Trekking poles are one of the most underrated tools in an outdoorsman’s arsenal. Just as walking sticks are still used in various manners today, trekking poles are still a mainstay of hiking and backpacking.
Here are the best trekking poles on the market:
The Trail Pro pair of poles are popular for their strength and simplicity. They have two flick locks on each pole allowing them to extend anywhere from 27″-55″. The carbide tips at the ends of the poles are also interchangeable. Hiking and backpacking enthusiasts will know that even the toughest poles eventually wear out some time.
Regardless, the Trail Pro’s are built to last. Their light weight means you can shift your weight at any time and the poles will still support you.
Carbofox’s carbon fiber poles are cheap but extremely durable. Weighing in at less than a pound total between them, they’re the premier tool if you’re already packing a lot of weight on your back. They’re only a bit smaller than the Trail Pro’s, as their total length extends anywhere from 24″-51″. Their smaller extension makes them perfect for children and teenagers as well.
Not only do these poles have a cool color scheme, but the flip locks are painted a bright red so you can be sure they’re locked and ready.
The next set of Black Diamond poles that we like are the Distance Z’s. The Z’s are a little different than your average poles. They don’t have collapsable heights (no flip locks) but rather fold up at three points for easier transport. The Z’s come in a handful of different sizes so they can apply to people of different heights.
The oxide black version has a 100% aluminum construction. The carbon version is slightly lighter but utilizes a carbon fiber construction. You’ll spend a little bit more money on the carbon fiber version if you prefer that construction. Both versions are remarkable durable regardless of where you shift your weight.
The Cascade Poles come in two different types-cork or EVA foam grip. The grip is actually pretty important for long-term comfort and how well the poles adjust to your weight. The cork version helps to dissipate sweat and is just as comfortable if not more so than the EVA grip.
Despite the rubber additions and large flip locks, both poles weigh in at less than a pound. With your purchase of the Cascade poles, you also get a snow basket, boots (for the poles), and rubber feet. These interchangeable items allow the poles to adapt to different terrain and weather conditions. In our opinion, these poles are a steal with the additional items you get.
Kelty’s Range 2.0 poles have a slightly different construction than the average pair. For better shock absorption, they have built-in springs that will definitely help out in rough terrain. Similarly, the carbide tips are non-slip so you get a firm plant with every step you take.
The grips on the 2.0’s are a combo of cork and EVA foam grip. As you saw with the Cascade poles, cork grips are popular for their feel and their ability to keep your hands dry as you sweat. The 2.0’s extend anywhere from 27″-53″ via two locks near the bottom. We like the Range 2.0’s because they combine comfort, power, and durability.
Similar to the Range 2.0’s, the Hiker Hunger poles have a cork/EVA foam grip for maximum comfort and sweat dissipation. The constructions are 100% carbon fiber, so you can be assured of their durability and strength over time. These poles extend anywhere from 24″-54″, which is about the average for trekking poles of all types and constructions.
While slightly more expensive than carbon fiber poles of similar extension, the Hunger poles are popular for their dual carbon and EVA grips. There are plenty of companies that combine all of these materials, but luckily, Hiker Hunger provides them at a relatively stable cost.
The York Nordic poles are the most unique devices on our list. They sport three flip locks that extend the poles from 22″-57″, which is also the largest length range on our list. Perhaps the most interesting aspect about these poles is that the tops of the grips are completely flat. This enables you to mount action cameras on them, or any camera you are able to fit.
Don’t let their simplicity deter you. They are constructed of carbon fiber and have angled rubber feet at the bottoms. These feet are the quintessential shock absorbers for everyday walking.
How to tell the difference between trekking poles
Most trekking poles are built and are operated the same. They have foam or cork grips, looped handles that go around your wrists, and carbide tips at the very ends. The biggest difference in the industry is that some are collapsible while others are not. The preference is definitely for those that are collapsible since people will adjust the length according to their height or the terrain they encounter.
When I hiked the Grand Canyon, trekking poles were my best friend. They helped soften the blow of the thousands of steps down into the canyon and eased the pressure on my quads and calves when hiking up. While shorter and more level hikes can do without poles, you should include them on any long-term or multi-day trip. Not only will they help you avoid running out of energy too quickly, but they’re excellent for balance and focus as the day wears on.