Walkin’ Sticks: The 7 Best Trekking Poles

Anyone that thinks walking is easy is doing it wrong. Sure, any schlub can mosey around the block, but you’re looking to do more than that. You’re looking to scale peaks, to climb miles into the sky and knock at the door of heaven. For that kind of walking, you need help. You need extra support for engaging in hikes that take you into the thinnest air in the world. You need trekking poles.

These poles were adapted from cross country ski poles and originally created for snoeshoers. Since then they have changed drastically to help hikers, climbers, and backpackers on their varied quests. Some of these poles use a telescoping system for variable length depending on your height and the height of the terrain. Others are meant to fold up and pack down into the least space possible for those who only use them on intense inclines. Whatever your poison, one of our 7 best trekking poles will help you conquer the hill.

BAFX Products Anti-Shock

BAFX Products Anti-Shock

Pro: Extremely affordable but do not feel cheap
Con: Spring system can be awkward

Beginner’s Buddy: Trekking poles can be costly and many people buy them only to try them once, discover they don’t them and then they sit in a gear closet or garage. To avoid wasting money you can get the the BAFX anti-shock poles. They offer a very good introduction to the world of trekking and hiking poles without much investment. The body is aluminum and comes with a 1-year warranty against any defects so you know it is solidly build. The spring-loaded anti-shock system will help you out on the trails while the telescoping body ranges from 25″ to 53″ for users of most heights. These should help you get off the fence and open up a whole new way to take on the trail. [Purchase: $24]

Pace Maker Stix Expedition

Pace Maker Stix Expedition

Pro: Adjustable locking mechanism
Con: Too long even at their smallest height

True Bargain: The Expeditions are an excellent choice¬†for any weekend warrior who wants a pole that can go on the mountain or the roadway with equal ease. They use aircraft-grade aluminum that is sturdy but does offer a little flex as you move so they aren’t too rigid. The cork grips are on the small side, but very comfortable and even new users won’t find their soft little office-worker hands riddled with blisters. The telescoping poles have an ingenious locking mechanism that allows you to adjust how hard or easy it is to unlock with just the turn of a screw. They go up to 54″ for tall users, though they can only get as small as 27″ so expect to make extra space when packing them. They include snow baskets and rubber tips so alpine hikers and power walkers can handle them with ease. [Purchase: $60]

Komperdell Ridgehiker Cork Power Lock

Komperdell Ridgehiker Cork Power Lock

Pro: Excellent locking mechanism
Con: No extended grip

Most for the Money: Though they come in at half the price of their competition, the Ridgehiker presses all the right buttons for professional-grade trekking poles. They have cork grips that absorb moisture for a no-slip experience that won’t disappoint as you climb. The grips could have been longer so you could choke up when dealing with steep terrain, but they still work well. Coupled with Neoprene straps they can be used all day without causing cramping or chafing. The aluminum body is light enough to prevent fatigue but strong enough for any backpacker. The poles have three telescoping sections that lock into place surprisingly well and can drop to just over 21″ in height. They will only reach to about 47″ so users over six feet could find them too petite. [Purchase: $79]

Black Diamond Ultra Distance

Black Diamond Ultra Distance

Pro: Solid carbon body
Con: No interchangeable baskets

Z-Style: Foldable, Z-style options often get outshined by their telescoping brothers and sisters because they often have more problems and aren’t quite as reliable. The Ultra Distance disproves some of the bad stigma by showing that they can maintain the rigidity of a telescoping pole without the added weight or height. These feel very solid on the trail without the rattling or flexing that plagues most Z-styles. They use carbon rather than aluminum for improved resiliency, though it does add a little bit to the weight. As with all folding poles, you can’t adjust the height on the go. You pick one and you stick with it. This makes it difficult if changing terrain suddenly. The lack of interchangeable baskets means snow will make these a no-go. [Purchase: $104+]

Leki Corklite

Leki Corklite

Pro: Grip works in any weather conditions
Con: Difficult to pack

Supreme Toughness: The shaft and grip on the Corklite feel dainty, but that is a complete and utter lie. Even though it is aluminum it puts many carbon fiber poles to shame for sheer durability. Though the grips aren’t big enough for you to really sink your teeth into, they are made with a cork and synthetic mixture that feels very comfortable and gives you excellent leverage, even on inclines with a deadly grade. It is also capable of giving you a solid hold in the cold and prevents sweat-slip in the heat. They work more like a solid pole than a tri-level telescoping and once you’ve got the Speedlock locking mechanism engaged, expect them to stay in place. They’re long even when broken down which means they could be a little awkward to carry on your back, particularly if you’re shorter in stature. [Purchase: $140]

Exerstrider OS2

Exerstrider OS2

Pro: Very comfortable grip
Con: Short

Urban Warrior: Rather than using the typical spike end good for mountain passes and impaling your enemies, the OS2 instead uses a rubber paw pad on the end which makes them utilitarian enough to handle sidewalks and streets as well as the great outdoors. The ergonomic, flanged grip is helpful for beginners who haven’t learned the proper technique. They have a two-piece telescoping aluminum body that crushes down to 31″ for easy transport. They aren’t as long as some so if you’re 6’2″ and above you’ll find these too short for your purposes. They also can’t really tackle hard-core hiking adventures, so don’t try taking them up the alps, but for basic walking aids, especially for those in need of physical therapy, these are a great place to start. [Purchase: $95]

Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork

Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork

Pro: Works for every season and every adventure
Con: Carbon fiber construction

Premium Grade: Don’t get scared off just because these use the notoriously brittle carbon fiber construction rather than heavy-duty aluminum. They also don’t have an anti-shock system in place, though once you try them you’ll be grateful they don’t. The Alpine is meant to work for both day hikers and serious climbers and snowshoers. The cork handle starts out soft but breaks into the shape of your hand to give you personalized ergonomics that you will appreciate as time goes on.

The pommel works well for palming users since it offered a solid grip and good resiliency. They bear the unparalleled Black Diamond FlickLock system which still has no rival so you can be assured of a strong lock every time. At only one pound in weight, 25″ in length at their most compact point, and bearing plenty of interchangeable tips and baskets, these can be your only hiking pole for years to come. [Purchase: $159+]

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