Best Of
Testing trekking poles while hiking near Moab.
The author testing trekking poles while hiking near Moab, Utah; photo credit: Matt Granger

The Best Trekking Poles of 2021

Decrease injury and increase speed. It’s time you started hiking with trekking poles.

There are a lot of trekking poles out there. Trail runners, hikers, backpackers, and thru-hikers all have their favorite pair and argue about the comparison of strength to weight to value.

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. We evaluated based on comfort, packed size, durability, and value. We also considered versatility and adjustability.

And although there isn’t a perfect pole for every person out there, we’ve broken this list into categories to help find the right pair 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.

Feel free to scroll through to see all of our recommended buys, or jump to the category you’re looking for:

The Best Trekking Poles of 2021

Best Overall: 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 these. The ergonomic cork grip felt great from the very first step. And a variety of testers (with varying hand sizes) found they fit well and didn’t rub. The Dual FlickLock is easy to use, and we appreciated being able to quickly adjust the height.

The lock is also plenty sturdy. It didn’t budge even on sustained uphill treks. These poles are 27 inches packed down. And while that easily fits on the back of a pack, it may be a concern for some. For the majority of hikers, though, this won’t be a problem.

And the quality pole paired with a reasonable $130 price tag makes these a great go-to trekking pole.

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

  • Weight: 18 oz.
  • Packed size: 27″
  • Material: Aluminum

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Runner-Up: LEKI Micro Vario Core Tec TA

leki micro vario core tec ta

 

If you’re looking for trekking poles that are both adjustable and fold down small, the LEKI Micro Vario Core Tec ($139) is a great option. The folding design allows them to pack down to just 15 inches, which is particularly useful for traveling. Once extended, the top portion can be extended to accommodate a wider range of heights.

These poles use the SpeedLock+ locking mechanism. We prefer the SpeedLock 2 found on other LEKI poles, but the SpeedLock+ performs well and is certainly better than a twist-lock mechanism.

The cork grips have proven comfortable on long hikes. The poles don’t have a left and right, but over time we’ve found the strap molds slightly to the hand we consistently use. The carbide tip holds up well and for walking on cement or asphalt, you can add the rubber walking tips.

These are slightly heavier and about 10 bucks more expensive than the Black Diamond Trail Ergo. But with the ability to fold down small, they’re a top pick.

  • Weight: 20.2 oz.
  • Packed size: 15″
  • Material: Aluminum

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Best Ultralight: Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z

black diamond distance carbon z

These three-section carbon poles fold up easily and extend quickly, thanks to the rapid deployment system. The foam grips are lightweight and proved comfortable from the very first multiday use.

This is a popular folding option for long-distance hikers and was editor Sean McCoy’s choice for the Leadville 100.

The Distance Carbon Z poles ($170) come in four sizes: 100 cm, 110 cm, 120 cm, and 130 cm. And weighing in around 10 ounces per pair, these are impressively light. Whether you’re trekking for days or stashing them in your pack, they won’t wear you down.

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 $100.

  • Weight: 9.6-11.1 oz.
  • Packed size: 13-17″
  • Material: Carbon

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Best Budget Trekking Poles: Kelty Upslope 2.0

Kelty Upslope 2.0 Cheap Trekking Poles

These adjustable trekking poles ($40) are comfortable, reliable, and easy on the wallet. At 10 ounces per pole, they’re not impressively light, but they work fine for the price.

The foam grip was comfortable after a full day of testing and we appreciated the adjustable wrist straps. The carbide tip works great for most terrain and for asphalt walking, you can use the included rubber tip cover.

Twist lock isn’t our favorite type of locking mechanism as it tends to wear out faster and can lead to failure. That said, we haven’t experienced any issue with the Upslope locking mechanism and have been impressed with their overall durability.

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

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Runner-Up Best Budget Trekking Poles: Cascade Mountain Tech Trekking Poles

cascade mountain tech trekking poles

Trekking poles for just $25? Yes, you read that right. These 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 get the job done. For casual outings, these work and won’t break the bank.

