Best Trekking Poles to Help You Tackle the Toughest Trails (2021)
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Trekking poles are a hiker’s best friend when it comes to strenuous, rugged trails. For long hikes, steep inclines, and slippery conditions, the best trekking poles will act as an extra support system to help you keep your balance. Not all hiking poles are created equal, and it’s important to get a solid pair that won’t give out while you’re on the trails. We evaluated dozens of products and created this guide to help you choose the best trekking poles for your outdoor adventures.

Click here to jump to our list of the best trekking poles

How to Choose a Pair of Trekking Poles

Since every hiker is different, there are several factors that go into choosing the perfect trekking poles. These are the criteria we used to evaluate each pair of trekking poles on our list, and the things we’d recommend you consider when making a purchase.

Weight

One of the most important criteria we considered when evaluating different models was weight. If you’re hiking or backpacking long distances, the last thing you want is for your trekking poles to weigh you down. Lighter, more portable poles are generally more practical than heavier ones (as long as you aren’t sacrificing durability – see below).

What largely determines a trekking pole’s weight is what it’s made of. The most common materials used to construct poles are aluminum and carbon fiber. Generally carbon fiber is much lighter, but can also be more expensive and less durable. Aluminum is sturdier, but it’s heavier and prone to bending.

Durability

Durability is another factor that’s important to consider when purchasing a pair of trekking poles. Aluminum poles are generally known to be more durable than carbon fiber (but weighs more, too). Similarly, the design of the poles can contribute to their durability, as locks and twists provide additional opportunities for a pole to snap or get damaged.

While no pole is going to be indestructible, you’ll want to choose the right materials and design to match your hiking style and preferences. Minimalist hikers and backpackers typically want to opt for a carbon fiber option, even though it’s less durable, because it weighs less. On the other hand, more serious mountaineers or those that typically hike in steep, rocky terrain may want to opt for heavy duty aluminum options.

One other thing to look out for with durability is a manufacturer’s warranty. These warranties and guarantees ensure that your equipment will be repaired or replaced if it breaks within a set timeframe. We typically opt for equipment that has a guarantee of at least one year, even if it costs slightly more.

Compactness

Modern hiking poles are often designed to collapse into a small space, either via a telescoping system with locks, or using elastic cords within the poles that can come apart and fold (Z construction). Non-collapsible poles are bulky and inconvenient to transport. We love poles that can be collapsed into a small, lightweight bundle to carry in a backpack or travel with – that’s why you won’t find any options on our list that don’t collapse.

Length

Trekking pole length depends on your height and on the design of the poles. Telescoping poles are adjustable and can accommodate many different heights, while foldable poles need to be bought at a specific length based on your height. REI has a great guide on choosing trekking poles that walks through the appropriate size for your height.

Comfort

Most of the “comfort” aspects of a trekking pole are highly subjective and are based on what the grips and straps feel like in your hands. Grips are often made from spongy material or cork and should feel padded yet firm in your hands. Avoid any poles that feel slippery or irritating when you hold them – those feelings will be 10x worse out on the trails!

Price

While we try not to let price play too much into our assessments of products, we know it’s a huge consideration for most readers. You’ll definitely want to choose a pair of trekking poles that fits your budget, which is why we’ve included several affordable options in addition to the best-in-class choices.

Below, we’ve grouped the hiking poles into categories as such:

  • $ = Under $100
  • $$ = $100 to $150 per pair
  • $$$ = $150+ per pair

Best Trekking Poles for Any Hiking Adventure

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork
Overall Best Trekking Poles

  • Cost: $$
  • Materials: Aluminum
  • Weight: 17.2 oz (1 lb, 1.2 oz)
  • Why They’re Awesome: Comfortable cork handles, more durable and burly than carbon fiber

A favorite among intense hikers and hobbyists alike, the Black Diamond Ergo Cork poles are some of the best trekking poles in the industry. With an all-aluminum construction and an adjustable length telescoping design, these poles are an all-around fantastic value for the price. The cork handles are the perfect balance of firm and cushioned, and we really like how they feel in our hands.

Moreover, because they’re aluminum, they’ll be a bit more durable in the long term than any carbon fiber option. We absolutely love the comfort and design of the Ergo Cork grips, and have enjoyed their slip resistance during long hikes or in wetter conditions.

