After a treacherous hike on a challenging trail, you might feel excruciating pain in your knees, hips, and lower back. However, if you’ve used hiking poles before, you will probably agree with us that they can be a real savior. However, all poles aren’t the same, and you will need the best hiking poles out there to be your companions.
Most people, notably the younger ones, shrug off the need for trekking poles, perhaps thinking their bodies can handle the rugged stress of hiking. In most cases, new hikers don’t know what trekking pole they should get to relieve the pressure of their weight. However, experienced mountaineers and backpackers would tell you that using a survival hiking stick would help your body. But, out of so many options available on the market, how can you be sure you made the right choice?
That’s where we come in! In this article we will say a few words about the features you need to consider before choosing your pair, and we give you reviews on 10 different options we think are good choices of hiking poles.
Our Top Picks
|RaidLight Carbon Foldable||Carbon tube||48.4 in||9 oz.||Check price on Amazon|
|Leki Cristallo||HTS Aluminum||36 - 53 in||19.8 oz.||Check price on Amazon|
|Black Diamond Distance FLZ||Aluminum||37 – 55 in||12 – 12.9 oz.||Check price on Amazon|
|Black Diamond Trail Back||Carbon tube||25 – 55 in||21 oz.||Check price on Amazon|
|Black Diamond Distance Z Z||Aluminum||39 – 51 in||12 – 14 oz.||Check price on Amazon|
|Black Diamond Alpine Carbon||Carbon fiber||25 - 51 in||17 oz.||Check price on Amazon|
|Leki Micro Vario Ti Cor-Tec||Aluminum||43 – 51 in||18.3 oz.||Check price on Amazon|
|Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Z Z||Carbon fiber||39 – 51 in||14 – 16 oz.||Check price on Amazon|
|Leki Micro Stick Titanium 120||HTS aluminum||43 – 51 in||7.6 oz.||Check price on Amazon|
|Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork||Aluminum||29 – 55 in||18 oz.||Check price on Amazon|
Features to Consider Before Buying
Before proceeding in our reviews, let us take a closer look at what you should look for in hiking poles.
Shaft Material and Weight
The weight of the pole directly correlates with the shaft material. The two most common materials used in trekking poles are composite and aluminum:
- Aluminum is heavier, but more durable and cheaper, with rattle sounds and vibrations when you hit some surfaces. It is more elastic and it will rather bend than break when higher pressure is applied on the pole.
- Composite shafts can be partially, or entirely made of carbon. They are lighter, stronger, and better at reducing vibration, but more prone to breaking when high pressure is applied. They are also more expensive.
The handles used for grips may range from rubber, foam, or cork. Rubber grips are generally heavier, but are best suited for cold weather because they are insulating. However, you should avoid rubber if you’re trekking at warmer temperatures, because you might get blisters on your hands from the sweat.
Foam is the softest option and it’s great for absorbing moisture, making them great for hot weather hikes. Cork grips are widely popular as they are quite cool in your hand and will take its shape. Cork also absorbs water, making it suitable for warmer weather hikes, just like foam.
Regarding length, there are fixed and adjustable poles. For each type it is essential to choose proper length, so you avoid distress to your arms, shoulders, back, and neck. A general rule is – when you hold the poles with the tips on the ground, your elbows should be bent at 90 degrees.
When you’re buying fixed-length poles, you should make your choice depending on your height:
- 5 ft or shorter: 39” poles
- up to 5 ft 7 in: 43” poles
- up to 5 ft 11 in: 47” poles
- and 6 ft and above – you’ll need 51” poles.
When it comes to adjustable poles, they should be adjusted according to your height and the terrain. For general hiking and relatively straight trails, follow the 90 degrees elbow-bent rule. For uphill hiking, you can shorten them by 5-10 cm, while going downhill requires lengthening the poles by 5-10 cm.
