10 Best Trekking Poles for Hiking and Backpacking

10 Best Trekking Poles for Hiking and Backpacking

Trekking poles provide many benefits to hikers and backpackers from added stability and balance on rough trails to less wear and tear on knees and hips, especially when hiking downhill. The most popular trekking poles used by hikers and backpacks are adjustable in length, with a clamp-style lever lock adjustment system instead of twist-locks because they are more reliable and easier to fix. In recent years, carbon fiber trekking poles have become increasingly popular and have started to eclipse aluminum poles because of their light weight. This trend has been fueled by competition from low-cost manufacturers without huge advertising and marketing budgets like Montem, Cascade Mountain Tech, and Hiker Hunger. Some of their products are really quite good values, especially for beginner hikers and backpackers, and offer a great way to try trekking poles without breaking the bank.

Here are the top 10 trekking poles that we recommend.

Make / ModelMaterialLock TypeGripPrice
Black Diamond Trail Ergo CorkAluminumLever LockCork$130
Black Diamond Alpine Carbon CorkCarbon FiberLever LockCork$180
Montem Ultra-Strong CorkAluminumLever LockCork$70
Black Diamond Distance Z FoldingAluminumNAFoam$99
Paria Outdoor Tri-Fold Carbon FiberCarbon FiberLever LockCork$59
REI Traverse Power Lock CorkAluminumLever LockCork$99
Cascade Mountain Cork Carbon FiberCarbon FiberLever LockCork$41
Hiker Hunger Carbon Fiber 2.0Carbon FiberLever LockCork$80
Pacerpole Dual LockCarbon FiberLever Lock & PinPlastic$130
Black Diamond Trail Pro ShockAluminumLever LockFoam$150

If you’re still unsure about which poles to purchase, read the explanation of our trekking pole selection criteria and key considerations below. It provides a good introduction to the pros and cons of different trekking pole features and design choices.

1. Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
Black Diamond’s Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles ($130) are adjustable aluminum poles with a natural cork grip that Black Diamond claims molds to your hands over time and absorbs sweat without becoming slippery. The grips feature a 15-degree corrective angle that keeps your wrists in a neutral position for comfort while helping to reduce the risk of repetitive strain or wrist injury. These three-section poles are adjusted using Black Diamond’s reliable flick-lock adjustment system. Weight per pair is 18 ounces. Men’s length (27″-55″) and Women’s length (25″-49″) poles are also available.

Check out the latest price at:
Black Diamond | REI  | Moosejaw

2. Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles

Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles
The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles ($180) are three-piece adjustable carbon-fiber shaft trekking poles that use Black Diamond’s proven flick-lock adjustment system. They have natural cork hand grips with EVA foam extensions so you can shift your hand position up or down without adjusting pole length in uneven terrain. Weigh is just 17 ounces per pair. Men’s length (25″-51″) and Women’s length (23″-49″) poles are available. Read our review.

Check out the latest price at:
Black Diamond | REI | Moosejaw |

3. Montem Ultra-Strong Cork Trekking Poles

Montem Ultra Strong Trekking Poles
Montem’s Ultra-Strong Cork Trekking Poles ($70) are 3 piece, aluminum poles with a super-strong, flick-lock adjustment mechanism and cork handles. Ergonomically shaped rubber grips with an articulated base shelf help increase uphill propulsion when climbing, while adjustable straps improve stability and security. Super durable carbide tips are standard along with trekking baskets and rubber tips for use on sidewalks and street. Weight per pair is just 19.2 ounces.  Length is 24″-53″. Unisex.

Check out the latest price at:
Montem   

4. Black Diamond Distance Z-Pole Trekking Poles

Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking Poles
The Black Diamond Distance Z-Pole Trekking Poles ($99) feature a versatile folding design that fits easily into packs and suitcases, making them ideal for backpacking and travel. Available in four lengths when fully expanded: 100 cm, 110 cm, 120 cm, 130 cm, they collapse down to 14″-17″ in length when folded up. Opening and folding them up is simple using a push-button mechanism. The poles have extended EVA foam grips, with minimal mesh wrist straps. Non-marking rubber tips are standard but carbide tips are also included. Weight per pair is 11 to 13 ounces, based on pole length. Unisex.

Check out the latest price at:
Black Diamond | REI | Backcountry

5. Paria Outdoor Tri-Fold Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles

Paria Outdoor Tri-fold CF Trekking Poles
Paria Outdoor Tri-Fold Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles ($59) are 3 section folding poles with cork handles that fold down to 15″ in length making them perfect for travel and backpacking. Ergonomically shaped, natural cork grips with an articulated grip increase uphill propulsion when climbing, while the bulbous top facilitates braking on downhills. Air-textured, wicking straps dry quickly while improving stability and security. Includes baskets and carbide tips, which can be replaced if you manage to wear them out.  Weight per pair is 18 ounces. Length is 24.4″ to 53.1″. While unisex, they are available in two sizes: one for people taller than 5’9″ and the other for people shorter.

