When you go on hiking or backpacking, you don’t want to get your knee joints and leg muscles hurt. Do you?
I was a fool not to carry a hiking pole on my first hike and get my knee joints hurt.
It was a lesson learnt the hard way, but totally worth it.
I used to think hiking poles are for old people, and they would increase my overall energy expenditure.
Believe me, I was completely wrong. I found that using hiking poles enhanced my stability and provided me support for all kind of terrain.
Every time I go somewhere for hiking, I always carry a hiking pole with me.
Well, you could either hike without hiking poles that might hurt your knee joints and leg muscles or select one of these ten best hiking poles that will make your outdoor adventure comfortable and fun!
- Best Hiking Poles in 2018 (Top 10)
- Why Are Hiking Poles Necessary?
- How to Choose Hiking Poles?
- 10 Best Hiking Poles
- THE VERDICT
Best Hiking Poles in 2018 (Top 10)
Why Are Hiking Poles Necessary?
Hiking poles help to reduce the impact on your knees and leg muscles.
A 2008 study in The Journal of Sport Medicine found that use of trekking poles reduces the pressure strain on the opposite leg by approximately 25%.
Another study published in 1981 by Dr. G. Neureuther proved that walking on level grounds, hiking sticks reduce the body weight carried by the legs by approximately a whopping 5 kg every step!
And, as you move downhill, poles reduce your body weight by approximately 8 kg every step.
That means if you hike for two hours, tons of weights – yes, tons – is reduced.
Another benefit that I found after I started using trekking sticks is that they help to maintain balance in difficult terrain such as during river crossing, on slippery bog bridges, and on tree root-strewn trails.
On top of that, poles help to you maintain a consistent rhythm and increase your speed. This is especially true on flat terrain.
You would be surprised to know that trekking poles could also be used for other than trekking.
I once used them to replace tent poles. Trekking poles are more rigid and stronger than tent poles. So they’re unlikely to break in high winds. This helps to create safer shelters.
How to Choose Hiking Poles?
If you are thinking to get hiking poles, there are several factors that you should consider when shopping.
It’s always worth to consider the weight, the materials they are made from and adjustment mechanism so that they don’t create any problem when you are trekking.
Here are a few factors you should consider when you are buying hiking sticks.
Pole Locking mechanisms
One of the most important factors when choosing hiking poles is the locking mechanism.
Hiking poles have two or three interlocking sections to adjust heights, typically ranges from 24 to 55 inches. This locking mechanism lets you adjust the poles at your desired length and according to the terrain.
Most trekking poles have two types of locking mechanisms.
Level lock: It is a lever-based, clamplike mechanism. You can quickly and easily adjust, even when you are wearing gloves.
Twist lock: It uses an expander and screw setup, which is consistently durable and strong.
I have used both of them and come to realize that level lock hiking sticks are more durable, easier and quicker to adjust than twist lock trekking poles.
In fact, I’ve found that nearly all of the level lock style mechanism are less troublesome and outlast the twist lock style.
This may be the reason why many companies nowadays are using a level lock, whereas five or six years ago there were only one or two companies using level lock.
Majority of the trekking poles that I am reviewing use level lock mechanism.
You should also consider the material used to make poles because it is directly related to the weight and durability.
Carbon fiber and Aluminum are the two most popular materials used to make hiking poles.
Poles made from carbon fiber are lighter, stiffer and generally stronger. These poles weight between 13 to 18 ounces per pair.
They are good at vibration reduction, but they are also vulnerable to breakage under high pressure than aluminum poles. If you are trekking to remote area and your hike is rocky, this is something to keep in mind.
Aluminum poles are slightly heavier but stronger and durable. These poles weight between 18 ounces to 22 ounces per pair.
Under high pressure, these can bend but unlikely to break.
Basic Folding Design
Hiking poles come in three kinds of designs.
Two section telescoping: They are heavier and strongest, and are good for activities like snowshoeing and skiing. But, it could be difficult to put them in an averaged size suitcase.
Three section telescoping: They are commonly used to hiking, and are lighter and more compact compared to two section poles. They can easily be strapped to a backpack or put into a suitcase. Even though they are not as strong as two section poles, they are strong enough for heavy duty backpacking and mountaineering.
Folding or tent pole style: They are newer kind of poles, and are some of the most compact and lightest models out there. They are not nearly as durable as two and three section poles, but they are durable enough for most hikers and climbers for backpacking trips on trails.
I will highly recommend you to get hiking poles with shock absorbers if you have weak or damaged ankles.
The good thing about them is that they absorb shocks as you walk downhill, where your body is taking the most impact.
Most trekking poles come with feature to turn off the shock. So if you don’t want to use it, especially when you are walking uphill, you can easily turn it off.
You might think there is hardly much difference in weight between various kind of hiking poles.
For example, in my review the biggest difference between the heaviest pole and lightest pole is 14 ounces with most poles fitting into a 10 ounces range. This adds 5 ounces to each arm.
