Trekking poles are a must have item for any hiker. Rough, uneven terrain and heavy backpacks with shifting weights place extreme pressure on ankles, knees and hips. Trekking poles ease the weight burden on joints, prevent injuries and increase our stability when trekking. As well as protecting and prolonging our bodies, trekking poles are very useful on flat terrain: they help us set a brisk walking rhythm and increase the pace at which we walk, thereby providing additional health benefits.
As with every area of camping and trekking, technologies develop quickly and there are a dizzying number of options for the avid trekker. In the following article we look at the best trekking poles of 2018 and recommend out top ten.
A word on some jargon: poles come with baskets and tips. Baskets are little “umbrellas” that sit at the end of a pole and come in two types: mud and snow. Use each type of basket for each type of terrain. They help prevent the end of the pole sinking into the terrain. Tips are usually made of tungsten carbide, and are used for ice, dirt and gravel. The trouble with tungsten carbide is that is makes a lot of noise on hard and smooth surfaces such as rock or pavement. For these surfaces, you want to fit a rubber tip. Please note that some companies will not ship tips and baskets with your poles. In that case, you will have to purchase them separately.
The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon cork are our Editor’s Choice trekking poles. They are strong and durable. We liked the thought and finish that went into these poles: the cork grip is comfortable and fits naturally into your hand. If you are a regular long-distance trekker, these grips really come into their own: they remain comfortable and reduce swelling and blistering of the hands. hey come with a metal FlickLock Pro locking mechanism that feels extremely secure. The poles have carbon fiber in all of its sections, making for an extremely durable and long-lasting pair of poles.
Depending on the trail surface, you have the option of switching between carbide or rubber tips. We personally prefer rubber tips, since the carbide tips can make a lot of noise, especially on rocky terrain.
aThe poles are not perfect: we would have liked the weight to have been lower, and they are not as packable as other options, but in terms of overall performance and build quality, these poles were a winner.
The Leki Micro Vario Carbon poles is without doubt a high quality pole: it features full carbon construction throughout the pole, it comes with some comfortable foam grips and has the ability to fold down, making storage and transport that much simpler. The poles collapse to a very small 15 in when folded.
Although not quite as comfortable as the cork handle on the Black Diamond, we did like the foam grip on the Leki, especially that the area was texture, which aided grip and comfort. The poles come with Leki’s SpeedLock 2 external level locking mechanism, which we found functioned faultlessly. It is very intuitive to use, and does not require any additional tools to operate. On-trek adjustments can be made easily. The poles come in at a very respectable 15.8 oz. The adjustable height when walking could have been greater (the poles can be adjusted from 44 to 52 in), but it provides sufficient range for most uses.
It was a tough choice between these and the Black Diamond for our Editor’s Pick. If you are looking for a lightweight, durable pole, and one that can be collapsed into a very small form factor, then the Leki deserves serious consideration.
If you are looking for a cheap pair of trekking poles for more casual use then the Montem Ultra Strong poles deserve your consideration. Made from aluminium, the poles feel sturdy enough for most terrain surfaces. The foam handles, though not as comfortable as more pricier modes, feel adequate, and the tips of the poles are constructed from tungsten. You can purchase different types of feet for different terrain.
The Montems weigh in at 19.2 oz, a fair bit heavier than their competition, so if weight is a primary consideration, you will need to look elsewhere. We found that the aluminum frame was not as strong as carbon fiber alternatives, but if you are looking for a budget pole for shorter walks, the Montem Ultra sit the bill.
The Distance Carbon Z are ideal for those looking for a super-light pair of trekking poles that fold up to a super small size. These poles can be assembled from packed in a matter of seconds. The poles are not adjustable, but instead come in four different sizes, and range from around 9 to 10 ounces in weight for the pair. The weight is incredibly light, and mean that you can use these poles for hours on end without exhausting your arms.
We found the grips to be comfortable and functional. The lightness does preclude these poles from being used for heavy usage on rugged inclines and mountainsides. If you are trekking on mostly flatter or gently –sloped terrain, than these are ideal.
The Hiker Hunger are an excellent value for money choice. Offering full carbon fiber body and a very comfortable cork handle, the quality of these poles matches those of its more expensive competitors.
The poles also come with a plethora of extras. There are extra baskets and rubber tips that can be swapped in for the tungsten carbide types for different terrain types, all at no extra cost.
