We reveal the best carbon fiber trekking poles you can buy in 2021. After countless hours of research, testing and reviews, we’ve picked our top choices in seven categories. We’ve examined popular models available in retail stores and online, read consumer reviews and verified information.
If you are new to trekking poles, you are not alone. 2021 will set records for interest in outdoor activities because of the effects of the pandemic. Many casual hikers are tackling new challenges and are going farther, higher and faster than before. Trekking poles allow hikers to increase their performance and give you a range of benefits that we’ll discuss in this article.
Aluminum vs Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles
What makes carbon fiber a good option? There are some pros and cons of this material over the other popular choice, aluminum.
- Lighter – Less weight on your arms and hands. Less weight when attached to your pack.
- Higher tensile strength – Able to withstand more dynamic weight.
- Stiffer – less flex and bending under stress
- Build quality – not every manufacturer can do carbon fiber, so those that do are ones with extensive experience.
- Expensive – Carbon fiber is priced higher than aluminum
- Shatters when overstressed, although aluminum will bend beyond repair.
For many hikers, especially long-distance hikers, carbon fiber is the preferred option for that extra edge. Choosing the right pair will let you enjoy your poles for many years.
Best Overall Carbon Fiber Trekking Pole
Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles
- Best for all terrains including steep mountains
- Many available Black Diamond accessories
- Several variants available (women, whippet-ready)
- Only standard basket included
- Tool needed to adjust tension on flip lock mechanism
These trekking poles are legendary for their versatility and durability. They are designed to provide you stability and performance during all four seasons in alpine environments. Overall, it’s a great choice for most trails and conditions.
The Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles come in one size and are adjustable between 39 to 51 inches or 100 – 130cm. An easy to use adjustment window helps you dial in your length quickly. While it’s not the longest trekking pole on this list, it should work well for the average person.
When collapsed, it measures 24 inches long which is respectable for telescoping trekking poles. It weighs in at 1 lb. 1.1 oz or 485g which isn’t the lightest, but does feature a cork grip which adds additional weight compared to EVA foam.
The pair features Black Diamond’s popular Fliplock adjusting mechanism which many find easier to use. They are made from aluminum which is an improvement over plastic from earlier years. It adds to the high quality feel of the poles. One important thing to note is that the adjustment mechanism requires a hex key to dial in tension. This is something that you’ll want to do before you hit the trails, otherwise you may be stuck outside with a useless pole. Other trekking poles usually feature a thumbscrew which can adjust tension without a tool.
The only included accessory is a standard mud basket. While this is kind of a let down for a pair of trekking poles of this price, the accessory ecosystem of Black Diamond is exciting. You have many options with different baskets, interchangeable tips and replacement parts which let you enjoy these trekking poles for many years. The flex tech tip also allows you to choose between the included carbide tips or screw in a rubber tip. The rubber tip is different from rubber tip protectors which go on top of the tips and are held in place by friction.
Having a cork grip is nice because it should eventually mold to your hand’s shape to give you even better comfort. The wrist straps are also nicely padded. These trekking poles are labeled for left and right hand usage which is not unique for Black Diamond.
There are 3 versions of the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles. There is a shorter women’s version which brings the usable length down to 95-125cm or 37-49 inches. Also, there is a “WR” version which stands for Whippet Ready. This version allows you to attach a whippet which comes in handy when trekking on steep, snowy mountains. It doesn’t substitute an ice pick, but gives you an extra layer of safety should you slip and need to self arrest. Also, you can use the WR version with the Black Diamond Universal ¼ -20 Adapter which will let you mount a small camera like a GoPro.
|Usable Length||100-130 cm (39-51 in)|
|Collapsed Length||24in (61cm)|
|Weight||1 lb. 1.1 oz (485g)|
|Adjustability||Yes. 30cm (12in)|
|Locking Mechanism||Flicklock (quick lock)|
|Tightening adjustments||Hex key|
|Grip||Cork + (EVA foam extension)|
|Accessories||Standard basket only|
Best Budget Carbon Fiber Trekking Pole
Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Trekking Pole
- Available at big box store and on Amazon
- Cheapest carbon fiber trekking poles
- All accessories included
- Rubber tip protector not that great
- Flip lock made of cheap plastic
Our budget recommendation is a no brainer. The Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Trekking Pole is also known as the Costco Trekking Poles. When bought in the warehouse, they are ridiculously affordable. I picked my pair up for $29.99 in January 2021. They even feature a cork grip, which is often sold at a premium with other brands.
