Trekking poles… You either love ‘em or hate ‘em.
The jury’s out on whether the pros outweigh the cons
But, if you’re keen to take some of the load off your knees so that you can hike until your hair is white, then poles might be the answer.
I’ve made the job of choosing a ton easier by listing the best trekking poles of 2020 right here for you to take a look at.
I’ve also explained a bit about what to look for and some tips on using hiking poles to get the most out of them.
- TOP 14 Best Trekking Poles Reviewed 2020
- Black Diamond Trail Shock Pro Trekking Poles
- Black Diamond Trail Walking Pole
- Leki Corklite Trekking Poles
- Leki Micro Vario Ti Cortec Trekking Poles
- Black Diamond Carbon Z Trekking Poles
- Leki Legacy Trekking Poles
- Kelty Upslope 2.0 Trekking Poles
- Hiker Hunger Carbon Fiber Poles
- Foxelli Trekking Poles
- Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Poles
- Alpine Summit Trekking Poles
- High Trek Trekking Poles
- BAFX Products Anti Shock Trekking Poles
- SWIX Nordic Walking Poles
- Trekking Poles – Separating the Best from the Rest
- Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Poles
TOP 14 Best Trekking Poles Reviewed 2020
Black Diamond Trail Shock Pro Trekking Poles
Review: Black Diamond makes some of the best hiking poles on the market along with Leki. They are pricey, to be sure, but they’re worth it.
The Trail Shock Pro poles are extremely popular. They have all the features you could want in a top-quality package including shock absorbance, adjustability, strength and lightweight.
They have super comfortable dual-density, non-slip foam grips and padded wrist straps so you can easily hike with them all day and not get sick of them.
- Interchangeable carbide tips and baskets.
- Extremely lightweight and durable.
- Dual locking length adjustment.
- Shock absorption technology is in the handle so there’ll be no shock waves going up your arms.
Black Diamond Trail Walking Pole
Review: Another set of winners from Black Diamond, these aluminum poles are very similar to the Trail Shock Pros above but without the shock absorbent technology in the handles.
This makes them more affordable, a little lighter, and no less amazing in all other capacities.
They also have 2 flick locks for height adjustment, comfortable handles and 3 sets of interchangeable tips.
- Non-slip foam grips.
- Carbide tips, low profile baskets and powder baskets.
- Very lightweight.
- Rubber tech tips are sold separately which is a little silly as they’re most suited to most hiking environments.
Leki Corklite Trekking Poles
Review: A close contender with Black Diamond poles are Leki’s range of trekking poles. Again, they’re pretty pricey, but provided you don’t use them like an axe, they’re likely the only poles you ever need to buy.
Leki poles use their Speedlock2 locking system which is similar to the Flicklock Black Diamond locks and is reliable and sturdy.
These poles are known for their extremely comfortable handles. The cork has a much nicer under-hand feel than any of the plastic or foam options, and it gets better with time!
You definitely won’t have problems with blisters and you’ll be happy to keep walking with these all day.
These poles are also a really solid build, with well-designed locks that won’t fail on you.
- Cork grip is known for getting better over time rather than dry and brittle like plastic.
- Very strong, sturdy and durable.
- Versatile and suited to a range of hiking conditions.
- A little bulky when packed up and a little heavier than the poles above.
Leki Micro Vario Ti Cortec Trekking Poles
Review: These are another great set of Liki poles, but slightly lighter and more compact.
The Micro Vario Ti Cortec is a folding pole made of heat-treated aluminum with carbide flex tips and interchangeable baskets.
It’s lightweight, strong, easy to pack away and very comfortable to use.
- Moisture wicking wrist straps are super easy to adjust.
- Ergonomic, the lightweight grip is very, very comfortable.
- Comes with a carry bag, and the carbide tips are completely replaceable.
- Rubber tips are sold separately.
- Don’t appear to shorten enough for short people.
Black Diamond Carbon Z Trekking Poles
Review: This is a lightweight carbon trekking pole that weighs in at just 9.3 to 10.4 oz. depending on the length you choose.
Part of the reason these poles are lightweight is that you can’t adjust the length, but to be honest with you, this isn’t a deal-breaker and it can be a massive hassle stopping to change the length of your poles every time you go up or down a hill.
Plus, you can move your hands up and down the handles on these poles changing the length that way.
- 100% carbon fiber for lightweight, strong construction.
- Foldable design (think tent pole) that can easily be slotted into your backpack when not in use.
- Has extended grips so you can change your hand position to change the length of the pole.
- No length adjustments.