If you plan to regularly hike long distances and rough trails, we highly recommend investing in a higher-quality pair of poles. These work, but they tend to wear out faster than other 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 just $45 and weigh 7.8 ounces per pole.

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

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Best for Trail Running: Black Diamond Distance Carbon Running Poles

black diamond distance carbon running poles

Created in collaboration with ultrarunner Joe Grant, these poles ($150) are built for fast-and-light adventures. Weighing in at just 95 g per pole (120cm length) these are the lightest poles Black Diamond makes. The durable foam grip offers up just enough comfort, without any added weight.

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 running on the trail should check out these ultralight poles.

  • Weight: 6.7 oz.
  • Packed size: Doesn’t pack down
  • Material: Carbon

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

leki vario xs kids' trekking poles

These poles ($59) will keep kids moving happily on the trail. With a max length of 43.5 inches and a minimum of 31 inches, they grow well with your kiddo and can be used for several seasons.

And the ability to get more use is one of our favorite features. For any kids who spend the summer hiking and the winter skiing, these four-season poles are a quality investment.

Our tiny testers found the rubber grip comfortable. And the SpeedLock+ mechanism is easy to use and keeps poles extended even when force is applied.

  • Weight: 15 oz.
  • Packed size: 26.5″
  • Material: Aluminum

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The Best of the Rest

LEKI Makalu Lite Core-Tec Trekking Poles

leki makalu lite core-tec trekking poles 

These poles ($120) earn high marks for being thin, light, and stable. Plus, they’re impressively comfortable.

Like the BD Trail Ergo, they pack down to 27 inches. And they weigh slightly less than the Black Diamond Trail Ergo Trekking Poles. At $120, these are also a great value.

The textured strap seemed to aid with wicking sweat away, and we really liked the lack of buckles. The 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.

  • Weight: 17.1 oz.
  • Packed size: 27″
  • Material: Aluminum

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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 the Alpine Carbon Cork Poles ($180). They served us well while exploring the Grand Tetons. The cork grips are comfortable and we like the extended foam, which allows for easy hand position changes.

The FlickLock Pro adjustment points are secure and easy to use. And we like being able to easily adjust the length throughout a long trek. With a packed size of 25 inches, they don’t get super small. But for most users, this isn’t a big issue.

The new straps pull from climbing technology and proved very comfortable even after several days’ use. They are more expensive than other options, but it’s worth the investment if you plan to use them regularly.

  • Weight: 1 lb. 1 oz.
  • Packed size: 25″
  • Material: Carbon

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LEKI MCT Superlite Carbon

LEKI MCT Superlite Carbon trekking poles

New for 2021, these poles ($200) are well-suited to trail running, fastpacking, and other fast-and-light adventures. 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 ergonomic cork grips comfortable. And the Velcro-adjustable Cross Shark wrist straps/gloves absorbed sweat and detached easily from the poles (by pressing the lever on top of the handle with a thumb) when our tester needed to use their hands for other tasks.

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

These are the most expensive poles on this list, and they aren’t the lightest. However, unlike our pick for best trail running pole, the Black Diamond Distance Carbon, the LEKI MCT Superlite poles pack down for portability when not in use.

  • Weight:
    • 110cm poles: 10.4 oz.
    • 120cm poles: 11.1 oz.
    • 130cm poles: 11.9 oz.
  • Packed size:
    • 110cm poles: 12.6″
    • 120cm poles: 14.6″
    • 130cm poles: 15.5″
  • Material: Carbon

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G3 Gear Pivot Trek Poles

g3 gear pivot trek poles

These aren’t the lightest poles ($155) available, but they earn high marks for a clever magnetic folding design. Plus, we’ve been impressed with their nearly indestructible strength.

The wraparound folding design holds the pole securely folded and makes packing them a breeze. Our testers found the ergonomic foam grip comfortable. And the larger-sized grip makes 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 your trekking poles into the perfect splitboarding poles.