Unlike the Black Diamond poles, they come with a good amount of accessories: rubber walking tips, mud baskets, snow baskets and rubber boots. Out of the box, you can use these in a variety of environments. One thing to note is that the rubber protectors aren’t as good as the Black Diamonds aftermarket ones. They are sufficient to use as a cover for your carbide tips when not in use, but not while using the poles. Those carbide tips will scratch things up and you definitely don’t want them to make contact with your car paint or walls in your house, so this is nice to have regardless. The rubber boots are an interesting addition that you see come with a lot of low-cost trekking poles. I never really use them as they are designed mainly for paved surfaces.
The Cascade Mountain Tech trekking poles can be fully disassembled if you want. Each of the 3 segments will separate taking its collapsable length down from 26 inches to 21.25 in. This could be good in case you need to fit them in luggage or a backpack. I wouldn’t recommend doing it though because the ends of the disassembled segments have these flimsy friction bits that could easily break. Also, the adjustment mechanism is made out of a cheap-feeling plastic compared to the Black Diamond’s. It does have a thumbscrew though which allows you to adjust tension out in the field without carrying a tool.
While not as nice as the more expensive carbon fiber trekking poles, these are great for the entry-level hiker who wants to give trekking poles a try. You get pretty much everything you need included. And, with Costco’s generous return policy, you can decide if these are the right ones for you or you can switch to one of our other recommendations! So, if you are just getting into more serious hikes or just want to get something to take the weight off your knees, these are a great starting point.
|Price||$29.99 (Costco) $44.99 Amazon|
|Usable Length||100-135 cm (39-54 in)|
|Collapsed Length||26in (66cm)|
|Adjustability||Yes. 14.6 in (37cm)|
|Locking Mechanism||Flip lock|
|Grip||Cork (EVA foam available elsewhere)|
|Accessories||Rubber walking tip, snow basket, mud basket, rubber boot tips|
Best Foldable Carbon Fiber Trekking Pole
Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking Pole
- Extremely lightweight
- High quality construction
- Folds up to become very short, but not wide
- No adjustability
- No rubber protector cap included
I am a huge fan of these trekking poles. They are super lightweight and high quality. While there are many foldable trekking poles on the market, including one other on our list, this is the best for an all-around, compact pair of carbon fiber trekking poles. They even excel for trail runners for extra stability and balance.
The impressive thing about these carbon fiber trekking poles is the thought put into the design. My first pair of trekking poles were basically an aluminum copy of these called the Trekology Trek-Z that I picked up on Amazon while on sale for $30. It features a similar 3 segment pole with a cord to keep the poles together. It has a push-button lock that pops out when you extend the pole. It also has an extended grip. And that’s about all the similarities.
And while you get more with the Trekology (snow basket, rubber protector, boot, bag and extendable adjustment between 100-135 cm), I still prefer the pricier Black Diamond because of a few key reasons. The Distance Carbon Z’s have a very tight, stable fit when extended. My Trek-Z ones have a little play between each segment and wobble which is annoying. The Black Diamonds have a nice notch in the mud basket to connect the pole segments when folded. And, it has an interchangeable tip system which lets me swap out tips as needed. The fit and finish are just so much more refined and reliable. When extending the poles, you feel confident that the 3 segments aren’t going to snag.
Now, you do get options in terms of length. You can choose between 100, 110, 120 and 130cm lengths (38, 43, 47, 51 in). Each length will affect the overall weight and collapsed length. The shortest sticks weigh 9.6 ounces (273g) for the pair! The 130 cm one comes in at 11.1oz or 315g for a pair which is still pretty amazing. These are the lightest on our list by far. Z style poles have an advantage for weight because each of their 3 segments can be of equal width but telescoping poles vary in width to be able to fit inside each other. The collapsible length is 13in (33cm) for the 100 and 17in (43cm) for the 130cm. The middle 2 are in between in terms of weight and collapsible length.