The Black Diamond Ergo Cork was a serious contender for our Best Overall spot, but narrowly missed out because they’re heavier and less portable. At 17-18 ounces per pair, these are considerably heavier than our lightweight choice, the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z. And while the adjustable telescoping length is a nice feature, they’re still quite long (27 inches) when collapsed all the way down, making them a little more difficult to travel with or pack inside a bag.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR BLACK DIAMOND TRAIL ERGO CORK:


Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z
Best Lightweight Trekking Poles

  • Cost: $$$
  • Materials: Carbon fiber
  • Weight: 10 oz
  • Why They’re Awesome: Super light, very compact, designed specifically for athletic hikers, durable

For an ultra light, sturdy, and absolutely awesome hiking companion, we recommend the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z trekking poles. These are the carbon fiber version of the Black Diamond Distance Z, pairing the Z folding design with a lighter construction for a pretty ideal hiking pole.

We love these poles (and use them as our go-to poles) because they’re so light and portable, you can toss them in a bag and take them literally everywhere. At 10-14 ounces per pair, you really won’t find a lighter pair of poles. The folding Z design of the Distance Carbon Z poles is super travel-friendly, meaning you can bring these poles easily in backpacks, work bags, road trips, airplanes, and just about anywhere else. Backpackers and thru-hikers especially love them because they provide lots of support without adding much extra weight.

If your poles are faulty (which some reviewers have mentioned), you can rest assured that they’re backed by Black Diamond’s 1-year warranty. Additionally, the height of these poles is not adjustable, so make sure you get the correct size before heading out on the trail with them.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR BLACK DIAMOND DISTANCE CARBON Z:


Cascade Mountain Tech Trekking Poles
Best Budget Trekking Poles

  • Cost: $
  • Materials: Carbon fiber
  • Weight: 16 oz (1 lb)
  • Why They’re Awesome: Very budget-friendly, light construction for the price, come in multiple colors

For hikers on a budget, the Cascade Mountain Tech Trekking Poles are an excellent choice. These are some of the cheapest carbon fiber trekking poles you can get, and they hold up just fine for most hikers. With a telescoping length and various colors to choose from, you can customize these poles a bit more than other models on our list. Additionally, they come with extra tips, baskets, and other accessories so you can use them in just about every kind of terrain. Not bad for less than $50!

The drawbacks? They’re less durable than some of the higher-end models, which is to be expected from a cheaper construction. If you’re looking for a pair of trekking poles for a few hikes here and there, these are great, but if you’re going to be hiking regularly or on more rugged terrain, we’d recommend investing in a higher-quality pair of poles.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR CASCADE MOUNTAIN TECH:


LEKI Micro Vario Carbon
Best Splurge Trekking Poles

  • Cost: $$$
  • Materials: Carbon fiber
  • Weight: 17 oz (1 lb, 1 oz)
  • Why They’re Awesome: Speedlock 2 system, compact and lightweight, durable

LEKI is another trekking pole manufacturer that makes some of the absolute best poles on the market. The LEKI Micro Vario Carbon is one of their most popular products, and for good reason: it’s lightweight, compact, and versatile for any outdoor adventure. We love these poles because, unlike the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z, they combine their telescoping SpeedLock 2 system for on-the-go adjustments with the folding construction to provide the best in portability.

The downside? The LEKI Micro Vario Carbon poles are the most expensive on our list, and they aren’t exactly the lightest. Because of their dual construction, there’s added weight, which can make a difference on long hikes or when traveling with them. And again, carbon fiber is more prone to breakage than aluminum (although LEKI does provide a 1-year warranty for its carbon fiber poles). However, for sturdy, all-around fantastic trekking poles, the LEKI Micro Vario Carbon is a great investment.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR LEKI MICRO VARIO CARBON:


MSR DynaLock Ascent Carbon
Best Four-Season/Alpine Trekking Poles

  • Cost: $$
  • Materials: Carbon fiber
  • Weight: 17-18 oz (1 lb 1 oz to 1 lb 2 oz)
  • Why They’re Awesome: Sturdy and durable, come with snow-friendly accessories, great price for four season poles

If you’re an all-season adventurer, you’ll probably want a pair of sturdy yet lightweight trekking poles that can hold up in mud, ice, and snow. The MSR DynaLock Ascent Carbon poles are our pick for four-seasons trekking poles that can withstand just about anything. We like that the MSR Dynalock Ascents come in a folding “Z” design with a telescoping flick lock for the option to adjust your pole height on the fly. Whether you’re winter hiking, snowshoeing, or splitboarding, these poles are a great four-season companion on any trail.

