Most backpackers use adjustable trekking poles to help relieve knee stress, improve walking stability, and increase their hiking speed. Though many consider them an essential piece of backpacking and day hiking gear, the choice of which pole to use is largely a function of price, rather than gear weight or design.
While trekking poles manufactured by Black Diamond, Leki, and Komperdell are the most popular trekking poles used by backpackers, we found that budget poles from Outdoor Products, Cascade Mountain, and Kelty have a significant customer base. A breakout of trekking pole brand popularity is provided below.
Backpacker Trekking Pole Use
When surveyed (n=443), we found that most 72.7% of backpackers use a pair of trekking poles for hiking, 5.8% use a single pole, and 21.4% don’t use poles at all.
Trekking Pole Material Preference
Aluminum trekking poles are much more widely used than carbon fiber trekking poles, 77.2% to 22.8%. This difference is still largely driven by price, even though less expensive carbon fiber trekking poles from reputable brands such as Cascade Mountain (under $50) are increasing in popularity.
Earlier generations of carbon fiber trekking poles were also known for breaking easily, which may have slowed their market penetration and widespread use.
Locking Mechanism Preference
There are several different locking mechanisms used by adjustable trekking pole manufacturers. Lever lock poles (also called flick lock or clamp lock) have an external clamp that squeezes the outer pole, holding the inner pole in place. They’re considered lower maintenance than twist lock poles which use an internal expander to prevent the inner pole from sliding up or down inside the outer pole.
When surveyed, we found no significant preference across backpackers between the two locking mechanisms. It’s important to understand what this means. While some individuals may have a preference for one locking mechanism over another, the material that the pole is made with – aluminum or carbon fiber – is more important in deciding whether to purchase one pair of trekking poles over another. Note: the “other” category in the pie chart refers to fixed-length folding poles like Black Diamond’s Distance Z folding poles which are surprisingly less popular among backpackers.
Most Popular Trekking Pole Brands
Survey participants used poles made by Black Diamond (34.3%) the most, with Leki (16.6%) and Komperdell 11.4% in the second and third spots. Lower cost poles from Outdoor Products (7.7%), Cascade Mountain (5.2%) and others made up the balance.
About this Survey
This survey was conducted on the SectionHiker.com website which has over 300,000 unique readers per month, so a large pool of potential respondents. Readers were incented to participate in the survey in exchange for a chance to win a raffle for a piece of backpacking gear.
While we’re confident that the results are fairly representative of the general backpacking population based on the size of the survey results where n=443 people, we can’t claim that the results are statistically significant.
There are also a number of ways in which the results could be biased including: backpackers who read SectionHiker.com might not be representative of all backpackers, backpacker who read Internet content might not be representative of all backpackers, backpackers who respond to raffle incentives might not be representative of all backpackers, our methods for recording responses might have been unconsciously biased, and so on.
The author is an expert in statistical analysis, survey, and experimental design and is sensitive to these issues. However, given the size of the respondent pool and the very strong consensus among user responses, we believe that the survey results published here will be useful to backpackers who are interested in learning about trekking poles and what their peers use.
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