These are a favorite for many hikers. I prefer these especially because when you can fold them to a short length, you can easily store them in your bag unlike the telescoping ones which jut out of your bags and can be cumbersome when you only need these part time.
|Collapsed Length||[100 cm] – 13 in (33 cm)|
[110 cm] – 14 in (36 cm)
[120 cm] – 16 in (40 cm)
[130 cm] – 17 in (43 cm)
|Weight||[100 cm] – 9.6oz (273 g)|
[110 cm] – 10 oz (284 g)
[120 cm] – 10.5oz (298 g)
[130 cm] – 11.1 oz (315 g)
|Grip||EVA Foam + extension|
|Accessories||Mud basket intergrated. Rubber tips (not cover).|
[100 cm] 100 cm (39 in)
[110 cm] 110 cm (43 in)
[120 cm] 120 cm (47 in)
[130 cm] 130 cm (51 in)
Best Carbon Fiber Trekking Pole for Women
Cork CNOC Trekking Poles
- Widest range of adjustability
- Shortest and longest usable length
- All cork grip and extension
- Less established manufacturer
- Only sold online
Compared to Black Diamond or Leki, the CNOC trekking poles are relatively less known or seen. This may be due to its Kickstarter origins. It’s a shame because these telescoping carbon fiber trekking poles are well designed and versatile for people of all heights. This makes them great for any gender, including kids. The usable length ranges between 71cm to 158cm (28-62in) which makes them the only poles on our list that are designed to be used from their collapsed length all the way up to the maximum. With other trekking poles you usually have an adjustable range of around 20 to 30cm. This one adjusts 87cm or 34 inches.
Because of the wide range of adjustability, you will find these great for use with tents designed to use trekking poles as a substitute for tent poles. The adjustability lets you fit a variety of tent heights.
So why is this perfect for women? When hiking on steep hills, you can shorten or extend the poles to fit the terrain. If you aren’t following me, here is an explanation. Normally, when you fit your poles for length, you measure from the ground up to your hands with your elbows bent at a 90 angle, parallel to the floor. However, when going uphill, you can shorten your poles so that you maintain the same arm posture and lengthen the poles for going down hill. With trekking poles that let you go down to 71 cm and up to 158 cm, you can use them for the steepest of hills.
One other great thing about these poles is that they have an extended length grip that is completely cork. Other poles with cork grips usually have the extended part as EVA foam. With the extended grip in cork and extra length, these poles come in at 1lb 5.6 ounces (620g) making it ironically the heaviest carbon fiber trekking poles on this list, but a great choice for the versatility.
The straps are comfortable and microfiber-lined and they come with rubber tips, mud baskets and snow baskets which is great when you compare it to the other brands that don’t include them. The flip lock pole adjustments do have a thumbscrew, so it is a tool-less tension adjustment.
These stand out from the crowd because they are handmade in Portland, Oregon. All parts are also replaceable giving you the option to keep using the trekking poles instead of having to replace a pair each time.
|Usable Length||71-158cm (28-62inch)|
|Collapsed Length||28inch (71in)|
1lb 5.6 oz (620g)
|Locking Mechanism||Quick lock|
|Grip||Full cork grip and extension. (EVA foam optional)|
|Accessories||Rubber tips, Mud baskets, Snow baskets|
Best Carbon Fiber Trekking Pole for Tall People
Cork CNOC Trekking Poles
Yes, you read that right. The same trekking poles recommended for women are also the best for tall people. With a maximum length of 158cm or 62 inches, it blows away other trekking poles. Other trekking poles don’t even come close to this length. And while 158cm might seem excessive, keep in mind that when you are going downhill, you can opt to extend your poles out a little bit more so that you can keep the same 90 degree elbow bend as you descend a steep path. Also, these will be great for kids as well, although, REI makes a kids trekking pole worth looking at.
Also, elaborating on the Made in USA part, you can see pictures of their workshop on their website in case you were curious. I’d encourage you to check out their company as they have a great story and if you want to support a small business, this is the one.
Best Ultralight Trekking Pole
Zpacks Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles
- Can be bought as a single trekking pole
- Optional pole jack available for extra 26cm for tents
- Rubber tip covers included
- Only sold online
- Less available accessories
Zpacks is another lesser known brand. They are known for their ultralight tents and backpacks which thru-hikers depend on to help shave weight so that they can hike more miles. Customers love their stuff for good reason. Their carbon fiber trekking poles are no exception.
One of the unique things about purchasing the Zpacks trekking poles is that you can purchase them as a single or a pair. As it turns out, there are many ultralight hikers that prefer to use a single trekking pole. Not only does a single pole set up make things simpler, it frees up your other hand so you can use a camera. It also gives you one less pole to grab onto or store when you aren’t using it.
