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The Best Trekking Poles of 2023

Testing trekking poles while hiking near Moab.The author testing trekking poles while hiking near Moab, Utah; (photo/Matt Granger)
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When moving over natural terrain, trekking poles help reduce strain on your body so you can focus on the objective at hand. If you haven’t already, it’s time you transfer some weight over with some of the best trekking poles of 2023.

With trekking poles, you can decrease your chances of injury and increase speed, all while lightening your load. There are a wide variety of trekking poles on the market, and trail runners, hikers, backpackers, and thru-hikers all have unique needs for their poles.

Factors like strength-to-weight ratio, packability, seasonal application, and grip style combine to create unique offerings for the ever-evolving specializations in the outdoors.

We’ve spent months researching and testing the best trekking poles to fit a variety of uses and budgets. From the mountains of Colorado to the California desert, we’ve put these poles through the wringer, evaluating them based on comfort, packed size, durability, versatility, adjustability, and overall value.

Although there isn’t a perfect pole for every person out there, we’ve broken this list into categories to help find the best trekking poles for you. If you need help deciding, refer to our buyer’s guide and FAQ below for more tips on how to choose the best trekking poles for your unique needs.

For a quick look at specs and prices, check out our comparison chart. Feel free to scroll through to see all of our recommended buys or jump to the category that piques your interest:

The Best Trekking Poles of 2023

Best Overall Trekking Poles: Black Diamond Trail Ergo Trekking Poles

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Trekking Poles

Anyone looking for a sturdy, reliable, easy-to-use trekking pole will appreciate the versatility of the Black Diamond Trail Ergo ($139). The ergonomic cork grip was confidence-inspiring from the very first step, and a variety of testers (with varying hand sizes) found they provided an ideal fit.

With just enough friction to enhance grip and a minimal yet effective grip shape, these poles caused no unwanted rubbing whatsoever. The Dual FlickLock is easy to use, and we appreciated being able to quickly adjust the height for changes in terrain, primarily steep elevation gain and loss.

The locking mechanism is quite durable, and on sustained uphill treks where some locks have a tendency to slip, these poles didn’t budge. At 27 inches when fully retracted, these poles easily fit on the back of a pack.

However, they might not be ideal if you’re looking for a pole that can be stashed away in a running pack. But for the majority of hikers looking for a durable, fairly lightweight pole they can trust over a variety of distances, these poles check all of the boxes.

The overall quality of these poles, paired with their reasonable $140 price tag, makes them an ideal trekking pole for ticking off miles while keeping your mind on the views and the trail ahead. We think they’re the best trekking poles on the market.

These are also available in a women’s-specific model.

  • Weight: 18 oz.
  • Packed size: 27″
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Lock style: Dual FlickLock

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Best Budget Trekking Poles: Kelty Upslope 2.0

Kelty Upslope 2.0

The Kelty Upslope 2 ($45) is a comfortable, reliable, adjustable trekking pole that’s also easy on the wallet. At 10 ounces per pole, they’re not impressively light, but they work quite well for the price.

The foam grip was comfortable after a full day of testing, and we appreciated the adjustable wrist straps for added security. Their carbide tip works great for any type of terrain you’ll encounter on the trail. And at purchase, these poles include rubber tip covers for endeavors that might take you along the road.

A twist lock isn’t our favorite type of locking mechanism. In our experience, they tend to wear out faster and can lead to failure when weighted extensively over long periods of time. That said, we haven’t experienced any issues with the Upslope locking mechanism while testing, and we’ve been impressed with their overall durability.

  • Weight: 20 oz.
  • Packed size: 35″
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Lock style: Twist

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Runner-Up Best Trekking Poles: LEKI Black Series FX Carbon

LEKI Black Series FX Carbon

If you want trekking poles with all the bells and whistles, then the Black Series FX Carbon folding poles ($259) from LEKI fit the bill. The company calls them the “Cadillac” of poles, and they come with the German engineering that LEKI fans have come to expect.

