Hiking poles have previously held a stigma as only being used by older hikers to save on joint pain. So choosing the best hiking poles was a non-issue for most hikers.
These days, though, casual hikers, trail runners, mountaineers, thru-hikers and snowshoers of all ages and calibers have taken on these seemingly simplistic sticks to reduce strain and improve their overall outdoors experience.
It makes sense when you start looking at all the bodily and strategic advantages people receive from bringing along these handy tools.
They can be used as sturdier tent poles, a way to set a better stride, they can improve posture and even prevent you from falling through unstable snow.
However, as with all outdoor gear, it pays to know what type of poles work best for you and the environment you intend to traverse. Some focus on compatibility. Some focus on being the lightest.
Others come with fun gadgets and can be adjusted for the perfect length for all descent and ascent situations. So, which is best for you? Here is some information to help you decide.
Top 5 Best Hiking Poles
|Leki Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA Trekking Poles - Pair |
- Weight (Pair) 16.9 oz
- Grip - Foam
- Collapsed Length 15 in.
|Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles - Pair |
- Weight (Pair) 1 lb. 1.1 oz
- Grip - Cork
- Collapsed Length 24 inches
|Leki Legacy Lite Cor-Tec Trekking Poles - Pair|
- Weight (Pair)
1 lb. 1.2 oz.
- Grip - Cork
- Collapsed Length 24 inches
|Black Diamond Alpine FLZ Trekking Poles - Pair|
- Weight (Pair) 1 lb. 3 oz.
- Grip - Foam
- Collapsed Length 16.5 inches
|REI Co-op Trekking Poles - Kids|
- Weight (Pair)
- Grip - Plastic
- Collapsed Length 27.5 inches
Quick Answer: The Best Hiking Poles
- Best Overall Hiking Poles: Black Diamond Alpine FLZ Trekking Poles
- Best Hiking Poles for Women: Leki Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles – Pair – Women’s
- Best Hiking Poles for Men: Leki Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles
- Best Unisex Hiking Poles: Black Diamond Alpine FLZ Trekking Poles
- Best Hiking Poles for Tall People 6FT+: Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking Poles
- Best Hiking Poles for Short People: Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
- Best Hiking Poles for Kids: REI Co-op Trekking Poles – Kids
- Best Hiking Poles With a Cork Grip: Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
- Best Hiking Poles With a Foam Grip: Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking Poles
- Best Budget Hiking Poles: Montem Ultra Strong
- Best Anti-Shock Hiking Poles: Leki Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles
- Best Ultralight Hiking Poles: Leki Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles
- Best Aluminium Hiking Poles: Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking Poles
- Best Carbon Fiber Hiking Poles: Leki Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles
- Best Telescoping Hiking Poles: Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork
- Best Collapsible – Folding Hiking Poles: Black Diamond Alpine FLZ trekking poles
- Best Winter or Ice Hiking Poles: Black Diamond Alpine FLZ trekking poles
- Best 4-Season Trekking Poles: Leki Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles
- Best Hiking Poles for Smooth Surfaces, Like Pavement And Concrete: Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking Poles
- Best Hiking Pole Monopod: Primos Pole Cat 25 to 62-Inch Tall Monopod
- Best Hiking Pole Tent: River Country Products Trekker Tent 2, Trekking Pole Tent, Ultralight Backpacking Tent
How to Choose the Best Hiking Poles
Do You Really Need Trekking Poles?
If you are still on the fence and don’t know whether you want to dump money into more gear that may be unnecessary, it is important to understand why poles have become so popular.
The biggest argument for hiking poles is their ability to reduce the stress and impact on your joints as you hike but by how much?
Some studies show that using poles regularly can reduce the force of impact by 30% on even terrain. That number goes up to 40% when going down steep inclines.
That is huge, especially if you hike regularly. Without the added stress you can hike for longer distances faster because you won’t need as many breaks from pain.
Not only that but using poles greatly increases your overall average speed by using your arms to propel you forward.
Think of it like an elliptical, when you allow your arms to do some of the work your stride is easier to maintain by staying consistent, and you get more of a full-body workout.