Both adjustable and non-adjustable poles have locking mechanisms. In non-adjustables, the locking is used for extending them to full length, or collapsing them to fit in your backpack when not in use. It is the same with adjustable poles, except the locking mechanism also helps adjust the length of the pole. The four main locking mechanisms used are: external lever, push-button, twist, and combination lock.
The external lever uses a lever-mechanism and it’s very easy to use and adjust, even with gloves. The push-button is exactly as the name suggests – pushing the button unlocks the pole lock to be adjusted. The twist lock uses an expander and screw setup, and the combination is usually combination of two different locks on the upper and lower portion of the pole.
We went through the most important features to consider when buying hiking poles, but that’s not all. There are other things worth paying attention to when choosing your own pair:
- Number of sections: There are three designs that all hiking poles use: the 3-section telescoping, 2-section telescoping, and the folded/tent model versions. Every style offers different advantages and disadvantages according to your needs.
- Tips: Most poles use interchangeable rubber, carbide, plastic or steel tips, which generally provide traction on different surfaces. Carbide wears somewhat better, working well with equal traction on snow, ice, dirt, or rocky surfaces; whereas rubber works well on asphalt.
- Baskets: Most of the hiking poles feature removable baskets, with manufacturers sometimes including 2 or even 3 sizes of baskets. The baskets can be sold separately. They are generally used for snow, or an aid to easily get out of the mud. You should get and attach only the designated the baskets according to the terrain.
- Shock absorbing systems: Some brands may mention something about shock absorbing system, though this feature can be specific to its model depending on the terrain or seasonal use.
Best Products on Today’s Market
Regardless of whether you are a beginner or an experienced hiker, choosing the best poles can be a bit of a hassle. Especially when you consider the plethora of products available on the market! To make your job easier, we put together a selection of the best survival sticks to consider when shopping.
Price: Approx. $100
Length: 48.4 in
Weight: 9 oz.
Specific features: Foldable trail stick, robust, comfortable foam grip, short volume storage, 3-segment pole, 3D Kevlar foam grip
Best use: Short-term use, easy hikes, smooth trails, long distances
Description: Durable and lightweight, the Raidlight Batons Carbone Trail Pliables use a brand new carbon tube construction.
The foldable 3-segment pole offers a small footprint, featuring the advanced 3D Kevlar comfortable foam grip for an easy and smooth handle. The foldable section offers better low volume storage in your backpack, as it is short and small as soon as you fold the pole.
As it is somehow lightweight and thin, there would be an initial weird feeling that may make you think the poles might break.
It could take some time for some individuals to get used to the pole and hold it with a strong grip, push, and handle. Raidlight clearly worked on the volume and weight, but you will notice the non-inclusion of a basket and limited size of the strap (size 9), which could be a problem for people with bigger hands.
These poles will be fine on smooth trails and easy hikes – but not for extremely steep trekking, rocky snowy peaks and alpine trails. Overall, this survival stick provides a good balance in long walks and stress relief in extended distances, especially for those who like to cover greater grounds fast.
- Lightweight carbon fiber design
- Foldable 3 segment design
- Strong and durable construction
- Can feel weak and ready to break because of its reduced weight
- Can take a while to get used to
Related: Another great product from the good people at Raidlight is the Olmo Ultra Desert Raid 20L Pack, for those long treks where you have to bring all your gear with you.
Price: Approx. $120
Length: 36 – 53 in
Weight: 19.8 oz. per pair
Specific features: Adjustable Speedlock system, quick-dry air textured wick strap, collapsible length of 27 inches, comfortable Aergon soft rubber grip, thin and light, 6.5 HTS aluminum shaft
Best use: All around use, winter hiking, long term use
Description: The 2015 edition of Leki Cristallo Trekking Poles features comfortable rubber grip for a nice feel and easy handle. For those looking to relieve pressure and balance on their knees; it is versatile, dependable and solid for the long term and heavy use. If you like to go backpacking in sizzling days of summer, you perspire profusely which could soak the pole handles in sweat.
