Trekking poles are an often overlooked piece of hiking equipment.
Those who are new into hiking may not realize just how big of a help they can be, while those who have hiked for years without poles probably believe they don’t need them.
However, the truth is that a great set of trekking poles can help to reduce joint pain, grant stability and safety, and give you more power to get through your adventure.
If you’re ready to try adding something special to your hikes, then trekking poles might be just what you need!
Our complete guide to trekking poles will give you information about how to choose trekking poles, the answers to some commonly asked questions, and reviews of five of the best trekking poles of 2019.
Best Trekking Pole Reviews
1. TrailBuddy Trekking Poles
The TrailBuddy Trekking Poles is a set of aluminum-based trekking poles that provides support, stability, and strength for all hikers on many different types of terrain.
The TrailBuddy Trekking poles have an aluminum-blend core, which is lightweight and sturdy. While this material has some flex to it, it can be challenging to break even if you are putting a lot of weight on the material.
Using two basic locking mechanisms, you can alter the height of these poles to suit the uphill, flat, or downhill section of the trail that you are currently working your way through. Similarly, this allows you to adjust it according to your height.
Additionally, this product comes with a set of different types of pole tips. These tips (including snow baskets and mud baskets) allow you to deal with varying terrains with ease. The mud and snow baskets help to give you good grip no matter what the ground surface type is like.
What's to like about the TrailBuddy Trekking Poles
One thing that most will love about these poles is just how easy they are to fold and store when you are not using them. The poles can be simply collapsed down to a small size of just 21 inches, and that will be easy to tuck away or even pack in a suitcase when not in use.
Another great thing about these poles is the degree of sturdiness that they can provide without splintering and snapping. Even if you put too much of a weight on these poles, they will not bend or break easily, so you can rely on them to get you through hikes with a lot of vertical areas.
What's not to like about the TrailBuddy Trekking Poles
One of the biggest concerns about using these particular poles is that the cork grips aren’t the best quality, and they aren’t suited for all weather conditions. While they can work well when you are hiking in hot weather, you won’t find them as useful in cold weather or if the cord begins to break apart.
2. Cascade Mountain Tech Collapsible Trekking Poles
Our next set to look at is the Cascade Mountain Tech Collapsible Trekking Poles. These high-quality poles rely on the 100% carbon fiber core for their strength and stability.
As mentioned, this is a 100% carbon fiber trekking pole. As such, this pole is lightweight and durable, but it is possible that you could see some splintering of the poles in very high-stress conditions. Overall, though, they are strong enough to keep you safe during your treks.
The poles are also adjustable and collapsible. Using the quick-lock technology on each pole, you can easily adjust how tall the poles are or prepare them for storage. The simplicity of the locks makes it very quick and easy to do this.
This set comes with a few different types of pole feet that are made for different conditions. There is also a carrying bag, so it can be very easy to store and organize where all of the components of your set are.
What's to like about the Cascade Mountain Tech Collapsible Trekking Poles
One of the best things about this product is that you can choose either a cork grip or an EVA grip. This is an excellent design as you might prefer one or the other depending on the conditions that you are facing while you hike.
What's not to like about the Cascade Mountain Tech Collapsible Trekking Poles
Many people find that these trekking poles could have better construction. Both the screws on the bottom of the pole and the simple lock for the adjusting mechanism loosen very easily, so you might find this frustrating if you have to keep adjusting it during a hike.
3. OUTZIE Trekking Poles
The OUTZIE Trekking Poles comes with two telescoping poles that are made of aluminum and have an adjustable size as well as can be disassembled for packing, depending on your needs.
This is an aluminum-core set of poles that uses a combination-type grip that is not commonly found on hiking poles. The grip is made out of both cork and EVA foam, so it is comfortable, water-resistant, and conforms to your hand in just a few uses.
The durability of these poles is outstanding. The aluminum does not bend easily, but you may find that it can dent easily if put into the wrong spot. While denting isn’t a big deal, it can cause some issues with how the adjustable mechanism or telescoping features work.
What's to like about the OUTZIE Trekking Poles
This is the only set of poles on our list so far that has an anti-shock system that can be easily turned on or off depending on what you are doing on your hike. This feature can give you enhanced stability, particularly when you are hiking on loose terrain. If you have an injury, this feature is a must-have for lessening both pain and fatigue.
What's not to like about the OUTZIE Trekking Poles
The biggest issue with these poles is actually the unique grips. They can become loose very quickly and may even slide down the pole if you do not notice this happening. This can be really quite dangerous and should be attended to quickly if it happens.