At just 8 ounces per pole, trekkers will hardly notice the Black Series FX Carbon poles when stowed away in their pack. The poles use LEKI’s SpeedLock 2+ for what the company claims is the world’s strongest external pole-locking system.

In a few seconds, hikers can adjust the poles from 43-51 inches, down to just 16. LEKI also put the locking mechanism inside the poles to protect them from the elements. Pole handles have LEKI’s “award-winning trekking grip.” The grips have a hollow core and wide surface area, with cork to help wick away moisture.

Like any trekking pole you don’t want to lose, the Black Series has a security strap to make sure the poles don’t slip off and fall down the mountain. And you don’t want to lose these, because — like a Cadillac — the Black Series FX don’t come cheap. At €220 (over $260 in the U.S. after shipping and handling), they might be the most expensive trekking poles on the market.

For more, check out our in-depth review here.

  • Weight: 8.05 oz.
  • Packed size: 16″
  • Material: Carbon
  • Lock style: External Lever Lock

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Best Ultralight Trekking Poles: Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z

Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z

The Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z ($179) employs a simple three-section, fold-up design that extends quickly and efficiently thanks to its rapid deployment system. The foam grips shed weight and provide a surprisingly comfortable and ergonomic feel over multiday use.

This ultralight, versatile pole is a popular folding option for long-distance hikers and runners. It was editor Sean McCoy’s choice for the Leadville 100, a grueling race over some of North America’s most complex terrain.

Because they’re not adjustable, the Distance Carbon Z poles come in four sizes: 100 cm, 110 cm, 120 cm, and 130 cm. Weighing in around 10 ounces per pair, these are impressively light and have successfully pushed the industry standard for weight and durability.

Whether you’re trekking for an extended amount of time or looking for a pole to stash away with minimal weight, these poles won’t disappoint.

If you don’t mind a slightly heavier pole, the Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking Poles are an excellent choice. They weigh 11.4-13.4 ounces per pair and come in at a very reasonable $130.

  • Weight: 9.6-11.1 oz.
  • Packed size: 13-17″
  • Material: Carbon
  • Lock style: Rapid deployment

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Best Trekking Poles for Thru-Hiking: Gossamer Gear LT5

Gossamer Gear LT5

At an incredible 4.9 ounces per pole, Gossamer Gear’s latest iteration of the LT lineup does not disappoint. The LT5 ($195) is stripped bare to the necessities, but still manages elite performance on the trail.

When first picking these poles up, they feel like they could snap in half – they’re that light. We were eager to utilize them under a heavy load, and regardless of the pressure and tweaking we applied, they performed great.

While most simple, twist-locking mechanisms can show weakness, we were able to tighten and loosen them with ease, and never experienced any slippage. Due to the smooth nature of the lockers, however, we’d recommend being careful not to overtighten them.

The EVA foam grip mimics the look of a classic cork grip, and on a hot day they managed to wick moisture just as well. Like every feature on these poles, the straps are minimal, but proved comfortable and were easy to adjust with a quick pull of the tab.

Apart from its obvious utilitarian function, these poles look really cool as well. The carbon fiber shafts are brushed in matte black, and the simple, white lettering makes them look about as minimal as they feel in your hands.

While the ultralight minimalism of these poles is an obvious benefit to thru-hikers, Gossamer Gear also offers add-ons that are geared toward individuals who are huffing it for the long haul (bungee straps, rubber boots). They’re also compatible with the brand’s highly rated, ultralight shelters, the aptly named One and Two.

Packing down to 23.5 inches, the LT5 is compact enough to be used for overseas travel, and you’ll probably think you forgot them at home when you pick up your luggage. Previous iterations of this pole have been staples on the trail for years, and we’d expect the futuristic LT5 to cover even more miles.

  • Weight: 4.9 oz.
  • Packed size: 23.5″
  • Material: Carbon
  • Lock Style: Twist

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Best Trekking Poles for Trail Running: Black Diamond Distance Carbon Running Poles

Black Diamond Distance Carbon Running Poles

Created in collaboration with ultrarunner Joe Grant, the Black Diamond Distance Carbon ($150) is built for fast and light adventures. Weighing in at just 95 g per pole (120cm length) these are the lightest poles Black Diamond makes.

