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Top 10 Backpacker Recommended Trekking Poles – 2017

Top 10 Backpacker Trekking Poles

What are the best backpacking trekking poles that backpackers really use? What do you get when you buy more expensive trekking poles and how much better are they than value-oriented trekking poles?

We surveyed 440 backers to find out what trekking poles they use and recommend and found that aluminum poles are still the more popular than carbon fiber poles because they’re less expensive and more durable, although lighter-weight, economy carbon fiber poles are gaining in popularity. The so-called flick lock or lever lock adjustment systems, popularized by Black Diamond, is preferred over twist-lock adjustment systems because they’re more reliable and easy to use. Cork handles are increasingly popular because they provide a better grip when hands sweat and mold to your hand over time. The majority of trekking poles are still unisex, but some brands including REI have introduced female-specific poles with smaller grips and shorter lengths. While Black Diamond trekking poles dominate the high-end hiking and backpacking market, many competitive mid and low-priced options exist, with relatively little loss of critical functionality.

1. Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Trekking Poles

Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Trekking Poles
Black Diamond’s Trail Pro Shock Trekking Poles ($139) 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 (24″-49″) poles are also available.
See the Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock

2. Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
Black Diamond’s Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles ($119) are adjustable aluminum poles with a natural cork grip that 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 (29″-55″) and Women’s length (26″-49″) poles are also available. See the Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork 

3. Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles

Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles
The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles ($169) 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. Length (25″-51″). Unisex. See the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork

4. Leki Makalu Anti-Shock Trekking Poles

 Leki Makalu Anti-shock Trekking Poles
Leki’s Makalu Anti-Shock Trekking Pokes ($99) are 3 piece tapered, aluminum poles with a super-strong, twist-lock adjustment mechanism. Ergonomically shaped, natural cork grips with an articulated grip and base shelf help increase uphill propulsion when climbing, while adjustable comfort straps improve stability and security. Super durable carbide tips are standard while different size basket options allow poles to be customized for all seasons from trekking to backcountry skiing. Weight per pair is 19.9 ounces. The Leki Legacy is an updated version of this pole with lever lock adjusters. Length is 27″-57″. Unisex. See the Leki Makalu Anti-Shock

5. 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. Weigh per pair is 12 or 13 ounces, based on pole length. Unisex.  See the Black Diamond Distance Z-Pole

6. Leki Corklite Trekking Poles

Leki Corklite Trekking Poles
Leki’s Corklite Trekking Poles ($139) are 3-piece aluminum trekking poles with a lever style “SpeedLock” adjustment mechanism.Ergonomically shaped, natural cork grips with an articulated grip and base shelf help increase uphill propulsion when climbing, while the bulbous top facilitates breaking on downhills. Air-textured, wicking straps dry quickly while improve stability and security. Includes baskets and carbide tips. Weight per pair is 19.1 ounces. Length is 24.4″ to 53.1″. Unisex. See the Leki Corklite Trekking Poles

7. 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 has 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. See the REI Traverse Power Lock Cork 

8. Cascade Mountain Tech Cork Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles

Cascade Mountain Tech CORK CF Trekking Poles
Cascade Mountain Tech’s Cork Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles ($44) 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. See the Cascade Mountain Tech Cork Carbon Fiber 

9. Kelty Range 2.0 Trekking Poles

Kelty Range 2.0 Trekking Poles
Kelty Range 2.0 Trekking Poles ($59) are twist-lock aluminum poles with a built-in internal shock absorption system. They have cork handles with extended EVA foam grips so you can quickly adjust you hand position without having to readjust pole the pole length when hiking up or down hills. Protective tip caps, trekking baskets, and rubber tips for concrete surfaces are included. Guaranteed for one year. Weight is 20 ounces per pair and they’re available in one unisex length (27″-53″). See the Kelty Range 2.0 

10. Mountainsmith Rhyolite Trekking Poles

Mountainsmith Rhyolite Trekking Poles
Mountainsmith Rhyolite Trekking Poles ($39) are a popular value option. These 3-section aluminum poles have a twist lock adjustment system and come equipped with a spring-loaded shock absorption system that can be locked on or off with a simple twisting motion. Molded EVA foam handles reduce grip fatigue and include moisture wicking straps. The poles are snow basket compatible and come with carbide tips and optional rubber feet. Weight is 20 ounces per pair Length (26″-54″). Unisex. See the Mountainsmith Rhyolite

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31 comments

  1. I used #4 on this list until I found #1 on my list, Pacerpoles, which I learned about here a few years ago.

    • Cottage manufacturer with a fantastic product. I love mine, but they don’t enjoy widespread use because they don’t have the marketing power of a big company. They also don’t care as much about commercial success as a big company. I’ve become friends with the owners and they care a lot more about helping people with their poles than greeting rich. Typically British in many ways.