This doesn’t seem a lot. Does it?
So why worry about it?
Now, consider you are lifting your arms up a thousand times per day. May be 10,000 or more if you are on a multi-day trip.
This adds up a lot of weight. I would not recommend to brush off lighter sticks just because they are only 5-10 ounces lighter.
Packability is more important to some people than others. Most packable poles are shorter in height.
If you travel frequently, I would recommend to consider this factor. Shorter poles are easy to travel with and could be easily packed into a suitcase.
If you don’t plan to packing your poles, then packability doesn’t really make a difference.
10 Best Hiking Poles
There are several manufacturers of hiking poles such as Leki and Black Diamond. They manufacture trekking poles in different models, locking mechanism and materials.
You definitely don’t want to regret by buying the hiking poles that don’t suits your need. Keeping that in mind, I’ve tested, analyzed and reviewed the ten best hiking poles perfect for any kind hiking or outdoor activities.
The Leki Micro Vario Carbon has highly comfortable and larger than average foam grip. The foam grip extends down to the speedlock and offers you a nice area to choke down.
Like all of Leki’s other poles, the Micro Vario Carbon has a smooth, oversized and oval shaped pommel on the top of the handle, making it one of the most comfortable grips.
I absolutely love this feature about Leki Micro Vario Carbon. If you find yourself “pal
ming” your pole in a more cane like position, you should definitely check out this pole.
Similarly, it uses Leki’s new SpeedLock 2 external lever locking mechanism and a simple push-pin style mechanism to lock the lower three sections. It allows you around 20 cm of length adjustment to accommodate changing terrain.
What I love about Leki’s new SpeedLock compared to Komperdell’s PowerLock or Black Diamond’s FlickLock is that I don’t need a tool or a coin to adjust it. I can simply adjust the tension of the lever with my hand.
At 14.6 ounces, Leki Micro Vario Carbon is one of the lightest pole in my review, and the lightest pole to offer some adjustment.
It has “Z-Style” folding and breaks down at a 15” packed size. That is nearly half the length of several traditional telescoping models poles. And so, it highly package and packs down to the same size as Black Diamond Distance FLZ (15 inches).
In terms of durability, the Leki Micro Vario Carbon hiking poles are among the most durable sub-one-pound hiking poles. The only other hiking poles that are around the same weight and are as durable are Black Diamond Distance. and Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Z. But, they’re not adjustable.
I’ve been using Leki Micro Vario Carbon trekking poles for several years now and they are working just fine.
This trekking pole packs down pretty small, is durable, has an awesome grip and is the light folding style pole to offer length adjustment.
Even though it is the most expensive trekking pole in the review, it is totally worth the money.
Features I like:
- Most comfortable foam grip
- Newer folding poles and extremely packable
- Lightest trekking pole to offer some range of adjustment
- Made from carbon and highly durable
- SpeedLock and Pin Pop Locking mechanism (Lever locking mechanism)
If you prefer to place your palm on top of the pole, in a cane position, then you sure will love this pole. It has a smooth, wide, oval top and a lower foam grip that takes the stress off your wrists.
Leki Micro Vario Ti COR-TEC uses “SpeedlLock 2” locking mechanism, that’ll save you a lot of time and effort tightening the pole. You can do all your adjustments with your hand- no coin, no special tool required.
What I like the most about Leki Micro Vario Ti COR-TEC is that I’ve never faced any jamming in its locking system, even in the coldest of weather. You can just push ‘lock’ button for quick, easy assembly and packing.
However, it has a slight downside. It weighs 18.5 oz per pair, which is rather heavier than the pole we discussed just earlier.
Nevertheless, you can collapse this pole like a tent pole and break it down to 15.5”, which is nearly half of many models like Leki Cristallo.
If you are a frequent hiker, then this pole is your lucky one. It can survive several overnight and day trips even in the toughest terrain and roughest weather conditions. From experience, I can say that it’s more durable than Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Z.
The carbide flex tips helps deflect up to 30 degrees, which decreases the risk of pole breakage if they get caught between rocks.
Given all its features, the price is totally justifiable. Yet still it is cheaper than Leki Micro Vario Carbon.
The features I like:
- Super comfortable cork grip
- Easier folding method and packability
- High durability
- Reasonable cost
Most of the times I prefer using my pole as a cane, and the oversized palming surface of Leki Corklite gives me the complete satisfaction.
However if you prefer a lighter or foam gripped pole then you might also want to check out Leki Carbonlite.
Leki Corklite uses the ‘speedlock system’ like other Leki poles. It uses an external lever lock style closure similar to the Black Diamond Flicklock system.
Also if your backpack is already heavy enough Leki Corklite might not be an ideal choice. It weighs 19 oz, which is heavier than LEKI Micro Tour Stick Vario but is lighter than the traditional telescope design poles.