They certainly wouldn’t be the best option if you’re carrying a lot of weight, but these poles are ideal for fast-moving endeavors where speed is essential.

The durable foam grip offers up just enough comfort for grip in technical terrain and doesn’t slip when you’re moving fast and breaking a sweat. Adjustable wrist straps provide additional security in the event of a fall, and the sleek carbon tips are ideal for technical placements on rock.

These are fixed-length poles that don’t fold down for easy packing, but a mid-shaft ring does make for a well-balanced horizontal carry. Anyone looking to log big miles in a single outing running on the trail should check out these ultralight poles.

  • Weight: 6.7 oz.
  • Packed size: N/A (they don’t pack down)
  • Material: Carbon
  • Style: Fixed length

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Best Trekking Poles for Kids: LEKI Vario XS Kids’ Trekking Poles

LEKI Vario XS Kids' Trekking Poles

The Leki Vario XS ($60) will keep kids moving happily on the trail and serve as an excellent training tool to prepare them for a lifetime of adventuring. With a max length of 43.5 inches and a minimum of 31 inches, they grow well with your kiddo and can serve as a childhood companion for several seasons.

The ability to get more use out of these poles is one of our favorite features. For kids who enjoy the outdoors year-round, these four-season poles are a quality investment.

Our tiny testers found the rubber handgrips comfortable, slip-resistant, and durable when tossed around. The SpeedLock+ mechanism, also found on adult Leki poles, is highly durable and easy to use. And it keeps poles extended even when force is applied. For families with growing kids who love the outdoors, these poles are a no-brainer.

  • Weight: 15 oz.
  • Packed size: 26.5″
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Lock style: Speedlock+

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Best of the Rest

LEKI Makalu Lite

LEKI Makalu Lite

The Leki Makalu Lite ($140) earns high marks for being thin, light, and surprisingly stable for the weight. Updated in 2022, they have a new Aergon Air grip that sheds a bit of weight while adding durability and a more comfortable, ergonomic feel.

This version also packs down smaller (an inch shorter than the BD Trail Ergo), and they weigh less. At $140, these are also a great value for such a versatile pole. They’re light enough for thru-hiking, and sturdy enough to brace you if you carry climbing gear into the alpine.

The new Aergon Air strap was soft on the skin and seemed to aid with wicking sweat away on hot days. They’re easy to adjust with a pull of the tab, and the lack of buckles around the hands was an added plus.

The Speedlock+ locking system was easy to use, even with gloves on. And the interchangeable snow baskets (sold separately) make these a year-round, one-quiver pole for all-season use. The new Makalu Lite is definitely one of the best trekking poles you can buy for the price.

  • Weight: 8.82 oz.
  • Packed size: 26″
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Lock style: Speedlock+
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Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Poles

Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Poles

Anyone looking for a reliable backcountry pole will appreciate these durable Alpine Carbon Cork Poles ($199). These poles served us well and exceeded expectations while exploring the Grand Tetons through variable terrain. The cork grips are comfortable and tacky, and we like the extended foam, which allows for easy hand position changes.

The FlickLock Pro adjustment points are secure and easy to use, making it simple to adjust the length throughout a long trek. With a packed size of 25 inches, they don’t pack down enough for stashing in smaller packs. But for most users, we wouldn’t expect the size to be a problem.

The buckleless straps, utilizing a comfortable climbing webbing, proved very comfortable even after several days of continuous use. While these are a bit more expensive than other similar options, they’re worth the investment if you plan to use them regularly and are looking for a lightweight pole that’s also quite durable.

  • Weight: 1 lb. 1 oz.
  • Packed size: 25″
  • Material: Carbon
  • Lock style: FlickLock Pro

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LEKI MCT Superlite Carbon

LEKI MCT Superlite Carbon

New last year, the Leki MCT Superlite Carbon ($200) is well-suited to trail running, fastpacking, and other adventures where shedding weight is crucial to reaching your objective.