Check out the latest price at:
Amazon

6. REI Traverse Power Lock Cork Trekking Poles

REI Traverse Cork Trekking Poles
REI Traverse Power Lock Cork Trekking Poles ($99) are 3-piece adjustable, aluminum trekking poles with ergonomic cork grips.  Adjustable padded neoprene wrist straps are included for added support and comfort. The Traverse Poles have a lever lock style adjustment system and include trekking baskets and extra-durable tungsten carbide tips. Men’s length (27″-55″) and Women’s specific (length 24″-49″) poles with a smaller grip size are available. Weight per pair is 20 ounces for the Men’s poles, 17 ounces for the Women’s poles.

Check out the latest price at:
REI

7. Cascade Mountain Cork Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles

Cascade Mountain Tech CORK CF Trekking Poles
Cascade Mountain Cork Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles ($41) are three-section, carbon fiber trekking poles that weigh just 15.4 ounces per pair. Priced at less than half of what Black Diamond or Leki carbon fiber poles cost, they’re an exceptional value if you’re looking for a flick-lock style trekking pole for hiking and backpacking. These are fully-featured, durable, and adjustable trekking poles with adjustable length retainer straps, cork handles, extended grips, and titanium carbide tips. Handle-to-tip length ranges from 26″-54.5″. Snow baskets, rubber feet, and curved pavement feet are included. Unisex. Read our Review.

Check out the latest price at:
Amazon

8. Hiker Hunger Carbon Fiber Trekking Pole 2.0

Hiker Hunger Carbon Fiber trekking Poles 2.0
Hiker Hunger Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles 2.0 ($80) are 3-section poles have cork handles and flick-lock adjusters that come with a complete set of 4-season accessories including snow baskets. They have extended EVA foam grips so you can quickly adjust your hand position without having to readjust pole the pole length when hiking up or down hills and mountains. Protective tip caps, trekking baskets, and rubber tips for concrete surfaces are included. Guaranteed for three years. Weight is 15.2 ounces per pair and they’re available in one unisex length (24″-54″).

Check out the latest price at:
Amazon

9. Pacerpole Dual Lock Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles

Pacerpole Trekking Poles
Pacerpole Dual Lock Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles ($130) are three-piece trekking poles with a unique hand-grip that promotes better biomechanical efficiency, posture, and pace while helping to engage your larger arm muscles when climbing up hills and mountains. Best known in the UK, they have a cult following in the United States with hikers, backpackers, and mountaineers. The Dual Lock poles have a top lever lock for quick adjustment and a pin lock to hold the lowest section in place. The molded hand-grips eliminate the need for thick hand straps and only require a loose grip, relieving forearm tension, and reducing fatigue. Read our Pacepole Review. 

Check out the latest price at:
PacerPole

10. Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Trekking Poles

Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Trekking Poles
Black Diamond’s Trail Pro Shock Trekking Poles ($150) are three-piece aluminum trekking poles with a special shock absorber in the handle to reduce impacts to your wrists and elbows when hiking over mixed terrain. The poles are adjustable using Black Diamond’s flick lock system which is easy to adjust manually without tools. The foam handles are ergonomically shaped to reduce hand fatigue with adjustable wrist straps. Weight per pair is 20 ounces. Men’s length (27″-55″) and Women’s length (25″-49″) poles are also available.

Check out the latest price at:
Black Diamond | REI | Backcountry 

Key Considerations for Buying Trekking Poles

Here are the important features for you to consider when choosing which trekking poles to buy including pros and cons.

Three-Piece, Two-Piece, Fixed Length or Folding Poles

Most hikers and backpackers prefer three-piece poles or folding poles over two-piece or fixed length trekking poles because they’re easier to stow when not in use. Folding poles are especially convenient for traveling although you can also pull apart three-piece poles and reassemble them when you arrive.

Lever Lock or Twist Lock Trekking Pole Adjusters

Multi-piece trekking poles are telescoping with thinner sections collapsing into thicker ones. When extended there are two main adjustment mechanisms to make them hold their desired length. Lever Locks, called Flick Locks on Black Diamond trekking poles are external clamps that fold down over the thinner section and prevent them from collapsing further. They are easy to adjust, repair, and are very durable. Twist Lock poles rely on a plastic expander inside the poles that expands inside the thicker segment and prevents the thinner tube from moving higher. These expanders tend to wear out over time and stop working, which can be really frustrating if you’re in the middle of nowhere. We’ve used both and far prefer lever lock poles because they are so easy to care for and tighten if they loosen up. You literally tighten and external screw with a penknife or twist it tight with your fingers.