  • Weight: 20.1 oz.
  • Packed size: 13″
  • Material: Aluminum

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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 ($150). These fixed-length, folding poles are 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 and are ideal for day hikes and trail runs. Our testers found the foam grips comfortable even during long days on the trail.

The tungsten carbide tips are ultradurable, and you have the option to use rubber tips (included) for hard surface use. Plus, you can hike happily knowing they’re backed by a 5-year warranty.

  • Weight: 11 oz.
  • Packed size: 13.8″
  • Material: DAC alloy

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REI Co-op Flash Carbon Trekking Poles

rei co-op flash carbon trekking poles

These poles ($139) manage to strike the balance between light and strong. The collapsible three-section design keeps them light, and the sturdy lever locks keep them at the desired length.

We like how easy they are to adjust and were impressed that they never slipped, even when putting a lot of weight on them. The foam handles are comfortable, and the adjustable wrist strap allows you to get a custom fit.

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

  • Weight: 14.8 oz.
  • Packed size: 27″
  • Material: Carbon

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Montem Ultra Strong Trekking Poles

Montem Ultra Strong Trekking Poles

Anyone looking for a sturdy, do-all pair of telescoping poles will appreciate the Montem Ultra Strong Trekking poles ($60). The foam grips help them fit comfortably in the hand without any chafing or excessive sweating.

The flick locks make these poles easily adjustable. And we like that they can fit hikers ranging from 4′ to 6’8″ and up to 400 pounds.

Anyone wanting to go fast and light should look elsewhere, but these do nicely for most hikers.

  • Weight: 19.2 oz.
  • Packed size: 24″
  • Material: Aluminum

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REI Co-op Trekking Poles for Kids

rei co-op trekking poles for kids

These trekking poles ($55) are designed specifically for kids. They easily grow with your child from a minimum length of 27.5 inches to a maximum length of 45.3 inches.

The aluminum shaft is light and sturdy, and the plastic handles are built to comfortably fit small hands. Kids love gear that makes them feel grown-up, and we like anything that helps kids get on the trail.

  • Weight: 15.5 oz.
  • Packed size: 27.5″
  • Material: Aluminum

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Mountainsmith Carbonlite Pro Trekking Poles

mountainsmith carbonlite pro trekking poles

The spring-loaded, antishock system of the Mountainsmith Carbonlite Pro ($80) helps minimize impact and makes long days on the trail easier. The cork-and-foam handle is quite comfortable, and we like how easy it is to adjust the length.

That said, twist-lock poles are not our favorite simply because they tend to wear out over time. But these poles are fairly light, comfortable, and priced to win.

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

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Do You Need Trekking Poles?

Advantages of Trekking Poles

  • They distribute some of the work 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.
  • 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.
  • They improve your balance on uneven terrain, river crossings, or slippery rocks.
  • Trekking poles help you maintain a consistent gait, leading to a faster and more efficient pace.
  • They are multifunctional and can be used as tent poles.

Cons of Trekking Poles

  • Your overall energy output is increased.
  • If you choose not to use your poles, they become another piece of gear to carry.
Mallory Paige testing the Best Trekking Poles
The author testing trekking poles while backpacking in the Desolation Wilderness

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. Something like the LEKI Micro Vario is a solid option.

Height

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.

Fixed Length vs. Adjustable

There are reasons to consider each. With adjustable poles, you can quickly change the length. This lets you fine-tune them on the trail to your personalized height.

Adjustable poles allow you the option to make them longer on the descent and shorter on steep ascents. The downside is an increased possibility of failure or slippage at the locking points.

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.

Some, 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 max length. For example, the top pick Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Poles has 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. This means increased packability.

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.

FAQ

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 or when hiking along an exposed trail.

Trekking Poles Help on Steep Hikes
Trekking poles provide stability while hiking on an exposed trail. Photo credit: 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.

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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