Hiking puts a strain on your legs and therefore trekking poles (also called hiking poles) can be very useful for long hikes or ascending steep slopes. Experts claim that they on average reduce the strain on legs with 25%. Furthermore, they increase traction (due to more points of contact with the surface) 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 be also used to suspend a tarp so that it forms a shelter.
Nevertheless, they also have drawbacks; they are bulky when not in use and they prevent you from using your hands freely for other things – like for example taking photos, using a map etc. However, modern trekking poles can be packed very small and therefore you can easily attach them to your backpack when you are not using them. Many quality backpacks have attachment points – like for example Osprey’s Stow-On-The-Go attachment system. Otherwise, they can be attached to most backpacks by using the backpack’s compression straps.
Here we selected and reviewed the best trekking poles to make your buying decision a little easier. We only listed lightweight and durable products.
1. Buying Trekking Poles – What is important?
With lightweight gear you can hike more efficiently and therefore trekking poles should be lightweight. In this review we only listed lightweight products – the heaviest product in this review weighs around 1.4 pounds. To learn more about why it is important to use lightweight gear for hiking, read our article Why hike lightweight.
There are three different types of trekking poles; collapsible, foldable and foldable + collapsible.
Collapsible are adjustable in length which is very useful as you can lengthen them when going downhill and shorten them when going uphill. However, they are typically heavier than foldable (although the material also plays a role) and can’t be packed as small. Such poles are best for those who typically hike on technically easy trails.
Foldable consist of several sections which are connected with a Kevlar cord (like tent poles). They can be packed very small and are thus great for those who often do technically challenging trails – they don’t get in the way when attached to a backpack. However, they can’t be adjusted in length which is a big weakness.
Foldable + collapsible combine the two mechanisms and consist of several sections which 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 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 while wearing gloves. The twist lock mechanism uses a screw setup and requires more time. It is also more prone to malfunction.
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. To figure out how long trekking poles do you need, measure the distance between your elbow and the floor.
The shaft of a trekking pole is typically made either of aluminum or carbon fibers. 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 to provide a firm grip even when your hands are sweaty. Nevertheless, some products 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 trekking 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.
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 – wide baskets are usually sold separately.
To learn more about different parts of trekking poles, read this article from Trailspace.
We only list top-tier products. Read how our selections of best hiking products differ from others here.
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2. The Best Trekking Poles Review
The Best Trekking Poles of 2021 – List
- Leki Legacy Lite COR-TEC AS
- Leki Micro Vario Carbon
- Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Z Trekking
- Black Diamond Trail Pro
- Black Diamond Trail Back
|Feature/Product||Leki Legacy Lite COR-TEC||Leki Micro Vario Carbon||Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Z Trekking||Black Diamond Trail Pro||Black Diamond Trail Back|
|Weight (Pair)||1 lb. 2 oz.||1 lb. 1 oz.||1 lb. 1 oz. (39 in. version)||1 lb. 5 oz.||1 lb. 5 oz.|
|Weight - Metric (Pair)||504 g||480 g||485 g (100 cm version)||590 g||608 g|
|Type||Collapsible||Foldable + collapsible||Foldable||Collapsible||Collapsible|
|Packed Length||27 in.||15.7 in.||14 in, 15 in, 17 in, 18 in||26 in.||25 in.|
|Packed Length (Metric)||68 cm||40 cm||35 cm, 38 cm, 42 cm, 45 cm||68 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||39-53 in.||43-51 in.||39 in, 43 in, 47 in, 51 in||26-59 in.||25-55 in.|
|Length (Metric)||100-135 cm||110-130 cm||100 cm, 110 cm, 120 cm, 130 cm||68-150 cm||63.5-140 cm|
1. Leki Legacy Lite COR-TEC AS
The Leki Legacy Lite COR-TEC Anti-Shock trekking poles are a great option for hiking, backpacking and trekking because they are very durable and super lightweight. Even though they are made of aluminum, the pair weighs little more than 1 pound. They are collapsible and can be adjusted in length from 39 to 53 inches which is very useful if you, for example, want to borrow your poles to friends or family. Furthermore, you can also easily extend the poles when going downhill. In comparison to the previous Legacy model, the Leki Legacy Lite AS version features the next generation of lever lock – the SpeedLock Plus which is not only smaller and stronger than before, but further reduces overall weight and enhances the swingweight on the trail. The special anti-shock feature of these poles (also available without) consists of the Dynamic Suspension System (DSS) which decreases peak pole impacts by as much as 40% to protect muscles, joints and ligaments according to Leki. The Legacy Lite poles are also equipped with high-quality tips and trekking baskets. However, Leki offers many different baskets and tips (sold separately) for this model. The grips are made of foam EVOCON CorTec) and thus very comfortable. When the poles are collapsed they measure 27 inches which is good for the collapsible type of poles – of course foldable poles pack even smaller.
2. Leki Micro Vario Carbon
- Approach to climbing routes
The Leki Micro Vario Carbon trekking poles pack smaller than the Legacy poles above – they measure less than 16 inches (40 cm) when folded. 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 the Speed lock 2 lever lock mechanism which is easy to use even with gloves on. The extended Leki Micro Vario Carbon 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. Leki also offers many different baskets and tips for this model – which you can put in the nylon bag that is included when purchasing the poles. The Leki Micro Vario Carbon also comes in a women’s version where the poles are 10 cm shorter and have pink handles.
3. Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Z Trekking
- Approach to climbing routes
The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Z Trekking poles differ from the Leki models listed above by not being adjustable in length. However, the model does come in four different lengths (from 40 to 51 inches). The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Z are foldable and made of carbon fibers. Therefore, they are very light and can be folded super small. The shortest version of the Alpine Carbon Z poles (40 in.) weighs merely 1 pound and measures only 14 inches in length when folded. They are equipped with the Z-Pole Rapid Deployment System; the locking mechanism can be easily released by pressing a button. The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Z also have comfortable grips and moisture-wicking straps, and can be used with either carbide or rubber tips.
4. Black Diamond Trail Pro
The Black Diamond Trail Pro trekking poles have similar features as the Leki Legacy poles, but they are heavier. They have a collapsible construction and aluminum shafts. The length of the Black Diamond Trail Pro can be adjusted from 26 to 59 inches which is useful if you want to borrow them to friends or family. For securing the pole at the desired length, a lever lock mechanism is used. The lever lock mechanism can be easily used even when you are wearing gloves. The Black Diamond Trail Pro poles also feature non-slip foam grips, replaceable tips and trekking baskets. The Trail Pro are also available in a slightly more expensive Anti Shock version for extra comfort.
5. Black Diamond Trail Back
The Black Diamond Trail Back trekking poles are inexpensive but very durable. Therefore, they are highly popular among recreational hikers and trekkers. Like the Black Diamond Trail Pro poles, they feature a collapsible construction and aluminum shafts. However, they are heavier than the Black Diamond Trail Pro. 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.
3. Questions and Answers
Do you need trekking poles?
Trekking poles reduce the strain on your legs and are therefore very useful, especially during ascents. They also increase your traction and can be used for probing the terrain. They are not essential for hiking, but they do make your hiking trips more enjoyable and less demanding.
What are trekking pole baskets for?
Trekking pole baskets prevent the poles from getting stuck between rocks or sinking deep into snow. In winter wider baskets are used than in summer because wide baskets provide better flotation.
How do you walk with trekking poles?
As you step forward your trekking pole and the opposite foot should hit the ground at the same time.