Outside of the bodily factors, hiking poles have substantial external benefits as well. They can give you a considerable amount of additional traction on slippery surfaces like mud, snow or loose rocks and help you maintain balance while trudging through a river crossing.
Some can even be used as a stronger alternative to tent poles, which means you could reduce your overall pack weight and increase the stability of your shelter.
Further, even though you may not want to think of it, the hiking poles can be used as a great defense against aggressive wildlife if you happen to find yourself in that awful position.
Basic Hiking Pole Designs
Now that we can agree on the importance of hiking poles for a multitude of outdoor activities it is time to look at the different designs you will be faced with and what they mean.
TWO SECTION TELESCOPING
Two section telescoping hiking poles are the strongest, stiffest, most durable poles you can get. These are made for skiers, snowshoers, or hikers that are just extremely tough on their gear.
These poles tend to be made of aluminum and are the heaviest design you can buy. Their two sections also mean they pack down the least making them awkward when attached to your pack during non-use.
THREE SECTION TELESCOPING
Three-section telescoping poles are the most common design seen on the trails. These can be broken down far enough to comfortably fit inside or outside of your pack and are slightly lighter than their two section counterparts.
They also tend to be more adjustable and versatile being used by casual hikers, mountaineers, climbers and thru-hikers.
FOLDING OR TENT POLE STYLE
This style is the baby of the hiking pole scene having only been out for a few seasons. These are even lighter and more compact than their three section competitors.
However, they are not as durable and tend to be about 7-9 inches shorter than telescoping poles. They also don’t generally feature baskets or length adjustments (which we will get to in the next section).
These poles were made with the ultra-lightweight backpacker or climber in mind.
Hiking Pole Feature Considerations
There are a few features to consider when picking out the best hiking poles for you.
- Adjustability: Generally speaking, most adjustable poles adjust from 24 to 55 inches. This is not only great for setting the correct pole length for your height but also adjusting the pole for the terrain. Throughout your hike, whether even, uphill or downhill, you want to maintain a 90-degree bend at the elbow for maximum comfort and support. This means extending your poles when going downhill or shortening them for steep ascents. This should be an important feature to consider unless you know you will primarily be using them on flat surfaces.
- Shock Absorption: Some hiking poles come with internal springs that absorb the shock as you walk downhill. This mechanism can be turned off and on when needed and is great for those with unstable ankles, hips or knees that need a little extra support.
- Camera Mount: In an age of technology people want to share their adventures with the world more and more. Hiking poles are not immune to this phenomenon. So, manufacturers have started offering poles with a built-in camera mount under the handle allowing you to use your pole as a monopod, perfect for outdoor photographers that don’t want to bring extra equipment.
- Flick or Twist: There are two main ways to lock down your adjustable poles once you have achieved your desired length which are flick locks and twist locks. Flick locks generally require a small screwdriver to adjust but are perfect for lower temperatures when your poles may contract from the cold. Twist locks are much easier to adjust needing no tools but don’t hold up as well in colder climates.
- Baskets: The baskets are the small discs you see at the bottom of poles. If you are hiking in varying climates you will want to opt for removable baskets, so you can switch from the smaller summer baskets to snow baskets when appropriate. Snow baskets give you pole floatation on snow-packed terrain allowing for better traction.
- Tips: While the tips of most poles are made with carbide steel, you can also choose poles with added rubber. Rubber will allow you a quieter and more stable hike on hard surfaces while also reducing the damage done to the trail. However, carbide is steel is going to give you a more secure grip on wet surfaces or in loose dirt.
Different materials are utilized in the shaft and grip of hiking poles. Shaft materials are usually made from either aluminum or composite, and the grips tend to be made from cork, foam or rubber.
Here are some of each’s strengths and weaknesses:
- Aluminum is the more durable and economic option of the two shaft materials. Aluminum hiking poles can bend without breaking and are as subject to colder conditions. They are far cheaper than composite making them the go-to option.
- Composite poles are the most popular in the ultra-lightweight backpacking community. Weighing in at 12 to 18ounces per pair, they are great at reducing vibration but tend to crumble in high-stress areas. They don’t have much give and tend to splinter during hard use.
