Picking the right product out of a pool of best trekking poles is not an easy task if you don’t know what features to look for. It’s easy to get lost in technical specs or make uneducated assumptions on which materials are better or what baskets are best for the job. In our honest opinion there’s an easy way to get the most bang for your buck. The Black Diamond Distance Z is the trekking pole with the most versatility hands down. It has good durability and very nice balance, as well as plenty of quality of life features including an ergonomic grip design.
Of course, there are other trekking poles that might be better suited for some activities. We’ll present you some other options too just so you can see the differences for yourself. We’ll also delve into more detail about what makes trekking poles a solid choice and what activities call for specific features. In the end, you should have enough information to make the most informed decision you can.
This aluminum trekking pole is one of the more durable folding designs on the market. It has a bit more weight and power than other poles in its price range and a very interesting grip design. It also uses a Kevlar center cord for added strength.
Top 5 Trekking Poles
|Black Diamond Distance Z||Aluminum||Foam||Check Price|
|Black Diamond Trail Ergo||Aluminum||Cork + Foam||Check Price|
|Hiker Hunger Trekking Pole||Carbon fiber||Cork||Check Price|
|Paria Outdoor Trekking Pole||Carbon fiber||Cork + rubber||Check Price|
|Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock||Aluminum||Foam||Check Price|
1. Best Overall Trekking Poles
Black Diamond Distance Z
The Black Diamond Distance Z is our pick for the best overall tracking poles due to its great 4-season versatility. The replaceable basket system lets you go big or small for deep snow trekking or hiking through a dense forest. The Distance Z is available in aluminum or carbon fiber construction, the latter being about twice as expensive.
Having the ability to use the same poles for multiple activities gives you great value for money which is essential here considering the slightly high price tag. And, as with any premium trekking poles, you get tons of quality of life features too.
The grip uses a non-slip EVA foam which helps give the Distance Z a more ergonomic feel. The wrist straps are not really high-end but they are adjustable and help you maintain a solid grip.
Although all three sections are made from aluminum, the Distance Z is not the heaviest set of its kind. The addition of a Kevlar core cord is what allows the simple folding design to be on par with most telescoping poles.
As an added bonus, the poles come with a solid collapsing mechanism that allows them to perform well even in below freezing temperatures. The Distance Z trekking poles come in sizes from 100cm to 130cm. The longest poles should be more than enough for users around 6’2” tall in terms of comfort and stability.
Pros and Cons
- Interchangeable rubber and carbide tips
- Carbon fiber or aluminum
- Foam grip
- Quality wrist straps
- Thick diameter
- Slightly high price tag
2. Best Aluminum Trekking Poles
Black Diamond Trail Ergo
Another interesting Black Diamond product is the Trail Ergo. Compared to our number one favorite from this manufacturer, the folding Distance Z, the Trail Ergo has a telescoping design.
The use of aluminum does give the poles a bit of extra weight but it only puts the pair at 18oz., which is surprisingly not much more than the Distance Z. The cost of the pair is also a bit lower since aluminum is a cheaper commodity than carbon fiber.
The presence of an interchangeable basket system makes it easy to transition from snow to dirt to rocks. You just need a good selection of compatible baskets and you’re good to go.
The Trail Ergo is 29” in length. This can cause some packing issues. The fact that there’s only one size also limits the customer base a bit. Short people won’t be able to use the pole that comfortably.
The cork grip is by far one of the most comfortable we’ve seen. In fact, it’s a bit better against moisture than the one from the Distance Z model. The grip comes with a 15-degree angle which is why it’s easy to hold on to it for hours. The wrist straps also help.
There’s also a foam grip extension with small striations. If you ever get in very wet situations, the non-slip foam grip could be a life saver.
Pros and Cons
- Ergonomic cork grip
- Foam grip extension
- Aluminum construction
- Superior durability
- A bit heavy
- Almost 2 inches longer than most trekking poles
3. Best Affordable Trekking Poles
Hiker Hunger Trekking Pole
One of the best things about the Hiker Hunger Trekking Poles is the affordability factor. It’s considerably cheaper than most models on our list and yet it still has a lot to offer. First of all, it comes with two mud baskets and two snow baskets.
From the start this makes it one of the best long-term choices. It also comes with a nice carry bag that’s quite light. The tungsten carbide tips are very durable.
When collapsed the poles are just 24” long which might be an issue at times. Still, the addition of a carry bag helps with packing a lot. At full extension, the poles measure 54 inches which puts it one inch over the Black Diamond Distance Z.
The poles come with a twist lock system. This makes them a bit more inconvenient to use at times but not enough to affect the overall performance. And, while they lack a bit of durability they’re still well suited for most hiking, mountaineering, and climbing activities.
The rubber feet give you good stability especially when switching trails. The grip is also quite good as it mixes cork and non-slip EVA foam along with some adjustable wrist straps. The minor downside is that the cork grip isn’t ergonomic.