The air-textured strap provides a soft comfortable hold, without the sticky clammy feel of your palms and hands. This quick dry wick is a good feature even in harsh winter hike and backcountry skiing.
Cristallo’s Speedlock 2 system secure lock provides an easily adjustable lever lock style closure mechanism capable of supporting up to 300 pounds of force. The pole is relatively light compared to other poles, with a three section 27-inch length when packed, which looks more durable compared to fold-style survival trekking sticks. It features an interchangeable and removable performance basket at the lower end.
- Double locking mechanism for height adjustments
- Quick dry wick strap
- Comfortable grip
- Takes a bit more space than foldable poles
- Does not come with a rubber tip included
Related: In case you want to replace the pole tip for various reasons, you can consider buying the Leki Rubber Fitness Walking Tip, a soft rubber tip that can be used when hiking along a road or on rocky cliffs.
Price: Approx. $150
Length: 37 – 43 in; 41 – 49 in; 47 – 55 in
Weight: 12 oz; 12.5 oz; 12.9 oz
Specific features: Lightweight breathable EVA foam grip, 3-section foldable shaft, moisture-wicking strap, speed cone deployment, interchangeable rubber and Carbide Tech Tips, adjustable FlickLock Pro, aluminum material
Best use: All-terrain hiking, climbing
Description: The Black Diamond Distance FLZ Z-Poles have combined several features from other models by adding the FlickLock Pro adjustability, 3-section fold design, and easily secured and fast-deployment pole-locks.
The hiking stick can easily be adjusted in its fold, with no need for a screwdriver or any other tools. Faster and quick deployment is helpful for sustained hiking, where you would need to lengthen (downhill) or shorten (uphill) the poles as necessary. Quite so, you can make quick adjustments with no need to stop hiking, as you can adjust the length in just 2-3 seconds.
Some of the drawbacks are the limited length wrist straps, which can be a bit short for people with large hands, even so at the longest extension and without using any gloves. Also, the straps seem to be made with stiff material similar to lawn chair webbing, with the Velcro fastening at the strap’s brand label giving that uncomfortable and thick feel.
You may also notice that the strap is attached with a wire that hangs down into the grip, which causes the thumb to rub with the forefinger when walking, thus may cause some blisters in extended hiking. Overall, the poles are generally lightweight, though rigid, there’s no noticeable rattles and vibration. It also has the replaceable tips, with easy assembly functionality.
- Lightweight and comfortable foam grips
- Fast adjustments with no extra tools required
- Versatile and usable in multiple hiking situations
- The wrist strap is not connected to the grips directly but with a short wire
- The wrist strap cannot be adjusted and can prove problematic for people with large hands
Related: Another interesting product from Black Diamond is the Black Diamond Rope Bucket, which you can use to collect interesting items that you find on your hikes, or as a container in case of an emergency.
Price: Approx. $65
Length: 25 – 55 in
Weight: 21 oz. per pair
Specific features: Rubber grip with Rib pattern for minimized vibration, adjustable-width nylon webbing strap, comfortable woven lining, non-slip EVA foam grip, 3-section pole,
Best use: All terrain trekking, hiking
Description: The Black Diamond Trail Back Trekking Poles provides good stability and quick adjustment for varying off-road and on-trail hiking. It has the Dual FlickLocks for total adjustability to suit changing terrains, with compatibility for a pair of baskets for customized 4-season trails (baskets are sold separately). The loops can be easily pulled for smaller and larger loops, with reflective features on the side.
The easily adjustable height does not come loose, despite the lightweight construction and the slight difference in the circumference.
The pole’s cork grip allows for comfortable hold quite below the handles but you will see that the smaller baskets are the only ones attached, without the inclusion of powder baskets which helps you stay on top of snow surfaces.
Keep in mind that during summer, using the poles may look bulky, with a potential for entanglements in shrubs and branches. Compared to other models, it also does not come with the rubber tips, so remember to buy them if you are going to hike on hard solid surfaces.