Carbon Fiber or Aluminum Trekking Poles

Many companies claim that carbon fiber poles are lighter weight than aluminum ones, or that they vibrate less, or that they’re more durable. We have seen any evidence that one material is better than another because poles made with both still break if you trap the tip between rocks or fall on them. The only advantage of aluminum is that you can usually bend them back into shape whereas carbon fiber shatters. The most important thing when deciding between the two, besides price (carbon fiber is always more expensive), is that you can buy replacement sections from the seller when you break a segment or a pole tip.

Cork Handles or EVA Foam Trekking Pole Handles

Most trekking poles come with cork handles or foam handles. Both repel moisture and provide an excellent grip. In fact, many cork poles have foam extensions under the handle if you need to lower your hands when climbing uphill. Some people will argue that cork is better because it absorbs sweat and molds to your hand over time although we’re not terribly convinced it does either. Ultimately it comes down to personal preference and price.

Shock Absorbing Trekking Poles or Regular

Some trekking poles have a shock-absorbing component, usually built into the handle or as a spring between shaft segments, that reduces the shock you’ll feel in your wrists or forearms when hiking over rock trails or asphalt. They can be very helpful to reduce the risk of repetitive stress injuries in your wrists or inflammation if you suffer from carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis.

Trekking Pole Baskets

The trekking pole baskets have several purposes. The small ones called trekking baskets are designed to prevent your pole tips from getting caught between rocks and broken. The wider ones called snow baskets are designed to float in top of the snow so they don’t sink in. Many budget pole companies don’t include snow baskets in the purchase price of their poles, even though you’d want them for snowshoeing and skiing. It’s just something to watch out for if you want poles for four-season use.

Trekking Pole Tips

Most trekking poles cope with carbide tips for hiking over bare ground and rock. It’s very difficult to wear these out and you’re more likely to break them. If either happens you want to make sure that the poles you buy have replaceable tips and that you’re able to purchase them separately. Many poles also come with rubber tips, which can be used on asphalt. These may be curved on the bottom or just bulbous rubber caps. Either type works well.

Unisex vs Gender-Specific Poles

The only difference between unisex and gender-specific poles is the length. Men’s and unisex poles tend to be an inch longer than women’s poles. Otherwise, they’re interchangeable.

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25 comments

  1. I have a few observations on my preferences:

    Lever lock poles are more “fiddle free” than twist lock. If my twist lock poles sit unused a few months, I have to take them apart and clean everything to get them to work properly again. Otherwise, they’ll either slip or get locked into place (usually slip).

    I used several iterations of Leki poles prior to purchasing Pacerpoles. I much prefer the shock absorbing feature to not having it. Shock absorbing transfers less stress to these arthritic hands and also the spring action helps hold the tips in place on solid rock. Not having shock absorbing is my only gripe about Pacerpoles. The company says the action of the arm and wrist provides the shock absorbing and I’ve found that to be true, however, I still wish I had that little bit of give, especially when on solid rock. I’ve thought about ways to add it but so far haven’t come up with a practical solution.

    Some people really prefer the cork handled poles to the foam handles. My first Lekis had foam handles and since I hike mostly in Texas, I upgraded to a pair with cork. I didn’t really notice a difference. I also didn’t notice much difference between the slight angle of the grips (one was more angled than the other). When using my Leki poles, putting my hand through the wrist straps and gripping the handle with the straps the way the recommended way does make it more comfortable on my wrists. It seems to help force the hand into a more ergonomic position.

    I was introduced to Pacerpoles on this site and have been very grateful for that. They are wonderful in these old, arthritic hands. I did upgrade to their CF ones a couple years ago.

  2. You can find the Cascade Mountain Tech poles at most Costco stores for $30.

  3. I am surprised that there are no Leki poles on this list. Any particular reason?

    • Leki has really turned their back on hikers. They continue to push the twist lock architecture and while some of their poles do have lever locks now, they’re simply not competitive in terms of features, performance, or price. But the biggest problem with Leki is that it’s nearly impossible to figure out which pole to buy from them because they have such an obtuse product naming scheme. Good luck trying to figure it out.

      • Leki . . . not to mention the tips for my poles were defective on two sets. I contacted Leki twice with no satisfaction. The metal tips pushed through the plastic housing and I could hear it rattling inside the pole. The customer service rep said this was normal wear and tear. Never again!

      • Leki Poles are almost all lever locks now. I find their system easier to adjust and have a high holding power with less effort. Leki has also been very good about replacing broken pole sections.

