would you want that? To avoid, like, a strap tan? To us, a removable strap is just one more part to lose, one more unnecessary thing to fuss with. Some straps are way more comfortable than others, and Leki’s trigger-grip straps are slightly divisive (this reviewer unexpectedly grew to love them). But the main thing about straps we found is that you are more likely to regret not having one when your pole careens halfway down a mountain or into a stream. Also, if you do decide to use your strap, make sure you’re using it the right way so that the strap helps support your wrists.
Baskets: The basket at the bottom of the pole says a lot about what you’re using it for: A smaller basket (or none at all) means more general everyday hiking, while a larger basket makes more sense for snow or scrambles or off-trail, muddy scenarios. Most of the poles we looked at either come with additional baskets or make it very easy to add a basket, but for the most part the majority of people are almost never going to think about the baskets on their poles.
A few other factors we considered (and will be considering during ongoing testing) are the lifespan of the pole—not just the general durability but also the warranty it comes with and the manufacturer’s reputation—and that extremely vague but important metric known as performance. Basically, after several days, weeks, months, and eventually years of using some of these poles, are they still great? So far, our picks are. But if something changes we will let you know.
These poles are the OG of the trekking pole universe. They are easy to adjust and have been around the longest. With telescoping poles you have two options: two sections or three sections.
Two-section poles are the more durable of the options and are best for folks who are tough on their poles. Think snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and other heavy use applications. The major con of two-piece poles is their packed size and weight. They’ll be the tallest and heaviest option.
Three-section poles are what you’ll see most out on the trail. I’ve packed mine in a suitcase for international trips, strapped them on 1L packs and 5L packs. They don’t have the same durability compared to two-part poles but they tend to be lighter. Tougher than the folding poles and with more adjustability, you’ll find mountaineers, casual hikers, and thru hikers alike with this construction.
This newer style features the same kind of design as a tent pole, with a shock cord in the middle of a lightweight shaft. They can fold up even smaller than the three-part telescoping pole and are typically lighter. Folding poles can come as a fixed height or with one flick lock for adjustment. They’re durable enough for most uses but they’re not as durable as their heavier counterparts. I think these are best for trail hikers, thru hikers, and splitboarders. In most cases, they’re not adjustable enough to use as a tent pole to set up a tent or shelter.
Grips are there for your comfort, and come in different constructions cater to everyone’s needs. Materials used in grips are foam, cork, and rubber. Foam is the softest and perhaps the most comfortable. But for a PNW explorer, it may not be the best option because foam grips absorb water; also, foam grips will break down faster.
Cork, on the other hand, is moisture-resistant. It also becomes more comfortable with use because the cork molds to your hand, and is naturally antimicrobial so it resists stinkiness. Downside? It’s a heavier than foam, and poles with cork grips can be more expensive.
In the heavier weight category you will find rubber grips. They’re not as comfortable as your other options but they’re the most water-resistant, making them the choice for winter activities. But every perk has its tradeoff—this same property can make them chafe in hot weather on sweaty hikes.
One thing you might want to look for is poles with extended grips—basically, sections of foam that go 4-inches down the shaft from the grip. They can be nice when you are in terrain with many ups and downs—instead of stopping to fiddle with the shaft length, you can just grab the extended grip when you need to ‘choke up’ on the pole.
Soft, comfortable foam grips, in this case with extended coverage for greater versatility.
Most poles have a carbide steel tip. Your major option is whether your pole comes with rubber tips to cover the harder ones or not. The carbide tips can be noisy and skid on hard surfaces. Some also argue they do more to damage trails. Rubber tips are quieter and great on hard surfaces like pavement and slick rock. But they falter on wet surfaces and don’t provide the same secure grip in loose dirt.
Handle & Strap
The shape and materials of the grip vary between models and brands. Some poles feature grips that extend down the shaft, allowing you to grasp the poles more easily on short uphill sections. Many poles have designated left and right hand grips or straps. Materials used include:
Most commonly the straps are traditional with some padding, however there are poles which have the Nordic walking / skiing type glove strap. This is detachable from the pole handle so offers quick release where you need to use your hands.
If you are after the very best performance at the least amount of weight then a fixed, non-collapsible pole is the best option. However, for most runners these are not practical. Reasons why it can be more convenient to choose a collapsible pole include ease of stuffing away when not used and ease of travelling. Fixed poles will have to be well protected and checked in as special luggage when travelling. Collapsible poles can be either of a “z-fold” construction where the pole is constructed from 3-sections that collapse in a folding manner, or of a telescopic construction where the sections slide into each other. It is personal preference which to choose. The z-fold poles typically pack down shorter whereas the telescopic are longer collapsed but with the benefit the pole neatly fitting into itself. At present myRaceKit stocks the z-fold type only.
Black Diamond FLZ or the
LEKI Micro Trail Vario have the benefit of adjustable length. This can be useful if you want to share poles with someone that is a different height than yourself, want to have a very precise height not offered by standard lengths, or if you want to have the ability to adjust the height climbing uphill (shorter) and downhill (longer). The trade-off for this added flexibility is typically a bit of extra weight.