- Rib pattern rubber grips that reduce vibration and shock
- Sturdy and adjustable straps
- Dual FlickLocks height adjustment locking system
- Can take a while to get used to
- Does not come with rubber tips included in the kit
Related: In order to help hikers and campers, the designers at Black Diamond came up with the Black Diamond Mega Bug Tent, a nice breezy tent to sleep in on hot nights without having to worry about bugs.
Price: $70 – $350
Length: 39 – 51 in
Weight: 12 – 14 oz.
Specific features: 3-section folding design, aluminum shafts, speed cone deployment, lightweight ribbed, Z-Pole technology for compact length, secured choke non-slip grip extension, EVA breathable foam grip, hand specific wrist straps, quick-dry moisture-wick.
Best use: Everyday hiking, trail running, backpacking
Description: The Black Diamond Distance Z Z-Poles is an extremely versatile and stable hiking pole that features the Z-Pole technology, which is ideal for daily demands of trail runners, backpackers, and hikers. Not like the brand’s avalanche probes, the pole’s speed cone deployment uses the inner coated Kevlar cord with conical end shafts for stronger and faster alignment.
You need to simply hold the grip, at the first shaft section, and then pull it away from each other. The pole would then snap into their proper place and lock automatically.
Another good feature of the pole is the lightweight EVA ribbed grip, which has the mini extension for better and faster choke-ups on steep ascents and inclines. The breathable and moisture wicking mesh wrist straps has the left and right-hand labels for specific pushing power, arm length needs and minimized pinch in the wrists.
For variable challenging trail surfaces, these poles from Black Diamond also includes interchangeable, but non-marked Z-pole Carbide Tips, Z-pole Rubber Tips and stow bag. The survival stick comes in oxide black color and includes a shaft catcher stopper basket that secures the folded sections. The length is non-configurable, so you would need to find the right length for your size.
- Lightweight aluminum design
- Z-pole technology that reduces the packing length of the poles
- A wide variety of tips included into the kit
- Not at all suitable for difficult terrain or treacherous conditions
- Can feel fragile at first
Related: Another great addition to your gear, especially if you are a camper, is the Black Diamond Spot Headlamp which will help you see and light your way through caves, dense woods, night time and even dimly lit ravines.
Price: Approx. $300
Length: 25-51 in
Weight: 17 oz.
Specific features: Dual-density top, natural cork grip, non-slip EVA foam grip extension, 360-degree Nubuck strap, 100% carbon fiber material construction, carbon pearl color, comfortable padded straps, interchangeable carbide/rubber tech tips (sold separately)
Best use: Multi-sport, all terrain, snow trekking
Description: The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Poles are one of the popular ultra-light trekking poles for different types of climbing and hiking activities. The product features the compact 3-carbon fiber shafts, with dual Pro FlickLock adjusters. It has the natural cork grip with the 360° easily adjusted padded Nubuck wrist straps, which have the Right and Left-hand labels for hand specific comfort.
To fit your varying needs, the interchangeable Tech Tips can be changed to either carbide or rubber, though you would need to purchase them separately. The poles also include a pair of baskets that can be tailored to seasonal or winter activities.
The hand specific labels for right and left-hand looks exactly the same, with strap tag indicating R and L. For most people with average arm lengths, this would not be an issue, but the labels would be helpful for those with a need to easily distinguish shorter or longer poles for either arm.
Most Black Diamond products have specific construction and this one is no different. You will notice that if you try to tighten the clamps to their tightest levels, the poles will somehow shorten in extended walks, especially if you have sizeable weight in your backpack. It is quite a flaw in the design as it really renders your poles non-usable unless you adjust to the shortest length pole setting as possible.
Also, you will notice the plastic clips don’t seem to hold the poles in their proper place so it can be adjusted to the desired height setting. Black Diamond’s other models feature the metal clasps that work ideally and provide extended stability.