  4. Good Timing! I just broke my Z-Packs carbon fiber pole after only about 20 miles. I think I’ll go back to aluminum as those seem stronger to me. One thing you might want to mention to folks is that trekking poles make fantastic selfie sticks! There is a guy in SFO who sells an adapter and calls it a Stickpic. They work great!

    • That’s about right. When I used to get Gossamer Gear UL carbon fiber poles as one of their trail ambassadors, I averaged 7 hours before a pole broke. Now, I do know people who never break their Gossamer Gear poles like Guthook. I suspect it’s a personality thing. Whatever, I don’t recommend UL carbon fiber poles from Gossamer Gear to this day.

    • Denis de Souza

      Phil,
      By far your best write up to date

  5. I had good luck with Fizan Compact 4 Trekking poles when hiking the Camino. 13.3 oz for long pair. 4 sections needed to fit in carry-on on aircraft which these have. Agree that their twist lock requires fiddling after having sat for extended time. Light and strong. Cheap too.

  6. strange that you didn’t have any Leki poles in the list

    • There are a lot of manufacturers left off this list, but I couldn’t think of any Leki poles that I would recommend to anyone.

      • Do not buy Leki external lock poles. They are awful. They get loose and are really hard to adjust…wont stay tight. Had a pair of micro vario carbon poles and went round and round with Leki support. Never again. Switched to Cascade mtn tech poles. Great value. There’s no need to pay big bucks for poles any more.

  7. Patrick Herman

    Where is Leki on the list? When you watch the Olympic downhill skiers you can see that Leki is the preferred manufacturer. I have used them and believe me they are made for tough use. Like leaning on them with a 65 lb pack + 200 lb body weight cross a talus filed on a steep angle. Pacerpoles look interesting and I am going to have to research them out. Country of origin means a lot to me.

    • If you’d like to recommend a pair Leki pole for this list be my guest.
      I use Leki poles for XC in winter. Just like Olympic athletes, because I got them for free.

  8. I love the Black Diamond Ergo Cork poles. I’ve been using them for years and have not been disappointed. I like the 15 degree ergo angle and the cork handles. The balance is good and the straps are comfortable. I hike in Arizona and wear out the tips in a year or two on the rocky trails, so I appreciate that they are easy to replace.

    • I’ve always speculated that that handle angle is as close to the Pacerpole grip that BD dared come to avoid being sued.
      But it is a lot more comfortable than a straight grip.

  9. I’m a retail buyer for a major chain and we dropped Leki for a number of reasons. 1) customers don’t buy them 2) we couldn’t figure out which Leki models to carry because their product naming scheme is impossible to understand 3) black diamond had really committed to innovation in the category. We didn’t see the same investment by Leki.

    • Bill in Roswell GA

      Sam’s point of view is to be respected as that was his experience. In that regard, I would like to offer a Leki experience showing great customer service. My local REI sells a lot of Leki poles. It seems that women like them to a great extent.
      While hiking with friends on the Pressie range a few summers ago, one of the guys had his pole stick in some of that think New England goo that forms between boulders. Of course he tried to twist it free with both hands and a might jerk. Snap. After the hike we stopped at a mini LLBean at Pinkham Notch. Showing the broken pole to the store manager, she said give me your broken set and take this new pair. She said it was a no-brainer as Leki would cover it without question. One thing we do know is a lot of company personnel changes have disrupted the work flow that once existed.

  10. I recently purchased the Black Diamond Z-pole Trekking Poles. I noticed that on the straps, one pole has an L and the other has an R, which I assume refer to left hand vs right hand. The poles look identical–is there a benefit to which hand is used when hiking with these poles? Thanks.

    • You’re correct that the poles are identical. The only difference with the Left and Right markings on the straps is the direction that they are threaded onto the handle. It usually feels best to have them on the corresponding hand, but they’ll work just fine either way.

  11. I have had the ergo cork for at least 5 years now. I liked the foot of rubber on the shaft just below the cork, and I use it often especially when stepping up on a high stone. They are beaten up looking now, but have served me well. I do recommend them. I did get the Cressida for my wife around the same time. I do like her wrist straps better than my ergo. The only potential problem with me recommending anything today based on a product I’ve owned for years is there could be a change in manufacturing quality over that time, for better or worse.

  12. I’ve had my Cascade Mountain tech CF poles going on 5 years using them constantly for training hikes and backpacking and with the included snow baskets for backcountry skiing. They are great poles.

    Other uses:1.)-> shooting sticks with the clamp-on Quick siX mating discs 2.) supports for my Notch Li solo tent.

  13. I agree with you! My Black Diamond Trail Ergo Corks are in their tenth season, with thousands of trail miles on them. They are a little ratty looking, but require a minimum of maintenance to stay functional. I take them apart and clean them up once or twice a year. Thanks for all the good work here.

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