- Cork is the best at resisting moisture from sweaty hands which will prevent slipping and blisters. They also greatly decrease vibration and conform perfectly to the shape of your hand through time. Their lightweight design and ability to stay cool make them the premier choice if hiking in the summer months.
- Foam material is the lightest and the softest to the touch making them the most comfortable option. The ability to absorb sweat is higher than that of cork but lacks the form-fitting function.
- Rubber grips, on the other hand, have no way of absorbing water. In summer temperatures, this could mean blisters and hand slips. They are also the heaviest option of the three. However, they do retain your body heat and can be more durable making them perfect for winter sports such as mountaineering, snowshoeing, skiing, etc.
Trekking & Walking Poles Sizing Chart
Below is a standard hiking pole sizing chart based on your height in feet or inches. Properly sized hiking poles will put your elbows at a 90-degree bend when you hold the poles on the ground near your feet.
Use the below tips and sizing chart to give you the best pole length that will fit you the best.
For adjustable-length hiking poles:
• If you’re taller than about 6 feet, choose a hiking staff or poles that have a maximum length of at least 51 inches.
• If you are shorter than 6 feet tall, you’ll be able to shorten the most adjustable poles and hiking staff enough to make them work for you.
For fixed-length hiking poles:
Use the chart below and consult the manufacturer’s size chart that’s specific to the poles you’re looking at.
|Your Height (ft in)||Your Height (cm)||Suggested Pole Section Length (cm)|
Adjusting & Choosing Your Hiking Pole Length
This can be one of the hardest things and one of the most common things hikers get wrong when using hiking poles.
We have seen it all around the world, that hiker us has her or his poles too long or way too short. It is very important to know what height to set your hiking poles.
FOR GENERAL HIKING
Your poles should be adjusted to the length so that when you hold the pole with the tip on the ground near your foot, your arm makes a 90-degree bend at the elbow.
This length will be the right length for most of your hiking.
If you have poles with three sections, It is useful to set the top adjustment so it’s in the middle of the adjustment length range and then set the bottom adjustment to the length that puts your arm at the 90-degree bent elbow.
Adjusting it this way will allow you to make fine adjustments to the top as you may need it while hiking.
FOR UPHILL SECTIONS
For uphill sections, you should shorten each pole by about 5-10 cm to get more leverage and more secure pole plants while hiking up. Keep in mind the steeper the slope, the shorter your poles should be.
Your hiking poles should assist you in moving uphill without causing strain or fatigue to your shoulders. While hiking your shoulders should never feel as if they are lifted or in an unnatural position. If they are you will need to shorten your poles.
FOR DOWNHILL SECTIONS
For hiking downhill, it is best to try adding about 5-10 cm from the length you set it at for general hiking to each pole. Doing this will keep your body more upright for a better balance while hiking.
Health Benefits of Using Hiking Poles
It does not matter what age you are, what shape you are in or how much you have hiked. Using hiking holes reduces the wear and tear on your body over time.
This makes them not just a great hiking tool but if you are using them on every hike there are huge health benefits as well.
Even the simplest of hiking trails or easiest trekking adventures can take a toll on your body.
Wouldn’t you want to have every advantage you can get when taking on whatever hiking adventure you are on?
The sooner you start using tools like poles the better. It’s only a matter of time even the fittest person starts to have their knees, ankles, feet, hips and back eventually wear out.
Using poles for hiking will add decades of life to those body parts.
We’ve hiked many of the best hikes in the world and I can honestly tell you I would not even hit my back yard trail without my poles in hand.
They are a huge part of our hiking kit and we do not leave home without them.
What are the doctors saying about the use of hiking poles?
- Hiking pole users incorporate 90% use of body muscles (only 40% while walking without poles)
- Using poles increases your cardiovascular workout
- Using poles increases of up to 46% higher calorie expenditure
- Using poles reduces stress on your hips and knees through the support of the poles
- Using poles improves your posture and balance
- Using poles helps you persevere energy
- The upper body activity using the poles improves upper body mobility
- Upper body activity using the poles reduces upper back, neck and shoulder pains
- Hiking poles are suitable and a must for people of all ages and fitness levels have we convinced you yet?