So, if you are one of those people, save some money and get a single good trekking pole. Now, sure, you can get a hiking staff, but that is a different story. The poles come in at 14.4 ounces or 410g for a pair and 7.2 ounces or 205g as a single. That is for the EVA grip. The cork grip is available for no extra charge but adds another 0.5 ounces (12g) per stick. They are telescoping with a quick lock that lets you adjust between 110cm to ~137cm. The 54 inch maximum is a little longer than the Black Diamonds.
One thing to note is that when used as a tent pole, the usable length extends to 56 inches. If that isn’t enough you can get a pole jack to add around an additional 10 inches.
You do get rubber tips included as well as a standard basket. Coming in at $59 for a single and $99 for a pair, they are cheaper than the other items on this list aside from the Cascade Mountain Tech. One very interesting thing to note though is that the grips on the Zpacks trekking poles seem identical to the Cascade Mountain Techs, though the other parts are unique.
|Price||$59.99 (single) or $99 (pair)|
|Usable Length||110-137cm (44-54in)|
Up to 56 inches as tent pole
|Collapsed Length||24.5″ (62 cm)|
Single – 7.2 oz (205 g)
Pair – 14.4oz (410 g)
Single – 7.7 oz (217g)
Pair -15.4 oz (434g)
|Adjustability||Yes. 2in (5 cm).|
|Locking Mechanism||Quick lock|
|Grip||Foam or Cork which adds 0.8oz or 24g for a pair|
|Accessories||Rubber tip included,|
Best Snowshoeing Carbon Fiber Trekking Pole
MSR DynaLock™ Ascent Carbon Backcountry Poles
- Best for winter hiking and snowshoeing
- Summer and winter baskets included
- Excellent, aluminum flip lock and tension adjustors
- Rubber protector tip not included
- Less available replacement parts
MSR is a very well known brand in the hiking world. They also have some popular snowshoes which position them well to make winter trekking poles. The MSR Dynalock Ascent poles are a Z style folding system, allowing you to keep them in your pack until needed. They are also made with Kevlar-reinforced carbon fiber to improve on strength.
They feature a beautiful design, including aluminum “Dynalock” adjustability flip locks. Unlike the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z, you get 20cm of adjustability and just two variants to choose from: small 100-120cm (39-47in) and large 120-140cm (47-55in). Do note that the max length is also longer than all the other poles on this list aside from the CNOC’s. If you are on snowshoes, chances are you’ll need a little extra length in your poles to compensate for the added lift from the snowshoes as well as the snow that you sink the tips into.
They weigh 1lb 1oz for the small and 1lb 2 oz for the large and have a collapsed length of 14.25 inches (36.2cm) for the small and 17.5 inches (44.5cm) for the large. When you pull the top pole segment to lock the segments into place, you get the same push-button design found on the Black Diamond Z poles.
One nice feature from these poles are the included snow baskets which come in a sort of half-moon style shape. These perform better in snow powder which make them great for use with snowshoes.
|Usable Length||[Small] – 100-120cm (39-47in)|
[Large] – 120-140cm (47-55in)
|Collapsed Length||[Small] – 14.25 in (36.2cm)|
[Large] – 17.5 in (44.5cm)
|Weight||[Small] – 1 lbs 1 oz (.47kg)|
[Large] – 1 lbs 2 oz (.50kg)
|Adjustability||Yes. 20 cm (8in)|
|Locking Mechanism||Quick lock + Push-Button|
|Grip||EVA Foam + extension|
|Accessories||Winter and summer basket|
Trekking Pole Buying Guide
The primary differentiator with trekking poles is usually the material used. Trekking poles are usually all carbon fiber shafts, part carbon fiber shafts and part aluminum, and all aluminum shafts. The differences will be in cost, weight and availability. Carbon fiber trekking poles are usually considered high end compared to aluminum so you’ll most likely see them in specialty stores like REI or online at Backcountry.com and other ecommerce stores.
Carbon fiber poles are usually more expensive than aluminum because of their higher cost, but will save some weight.
Cork Vs Foam Grips
Another big decision you will need to make when buying a pair of trekking poles are the grip materials. The two main materials are cork and EVA foam. Cork is the preferred version because they mold to the shape of your hand giving you a better grip and wicks away moisture. Because it doesn’t hold moisture, there is less of a chance of blisters. It is also great in the rain and snow and with river crossings where a foam handle will hold water. Cork doesn’t get hot or freezes making it comfortable for all seasons.
