After a treacherous hike on a challenging trail, you feel that excruciating pain in your knees, hips, and lower back. The pain might be caused by many factors, such as age, or non-fitness – still, the primary reason could be the lack of hiking support.
Most people, notably the younger ones, shrug off the need for trekking poles, perhaps thinking their bodies can handle the rugged stress of hiking. However, experienced mountaineers and backpackers would tell you that using a survival hiking stick would help your body.
In most cases, new hikers don’t know what trekking pole they should get to relieve the pressure of their weight. For better support and balance when you hike in different terrains, make sure to buy only the best hiking poles available in the market.
Features to Look for in Hiking Poles
- Material: The two most common materials used in trekking poles are carbon fiber and aluminum. Carbon is stiffer, lighter, stronger and quiet (no rattles); though it may get a dent on impact and render it unusable. Aluminum, on the other hand, is heavier, with rattle sounds and vibrations when you hit some surfaces. This material, however, can take a quite dig, allowing you to continue on your trek.
- Grips:The handles used for grips may range from rubber, foam, or cork. Rubber grips are generally heavier, while foam a bit softer. Cork grips are widely popular as it is quite cool in your handle and will take the shape of the hands. Foam and cork absorb water, rubber grip does not; so you may want to consider the grip material depending on your hiking activity.
- Length: There are two types: fixed and adjustable. Poles may have fixed lengths, so you need to get the correct size according to your height. Poles with adjustable length allow you to adjust according to terrains, such as downhill or uphill use.
- 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.
- Pole adjustment: Two of the common type of pole adjustment mechanism is lever lock style and the twist lock style. The lever lock action trekking poles are usually easier to use, quite durable and faster to adjust than twist lock models.
- 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 features 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.
- Weight: Quite obviously, you should look for poles with lighter weight, instead of heavier poles. However, this may vary according to the materials and the accessories attached to the pole. Generally, poles have small differences in weight, so this may not be of huge consideration.
- 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.
Take A Look at The Best Hiking Sticks
Regardless of the fact that 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.
Take a look below and let us know what you think.
RaidLight Carbon Foldable Trail Poles
Length: 123 cm. full size/ 30 cm. folded
Weight: 5.8 oz pair
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 Carbon Foldable Trail Poles by RaidLight use a brand new carbon tube construction. It provides a strong mount, a flexible material that counters that rigidity to make the light sticks durable.
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.
Men’s Leki Cristallo Trekking Pole
Length: 39-53 inches
Weight: 19.8 oz per pair
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 Men’s 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.
Black Diamond Distance FLZ Trekking Poles
Length: 100cm. – 140cm.
Weight: 1.6 lbs.
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: For the Distance FLZ Trekking Poles, Black Diamond 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.
Black Diamond Trail Back Trekking Poles
Length: 63.5cm -140cm
Weight: 1.8 pounds
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.
Black Diamond Distance Z Z-Poles
Weight: 12oz.- 14oz.
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.
Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Trekking Poles
Weight: 476 grams
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’s 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.
Men’s Leki Micro Vario Ti Cor-Tec Trekking Pole
Length: 130cm – 140cm/ 39cm – 64cm (folded)
Weight: 1.8 pounds
Features: Color black, 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 Pole for Men features the aluminum material pole 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.
Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Z Z-Poles
Length: 120 cm – 130 cm
Weight: 1.8 pounds
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 is made with extremely carbon light 100% construction, notwithstanding the reliable strength and stability compared to poles made with 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, which also has 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.
The carbon construction provides better stability, compared to aluminum poles, which sometimes shrink in size and would require re-tightening. 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.
Leki Micro Stick Titanium 120 Walking Poles One Size Black
Lengths: Available in 110cm, 120cm, 130 cm
Weight: 1.2 pounds
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 Micro Stick Titanium from Leki features a push-button release mechanism that allows for an 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.
At around 500g per pair, the pole is 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.
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
Length: 73.5 cm
Weight: 1.8 pounds
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 Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles by Black Diamond features 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.
Have You Found The Right Hiking Pole?
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.
In conclusion, 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.