What are the best trekking poles that backpackers and day hikers 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 hikers and backpackers to find out what trekking poles they recommend and found that aluminum poles are still the more popular than carbon fiber poles because they’re less expensive and more durable, even though lighter-weight, economy carbon fiber poles are gaining in popularity. The so-called flick lock or lever lock adjustment system, 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’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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. Leki Legacy Lever Lock Trekking Poles
Leki’s Legacy Trekking Poles ($99) are 3 pieces tapered, aluminum poles with a super-strong, lever-lock adjustment mechanism. 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 while different size basket options allow poles to be customized for all season use from trekking to backcountry skiing. Weight per pair is just 16.7 ounces. Length is 26″-53″. Unisex.
5. Black Diamond Distance Z-Pole 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.
6. 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 improving stability and security. Includes baskets and carbide tips. Weight per pair is 19.1 ounces. Length is 24.4″ to 53.1″. Unisex.
7. REI Traverse Power Lock 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.
8. Cascade Mountain Tech Cork Carbon Fiber 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.
9. 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 your 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″).
10. 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.