Hiking puts a strain on your legs and therefore trekking poles (also referred to as hiking poles) can be helpful when doing long trips or ascending steep slopes. Experts claim that trekking poles on average reduce the strain on legs with 25%. Furthermore, they increase traction (more points of contact with the surface result in better traction) and are also very useful for probing the terrain (you can for example check how deep the snow is before stepping into it). For those who use tarps for spending the nights outdoors, it might be interesting to note that trekking poles can also be used to suspend a tarp so that it forms a shelter in the traditional A-shape. Nevertheless, trekking poles also have drawbacks; they are somewhat bulky and they prevent you from using your hands freely for other things – like for example taking photos. However, modern trekking poles can be packed really small and therefore you can easily attach them to a backpack when you are not using them. Many quality backpacks have attachment points for trekking poles – like for example Osprey’s Stow-On-The-Go attachment system. Alternatively, they can be attached to your backpack with its compression straps.
Here we selected and reviewed the best trekking poles in order to make your buying decision a little easier. We were especially looking for lightweight products which provide good durability and functionality.This selection was updated on the 24th of January 2017.
1. Buying Trekking Poles – What is important?
Lightweight equipment reduces the aerobic demand (as well as heart rate and calorie consumption) and thus allows you to hike faster and easier. It is especially important to have lightweight equipment on long hikes and hikes that include major ascents. In this review we only listed lightweight trekking poles – the heaviest product in this review weighs just around 1 lb. 6 oz. (a pair).
There are three different types of trekking poles; collapsible, foldable and foldable + collapsible.
Collapsible trekking poles are adjustable in length which comes in handy as you can lengthen them when going downhill and shorten them when going uphill. However, they are typically heavier than foldable trekking poles (although the material also plays a role) and can’t be packed as small. Such poles are best for those who typically hike on easy trails.
Foldable trekking poles consist of several sections which are connected with a Kevlar cord (like tent poles). Such poles can be packed really small and are thus great for those who often do technically challenging ascents – they don’t get in the way when attached to a backpack. However, they can’t be adjusted in length which is a big shortcoming.
Foldable + collapsible trekking poles combine the two mechanisms and consist of several sections that are connected with a Kevlar cord. However, here the section closest to the grip can be extended and thus you can adjust the length of the pole to some extent – typically for around 8 inches which is much less than at a collapsible trekking pole.
The length is especially important if you are buying foldable trekking poles which are not adjustable in length. Your elbow should be in a 90-degree angle when holding trekking pole at the grip. In order to figure out how long trekking poles do you need, measure the distance between your elbow and the floor.
The locking mechanism secures the trekking pole at the desired length. There are two different locking mechanisms; lever lock and twist lock. The lever lock mechanism is easier to adjust with gloves on. The twist lock mechanism uses a screw setup and requires more time.
The shaft of a trekking pole is typically made of aluminum or carbon fiber. Both materials have advantages and shortcomings. Carbon fiber shafts are usually lighter than aluminum shafts. However, carbon fiber trekking poles are also more expensive and less durable; when too much force is applied to a carbon fiber shaft it breaks while an aluminum shaft will typically bend rather than break.
Grips are typically made of EVA (ethylene-vinyl acetate) foam in order to provide good comfort and a firm grip even when your hands are sweaty. Nevertheless, some trekking poles have grips made of cork. Such grips are lighter than EVA foam grips but slightly less comfortable.
Some trekking poles feature an internal spring (shock absorption mechanism) to reduce the impact on hands and elbows. Such poles are usually slightly heavier and pricier than those without shock absorption systems.
Trekking poles typically have carbide tips which provide good durability and traction on various types of terrain.
The round rings at the bottom are called baskets and prevent the poles from getting stuck between rocks, roots etc. For hiking on snow-covered terrain wide baskets are recommended because they offer better flotation (usually sold separately).