Leki Legacy Trekking Poles
Review: One last Leki pole for the mix, these poles are marginally more affordable, slightly lighter and slightly shorter making them ideal for shorter people or women.
They even have fleece-lined wrist straps making them super comfortable to use.
But overall, they provide reliable Leki quality, resulting in versatile, high performing trekking pole that won’t let you down.
- PA Safety straps are easily adjustable and the Thermo grips cater to multiple hand positions.
- SpeedLock2 length adjustment locks are easy to adjust, even when using gloves.
- Heat-treated aluminum shaft is strong and will cope with a lot.
- There aren’t really any cons to these poles, they are excellent all-rounders.
Kelty Upslope 2.0 Trekking Poles
Review: If your budget doesn’t quite extend to the high-end poles above, the Kelty Upslope 2.0 is a very slight step down but still a solid pair of poles.
It has a telescoping height adjustment so it tightens by twisting (and this mechanism should be reliable provided you don’t compromise it by over-tightening).
Take just one for the best walking stick for hiking and leave the other at home as a spare or give it to a friend.
- Excellent value.
- Non-slip carbide tips and rubber tips included.
- Foam grip and padded wrist strap.
- Locking mechanism not quite as reliable as the poles above.
Hiker Hunger Carbon Fiber Poles
Review: These highly rated poles are made of 100% carbon fiber, making them some of the strongest and lightest poles you’ll find online.
Aside from their weight advantage over other options, Hiker Hunger Poles also feature tungsten carbide tips, which are super tough and capable of providing traction even on hard terrain.
If you don’t like the carbide tips, you can always switch them with rubber tips and rubber feet, which are included in the package.
- Scores high marks on weight, durability, and ergonomics.
- Incredibly versatile – has a very wide adjustment range.
- Non-slip EVA foam grip extensions and cork handles help reduce sweating on the hands.
- Carbon is more brittle than aluminum.
Foxelli Trekking Poles
Review: If there wasn’t any branding on the poles, you could mistake Foxelli trekking poles with the Hiker Hunger trekking poles.
They look almost exactly the same, and both are made of 100% lightweight carbon fiber so you can expect roughly the same weight and durability.
They also have quick-lock technology, cork upper grips and EVA foam lower grips.
- Extra foam handle below the cork grips allows you to change your hand position for hilly terrain without having to adjust the length.
- Lightweight and easy to use with comfortable grips.
- Heavy-duty carbide tips and 4 extra interchangeable tips.
- Carry bag is a little pointless (but could be useful for keeping the spare tips together when not in use).
Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Poles
Review: Cascade Mountain Tech poles are yet another carbon fiber option so weigh in at only 8 ounces each.
You’d think something that lightweight would easily get damaged if used for something beyond casual hiking, but these poles are tougher than they look.
Although the locks don’t look as good as those on high-end trekking poles, they are very reliable and are not likely to slip.
They are also comfortable with extended grips that leave plenty of room for your hand to move around, and the foam padding is a lot better than hard plastic or rubber.
- Good quality carbon poles for a low price.
- Extended grip greatly helps on steep climbs.
- Lightweight but strong enough for extended treks.
- Some vibrations upon impact.
- Locking mechanisms are good, but could there’s still room for improvement.
Alpine Summit Trekking Poles
Review: These aluminum poles are incredible lightweight (8.5 ounces each) and incredibly affordable.
For this reason, they’re not going to be anywhere near as durable as any of the poles above. But they are an excellent choice for beginner hikers on a budget.
They have lever-locking length adjusters, tungsten tips, multiple baskets and comfortable cork handles – everything you need and in an affordable package.
- Great all-around trekking poles for different kinds of hiking.
- Comfortable ergonomic design to use even during extended treks.
- Lightweight and versatile with easy length adjustments.
- Locking mechanisms are the weak points.
- Less durable than more expensive poles.
High Trek Trekking Poles
Review: High Trek poles are another good entry-level option that still manage to maintain reasonable quality.
They are lightweight enough to not add to your fatigue and have tungsten carbide tips and easy to use quick locks.
They also have comfortable handles of ergonomically designed EVA foam and 2 sets of interchangeable tips.
- Easy to use quick locks with measured gradations on the middle section.
- Excellent value for money.
- Rubber tips included.
- Is not an ideal option for longer trips or tougher terrain.
BAFX Products Anti Shock Trekking Poles
Review: BAFX poles are another example of affordable and top-rated trekking poles for entry-level hikers.
Their aluminum frames provides all the rigidity you’ll need for managing decent inclines, and the steel tips and rubber footing should be more than enough for basic treks.