4. BAFX Products Trekking Trail Poles
These BAFX Products Trekking Trail Poles is a set of aluminum core trekking poles with ergonomically designed grips that will help keep moisture at bay.
The core of these poles is made of aircraft-grade aluminum. This aluminum is one of the most inexpensive materials that can be used to make trekking poles, but it is also one of the most reliable. They are also lightweight and durable.
The poles can be adjusted between 25.5” and 52” by simply unlocking the poles, adjusting the height, and locking them again. Each pole weighs in at 12.4 ounces, making them light but not an ultralight set of poles that can be good for many hikers.
What's to like about the BAFX Products Trekking Trail Poles
The anti-shock features of these poles make them super useful for every trek you make. You will feel a big difference in the fatigue and stress that you feel when you are hiking because the anti-shock coils absorb so much of the impact while you are moving.
What's not to like about the BAFX Products Trekking Trail Poles
There are two big issues with these poles. First, the straps do not stay tightened around your wrists as they should, so you will have to adjust them frequently. Second, the poles are likely to collapse under a lot of pressure. While they are adjustable, the adjustment doesn’t always hold completely.
5. Alpine Summit Trekking Poles
Finally, we can talk about the Alpine Summit Trekking Poles. These aluminum poles come in different colors and are lightweight.
These trekking poles from Alpine Summit are made from 7075 aluminum, an aircraft-grade material that is very common in trekking poles around this price point. These poles are less lightly to break than carbon fiber, but they aren’t as lightweight.
Still, 7075 aluminum is lighter than the cheaper 6061 aluminum that is in low-grade trekking poles. Rather than the need to deal with so much weight on every hike, you can instead find that these give you very little fatigue.
As similar to the products included on our list, these poles have an adjustable height. With the flip locks, you can easily manage the size of the pole to be between 25 and 53 inches. This makes it a good set of poles to use no matter what your height is.
What's to like about the Alpine Summit Trekking Poles
The best part of this package is that the poles come with a unique set of tips that can make your hike easier. From tungsten-tipped pole feet to anti-shock rubber tips, you’ll find that you can conquer any terrain by simply adjusting which tips you are using with the poles.
What's not to like about the Alpine Summit Trekking Poles
The biggest issue with this set is similar to the problem that we saw in the OUTZIE Trekking Poles. The grips on these poles are not as well sealed as they could be, so they can easily break off and slide down the pole if they are not re-secured with some glue or new screws. This can be very frustrating.
Trekking Poles Buyer’s Guide
Whether or not you have used trekking poles before, you may find that it is difficult to figure out which set is the right choice for you. What do all the different words (like carbon fiber or ultralight) mean when it comes to trekking poles?
We’ve got the right answers to these questions, and more!
The different types of trekking poles on the market are typically separated by the various features that they offer. While all trekking poles are sold as a pair and should be used in tandem, the specific types of support that they can provide will differ depending on what type of poles they are.
- Adjustable vs. Non-adjustable
Some trekking poles can be adjusted in length, and some cannot. The ability to change the height of the poles is useful for matching your height as well as for getting better stability on different types of terrain. Shorter poles are better for climbing uphill while longer poles are better for the downhill stretches.
On the other hand, fixed-length poles are usually lighter and work perfectly on hikes when you know that you will not need to be able to adjust the length to use your poles effectively.
These poles can be unlocked and fold up similar to the way that tent poles fold up. These are very light, can be easily stored, and an excellent choice for anyone who wants the option to use poles without needing to carry them at full length all the time.
- Shock-absorbing vs. Standard
If you have any hip, leg, or feet injuries, having a pole that absorbs shock can really make a big difference in the quality of your hike. These poles usually have an on-and-off feature that can be used when doing downhill treks, helping absorb the extra shock.
On the contrary, standard poles are less expensive than those that absorb shock. They are also usually lighter. Even though they are not designed to absorb as much impact, they still provide stability and balance.
Ultralight poles are, as their name suggests, lighter. They are easier to use, cause less fatigue, and are usually easier to pack. In most cases, ultralight poles are defined as those that weigh less than one pound.
As mentioned in the ultralight type section above, the weight of your trekking poles can affect how useful they are. The weight of the pole is usually determined by the core material used in the poles.
That said, lighter isn’t always better. If you’re going or planning to put a lot of weight or stress on the poles, using something mid-to-heavy weight can be better in order to support you. The material type, rather than the weight, is the most critical deciding factor.