The lightest pole in LEKI’s Cross Trail collection, the fixed-length, folding MCT Superlite is available in 105, 110, 115, 120, 125, and 130cm lengths.

Our tester found the cork grips comfortable and ergonomic, enhanced by Leki’s proprietary Velcro-adjustable Cross Shark wrist straps/gloves. They helped absorb sweat and detached easily from the poles (by pressing the lever on top of the handle with a thumb) when our testers needed to use their hands for other tasks.

To lock the poles, just hold the top section of the pole with one hand and the handle with the other, and then pull until the single button locks into place. At the push of this button, the poles collapse quite easily, allowing for very simple deconstruction.

These are some of the most expensive poles on this list, and they aren’t the lightest. However, the LEKI MCT Superlite poles pack down for essential portability when not in use. Their performance makes them some of the best trekking poles available.

  • Weight: 10.4 oz. (110); 11.1 oz. (120); 11.9 oz. (130)
  • Packed size: 12.6″ (110); 14.6″ (120); 15.5″ (130)
  • Material: Carbon
  • Lock style: Button

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Cascade Mountain Tech Trekking Poles

Cascade Mountain Tech Trekking Poles

Trekking poles for under $30? Yes, you read that right. The Cascade Mountain Tech ($29) trekking poles are a fan favorite and a budget lover’s dream.

At 10.4 ounces per pole, they’re certainly not the lightest option out there, but they aren’t excessively heavy either. On the trail, they get the job done. And for casual outings, these poles will help support your weight and keep you balanced, all without breaking the bank.

If you plan to regularly hike long distances and rough trails, we highly recommend investing in a higher-quality pair of poles. As with all bargain options on the market, these poles tend to wear out faster than other more thoughtfully designed options on the list.

Anyone looking for carbon poles on a budget should check out Cascade Mountain Tech’s carbon trekking poles. They clock in at $65 and weigh 7.8 ounces per pole.

As with the aluminum Mountain Tech, don’t expect durability with extended use. But they could certainly get you through a backpacking trip or be a reliable backup if you need to lend out a pair of poles.

Just remember that even though carbon delivers excellent weight savings, it tends to be more brittle than aluminum. For long-term durability, aluminum is an excellent choice.

  • Weight: 20.8 oz.
  • Packed size: 26″
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Lock style: Quick-lock

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G3 Gear Pivot Trek Poles

G3 Gear Pivot Trek Poles

The G3 Gear Pivot Trekking Poles ($166) aren’t the lightest poles on the market, but they earn high marks for a clever magnetic folding design. We’ve also been impressed with their seemingly indestructible strength, making them ideal for pushing boundaries with heavy loads.

A wraparound folding design holds the pole securely folded and makes packing them a breeze. Our testers found the ergonomic foam grip comfortable and tactile, while the larger-than-average grip made it easier to choose various hand positions depending on the terrain.

For all-season use, you can easily attach the All-Mountain Baskets (sold separately) and turn these trekking poles into ideal splitboarding accessories. For ease of use, durability, and year-round application, these poles make a great addition to the quiver of avid outdoor enthusiasts.

  • Weight: 20.1 oz.
  • Packed size: 13″
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Lock style: Magnetic
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Helinox Passport TL115 Trekking Poles

Helinox Passport TL115 Trekking Poles

Known for making ultralight camp chairs, Helinox brings this same tech to the Passport line of trekking poles. The Passport TL 115 ($150) is fixed-length and foldable, and we’ve found them to be impressively light and packable. They weigh just 11 ounces per pair, and the single locking button makes for fast deployment.

These did well on the trail over varying terrain and would be ideal for day hikes and trail runs. Our testers found the foam grips comfortable and versatile, even during long hauls on the trail.

The tungsten carbide tips are the most durable you can buy, and you always have the option to use the included rubber tips for hard surface use. As an added perk, you can hike happily and free knowing they’re backed by a 5-year warranty, which makes the $150 price tag feel like quite a bargain.