There were a couple of things we found less than ideal: the thin weave on the wrist straps made them slightly uncomfortable to use, and the folding mechanism on the poles was made of plastic, which we found not as sturdy as those on other models. For its price however, we consider the Hiker Hunger Trekking Poles one of the best value-for-money options currently available.
If you are looking for a value-for-money all-rounder it is very difficult to choose between theFoxelli poles and the Hiker Hungers. It offers exactly the same features: a full carbon fiber body and a cork grip that would not look out of place on more expensive rivals.
And like the Hiker Hungers, these poles come at no extra cost with a wide array of baskets and tips that can fitted on for different terrain types. We suspect that both companies are using the same manufacturer, given the remarkable similarity between the two sets of poles. The only discernible and substantial difference we could ascertain was the flip lock mechanism for adjusting the pole lengths. We liked the ones on the Foxelli a little more, but both function are perfectly fine.
As with the Hiker Hungers, these poles offer excellent value-for-money for those looking for a pair of good all-round poles.
There is a lot to like in the Tri Fold Carbon Cork poles from Paria Outdoor Products. Like the much more expensive Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z model, the Tri-Fold, as the name suggests, fold down into three parts (each around 15 in in length), making storage and transport very simple. We could fold these and place them easily in the side our backpack.
The handle is made of a synthetic cork material. It doesn’t feel as natural or as comfortable as real cork, but it does the job. We did not notice any discomfort even after hours of use. The poles can be adjusted quickly using a single flick lock and the poles come a hiking basket for mud and snow, and a rubber foot for stone surfaces. You’ll use the normal carbide tungsten tips for best grip on most surfaces, but it is nice that the poles ship with the alternative tips. The pole sections themselves are carbon fiber, and the connectors at the ends of the part are made of aluminum. It’s a nice design, but we did find that after some very rough use, that the poles were slightly worn at the tips. We also found that the poles gave a bit more vibration on harder surfaces than some of its more expensive rivals, but if you are more of a casual or gentle trekker, the Tri-Fold’s deserve serious consideration.
Trekking pole manufacturers often like to market a female version of their unisex poles. Leki are no different, and this is the “female” version of their Micro Vario offering. Invariably, this does create a lot of confusion for the public. What, for example, differentiate the “lady” version from the unisex version? The difference is almost always in the length of the poles. The female-labelled version of the poles are of a slightly shorter length than the unisex version. The Leki lady comes with all the benefits of its unisex version: when folded, the poles are 15 in long, small enough to place In the side of your backpack.
The poles do not come with any replacement baskets or tips, These will have to be purchased separately. And for some reason this women’s version uses aluminium instead of the carbon fiber employed in the unisex version. This female version is not as well constructed as the unisex version, but it does carry a much lighter price tag. If you want to stay with the Leki brand, but don’t want to pay the premium, this might be worth a look.
The G2 Lites are another contender in the very competitive mid-range market. The telescoping design comes with a very easy to use flip lock that will adjust the height of the pole with a simple click. Each pole has a breathable foam handle that gave a grip that was comfortable and firm. The strap is adjustable, although we thought it could have been more durable. The poles come with a carry bag, 2 sets of mud and snow baskets and two tip protectors. All in all, not a bad set of accessories.
The carbon fiber body of the poles was adequate. You will not be using these poles on rugged or mountainous terrain. They’re designed more for the flat, or for gentle slopes, where they will function well. At 15 oz for the pair they are incredibly light for the price range. Although not a household name, we really liked the G2 GO2GETHERs; they give stiff competition to some of the other more well-know trekking pole brands.
If you are looking for a ultra-cheap pair of trekking poles, but ones that will still do the job for a more casual trek, then the Trailbuddy Trekking Poles could be right for you. The poles come in either black or a range of four bright colors.
The poles come with a pair of mud baskets, a pair of snow baskets, 2 pairs of rubber tips and a carry bag. We liked that the poles, with the accompanying accessories, were year-round ready. The weight is the greatest of all the poles we have tested, but then these poles are by far the cheapest on offer. The twist lock to adjust the height takes some practice to get right; we did find it slightly fiddly, but once you have the hang of it, it should be easy enough.
The manufacturer places great store on the fact that they have used Aluminum 7075 for these poles, but there are a lot of other factors that determine how well a pair of poles will function in the field. Material alone is never a guarantee. Having said that, these poles functioned well. We would not use them for anything else but casual trekking, but for that role, they will provide decent service.