- Natural cork grip with 360-degree strap
- Carbon fiber construction
- Plastic locking clips can feel clunky and fragile at times
- Settings can change mid-hike
Related: If you are a climber, you probably need a bag for the rope. With this product we recommend purchasing the Black Diamond SuperSlacker Rope Bag so that your rope no longer takes up space in your backpack.
Price: Approx. $140
Length: 43 – 51 in
Weight: 18.3 oz.
Specific features: Lightweight aluminum poles, easy and quick assembly, speed lock system, Aergon Thermo mid grips, security wrist straps, carbide flex tips, adjustable length,
Best use: Sports trekking, hiking, walking support
Description: Leki’s Micro Vario Ti Cor-Tec Trekking Poles are made of aluminum that can be packed down to 15 inches for easy storage. It has a fast and easier assembly, with notable features such as carbide flex tips, Aergon Thermo mid grips, security wrist straps, and speed lock system. A good set of poles for all types of outdoor hiking, as it is lightweight and pack small. It can even fit in a laptop bag, or you can neatly stow it in a briefcase until you need it.
It features the Fantastic Leki handle, with an easily adjustable height to fit your needs. However, you would need to get a nice grip so you can pull the center; so it packs right up, though, after a few hold, this can easily be managed.
Other features include the shock absorber or suspension, which you can pack with the pole; though you can’t easily replace it with standard rubber tips, unlike several poles. Quite noticeably, you may feel a bang when you land on an extremely hard surface, so you may have to learn to keep your grip a bit loose.
Also, don’t forget to check the tension screws located on the locking clips. During your first uses, you may notice that the poles would come up shorter than the other one, so occasionally just tighten the tension screws. Generally, the poles are fantastic for hiking and outdoor trekking.
- Aergon Thermo mid grips
- Carbide tips
- Speed locking system for height adjustment
- Tension screws need to be checked regularly
- Locking clips tend to seize if subjected to large pressure for an extended period of time
Related: Another great addition that you can bring to your gear is the LEKI Breeze Folding Chair which you can use when camping. It features mesh ventilation and is extremely strong and super comfortable.
Price: $100 – $200
Length: 39 – 51 in
Weight: 14 – 16 oz.
Specific features: Packable 3-section design, lightweight 100% carbon construction, natural cork grip, moisture wicking strap, dual-density top, non-slip EVA mini-grip extension, Flex Tech Tips, 60 mm trekking baskets, stiff and light,
Best use: Four-season trail breakers, trail running
Description: The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Z Z-Poles are made of extremely light carbon construction, notwithstanding the reliable strength and stability compared to poles made of aluminum.
You will notice this lightness, as well as the absence of rattles and vibrations when you use it in pavements and asphalt. With easy and simple fold mechanism, the cork handles are comfortable to hold. There are also the adjustable nylon straps, which are labeled R (right) and L (left), so you know which is for your right and left hands.
Just be aware that these walking poles cannot be adjusted to your height, so you need to go to the Black Diamond website to correctly determine the right size for your needs. Find the right length of poles accordingly for ease of use to avoid pain in your arms after extended hold.
Overall, the pole provides a good cork grip, wide straps, compactness and easier fold. You can purchase extra rubber or carbide tips, in case you need absorbers on hard surfaces.
- EVA mini grip extension for non-slip performance
- No rattling or vibrations when used on hard and solid surfaces
- Easy too use
- Height cannot be adjusted
- The poles can feel a bit too lightweight at times
Related: If you’re going on a few-days-long hike, especially in autumn, you will probably need something to cover yourself for warmth if it gets cold. The Black Diamond Packable Down Throw is an excellent product to bring with you for “any case” since it is lightweight and packs small, yet it offers great warmth because of the down fill.
Price: Approx. $120
Length: 43 – 51 in
Weight: 7.6 oz.