  • Weight: 11 oz.
  • Packed size: 13.8″
  • Material: DAC alloy
  • Lock style: Button
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REI Co-op Flash Carbon Trekking Poles

REI Co-op Flash Carbon Trekking Poles

The REI Co-op Flash Carbon ($149) manages to strike a difficult balance between light and strong. The collapsible three-section design keeps them light, and the sturdy lever locks keep them at the desired length, even when weighted through downhill trudging with heavy loads.

We especially liked how easy they were to adjust and were impressed we didn’t experience any slippage, even when applying significant weight. The foam handles are comfortable and moisture-absorbing, and the adjustable wrist strap allows you to maintain a custom fit. They collapse to a reasonable length, allowing for stowage in larger packs, and cross-strapping to lighter loads.

These are also available in a slightly lighter (14 ounces per pair) women’s-specific version.

  • Weight: 14.8 oz.
  • Packed size: 27″
  • Material: Carbon
  • Lock style: Lever
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Leki Black Series Carbon

Leki Black Series Carbon

The Leki Black Series Carbon ($179) is basically a telescoping version of the FX Carbon. The two are nearly identical, but this pole features two-point Speedlock 2+ adjustability.

Aergon Air grips with genuine cork provide comfort and elite ergonomics, and the rubber tops are ideal for navigating steep downhill terrain. Redesigned by Leki for this year, we really can’t say enough about how comfortable these grips are.

Only slightly heavier than the FX version, these poles performed as expected on the trail. The Speedlock 2+ adjustability is a breeze, and the stiff, high-modulus carbon shafts felt sturdy under a very heavy load.

If packability isn’t one of your primary concerns, the Black Series Carbon might be your avenue to Leki’s top-tier poles. Available at a friendlier price point than its foldable cousin ($80 less), the Black Series Carbon is easily one of the best trekking poles on the market.

  • Weight: 8.29 oz.
  • Packed size: 26.75″
  • Material: Carbon
  • Lock style: Speedlock 2+
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Mountainsmith Carbonlite Pro Trekking Poles

Mountainsmith Carbonlite Pro Trekking Poles

The spring-loaded, anti-shock system of the Mountainsmith Carbonlite Pro ($80) helps absorb ground impact and can make long days on the trail feel a bit easier.

They still support your weight going downhill, but the spring-loaded system provides just enough give to reduce jarring on your joints. The cork and foam handle is quite comfortable, and we liked how easy it was to adjust the length.

That said, twist-lock poles are not our favorite. This system tends to wear out over time, giving them a shorter life expectancy with heavy use. However, as light, ergonomic poles with a comfortable price point, these can be ideal for the right user.

  • Weight: 17.5 oz.
  • Packed size: 26.5″
  • Material: Carbon and aluminum blend
  • Lock style: Twist

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TSL Connect Carbon 5 Trekking Poles

TSL Connect Carbon 5 Trekking Poles


Compact, lightweight, and with a stack of baskets, the TSL Outdoors Carbon 5 ($169) has impressive flexibility for four-season use.

This carbon five-section pole telescopes from a compact 16.5 inches, extending up to 51 inches (130 cm). Pull the lower three sections, snap them into place, release the orange lever and you can fine-tune your ideal length from 110-130cm.

An ergonomic foam grip runs the length of the upper section. On casual terrain, the grips are soft and ergonomic. Choke up on the pole to assist in climbing steep terrain.

On the business side, the baskets couple around a balljoint. This “swing system” gives the basket up to 20 degrees of mobility, matching variable terrain.

The kit comes with two baskets and a trail pad: a 3-inch snow basket, a 2-inch basket, and a more trail-friendly rubber tip that prevents chewing up dried-up trails. The “Push and Pull” basket mechanism can be a little finicky. Coupling around a ball on the pole’s tip, you need to hold the pole-side receptor snug around the balljoint when pushing on the baskets. The rubber trail tip simply pushes over the carbide spike.

Unique to the Connect Carbon 5, the removable straps magnetically snap into place. It’s bomber secure and only releases when you press down on the top button. Our testers especially appreciated this. You don’t always need a leash, and falling on leashed poles can potentially cause thumb injuries.