This superb 3-Section Telescopic trekking Pole with Anti-Shock On/Off system can improves your balance, security, stability and endurance, absorbs forces and reduces strain on joints, keeping you in perfect physical condition, give you confidence to reach your yearning destination. The 3-sections telescopic poles offer the convenience of one size fits all and are ideal for traveling due to their portable nature.
The Shaft Segments
Segments adjust for height and collapse for travel and storage.
The shaft segments of a trekking pole are made from a variety of materials, including aluminum and carbon fiber. Many people will be satisfied with an aluminum pole, but Gregg Fisher, Operations Manger at Leki, says, “If you want the lightest weight possible, carbon fiber is the way to go.”
Carbon fiber absorbs vibration, and has a nice springy feel. Keep in mind, though, that carbon fiber saves only several ounces per pole, costs more, and tends to be fragile. Fisher cautions that if carbon poles are “struck hard with a sharp rock, they might develop a weak spot” prone to breakage, whereas, “aluminum will just bend.” If your only reason for choosing carbon fiber is weight, consider that other features like shock absorbers and baskets can impact the total weight of the poles as much as shaft material.
Most telescoping trekking poles, aluminum and carbon alike, have three segments, each slightly narrower than the one above. The segments slide into each other and are held together by a variety of locking mechanisms. A few models available, often specifically designed for snowshoeing, have only two shaft segments. Two-segment poles don’t collapse as well as three-segment poles, making them harder to travel with or stuff into a pack during a rock scramble. Compact and junior length poles are available for those who don’t need as much pole length. Tall individuals will want the longest poles available.
Internal vs. External
A crucial and differentiating feature between trekking poles is the locking mechanism, which allows hikers to adjust the length of the trekking pole and holds the segments of the pole together. Until recently, internal locking mechanisms were the most common. Internal locks rely on friction to stay secure. A common internal locking mechanism is an “expansion joint,” essentially a plastic widget that expands inside the trekking pole when the shaft is twisted, keeping the pole at the desired length and preventing it from collapsing.
Where internal locking mechanisms are hidden inside, external locking mechanisms are clearly visible outside of the pole, where the segments join. Black Diamond has long produced trekking poles with the FlickLock external locking mechanisms.
A look at an internal shock absorber
The advent of shock absorbing technology separates trekking poles from their ancestors, walking sticks. Shock absorbers are springs or pieces of elastic material that, according to Fisher, “soften the initial impact of the pole striking the ground.”
Shock absorbers are not standard on most trekking poles, so you can expect to pay approximately twenty dollars or so more for poles that include them over rigid poles.
Are they worth it? As with many features on gear, shock absorbers have both their detractors and their devotees. On the up side, hikers with arthritis or other issues in the wrist, shoulder, or elbow may appreciate the cushion that shock absorbers provide. On the down side, shock absorbers add weight and complexity to trekking poles, and sometimes squeak.
Additionally, shock absorbers can reduce the assist that poles provide on ascents. As hikers climb uphill, they can use poles to push off and up, making the ascent easier. But with shock absorbers, a fraction of that push is soaked up by compressing the shock absorber, making the ascent more difficult. Is it noticeable? Not always, but hikers who want every advantage should consider this.
The tip is where the pole interacts with the ground, and is typically made with a body and a point. The body is usually plastic and the point is often hardened steel. Hardened steel is harder than rock, so it bites into rock or ice to offer additionally stability.
For trekking above treeline in places like New Hampshire, Colorado, or the High Sierra, where the trail surface may be bare stone, hardened tips are useful. However, because they are so sharp, improperly used tips can scar rock or puncture the unwary hiker, so use them with caution.
Some shelters, like the Tarptent Sublite, are designed to be pitched with trekking poles.
Some trekking poles are equipped with special features. Poles with compasses embedded in the grips are increasingly common. These give a general sense of direction, but are inadequate for real navigation. Sometimes poles are even equipped with LED flashlights or secret storage areas, but most of these features fall firmly in the realm of the gimmick.
More common, and useful, are poles that are convertible to monopods for photographers. These poles have screws that fit the universal mount on a camera’s bottom, stabilizing it for shooting in low light or with long lenses.
Additionally, some backpackers use trekking poles as tent pole substitutes to pitch lightweight tarps and tents. Some shelters actually are designed to utilize trekking poles, and some hikers jury-rig their regular shelters to take advantage of trekking pole support. Using a trekking pole to pitch your shelter doesn’t require a special type of pole, but consider that tight guy-lines can cut foam grips, so cork or rubber composites are often a better choice.
First of all thanks for reading my article to the end! I hope you find my reviews listed here useful and that it allows you to make a proper comparison of what is best to fit your needs and budget. Don’t be afraid to try more than one product if your first pick doesn’t do the trick.
Most important, have fun and choose your Trekking Poles wisely! Good luck!
So, TOP3 of Trekking Poles
- №1 — Trekking Poles by Vive –
- №2 — »» ON SALE «« New for 2018 – Odyssey Outfitters Trail Guide Trekking Poles – Light Weight – Adjustable – Quick Lock – Cork Handles – TRAIL TESTED STRONG
- №3 — Mountainloco Telescoping Trekking Poles