They’re probably not for everyone, though. Because these poles are carbon fiber, they can break more easily than an aluminum construction, although MSR offers a generous 3-year warranty for this. Also, they’re a bit too heavy to be considered “ultralight,” and they’re probably overkill for casual hikers or those who only hike in warmer conditions. However, if you’re looking for a fantastic all-season trekking companion that can hold up in winter conditions, the MSR DynaLock Ascent Carbon poles are our pick.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR MSR DYNALOCK ASCENT CARBON:


Helinox Passport FL120 Trekking Poles
Honorable Mention

  • Cost: $$
  • Materials: Carbon fiber
  • Weight: 10.2 oz
  • Why They’re Awesome: Ultralight construction, adjustable length, 5-year guarantee

Helinox is know for its lightweight camping chairs and equipment, but it also makes lightweight, durable trekking poles. The Helinox Passport FL120 Trekking Poles are a lesser-known product, but are beloved by Helinox fans and serious hikers alike. The telescoping design makes the length adjustable on the go, and they’re backed by the most generous guarantee of any brand on our list – Helinox’s 5-year warranty.

These poles were a close contender for our “Best Lightweight” title because they’re almost exactly the same weight as the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z’s and have an adjustable length. They’re also a bit less expensive. However, the Helinox Passport FL120s haven’t been tested long enough for us to know how durable they are in comparison to the Black Diamonds. We’ll definitely be updating our rankings accordingly based on what we find!

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR HELINOX FL120 PASSPORT:


REI Co-op Trailbreak
Honorable Mention

  • Cost: $
  • Materials: Aluminum
  • Weight: 17 oz (1 lb, 1 oz)
  • Why They’re Awesome: Budget-friendly, strong aluminum construction, adjustable telescoping design

For hikers on a budget, the REI Co-op Trailbreak trekking poles are another fantastic option at just $60 a pair. These poles are great for casual hikers who only need poles occasionally, or those wanting to get their hands on a pair of good aluminum poles at a lower price point. With a telescoping design, you can adjust the height to your preferences (or share them with friends) and an aluminum construction means they’re less likely to break than a carbon fiber pair.

While the REI Trailbreak poles are a great value, they’re not built to last like some of the other products we recommend. They’re also a bit heavier than their lighter carbon counterparts. Plus, they’re a little more expensive than our pick for the best budget poles, the Cascade Mountain Tech poles (above), which is why those ultimately won our “Best on a Budget” title.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR REI CO-OP TRAILBREAK:


Black Diamond Alpine Cork
Honorable Mention

  • Cost: $$$
  • Materials: Carbon
  • Weight: 17 oz (1 lb, 1 oz)
  • Why They’re Awesome: Very sturdy, comfortable cork handles, adjustable telescoping design

For rugged, four-season adventurers, the Black Diamond Alpine Cork trekking poles are an absolutely fantastic option. The telescoping carbon shaft provides a versatile, lightweight pole, and the cork grips feel high-quality and sturdy in our hands. Because they’re both lightweight and extra sturdy, they’re a wonderful balance for serious four season adventurers.

The downside? They’re overkill for most hikers, catering specifically to the serious backcountry mountaineer or winter adventurer. During warmer seasons or on less rugged terrain, you definitely won’t need a heavy-duty pair of trekking poles like these. They’re also considerably more expensive than our recommended “Best Four Season” poles, the MSR DynaLock Ascents. However, if you’re an avid adventurer with a bit of extra cash, these are a great choice.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR BLACK DIAMOND ALPINE CORK:


LEKI Makalu Lite Cor-Tec
Honorable Mention

  • Cost: $
  • Materials: Aluminum
  • Weight: 17 oz (1 lb, 1 oz)
  • Why They’re Awesome: Sturdy telescoping aluminum construction, great price point for value, comfortable cork grips

As a sturdy aluminum option, the LEKI Makalu Lite Cor-Tec poles are worth considering as well. These poles offer one of the better prices on our list, have a lot of the best bells and whistles available, including cork grips, adjustable length, and a decently light construction.

Many reviewers mention that these poles aren’t as durable as some of the other models above, which is unexpected given their aluminum construction. We’ve heard better things about the similar Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork’s durability over many miles and long periods of time. However, at this price point paired with LEKI’s 1-year warranty, the LEKI Makalu Lite Cor-Tec poles are a solid option.

CHECK REVIEWS & PRICES FOR LEKI MAKALU LITE COR-TEC:


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Kay Rodriguez is the founder of Urban Outdoors. She's also the writer and photographer behind Jetfarer. When she's not writing furiously on her laptop or editing photos, you can find Kay running, hiking, paddling, or playing in the snow.

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