2. The Best Trekking Poles Review
- Komperdell Carbon Expedition Vario 4
- Leki Micro Vario Carbon
- Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Z Trekking
- Leki Thermolite XL
- Black Diamond Trail Back
|Feature/Product||Komperdell Carbon Expedition Vario 4||Leki Micro Vario Carbon||Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Z Trekking||Leki Thermolite XL||Black Diamond Trail Back|
|Weight (Pair)||14.5 oz.||15.8 oz.||1 lb. 1 oz. (39 in. version)||1 lb. 1 oz.||1 lb. 5 oz.|
|Weight - Metric (Pair)||412 g||448 g||485 g (100 cm version)||470 g||608 g|
|Type||Foldable + collapsible||Foldable + collapsible||Foldable||Collapsible||Collapsible|
|Shaft Material||Carbon, Titanal||Carbon||Carbon||Aluminum||Aluminum|
|Packed Length||18 in.||15 in.||14 in, 15 in, 17 in, 18 in||22 in.||25 in.|
|Packed Length (Metric)||45 cm||38 cm||35 cm, 38 cm, 42 cm, 45 cm||55 cm||63.5 cm|
|Adjustable in Length||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Locking Mechanism||Lever lock||Lever lock||Lever lock||Lever lock||Lever lock|
|Length||47-57 in.||43-51 in.||39 in, 43 in, 47 in, 51 in||26-53 in.||25-55 in.|
|Length (Metric)||120-145 cm||110-130 cm||100 cm, 110 cm, 120 cm, 130 cm||67-135 cm||63.5-140 cm|
1. Komperdell Carbon Expedition Vario 4
- Approaching climbing routes
The Komperdell Carbon Expedition Vario 4 trekking poles are very popular among hikers and mountaineers because they are very light (the pair weighs merely 14 oz.) while providing great functionality. They are foldable as well as collapsible – they consist of three sections and the section closest to the grip can be extended for 10 inches. This comes in handy because it allows you to lengthen the poles when going downhill and shorten them when going uphill. The Komperdell trekking poles use a lever lock mechanism to secure the poles at the desired length. They have carbon fiber shafts which are reinforced with Titanal (one of the strongest alloys in the world) in the lower section. The grip is made of foam while the straps are padded for good comfort. When the poles are collapsed they measure only 18 inches in length. The extended pole’s length is from 47 to 57 inches.
2. Leki Micro Vario Carbon
- Approach to climbing routes
The Leki Micro Vario Carbon trekking poles are slightly heavier (a pair weighs 16 oz.) than the Komperdell poles above, but on the other hand they are shorter when folded (15 inches). Like the Komperdell trekking poles they consist of three sections (foldable construction) and the section closest to the grip can be adjusted in length for good fit (the length of the pole can be increased for up to 8 inches). The pole is secured at the desired length with a lever lock mechanism which is easy to use even with gloves on. The extended pole measures from 43 – 51 inches in length. Folding the poles is also very easy – they have a push-button beneath the grip which releases the mechanism. The poles feature shafts made of carbon fiber while the grips are made of comfortable foam. Leki offers many different baskets and tips for this model. With the poles you also get a nylon bag for storing additional baskets and tips for the poles.
3. Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Z Trekking
- Approach to climbing routes
The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Z Trekking poles differ from the above listed Komperdell and Leki models by not being adjustable in length. However, they do come in four different lengths (from 40 to 51 inches). They are foldable and made of carbon fiber. Therefore, they are very light and can be folded really small. The shortest pole (40 in.) weighs merely 1 lb. and measures only 14 inches in length when folded. The poles are equipped with the Z-Pole Rapid Deployment System; the locking mechanism can be easily released by pressing a button. The Black Diamond poles also have comfortable grips and moisture-wicking straps. They can be used with either carbide or rubber tips.
4. Leki Thermolite XL
The Leki Thermolite XL trekking poles differ from the models listed above by having a collapsible construction and aluminum shafts. Nevertheless, they are very light for non-carbon fiber poles – the pair weighs merely 1 lb. The pole’s length can be adjusted from 26 to 53 inches which comes in handy if you want to borrow your poles to friends or family. For securing the pole at the desired length, a very simple lever lock mechanism is used. The lever lock mechanism can easily be used even when wearing gloves. The poles use carbide tips and come with trekking baskets. However, Leki offers many different baskets and tips (sold separately) for this model. The main advantage of these poles is their superb durability due to the aluminum shafts.
5. Black Diamond Trail Back
The Black Diamond Trail Back trekking poles are fairly inexpensive while providing good durability. Therefore, they are very popular among recreational hikers and trekkers. Like the Leki Thermolite XL poles, they feature a collapsible construction and aluminum shafts. However, they are significantly heavier than the Leki poles – the pair weighs 1 lb. 5 oz. They are very robust and offer good durability. The length can be adjusted with the lever lock mechanism which is easy to use even when wearing gloves. The Black Diamond Trail Back poles can be adjusted to measure from 25 to 55 inches in length. Additionally, they are equipped with comfortable grips (made of EVA foam), nylon straps, trekking baskets and carbide tips. The shortcomings are the weight and collapsed length – collapsed they are 25 inches long. However, they are also significantly cheaper than the other products in this review.
3. The most attractive product in the review