EVA foam grips, on the other hand, are more durable than cork, though it depends on the manufacturer with cork quality. They also are cheaper to manufacture which means it’s often used with cheaper trekking poles.
Straps might seem like a minor part of trekking poles, but they are important for getting the most. What you want to look for is comfort, fit and adjustability. Straps are meant to fit tight on your wrists to help spread the downward forces as you spread the weight from your body to the poles.
Straps with little padding or uncomfortable edges will be frustrating when using trekking poles properly. So, be sure to check the details of the straps when buying. Also, you’ll want to examine how the straps adjust. For the most part, adjusting straps can be easy or hard depending on how well a pair of trekking poles are designed.
There are also models that allow you to remove straps entirely, which some people prefer. While straps are designed to help performance, it may depend on how you experience the poles.If you already know that you don’t like straps, try to avoid poles that force you to cut them off.
Length and Adjustability
Most trekking poles are designed to fit the average range of people. Your height will often determine what length is right for you. While you can use a guide, like the one below, your specific requirements will depend on the length of your arms and the rest of your body.
While there are many trekking poles that come in fixed heights like the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z, there are a lot on the market that are adjustable. Some are slightly adjustable and some are extraordinarily adjustable like the CNOC trekking poles.
You should also pay attention to the collapsed length. Generally speaking, telescoping trekking poles will be longer when collapsed than Z style folding poles. The folding poles are meant to be stored in packs which can help when travelling or when you don’t need to use your poles frequently.
You’ll want to pay attention to locking mechanisms because if they aren’t of high quality they may fail making your trekking poles useless. Ideally, you’ll want strong locking mechanisms that have tension adjusters. The most common locking mechanisms are flip locks, push buttons and twisting locks. Some trekking poles come with a combination. Many of the twisting locks have let people down in the past, so they tend to not be recommended. With flip locks, there are several varieties. Some are plastic, some are aluminum. Durability is the main concern there.
With tension adjusters, the most popular style are thumbscrews. Tension adjusters let you dial in the force needed to engage the flip locks. The more tension, the more secure the lock, but the harder to lock and unlock. The less tension, the less secure. Too little tension will result in pole segments sliding around rather than locking into place which make them useless.
There are a few trekking poles on the market that require a hex key, so if you like trekking poles with those, you’ll want to spend time adjusting tension and testing before you hit a long trail without your tool.
There are some carbon fiber trekking poles that feature shock absorbers. While they sound like a great idea, keep in mind that these add weight to your trekking poles. They also add additional complexity. These shock absorbers are prone to fail, especially after extended use. Once they do fail, you’ll have a useless weight to carry on your poles. If you’re hands or wrists are sensitive to the shock of pounding trekking poles into the ground, you may want to consider EVA grips instead of cork which can help pad the jolt.
Most trekking poles will come with carbide tips. These tips will have a sort of star pattern that will stick onto whatever you place them onto. Good carbide tips will not slip off rocks or other hard surfaces. However, they do wear out over time. One thing to consider is what will you do when the tips wear out? Do you want to replace an entire set of trekking poles? Or just replace the carbide tip? Well, with some brands like Black Diamond, you can not only replace the carbide tips by screwing them out and screwing in a replacement, but you can switch them out for rubber tips. Rubber tips are friendly to trails and whatever the tips touch. If you stash your trekking poles in your bag, you’ll want to make sure the tips are rubbing against your pack or other sensitive materials like sleeping bags or pads. I always prefer to use rubber tip protectors when storing my trekking poles.
Trekking Pole Accessories
You would think that the more you spend, the more accessories come with your trekking poles. This seems to be the opposite case. Black Diamond and Leki are guilty of this. They do redeem themselves by having a rich set of accessories you can purchase. Also, they have the option of replacing tips when worn down rather than replacing entire poles.
Most of the accessories you’d be looking at would be rubber protection covers which cover your carbide tips. Those are great for protecting other things from your tips rather than the other way around. You can even use them with your trekking poles while walking when you are on surfaces that don’t need the extra bite of the carbide tips.
Baskets will be the second thing you should look at. Most trekking poles come with at least a mud basket or a summer basket. They screw on to your trekking pole and can be removed easily. They have a smaller radius than snow or winter baskets which are larger. Mud baskets will help keep your poles from sinking into mud, much like snow baskets do with snow.