3. Shaft Material
Trekking poles are made out of many different materials, but some of these materials have become preferred by hikers and walkers all over the world for their superior strength or their weigh trade-off.
- Aluminum: This is a durable, economical choice. Various gauges are available, and the exact gauge will decide the weight of the poles. These poles can bend, but they shouldn’t break even in high-stress situations.
- Composite: Composite poles are made entirely or partially from carbon, and they are the most expensive option. This price comes with the payoff that they are very light. However, these can splinter or break more easily than aluminum, but they can help to reduce shock vibrations.
Every set of trekking poles will have a grip on the top where you will hold onto. The grips can be set at various angles, so you will want to find which one helps keep your hand in the most comfortable position.
A few different materials are typically used to create grips, and they are:
- Cork is common for hot-weather hiking where you expect to sweat a lot. This type can conform to your hand shape.
- Foam grips might be the most common, and they can also work well for sweaty hands. These grips are soft.
- Rubber grips are ideal for cold-weather hiking because they can insulate your hands from the cold and protect them from shock. In hot weather, rubber can cause chaffing or blistering that could be painful.
5. Locking Mechanisms
You should always check which type of locking mechanism the poles use. For poles with adjustable length, the lock keeps them from sliding between lengths. In non-adjustable length poles that collapse for storage, the locks prevent the length from slipping while you hike.
There are actually four main types of locking mechanisms employed in trekking poles, and they are:
- External lock: A clamping lever mechanism
- Push-button: These are automatically locking poles; the button is used to unlock
- Twist lock: Expander and screw-type lock
- Combination lock: Multiple lock types combined for balance
If you can, try visiting a retail storefront to try out these types of locks and discover which kind of locks works best for you. Some can be more difficult to get used to than others.
Trekking Poles FAQs
1. How to Choose Trekking Pole Types?
Choosing the type of trekking pole that you want is the first step to getting a set of trekking poles that will really work for you. If you’ve never used poles before, you might have a hard time deciding which type makes the most sense for you.
If you do have hip or knee problems, choose adjustable, shock-absorbing trekking poles. This type of poles will give you different amounts of support for different terrains while still absorbing some of the impacts of hiking. This will help you feel less pain on the trail.
If you want to keep your pack as light as possible, stick to ultralight trekking poles that can fold up. This will make it easy to store your poles when you need to while still keeping everything light for your trips.
If you are only a casual hiker, stick to a standard, aluminum trekking pole set until you learn more about trekking poles and get deeper into this hobby. There’s truly no reason to spend a lot of money if you aren’t ready for that commitment!
2. What Size Trekking Pole to Choose?
If you are choosing an adjustable set of poles, you do not need to worry about the specific height of your poles as much as those buying non-adjustable poles need to. While some adjustable models come in base sizes, you can usually adjust them to fit your needs.
For non-adjustable poles, you should choose the length depending on your height and the type of terrain that you are usually working your way through.
This is a good general guide to follow to ensure that your poles suit your height:
- Under five feet tall: 39 inches (100 cm)
- Between five feet and 5’7″ tall: 43 inches (110 cm)
- Between 5’7: and 5’11”: 47 inches (120 cm)
- Over six feet.: 51 inches (130 cm)
Of course, you might find that the suggested lengths do not work for you. If that is the case, you may want to move to an adjustable-height trekking pole so that you can always have the perfect fit for your next adventure.
3. What to Look for in Trekking Poles?
As outlined in the buyer’s guide above, you should be considering all of the following features when selecting your trekking poles:
- Locking type
- Shaft material
4. How to Use Trekking Poles?
Using trekking poles doesn’t have to be difficult, but still, some people invest in these poles and then have no idea how to actually use them properly while out on the trail.
This video can help show you how to use these poles effectively:
As you can see, you’ll eventually find the technique that works best for you.
5. How to Adjust Trekking Pole Size?
Adjustable trekking poles are a great way to be able to have a versatile pole that works in every situation, but using the adjustment feature might not be intuitive to you the first time that you pick up the poles.
This video demonstrates how to adjust the trekking pole on one common type of pole:
Every pole is a little bit different, so you will want to check out the specific instructions from the manufacturer that came with your poles to get an idea of how to adjust yours.
As you can see, there are many good options among the best trekking poles of 2019, but which are the very best?
We’ve found that the TrailBuddy Trekking Poles offer the best blend of balance, price, adjustability, and durability. These poles are also designed to work on any terrains.