Best Hiking Poles Recommendations
In this section, we are going to highlight the best hiking poles. We are not going to list out every brand under the sun, we feel it is important to only list out the brands and products we have used out on our hiking adventures from all around the world.
Where other top hiking pole post may have endless brands with information about those hiking poles that aren’t simply true since they have not truly used those products or the information is just regurgitated.
Our goal is always to provide you with the right information with our first-hand knowledge and experience allowing you to make the best selection for your adventures.
Below are the top 3 brands and types of hiking poles we recommend that you should check out.
Leki Hiking Poles
Leki is one of those household names in the outdoor industry because of their reputation for high-quality hiking poles.
Their hiking poles are built by outdoor lovers for outdoors lovers outfitted with super comfortable grips and ergonomic shapes that are second to none.
They have been around since 1948 making hiking poles, they are one of the only companies that only focuses on poles. I love this about them!
They offer an endless amount of selections from folding-style design hiking poles to telescoping both offered with cork grips or foam grips and aluminum or carbon fiber.
Leki offers a great selection for Men and Women who are looking to use hiking poles for trekking, cross trail, nordic walking or trail running.
Leki are our go-to hiking pole brand, we’ve had many different kinds of hiking poles but Leki’s have withstood endless hiking adventures for us. That’s one major thing, they last!
Leki hiking poles are on the higher end of the hiking pole selection, there’s a big difference in their hiking poles compared to their competitors.
Our favorite Leki Hiking Poles:
Black Diamond Hiking Poles
Black Diamond hiking poles were the first brand of hiking pole we used while traveling the world on hiking adventures, and we still our sets to this day with all of our hiking gear (however they have been replaced with Leki’s).
They are another top brand in the outdoor industry who’s focus is all about climbing and skiing. They offer a huge mix of outdoor products and in this mix of products are hiking poles.
Black Diamond hiking poles are priced well and are made of high-quality materials built to withstand whatever adventure you’re on.
They offer a full selection of folding-styles designs to telescoping designs in carbon fiber or aluminum for Women and Men offered with cork grips or foam grips.
Black Diamond hiking poles end up on most hiking pole review list since they are the main brand found in outdoor stores. This does not mean they are the best; it just means they are the most known.
Our favorite Black Diamond Hiking Poles:
REI Hiking Poles
We simply love REI, we shop there for most of our outdoor gear. REI hiking poles are made especially for REI based off the most popular brands of hiking poles, they are made as a private label just for REI.
Most major brands offer this to retailers around the world in different types of products as private labels.
This means they offer everything all of the other hiking pole main brands offer but they are built to fit within a price point at REI.
Price point items are great since they are normally more affordable however they do make the items a little differently so fit that price point, so the material or parts may look and function like the other top brands, but they are not the same.
One huge benefit to REI hiking poles are, REI offers a no questions one-year return policy. No questions asked no matter what shape they are in.
This is huge since if you don’t like them after up to a year usage you can simply return them for a new pair or for money back. You simply can’t go wrong with that.
REI hiking poles are offered in the full assortment from folding-styles designs to telescoping designs in carbon fiber or aluminum with cork grips or foam grips.
They offer a wider selection for Unisex type of hiking poles then they do for Women’s or Men’s.
Our favorite REI Hiking Poles:
How to Make the Final Decision?
As with all hiking gear, your personal intended use has to be the final word on what you choose.
Always be sure to consider which hiking poles best suite the climate you will be hiking in, what type of terrain you will be crossing and what level of comfort you require.
Oh and of course what kind of money you are willing to sink into this fantastic hiking accessory. Armed with this knowledge picking out the best hiking poles should be a cinch!
Hiking Pole Maintenance
Now that you have picked out the right hiking poles that suit your need, why not make them last. Try these easy tricks to keep your hiking poles out on the trail with you longer.