An additional benefit of mud baskets are protection. They can help keep your poles from sliding deep into rock crevices where you can snap them. On some trekking poles like the Black Diamonds, the mud baskets have a notch where you can snap one of the pole segments into place for storage.
With snow baskets, you’ll see various designs from smaller, compact ones to wider ones meant for powder. There are ones that are semi circles or ¾ circles. Each style is designed for a specific activity like snowshoeing or just for general snow.
Rubber boots are commonly included with cheaper poles. They are meant to be used for flat surfaces. These are similar to how nordic trekking poles are designed. If you are curious about nordic trekking, these could be a good entry point, but for the average hiker who prefers trails over paths won’t really use these.
There are speciality accessories available for some trekking poles. The Black Diamond WR (whippet ready) trekking poles let you attach a whippet. This is used while hiking on steep, snowy mountains where you can stop sliding down the mountain should you slip. Note, that ice axes are the best tool, but, a whippet can buy you time should you slip. In addition, you can get a camera mount for the WR model.
Trekking Pole FAQs
Why Use Trekking Poles?
Trekking poles are relatively new when you compare the long history of human exploration and movement. Before trekking poles became widespread, a hiking staff or a long wooden rod was used. But now with carbon fiber and aluminum, there is no reason to carry a heavy staff. And even if you want a staff, you could get a modern carbon fiber hiking staff.
Reduce stress on your knees
Trekking poles introduce a lot of benefits to hiking. One big benefit is that they reduce the impact on your knees, feet and legs. There is a famous study often cited that reports that trekking poles reduce impact by 25%. Whether you believe that or not, I can tell you from experience they help a lot. I have had knee issues for a long time since I’ve injured my ACL and trekking poles are my best friends when going downhill where impact is at its highest.
Travel further and faster
Trekking poles can help a lot when you are hiking with a big backpack. They also can be used to propel you forward. When using trekking poles, you can angle them and use your arms to push downwards giving you a boost. When you have a lot of miles to cover, trekking poles will come in handy. When going downhill, it will let you stay balanced so that you can race downhill with less of a chance of stumbling. It’s another reason why many trailrunners are starting to use trekking poles.
Full(er) body work out
As mentioned before, you use your arms which in turn works your upper body muscles. If you don’t regularly lift weights or do much for your upper body, these can at least give you a little bit of a workout.
Balance and Stability
If you have balance issues, you will appreciate trekking poles. I’m 6’5” and very top heavy making my balancing abilities laughable. Trekking poles seem to give me extra legs which keep me stable. This is especially important when going downhill. Without trekking poles, I tend to slow down a lot to avoid stumbling which would make hiking not very fun. Also, you can depend on trekking poles when crossing streams with uneven rock beds. This is key when you have to ford a fast moving stream. Note: do not substitute safety ropes with trekking poles when crossing powerful rivers. For everything less intense, these will be perfect.
Rhythm and Cadence
When properly using trekking poles, you will notice that the way you walk is rhythmic. You develop a kind of cadence which ultimately contributes to a better experience. You feel like an unstoppable train as you chug through trails and up and down hills. There is almost a meditative state you can achieve when it’s just you, the trail and the trekking poles. As weird as it sounds, it’s kind of cool.
Use as a Tent Pole
For ultralight backpackers who want to shave off as much weight and bulk as possible, trekking poles are a must. They can help prop up a tent. There are tents that use both one or both trekking poles. So, if you want to go for the ultimate simplicity, only take one carbon fiber trekking pole and use a one trekking pole tent.
Safety and Protection
Lastly, you can use trekking poles to keep you safe. They help you test ice that you plan to walk on. They let you test the depth of water or snow. They brush aside poison oak or ivy. And, they give you better odds when nature attacks. With wild animals like mountain lions and black bears, you can use trekking poles to make you seem bigger and scarier. And you can use them as a barrier between you and a charging animal. They also can keep snakes at bay by letting the snake focus on the trekking pole instead of your legs. It might seem silly that a one pound stick can protect you, but when you get caught off guard, it’s something you already have in your hands.
What are Some Negatives about Trekking Poles?
Depending on who you ask, you may get different answers on the cons of trekking poles. There are hikers that don’t like other hikers with trekking poles because they become an obstacle for them. Always, be courteous to other hikers and give them the right of way when you can and it shouldn’t be a problem. Also, there are those who claim that trekking poles damage trails and defy leave-no-trace practices. To some extent, this can be true. Carbide tips can leave scratches on rocks when carelessly used. When people go off trail, it can damage sensitive areas, though so do your shoes. But, on well trodden trails, you have less impact and can always opt for rubber tips.