At 16.5 inches, there’s no excuse not to pack these. We brought these with us on a mountaineering trip to Europe this fall and loved how they disappeared in our luggage. The downside is — with so many accessories — you need to keep a tidy kit. Fortunately, the poles come with a travel bag.

  • Weight: 16 oz.
  • Packed size: 16.5″
  • Material: Carbon
  • Lock style: Lever

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Trekking Poles Comparison Chart

Trekking Pole Price Weight Packed size Material Lock style
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Trekking Poles $139 18 oz. 27″ Aluminum Dual FlickLock
LEKI Black Series FX Carbon $259 8.05 oz. 16″ Carbon External Lever Lock
Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z $179 9.6-11.1 oz. 13-17″ Carbon Rapid deployment
Kelty Upslope 2.0 $45 20 oz. 35″ Aluminum Twist
Cascade Mountain Tech Trekking Poles $29 20.8 oz. 26″ Aluminum Quick-lock
Gossamer Gear LT5 $195 4.9 oz. 23.5″ Carbon Twist
Black Diamond Distance Carbon Running Poles $169 6.7 oz. N/A Carbon Fixed length
LEKI Vario XS Kids’ Trekking Poles $65 15 oz. 26.5″ Aluminum Speedlock+
LEKI Makalu Lite $140 8.82 oz. 26″ Aluminum Speedlock+
Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Poles $199 1 lb. 1 oz. 25″ Carbon FlickLock Pro
LEKI MCT Superlite Carbon $200 10.4-11.9 oz 12.6 – 15.5″ Carbon Button
G3 Gear Pivot Trek Poles $166 20.1 oz. 13″ Aluminum Magnetic
Helinox Passport TL115 Trekking Poles $150 11 oz 13.8″ DAC alloy Button
REI Co-op Flash Carbon Trekking Poles $149 14.8 oz. 27″ Carbon Lever
Leki Black Series Carbon $179 8.29 oz. 26.75″ Carbon Speedlock 2+
Mountainsmith Carbonlite Pro Trekking Poles $80 17.5 oz. 26.5″ Carbon and aluminum blend Twist
Connect Carbon 5 Cross St P&P Trekking Poles $169 16 oz. 16.5″ Carbon Lever

Why You Should Trust Us

We pride ourselves on a testing process that exposes flaws and highlights strengths while observing a wide range of equipment options. When evaluating the best trekking poles, a gear addition that needs to exhibit durability, we made a point to test features that commonly break down (locking mechanisms, grips, straps) to ensure that only the most reliable poles made it on our list.

Our testers used the gear in a wide range of environments. As avid users, we’re familiar with the features that can set one pole apart from another. We made a point to analyze what makes each pole unique, testing each trekking pole option in the environments where they’re most likely to be utilized.

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Trekking Pole

Weight & Packed Size

The packed-down length isn’t of vital importance to most hikers and backpackers. But, for those who plan to travel with their poles, it’s best to look for a pole that packs down small enough to fit in your luggage.

The LEKI Black Series FX is a perfect example of extreme packability. It packs down to a mere 16 inches, which would easily fit into most daypacks alongside other supplies.

For weight, you can’t beat the Gossamer Gear LT5. At 4.8 ounces per pole, you’ll hardly know they’re there, and can keep them handy for just-in-case scenarios.

IMG_20220928_141912 2
(Photo/Andrew Potter)


One of the biggest factors for a good fit is height. Stand up straight (preferably wearing the shoes you’ll hike in) and bend your arm to a 90-degree angle. Measure from the floor to your elbow to calculate your length.

In general, people 5’1″ and under will choose a 100cm pole. Those up to 5’7″ will use a 110cm pole. Hikers ranging from 5’8″ to 5’11” need a 120cm pole. And those taller than 6′ will go with the 130cm option.

Obviously, a pole with a wide range of adjustability will work for almost everyone. Once you’ve measured your size, you can explore fixed-length options (such as the Leki MCT Superlite Carbon).