      • I love my set. Thanks again for turning me on to them. The handwritten note was a special touch when I received mine.

      • I got my Pacerpoles to hike on the AT a year ago. They were the ones I turned to for the Camino De Santiago last September/October for 500 miles. They were perfect! I’m indebted to you for bringing these poles to my attention. I love them.

  2. Amen to the aforementioned Pacer Poles, which I learned about from you. That hand angle makes all the difference.

  3. I’m shocked that anti-shock poles made this list.

    • I’ve never understood their appeal myself.

      • For me, the anti-shock springs keep the tips planted more firmly when I’m walking on bare rock. Anti-shock adds a bit of tension to the system. I sort of wish Pacerpoles had that option but your arms are supposed to provide that extra bit of spring. My preference may stem from the severe arthritis in my hands which sometimes makes me shy away from adding any additional pressure.

      • For me, the spring is just extra travel that takes away from the balance and propulsion poles help with. I have carpal tunnel and use wriststraps to ease my grip. I don’t know if pacerpoles have those or how much different arthritis pain is.

      • I wouldn’t be surprised if the grip angle serve the same purpose as your straps but won’t break your wrists if you fall. I grip my pacer poles very lightly. They have elastic keeper cords but their not weight supporting.

  4. Another vote for Pacer Poles. I wouldn’t be without mine.

  5. Absolutely love my Pacer Poles. Can’t imagine using a pole with a straight grip.

  6. Pacerpoles. Especially the new ones.

  7. With so many comments on people choosing Pacer Poles, where did they rank on the list?

    • I think that’s a function of my audience more than anything since I’m such a proponent of PacerPoles. They weren’t in the top 10. There are a heck of a lot more people using the poles above than Pacer Poles. They don’t know what they’re missing!

      • You’re right. They don’t know what they’re missing. They are supremely comfortable in arthritic hands. I have pitched a number of different tents and tarps with them without the grips causing any trouble in setting things up.

  8. I found Pacer Poles to be the best trekking pole for me! Thanks to Philip for the review that you wrote a few years ago! I would not have know about them if not for your review!

  9. #1 for me will always be Pacerpoles. I love them

  10. Great list. I recently started used a pair of Helinox Ridgeline LB 135’s. I’ve really enjoyed them and they seem like they’ll last forever.

    Any idea from the survey as to whether or not Helinox is making a splash in the pole market? I don’t think I’ve seen another hiker with a pair – which is a shame, they are really great poles.

  11. Interesting to see so many mentions of the Pacerpoles here… Have you tried them with tents like Zpacks Duplex or similar? Do they work as well as normal poles?

    • I’v been using them for years with many many tents, tarps, and single walled shelters. Haven’t tried them with Zpacks tents, but they work fine with Tarptents, MLD, etc. I doubt it would be an issue.

      • Great thanks for the info! The handles looks like the ones from my 90 year old grandmothers walker… Which is pretty comfy now that I think about it ;)

    • Linus,

      In my experience Pacer Poles work well with Zpacks tents. I’ve used them successfully with a Hexamid and a Duplex on many occasions.

      However, they are too short to use with an Altaplex and you’d need to add the carbon fibre pole extender made by Zpacks. That worked fine for me until I encountered strong wind on the Pennine Way and the pole extender splintered. So I wouldn’t recommend Pacers for the Altaplex, but great for the Duplex (my Pacer Poles have supported my Duplex through some tough Scottish storms).

      • PS. Pacer Poles work best upside down when supporting a tent, because that removes the effect of the offset handle. But remember to add the rubber end cap to protect your tent from the metal pole tip!

  12. Philip is there a way to buy pacepoles linked through your site so you get some benefit?

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