So why all the hate? Well, to all the trekking pole naysayers out there, I say that trekking poles should be welcomed. For people who want to save their knees from strain, it’s a benefit worth the trade offs. To people like myself, who have knee issues, trekking poles help me get off the couch and on the trails where I can enjoy nature in reality rather than on TV. And think about how many injuries are prevented because of trekking poles. If you think trekking poles damage trails, what about rescue crews sent to save people who had an accident?
For those who do use trekking poles there are a few things that can be annoying. When you don’t need your trekking poles, it can be a pain to have to store them in your pack, then get them out and store them again. This leads people to carry them in their hands when not using it which can be a drag. Also, just like shoes, trekking poles get dirty. That dirt gets on or in your pack, in your car and in your home. Why aren’t trekking pole bags included as a standard?
And finally, travelling with trekking poles can be limiting.
Can I Bring Trekking Poles on an Airplane?
You cannot bring trekking poles with you on an airplane in carryon luggage. There may be some obscure airlines out there in the world that let you bring them on, but generally not. Canes are allowed for people who need them, but not trekking poles. You can probably guess why. On checked luggage you can, but keep in mind how luggage gets tossed around. You’ll probably want to protect them with a layer of clothing or opt for aluminum which can probably take side impact a little better.
How to Fit Trekking Poles
Choosing the right trekking poles will set you up for success. If you are in the store and have access to trekking poles or can borrow a friend’s, this is what you do: standing straight up with your arms to your side, bend one of your elbows so that your forearm sticks out in front of you at a 90 degree angle. Put a trekking pole in your hand and hold the grip. Adjust the pole so that the tip reaches the ground. You should ideally try this with hiking boots on.
If you don’t have a trekking pole handy, you can use the chart below. To find your size, choose the pole length that corresponds to your height. If you are in between the intervals, choose the closest one below your height. For example, if you are 5 feet tall, you would have a pole length of 105cm.
After you have found your pole height, you’ll need to find what level of adjustability is ideal for you. If you are fine with fixed length poles you can stop here. But if you are going to choose adjustable trekking poles, you can maximize your usable range and account for adjusting your pole for uphill and downhill hiking. You’ll want to add an additional 5-10cm for downhill and subtract 5-10cm for uphill. So, let’s say your pole length is 130cm. If you add 10cm for downhill and subtract 10cm for uphill, you get 120cm – 140cm. The MSR DynaLock™ Ascent Carbon Backcountry Poles in size Large would be perfect for you. You probably will never find the perfect level of adjustability, so decide if you need more stability and support for uphill or downhill and maximize that range.
Which Trekking Pole Brands are the Most Popular?
Black Diamond trekking poles are usually at the top of the list. The brand has been around since 1989 and is based in Utah. They have established themselves as a well respected producer of climbing, skiing and mountain sports. For hikers, Black Diamond is well known for their tents, headlamps and trekking poles. Compared to other trekking pole brands, they provide some of the best aftermarket accessories and replacement parts so that you can maximize the functionality and longevity of your trekking poles.
Leki is a German company and almost exclusively makes poles and accessories for your hand. They are legendary in the trekking pole market and have been around for awhile. Their real start was in the 1960s when they started to sell ski poles. They eventually expanded their markets around the world and now produce ski poles, backcountry ski poles, blading poles (I didn’t know either), trekking poles and also Nordic walking poles which is more of a European thing, obviously. Cork grip trekking poles are their specialities and you will see them in most speciality recreational stores and are just about as popular as Black Diamond for trekking poles.
Cascade Mountain Tech
The brand associated with Costco has really taken off lately. Because they get sold at the warehouse, they get a lot more exposure than these other brands. They are mainly known for their trekking poles, but do have other products like coolers, chairs and even camp cots which I just picked up at Costco. They position themselves as a more affordable brand, but they do sell some items such as snowshoes that are more moderately priced at Dick’s Sporting Goods and Costco in some markets. They are an interesting brand to follow. Hopefully we’ll see more of them.
You can’t talk about hiking without REI. They have it all and partner with manufacturers to produce some respectable products including trekking poles, tents, sleeping bags, and so many other things. They do offer accessories for trekking poles as their current lineup of trekking poles are limited and not fully carbon fiber.