Fixed Length vs. Adjustable

There are viable reasons to consider each option. With adjustable poles, you can quickly change the length. This lets you fine-tune them on the trail to your personalized height. You can adjust them if you’re exhausted and want to transfer a bit more weight to your upper body.

Adjustable poles give you the option to extend or retract on the descent or on steep ascents. The downside is an increased possibility of failure or slippage at the locking points, especially with twist locks.

Fixed-length poles don’t offer as much fine-tuning but can generally handle a lot of weight and they have less room for error. Generally, fixed-length poles are more ideal for trail running and other fast-paced endeavors where adjustments will only slow you down.

Some fixed-length poles, like the trail-running-specific Black Diamond Distance Carbon Poles, don’t fold up. Others are a fixed length when deployed but break down for packing, like the LEKI MCT Superlite Carbon.

Women’s Trekking Poles

Generally, women’s trekking poles have a smaller grip diameter (which offers increased comfort for smaller hands) and a shorter maximum length. For example, the top pick Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Poles have a length of 55 inches, and the women’s version has a max length of 49 inches.

Another bonus of women’s trekking poles is that the minimum length is shorter, which increases packability. Also, the women’s options, due to their smaller size, shed a bit of weight.

In reality, it’s less about the sex of the given user and more about the size. Anyone looking for a smaller grip and a shorter pole should consider buying a women’s trekking pole.

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(Photo/Andrew Potter)


Obviously, when spending money on gear that’s going to be used outdoors, pricepoint, durability, and reliability come into play. The trekking poles on this list range in price from $45 (Kelty Upslope 2.0) to $260 (LEKI Black Series FX Carbon). As the price increases, the poles undeniably exhibit more features while shedding weight.

For the average user, finding a balance between quality and price can ensure you get the trekking poles you need without breaking the bank. At only $80, the Mountainsmith Carbonlite Pro provides a lightweight carbon build for users looking to shed weight, and it exhibited more than adequate durability for our testers, especially for the price.

Perhaps the most obvious example of value would come from the Helinox Passport TL115 Trekking Poles ($150), which, as one of the lightest options on this list, pack down extremely well and come with a 5-year warranty.


Trekking pole grips come in three primary materials: cork, foam, and rubber. Ideal grips will wick moisture well, be comfortable on your skin, and work as shock absorbers. Cork and foam are the most common materials used for trekking pole grips, and for most, the preference simply comes down to feel.

  • Cork is extremely light, wicks moisture well, and is also very environmentally friendly. Cork grips are the best at absorbing shock, and also break in over time, forming to your hand. The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork offers an ergonomic cork grip.
  • Foam grips are also very light, but rather than wicking moisture, they tend to absorb it. The tradeoff would be for grip, as EVA foam is quite tacky. Higher quality foam, like on the Makalu Lite, performs well across all categories. Between foam and cork, the weight difference is negligible.
  • Rubber grips are rarely used in modern trekking poles, and tend to be utilized strictly for snowsports.


Most manufacturers of trekking poles offer the industry standard – carbide tips. They’re extremely durable and offer grip and pin-point precision over a variety of terrain, performing equally as well over rock, ice, and softer, variable surfaces.

Carbide tips can inflict some damage on the environment, however, so some prefer rubber tips when traversing delicate landscapes. They can also be noisy over rocky terrain. Gossamer Gear includes some very handy rubber boots with their ultralight LT5 poles, which are easy to place and remove.

As the primary source of contact with the ground, any tip will wear down over time, and should be replaced when the metal wears up to or near the plastic.

Rubber tip protectors come with or are available for most trekking poles. They’re not only useful if you find yourself on shelves of rock or pavement, but can extend the life of your tips in storage (and keep them from snagging clothing in your pack).

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(Photo/Andrew Potter)


Trekking poles generally come with “mud baskets”. They not only prevent splashing and give support in mud, but can help when traveling over soft dirt or sand. They are especially helpful for thru-hikers who will encounter snow on high elevation passes.

If you’re traveling over snow without baskets, you’ll find out the snow depth pretty quickly, and unless you can lengthen the poles to match that depth, they’ll be rendered useless.