Specific features: Ergonomic Aergon Thermo Mid grip, lock security strap, robust aluminum HTS, easily adjustable, changeable three season baskets, push button release mechanism
Best use: Climbing, hiking, all-terrain
Description: The Leki Micro Stick Titanium 120 Walking Poles feature a push-button release mechanism that allows for easy, fast disassembly and assembly of the fold. It has the edgeless and ultralight grip with adjustable expanders for a smooth fit.
Other good features include the breathable LEKI Skin Strap for maximum comfort, robust aluminum HTS, and precise Flex tip – which provides a perfect grip in nearly all terrains.
The poles are within Leki’s lighter pole editions; but noticeably heavy compared to other survival sticks. This is understandable given the fact that the pole diameter is bigger and made of aluminum instead of carbon.
The Aergon Thermo Mid is widely regarded for its lightweight and ergonomic grip, with strap adjusters. You can fit all types of grip, whether you prefer your hand placed down on the top of the pole, you palm the grip (standard hold), or even choked the pole with your hands extending to the lower section.
In terms of solidity, the pole extension is bend and break resistant but you need to extend the lock system to be fully tightened and lengthened to avoid the rattles.
Compared to standard poles, the Micro Stick is noticeably fat with a fairly wide diameter; that, in combination with the slightly bigger grip, thus gives the pole a higher volume fold. The tips are made with rounded hollow carbide point, which is ideal for this type of pole. However, they are quite expensive to replace and quite known to fall off on extended use.
- Easy to use push-button release mechanism
- Feels heavier and sturdier than other poles
- Aergon Thermo Mid grip makes the poles comfortable to wield
- They take up a larger volume when folded
- Tips are a bit expensive to replace
Related: In case you want to change your tip, you can purchase this Leki Rubber Tip, made of vulcanized material for a long life the provide the best support and grip.
Price: Approx. $115
Length: 29 – 55 in
Weight: 18 oz.
Specific features: Adjustment clamps, easy storage, flawless flick locks, comfortable cork grips and handles, can support up to 250 pounds, sharp tips that even stick into rocky trails, quick release adjustments, lightweight
Best use: All around uses, long distances
Description: The Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles feature the Natural Cork grip, which provides 15-degree ergonomic corrective angle which relieves fatigue in your wrist. The pole has a small diameter, with reduced weight, though this reduction didn’t affect the durability and strength. It has an extended foam sleeve, with soft ridges, located on the upper shafts, comfortable EVA foam which can handle terrain changes as well as switchbacks.
Another feature includes the Dual FlickLocks, which provides easy and simple stick adjustments. If you want to adjust the pole, you just need to flick the lock, which can be opened with your finger; you just need to slide that section and then securely press the lock so it’s closed.
This Black Diamond trekking pole has the comfortable and adjustable 360-degree full padded right and left-hand webbing wrist strap. With a 15-degree grip angle, it ensures optimal handles for both of your hands. If you sweat a lot, the natural cork wicks away the sweat as quick as it sets in.
At the first few times you hold and use the poles, you may notice some vibrations, quite noticeably if you’re still trying to learn and plant the poles in a smooth motion. This is caused by the lightweight aluminum, though the interchangeable carbide tips provide a more secure grip on a variety of surfaces.
- 15 degree corrective wrist angle
- Sweat-proof cork grip
- Easy to use and easy to lock height adjustment
- Can be expected to deal with vibrations at the start
- Carbide tips can be a bit expensive to replace
Related: For the people that are a bit more conscious and careful with their hands, you can consider the Black Diamond Crag Half-Finger Climbing Gloves, for protecting the hands, increasing grip and providing comfort at the same time.
As you can see, survival trekking sticks and hiking poles may vary in materials, length, and use. Most products can be suitable for all types of terrain and traditional trails, including snowy conditions.
You should decide on the general pole criteria based on durability, versatility, compactness, grip comfort, and overall ease of use. Take note of each feature and choose the item that fits your needs.
If you have any questions or have some comments regarding the products we’ve reviewed on our lists, just let us know.