Maybe you’ve heard of them, maybe you haven’t. I am of the latter group. The Trailbuddy Trekking Poles are the best seller on Amazon with over 23,000 reviews at the time of this writing. They are certainly a contender for people looking to buy trekking poles online because of their low cost and free shipping for Prime members. I’ve tried other popular trekking poles on Amazon such as the Trekology Trek-Z, but have had mixed impressions. Plus the popular model is aluminum and I don’t see a carbon fiber option. If these are the only trekking poles you have access to, then give it a go. One of these days, maybe I’ll give them a try and make a review.
How to Use Trekking Poles
It takes some getting used when using trekking poles properly. Once you get a hang of it, it will feel more natural. The first thing is using the wrist straps properly. You need to put your hands through the bottom of the straps and then grab the grips. Not the other way around. You can adjust the wrist straps so that there is a little tension. When using the trekking poles, the wrist straps will help spread the forces between your hand and your wrists.
There is a specific way to walk with trekking poles also. If your left foot is moving forward, you’ll want your right trekking pole to move at the same time. If your right foot is moving forward, then the left trekking pole will follow at the same time.
The goal is to more or less match your steps with the trekking poles striking the ground. It’s a little awkward at first, but you’ll get used to it. Also, when moving forward, you can use the trekking poles to push your forward rather than using your arms to pull. Things will be different though when going uphill and downhill. When going uphill, you can shorten your poles about 5-10cm and do the opposite for going downhill.
How to Pack a Trekking Pole
Packing your carbon fiber trekking pole can be a challenge depending on the type of trekking poles you have and what you are trying to fit them in. My best advice, if you really love your trekking poles, is to get a bag for them. It will moderately protect them and the things that you store them in. When putting them in your pack, try to place them in an area where there won’t be too much pressure on the sides. Ideally, it can be in the back where your pack board is or in your water bottle pockets on the exterior. If you have gear loops like I do on my Mystery Ranch Scree 32, you can use those to let them hang off your pack. In luggage, try to place them near and structure support areas or keep them between clothing to protect them from taking any direct impact on the sides.
What are Trekking Poles Baskets for?
For newbies, trekking pole baskets can be a bit of a mystery. Do you even need them? It depends on the conditions and the trail. For muddy, wet trails, the mud or summer baskets are good for preventing your trekking poles from sinking too far into the mud. For snow, snow baskets help spread the weight giving you a little more resistance and keeping you from sinking too. Larger diameter snow baskets will be more helpful in fresh powder. Mud baskets can also keep your poles from being inserted between rocks where you can easily snap your trekking poles. If you have carbon fiber trekking poles and will be on rocky mountains, consider using them.
Ski Poles vs Backcountry Ski Poles vs Trekking Poles?
Is every stick the same? Nope. Ski poles are usually fixed, one-piece poles that are designed for downhill applications. As such, they need to be sized appropriately. Backcountry ski poles come in two pieces and have some degree of adjustability to compensate for going up and down mountains. Trekking poles usually come in 3 sections and have even more adjustability and are more compact when collapsed. There are fixed length poles that some trail runners use, but most of them are 3 section poles which is just more practical.
Hiking Staff vs Trekking Poles
A hiking staff is similar to trekking poles, but they are designed to be used as a single pole rather than a pair. Many will be longer than trekking poles and have extended grips. Some will have rounded ends at the top so that you can use your entire hand to grab the top like a cane. They are less popular with hikers and more popular with sports that require people to use one hand for something else. Fly fishing enthusiasts may use one, though they are called a wading staff. You could always just get trekking poles and leave one at home. I’ll do this sometimes when I take my dog hiking and I need one hand for the leash.
How to Maintain Trekking Poles
Maintaining trekking poles are fairly simple. Wiping them down is generally all you need to do. You can hose off any dirt or mud on the tips. With grips, it can be a little more complex. For foam grips, you can use a little dish soap and water to clean them. On cork, some people will take fine sandpaper and some water and remove the surface layer to get a fresh new surface. For telescoping trekking poles, you may be tempted to spray lubricating oil on the shafts, but you shouldn’t as that could cause the locks to fail. You can use a little bit of oil on the flip locks if necessary, but it should be a rare occasion. When your carbide tips wear out, you should replace them if you have the option or you might need to get a new pair. Keep this in mind when purchasing.