Most adjustable hiking poles use an internal expander to adjust the length. When you twist the pole, a small screw inside the joint threads up into a plastic plug, making it expand against the inside of the next pole section.
Expanders fail all the time with the pole’s interior gets dirty, wet, or oxidized. Below is what you should do to avoid your hiking poles from not staying adjusted.
Disassemble your hiking poles often, especially after they get damp or even the littlest wetness. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions. After drying, inspect all parts for wear or breakage.
Clean the indie of the female pole ends with a coarse gun-barrel brush or a damp rag attached to a coat-hanger wire.
Always be gentle with poles that have anodized interior because scratches can create areas where ice or contamination can settle. Never use lubricants to clean the hiking pole’s interior.
If dirt has gotten into the inner mechanisms, remove the retainer clip and plug, and clean the central screw threads.
If slipping or non-locking persists on hiking poles after being cleaned, it is best to replace the inexpensive expanders.
PUSH BUTTON HIKING POLES
Cleaning methods are similar to the expander hiking poles. However, the absence of expander plugs means you can use lubricants.
Check the hiking pole shafts regularly for cracks that can appear around the adjustment holes. If you find a crack, it is best to contact the manufacturer for replacement of the section immediately.
Push-Button hiking poles can be cleaned as you would other hiking poles.
Check the screw and pin on the snap-lock for excessive wear or rust. Replace the locking mechanism if it becomes hard to lock or if it becomes loose.
Hand grips can dry out, so it is best to keep them oiled. For cork hiking grips it is best to soak them in warm water with light dishwashing detergent, then let them dry out.
Hiking Pole Cleaning Instructions
Things you’ll need: Wire coathanger and a damp rag. (The Leki 14/16 mm Ti Cleaning Kit works the best)
Step 1: Use a lightly damp rag to wipe down your hiking poles. Clean off any dirt or debris.
Step 2: Take apart you’re hiking poles as per the manufacturer’s instructions. They should either have an internal expander, push-button or snap-lock mechanism.
Step 3: Clean the inside of the shaft with a lightly damp rag attached to a wire coat hanger. Make sure you do not scratch or force the rag into the pole.
Step 4: Take off any retainer clips be careful not to break them since they are very easy to break. Clean the screw threads with a lightly damp rag. If the screws were rusted or if they have rust stains, dampen a cloth with rubbing alcohol or WD-40.
Step 5: Replace any expanded or locking mechanisms if they appear rusty or damage. Some can even dry out.
Step 6: Check for spider cracks around the hiking pole’s adjustment mechanisms while you clean. Call your manufacturer or retailer about a replacement section if you notice any damage.
Step 7: Keep your trekking poles dry and free from condensation. Moister will cause rust and a build-up of bacteria.
Take your place apart and let them completely air dry in between usage.
Do not use any kind of lubrication or abrasive cleaning products on your hiking poles unless instructed by the manufacturer.
Hiking Pole Accessories or Replacement Parts
Below are the best hiking pole accessories or replacement parts that every outdoor lover should have.
Accessories range from GoPro mounts, clip-on compass, to even a two-person hiking pole tent. Replacement parts range from hiking pole protectors, replacement tips, to snowflake baskets.
- Trekking Poles Carrying Bag Case with Zipper Portable Waterproof Bag
- Trekking Pole Tip Protectors
- Trekking Pole Rubber Walking Tips
- Snowflake Trekking Pole Baskets
- Hiking Pole GoPro Mount
- Fitness Walking Tips For Hiking Poles
- Clip-on Compass for Hiking Poles or Bicycles
- Replacement Tips
- River Country Products Trekker Tent 2, Trekking Pole Tent, Ultralight Backpacking Tent
Not finding what you are looking for? Check out our favorite places to go shopping for travel gear.
- Shop Columbia – The industry leader in outdoor apparel and products; You can find anything from great jackets, gloves, hats, shirts and travel pants.
- Shop REI – They offer some of the best outdoor gear around. We love REI since they have a year Love it or hate it no questions guarantee.
- Shop Moosejaw – Has a huge selection of outdoor gear at killer prices.
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