The plastic handles are great from a durability perspective, but you may want to switch to something more comfortable if you’re planning on extended treks.
- Excellent quality for its price.
- Extra rubber tips.
- Comfortable handles.
- Plastic handles can be uncomfortable after some time.
- Locking mechanism can be awkward to use.
- A little on the heavy side.
SWIX Nordic Walking Poles
Review: Norway is known for leading the world in cross country walking and skiing.
These poles are designed more for flat walking than hilly trails as the lengths aren’t adjustable, but they are strong, and arguably stronger than cheap adjustable poles that are likely to collapse on you mid-stride.
These poles are advertised for use in physiotherapy and for people with balance issues.
But if used in the traditional Nordic walking style, they can provide a good upper body workout at the same time as taking some load off your legs making for a full-body workout without having to use a cross-trainer.
- Strong with no fiddly parts that could break easily.
- Provide an excellent full-body workout.
- Can still be used for hilly hiking, you’ll just have a slightly narrower range of motion when going up and down steep terrain.
- Require a slightly different technique to get the best out of them.
- You need to get the length exactly right when you buy.
Trekking Poles – Separating the Best from the Rest
Hiking poles are a bit like gaiters… they’re both things that you might look at and say, ‘Nah, I don’t need them’.
But… then you try them out and realize how much easier they make your hiking life, and you’re sold.
(While you’re here, why not consider giving gaiters a shot and have a read of my list of the best gaiters for hiking?)
Sure, you can take any pair of poles hiking, but how useful or convenient will they be if they’re too bulky, heavy, or awkward to use, or worst of all, break in the middle of your trip?
There are a few things to consider:
Picture this, you’re treading on a steep slope and you need your trekking poles to get up there.
Unfortunately, your poles are too long and you end up struggling just to make sure they’re properly positioned.
Instead of helping you climb up, your trekking poles are actually holding you back.
The same thing can be said when you’re descending on a steep incline.
If your trekking poles are too short, you’ll find yourself having to lean forward just to position your poles, and we all know how dangerous that can be when you’re on uneven terrain.
Instead of carrying another pair of shorter trekking poles you can use adjustable trekking poles so you can have the ideal pole length for tackling all sorts of terrain.
Different trekking poles have different adjustment mechanisms, but veteran hikers like Ian Nicholson from Outdoor Gear Lab says lever lock poles are more durable and easier to use.
Alternatively… poles without height adjustment can be a good option if you’re looking to save weight, and can end up being more durable as it’s the locks that are usually the weak point.
Some poles come with extra grips below the handles so that you can shift your hands down for a shorter pole length when going uphill.
Hiking has become a popular hobby, but many people are still frustrated knowing that they don’t have the strength or physical capability to try it out.
Fortunately, trekking poles may be the answer to their problems, thanks to the availability of shock-absorbing poles.
Shock-absorbing poles feature internal springs near the tip of their shafts.
This greatly reduces the shock when positioning the poles on the ground and when putting pressure on them.
Then again, some hikers claim that shock absorbers are unnecessary.
They add weight to the poles, making them heavier than they need to be and consequently harder to carry.
Which leads us to weight…
Weight and Material
Since hiking takes a lot of energy, you want to be efficient in expending it. Any kind of luggage may not seem like much, but you’ll find that every pound you carry on your hike matters, especially on extended hiking trips.
Hiking blogger Andy Howell says carbon poles can get brittle during cold conditions, but newer poles use a combination of aluminum and carbon to address this problem.
Hikers who don’t need a lot of support can also go for ultralight trekking poles, which are thinner and easier to carry although not as rigid as standard poles.
Trekking poles don’t need to have all the bells and whistles, but if you know what each feature does, you’ll have an easier time looking for something that suits your personal needs.
For example, you can go for trekking poles that have adjustable wrist straps and cushions to improve comfort.
Some features also improve the poles’ performance. Pole baskets will keep the pole tips from getting stuck into snow or soft ground.
Choosing the right pole tips will help improve overall traction. Outdoorplaces.com recommends chiseled-out tips, which work on most kinds of surfaces.
Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your Poles
Do you have an upcoming trip planned? What other gear do you need?
If you’re in need of a tent, have a look at my article on the best tent brands to get you started.
As mentioned before, boots are really important. I have an article on the best hiking boots for women which is a must-read before you start shopping.
That wraps up this start list of the best trekking poles 2020. Do you think you found the right pole for you?
Let us know what you decide by leaving a comment below!
And check out my ebook on solo travel safety if you have a trip coming up!
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