Pros and Cons
- Small collapsed size
- Carry bag included
- Multiple backup baskets included
- Cork grip
- Tungsten-carbide tips
- Average durability
- Grip is not ergonomic
4. Best Folding Trekking Poles
Paria Outdoor Trekking Pole
Why do some people choose folding poles over the more durable telescopic designs? We’ll cover this in our buyer guide but for now you should know this – folding poles are very compact and a lot easier to carry around.
These poles by Paria Outdoor have another cool feature going for them. The grip features an ergonomic design and so does the handle. The syncork handle doesn’t add too much weight and it sucks all the moisture in. The grip also works well with both men and women.
The durability of the poles is not so much in question as is their efficiency. Carbon fiber is known for its superior strength at lighter weight, and the use of aluminum alloy connectors in this design gives the Paria Outdoor poles extra durability compared to most folding pole designs.
The Paria Outdoor Trekking Pole is collapsible to 15 inches. In terms of packability, it hits the sweet spot. And, while you don’t get a carry bag with the poles, they’re more than small enough to fit in your backpack when you leave the house or when the trail doesn’t require their use.
Pros and Cons
- Aluminum allow connectors
- Ergonomic grip and handle
- Can’t take a beating too well
- On the heavy side
5. Best Trekking Poles with Shock Absorbers
Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock
Shock absorption is not something you’ll need every day. In fact, most hikers prefer not get trekking poles with shock absorbers as they can seriously affect the balance on certain terrains. We’ll explain more in our buying guide section.
However, for those rare occasions when you need shock absorbing technology, there are few trekking poles better equipped than the Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock. These telescopic poles are made from high-quality aluminum.
They have superior durability albeit at the cost of some extra weight. The weight per pair is 21oz which is the highest number on our list. Still, few poles can take as much pounding as the Trail Pro Shock.
One minor inconvenience is that unlike most Black Diamond designs, the Trail Pro Shock uses a foam grip instead of a cork grip. Still, it’s a lot better than rubber ones and at least foam has superior moisture absorbing features.
The rebound control is impressive and this is largely due to the simple combination of quality shock absorbers and ergonomic grips. What makes these poles even more comfortable is that they come in two models, one for men and one for women.
Pros and Cons
- High-end shock absorbers
- Ergonomic grip with high moisture absorption
- Durable aluminum construction
- Not for all terrains
How To Use Trekking Poles – Buyers Guide
Trekking Pole Designs
Folding poles are also known as tent poles. These have only been around for a couple of years so there’s a lot of debating going around as to whether or not they’re an improvement over traditional models.
Folding poles have one thing that stands out for them. The weight. These trekking poles are ultralight and compact. The downside is that, with all else equal, they’re often not as durable as telescopic poles.
For medium-difficulty cross country travel they’re super comfortable but not all that efficient. Climbers, on the other hand, favor them on easier trails. They don’t add too much weight to your hands and they’re easy to pack for the road.
Folding trekking poles can be up to 14 ounces lighter than telescopic models. They’re also up to 9 inches shorter too. The most noticeable design flaw is that they don’t allow for an interchangeable basket system. They also rarely come with the ability to adjust the length.
Of course, what some see as a disadvantage, others see as an advantage. After all, all these drawbacks are what make folding poles comfortable and light.
Two-section trekking poles are usually very stiff. They’re often used in skiing and snowshoeing and any other activity that puts a heavy load on the poles.
They’re longer, so not as compact as most people would want them to be. While other poles may be easily strapped to a backpack or carried inside it, two-section poles are not.
You may think that by having two sections the poles should be lighter. That’s not really the case. Two-section poles are often heavier than any other designs. But, the materials also matter. More on that in our dedicated materials section.
This is the most popular trekking pole design on the market. It’s more compact than two-section telescoping poles but not as much as folding poles.
In terms of weight these trekking poles tend to be the same if not slightly lighter than two-section poles. This also makes them a bit less durable most of the time. However, they’re suitable for anything up to activities that can cause immense stress.
To get a better sense of who prefers these poles, here are a couple of activities that get plenty of use out of three section trekking poles:
Basket sizes are usually made for specific activities. So, either you know what you want or if you want to eliminate the guesswork, find a model with an interchangeable basket system. You should also know that it’s hard to mix and match baskets and poles from different manufacturers.
If you do end up going for an interchangeable basket design, make sure you have plenty of options that are compatible with your trekking pole.
If you’re wondering about activities, you should know that large baskets tend to offer better traction and balance in cold environments. Trekking on snow definitely calls for a large diameter basket. Going through a dense forest is something else.
Large baskets often get caught in roots, bushes, and debris which are common in the woods. You might want a medium basket or at the very least a 3/4 basket.
Trekking poles are usually made of aluminum or carbon fiber. Carbon fiber offers higher strength yet at a lower weight. However, it breaks down catastrophically when its strength is exceeded.
