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 Paria Outdoor, 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 / ModelMaterialGripPrice
Black Diamond Trail Ergo CorkAluminumCork$130
Black Diamond Alpine Carbon CorkCarbon FiberCork$180
Leki Micro Vario Carbon ASCarbon FiberFoam$230
Leki Cressida Cor-TecAluminumCork$120
Black Diamond Distance Z FoldingAluminumFoam$99
Paria Outdoor Tri-Fold Carbon FiberCarbon FiberCork$59
REI TraverseAluminumCork$99
Cascade Mountain Cork Carbon FiberCarbon FiberCork$41
Hiker Hunger Carbon Fiber 2.0Carbon FiberCork$80
Pacerpole Dual LockCarbon FiberPlastic$130

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  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. The 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:
REI  | Backcountry | Amazon

2. Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles

Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles
The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles are three-piece adjustable carbon-fiber 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. Both men’s and women’s lengths are available. Read our review.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Amazon |

3. Leki Micro Vario Carbon AS

Leki Micro-Vario Carbon AS
The Leki Micro Vario Carbon AS is a folding pole with an adjustable top segment that has an external lever lock for easy length adjustments. These poles are cushioned to reduce peak pole impacts on hard terrain by as much as 40% to protect muscles, joints, and ligaments. They have a thermal foam grip that provides extra comfort, lightweight and insulation in colder weather, and an 8-degree angle to keep your wrist in a neutral position. The poles/ high modulus carbon shaft sections provide reliable, lightweight performance while a polyethylene-coated, Kevlar-reinforced tension cord offers long-term reliability. Leki’s interchangeable basket system allows a variety of different-sized Leki baskets (sold separately) to be easily screwed on/off for different seasons and uses. The weight per pair is just 17.7 ounces with a  44″-52″ length and a 15: collapsed length, 

Check out the latest price at:
REI |Backcountry | Amazon

4. Leki Cressida Cor-Tec

 

Leki Cressida Cor-Tec
Leki Cressida Cor-Tec Trekking Poles are specifically designed for women with smaller grips, shorter straps, and overall smaller dimensions to fit smaller backpacks. They have a SpeedLock Plus lever locking mechanism that offers quick and secure length adjustments and a Cor-Tec cork grip material made from 80% natural ground cork. They have an 8-degree positive angle that helps keep your wrist in a neutral position while Leki’s interchangeable basket system allows a variety of different sized Leki baskets (sold separately) to be easily screwed on/off for different seasons and uses. The weight per pair is just 16.2 ounces with a  36″-5o” length.

Check out the latest price at:
REI | Amazon 

5. Black Diamond Distance Z-Pole Trekking Poles

Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking Poles
The Black Diamond Distance Z-Pole Trekking Poles 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:
REI | Backcountry | Amazon

6. Paria Outdoor Tri-Fold Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles

Paria Outdoor Tri-fold CF Trekking Poles
Paria Outdoor Tri-Fold Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles 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. Read our review.

Check out the latest price at:
Paria Outdoors | Amazon

7. REI Traverse Trekking Poles

REI Traverse Cork Trekking Poles
REI Traverse Trekking Poles  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. Available in two lengths, the weight of the shorter size poles 18.5 ounces per pair and 19.5 oz for the longer length size.

Check out the latest price at:
REI

8. Cascade Mountain Cork Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles

Cascade Mountain Tech CORK CF Trekking Poles
Cascade Mountain Cork Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles 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

9. Hiker Hunger Carbon Fiber Trekking Pole 2.0

Hiker Hunger Carbon Fiber trekking Poles 2.0
Hiker Hunger Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles 2.0 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

10. Pacerpole Dual Lock Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles

Pacerpole Trekking Poles
Pacerpole Dual Lock Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles 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

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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20 comments

  1. I was surprised you were even able to put together a list of 10 trekking poles worth considering then I saw 2 of them are the same poles with different branding. I’ve been using the cheap CMT poles since the Dream Lake hike we did and they have outlasted any pair of expensive Black Diamond poles I ever used. And they’ve never frozen closed.

  2. Are any of these fixed length besides the Black Diamond Z poles? I own the FL-Z which has an adjustable section (flick-lock) at the top (6″/15cm range), and that is handy both for setting the right hiking heights for various users, and for trekking pole tents with various heights. I would be tempted to add another column for height adjustment (lever/flick, twist, or none) along with adjustable range to the useful table.

    I’m still loving my PacerPoles I bought years ago on your and Chris Townsend’s recommendations – they are also good “training” poles for Scouts and Scouters to learn how to use poles effectively. I find using the handle loops on standard poles as extensions give many of the same ergonomic benefits, but still lean to the 23oz/650g Pacerpoles even on longer treks.

    You touched on cleaning poles, but for telescoping poles, storing them disconnected also helps maintain their function especially after use in humid conditions.

    • No fixed length. That’s more of a skiing thing. I have used fixed-length poles mind you, including CF ones, but they break a lot. Not worth the hassle. Folding poles are really a good alternative to a fixed-length pole in terms of rigidity. Very stable.

  3. Women’s poles usually also have slightly smaller grips than men’s poles. For women with small hands, this can make a big difference in comfort, especially on multi-day trips where ill-fitting grips can chafe your hands.

  4. Love my CNOC trekking poles with long cork handles and thick and lightweight carbon fiber poles with parts to purchase to make a replacement of a section for whatever reason. But one or two and they extend beyond 60″.

  5. Glad to see the Cascade Mountain poles make the list. I got mine for $20 on sale, which is an absolutely outrageous price for such a good pole. They’re more wobbly than my Black Diamonds, and the straps are obnoxious to adjust, but they can’t be beat for the price.

  6. Philip, are you aware of any rodent-resistant “handle” protective covers for use with handle down trekking pole tent pitches? I would think these exist, I know there is a demand for them, even if someone has MYOG advice. Like a sleeve/bag with velcro closure. Thanks.

    • Tarptent makes little nylon pockets that tie to the top of the tent or tarp that fit the handles and keeps
      them off the ground.

    • Something like an Ursack for pole handles? The material might be available online. I saw a returned Ursack with defective stitching marked for clearance at the local REI.

      My mice issues have been mainly with their apparent love of wool yarn, I guess for lining nests. I wonder if putting an old wool sock over the pole handle would distract them from attacking the pole while sacrificing the sock. But I do overthink things sometimes…

  7. Thanks Ronald. I’m familiar with those for a handle up pitch. Looking for something to protect the handles for a traditional point up pitch. Have you used those & if so how do you like handles up pitch?

    • I got them for my Durston Xmid 1 tent, but found the carbide tip up worked better for this tent.The handle pockets were too sloppy.You could sew them on. The mice love trekking pole straps after you’ve sweated!

  8. I really like fizan poles – aluminum, 3 section, twist lock, under 5oz each stripped of straps and baskets. Easy to pack or hold when not used. Reasonable cost at $60-70 a pair.

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