Almost all poles available today come with standard-size mud baskets, and many even come with some extra powder baskets for all-season use. If you want to utilize your poles for winter sports, check to see if they come with powder baskets and be sure to check compatibility if you order them from a different manufacturer.

Do You Need Trekking Poles?

Advantages of Trekking Poles

  • Trekking poles distribute some of the work and weight distribution to your upper body. Although using your arms can increase your overall energy use (see cons below), they’re an effective and useful leg-saver, especially on longer or more strenuous outings.
  • Trekking poles save your knees and joints on downhill treks. Studies show that using poles significantly reduces the impact on your knees while hiking downhill. So, when more weight gets factored into the equation, trekking poles can be essential for long-term health.
  • They improve your balance on uneven terrain, especially over river crossings where slippery rocks can ruin your day.
    Trekking poles can help you maintain a consistent gait, leading to a faster and more efficient pace.
  • Trekking poles are multifunctional. Many options can be used as ski poles with the addition of powder baskets, and they can be used as tent poles or for making shade on sweltering days where coverage is lacking.

Cons of Trekking Poles

  • Your overall energy output is increased. This may seem counterintuitive, but we’ve found the benefits of balance and safety outweigh the effects of extra output.
  • If you choose not to use your poles, they become another piece of gear to carry. This is where packability becomes essential.
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(Photo/Andrew Potter)

How to Properly Use Trekking Poles

If you’re buying trekking poles for the first time, or have simply never thought about the best way to use them, it can be helpful to understand the most efficient way for them to complement your stride.

Height: For setup, you’ll want your arms to be at a 90° angle when the tips are weighted on the ground in front of you. This is especially important to consider when buying fixed-length poles, as adjustable poles offer the benefit of micro-adjustments.

Wrist Straps: The wrist straps should comfortably wrap around your wrists (not so tight that they’re squeezing, but not so loose that they’ll slip off your wrists if dropped). With your hands vertical on the grips, the top of the strap should rest where your wrist hinges if you were to lift your thumb from that position.

Stride: As an extra set of legs, the most efficient way to use trekking poles is to extend the opposite pole so that it hits the ground just before your opposite foot (i.e. the left pole should extend as you’re lifting your right foot to step). On very steep descents, many prefer moving their hand to the top portion of the grip and placing both poles at once for balance.

Placement: Placing poles as you walk on mellow terrain is simple (see paragraph above). Over rock or talus, however, it can become a bit more complicated. It’s never good to have the pole wedged in between or just behind a rock as you step, as they may stick in the ground and break/bend under the force. Otherwise, you simply want to place them in a secure position that helps keep you balanced.

When on the trail, it’s not uncommon to see a wide range of trekking pole techniques. Some people sling them along and place them in random increments, whereas others really lean into the poles and transfer weight with each step.

While there are a variety of ways to have them bear weight when moving through technical terrain, the above technique (alternating opposite pole from leg) has proven to be the simplest, most efficient technique for walking along flat, moderate, and steady uphill terrain.


Are Trekking Poles Worth It?

Trekking poles aren’t required, but they can certainly be helpful. For long treks with a heavy pack, they help distribute your weight and decrease the impact on descents. They’re also great for stabilization on rocky treks, when hiking along an exposed trail, or when river crossings might get a bit techy.

Trekking Poles Help on Steep Hikes
Trekking poles provide stability while hiking on an exposed trail; (photo/Matt Granger)

Is It Better to Hike With One Trekking Pole or Two?

You could use a single pole or a hiking staff, but, in general, we recommend a pair of hiking poles. They provide a more balanced, ergonomic gait and increased stability.

Packable options allow you to stow a pole away when both don’t seem necessary, or if you need one hand free for snapping photos.

How Tall Should My Trekking Pole Be?

The trekking pole grip should rest comfortably in your palm when your arms are bent at a 90-degree angle.

In general, people 5’1″ and under will choose a 100cm pole. Those up to 5’7″ will use a 110-115cm pole. Hikers ranging from 5’8″ to 5’11” need a 120cm pole. And those taller than 6′ will go with the 130cm option.

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