Aluminum is heavier and not as strong but not by a lot. On the other hand, when its strength is exceeded it won’t snap into pieces. Aluminum poles are also somewhat repairable on the road and they tend to be a bit more affordable than carbon fiber trekking poles.
For serious mountaineering, aluminum is a safer choice even though you easily add more weight in each hand.
Generally, you’ll have to choose between a lever lock action and a twist lock action. The latter is not as secure or as easily adjustable. Dusty trails can easily cause the mechanism to clog or break down.
Lever lock mechanisms are a lot more durable. This is why it is now the preferred mechanism for most trekking pole manufacturers. Of course, you get neither feature in a folding pole.
Shock absorbers tend to make trekking poles feel a lot more stable. But, they’re not always recommended or needed. For instance, you’ll get more use out of a shock absorber on your way down than when climbing. This happens because when you’re going up your body tends to take most of the impact.
Some high-end trekking poles also come with adjustable shock absorbers. They allow users to switch the absorption feature off. That way you can potentially maximize the pole’s efficiency depending on what trail you’re on, the inclination, and the direction you’re following.
Trekking on rocks is also better without a shock absorbing feature. If you know you’re going hiking in a very rocky terrain, you won’t need a sophisticated shock feature. Or you can try and get an adjustable shock absorber which you can switch on and off.
Keep in mind that this feature tends to come with a higher price tag.
Cork grips tend to be a crowd favorite. This is mostly because of how the grips mold to your hand. They also don’t heat up as much as rubber grips.
Foam grips are preferable to rubber grips but they’re not as great as cork. Rubber grips tend to save money during the manufacturing process. The downside is that they don’t absorb any water.
Cork grips can handle some moisture but foam grips are the ones that excel at water absorption. This is why sometimes foam grips are better than cork grips, even though the latter are more ergonomic.
Hiking in warm climates usually calls for foam grips. Rubber is never a good idea to use in hot weather. Not only because of the poor absorption but also because they tend to be significantly heavier. A heavy pole will cause you to sweat even more.
The ergonomics of a trekking pole is also determined by the shape of the handle and not just the grip materials. Ergonomic handles may come at a higher price but the overall comfort is often worth it.
Light trekking poles tend to be preferred by most outdoorsmen. They are easy to carry and they don’t cause as much fatigue. Considering how durable most lightweight materials are these days, they’re also surprisingly durable.
Heavy poles make very little sense these days. Some prefer them for the extra strength but you should know that more weight doesn’t always equal a stronger pole. Of course, if you’re on a limited budget, a heavier trekking pole might also be a more appealing option.
Just think of how much you lift your arms and the poles on a trek. Potentially thousands of times. Saving on weight is important. Even 5 ounces can make a massive difference.
Some trekking poles come with better packability than others. Climbers and backpackers tend to prefer shorter poles because they can fit inside a backpack. Z-style poles make a lot of sense if you plan on using them on the approach.
Short poles also tend to weigh less. However, if you don’t have to travel and you don’t need to pack your poles then you shouldn’t worry about packability too much. There are other factors that determine the ideal pole length.
Not all trekking poles are efficient for all activities. For example, small poles are better suited for when you need to carry them on your back. Activities like climbing and splitboarding often call for shorter poles.
Shock absorbers might be a necessary requirement for harder trails but they’re not great for rocky trails. Trekking poles with shock absorbers don’t tend to give you the best balance. It’s not impossible to find good use for them but the extra weight can sometimes be a nuisance.
Adjustable poles tend to be a better fit for a wider range of activities. This is due to them having an exchangeable basket design which lets you adjust accordingly for any type of scenario.
These are often an underestimated feature of trekking poles. Wrist straps give you wrist support and allow you to maintain a relaxed grip. When wrist straps are also adjustable in length, it’s easier to let go of the pole when you need to and be able to pick it up again with proper form.
It’s safe to say that wrist straps are great for first-time trekking pole users. They also help out a lot if you’re a photographer, filmmaker, or even if you have to constantly access your backpack or pockets while hiking.
Also, be careful of what wrist stripe you get. They’re designed for left-handed and right-handed use specifically. Mixing them up might make you uncomfortable.
If you’re looking at the best trekking poles on the market, you have to realize that different poles are better suited for specific activities. Climbers prefer lightweight poles, while hikers that go on harsh trails may prefer aluminum. And remember, it’s not just about comfort but also safety.
It’s not always easy to make the right decision even if you have plenty of knowledge about the subject. Because finding the right fit is often hard especially without getting a chance to test your trekking pole, we recommend the Black Diamond Distance Z as our favorite 4-season choice.
It has one of the highest durability ratings and it features an interchangeable basket design. The poles come in three sizes, available with carbon fiber or aluminum build. They’re compact enough for climbers and offer great stability for mountaineering in the middle of the winter too.
Whether or not you can afford to get the best trekking poles for the task is a different matter. At the end of the day, using a non-premium pair of poles might still make your hike easier than having nothing to help support your weight, absorb some of the impact, and help create balance.