It folds down to 26”, which can fit onto the outside of most backpacks but if you’re carrying alpine packs or medium to smaller sized bags then you might have a problem.
Despite being heavy and less compact, Leki Corklite is more versatile and tougher for off trail use.
Leki Corklite is more durable than any carbon fiber poles and more resistant to bending. Its grip is also more durable than all the foam grips and comfortable too.
Given all these features I wouldn’t mind paying for it. If you needs matches with it, go for it.
Features I like:
- Beefy enough for off the trail adventures
- Yet, lighter than traditional poles
- Versatile and durable grip
- Suitable for any weather condition
It has a foam grip, which is okay but uncomfortable for long distance hiking and hotter weather. However it is better than the rubber options.
Black Diamond Distance Z uses pin-pop locking mechanism with zero length adjustment range, which means you can’t change the length of pole uphill or downhill. However, this locking system is totally functional and durable too.
But if you prefer ‘Z-style’ poles then you can check out Black Diamond Distance FLZ Z.
Black Diamond Distance Z weighs 12 oz only, which is one of the lightest poles in our review.
You can easily pack and carry Black Diamond Distance Z down to 14” whenever you require.
This pole is surprisingly durable given its 12 oz weight. It isn’t as tough as Leki Corklite but surpasses many other behind in off trail trekking.
But it isn’t versatile enough. It is not fit for snowshoeing or winter adventures and is limited to summer expeditions.
Black Diamond Distance Z it totally worth the price given its lightness and packability.
Features I like:
- Comfortable and durable
- Below average weight
- Easily packable
It has a cork handle with 15-degree corrective angle, which is the optimal grip position. However the grip will get comfortable over time.
Trail Ergo’s grip is a little larger in diameter, so if you have a small hand then you would certainly not enjoy it. Rather you can go for Leki Corklite which features a smaller diameter grip.
Despite the diameter, Trail Ergo’s grip excels under all weather types ( hot or cold) and is also preferable in off trail uses.
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork uses flicklock system, which is an external lever locking system. This system is durable and easy to use.
With Trail Ergo, you will be carrying only 18 oz. It is heavier than the carbon poles but lighter than the other aluminum poles like Leki Corklite.
On a lower note, Trail Ergo is not so compact. It packs down to 29”, which is not good if you are going to carry it more often.
Well on the other side, Trail Ergo is very durable and tough too. It is a step up from Leki Carbonlite and Black Diamond Ultra Distance.
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork is a versatile pole at reasonable price. It might not survive snowshoeing or heavy duty off trail use but it can be handy in trekking and hiking.
Features I like:
- Durable and fantastic handle.
- Easily packable.
- Not much heavy.
- Optimal grip position
- FlickLock locking mechanism.
It’s handle is similar to Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork, which isn’t very articulated but if you have small hands then this is the pole you want.
Also Alpine Carbon Z’s cork handle is really comfortable. The lower foam grip facilitates the choking down making the trip a lot easier.
It features a pin pop locking mechanism, which is durable and effective but offers no range of adjustment for the length.
Alpine Carbon Z is made of carbon–fiber and weighs 17 oz, which isn’t light enough for a carbon pole. But because of their evenly distributed weight they feel a bit lighter when in hand. You should try that for yourself.
What I like about Alpine Carbon Z is that it packs down to 15” and I can easily carry it in my backpack when I’m not using it.
The packing is made a lot easier by the basket, which strap the pole and holds tightly together to make a super compact package.
The Alpine Carbon Z is much durable than it would seem like. It isn’t as tough as most aluminum telescoping poles and carbon telescoping BD Alpine Carbon Cork, but are as durable as Distance Z and tougher than Carbon Distance Z.
Yet all in all it is durable enough if you’re looking for on-trail trip with or without heavy-duty backpacking.
What sets apart Alpine Carbon Z from other Distance Z poles is its versatility. The baskets can be enlarged for winter trips or on glaciers. The grip is super comfortable and durable.
However they aren’t just as good for downhill or backcountry skiing.
Alpine Carbon Z is expensive but it might be what you’re searching for.
Features I like:
- Very comfortable grip.
- Easily packable size with a basket.
- Considerably lower weight.
- Overall durability of the pole.
- Versatility and performance in severe weather.
However despite its name, it doesn’t feature any titanium. Its upper section is made of aluminum and lower two section of carbon fiber, making it ideal for snow-clad adventures.
Leki Carbon Ti has AERGON Thermo XL grip, which as I found, gives very comfortable and foamy grip.
If you like palming your poles with hand over-the-top, Leki Carbon Ti gives you a large, oval shaped top handle ideal for palming. Its grip is more comfortable than Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z.
Similarly, the lower foam section gives you easy grip to hang on and offers a superb option to choke down while you’re crossing rugged or uneven terrain.
It is very small feature, but I love the straps of Leki Carbon Ti. It helps me grab onto it all the time.
Like other Leki poles, it also uses SpeedLock mechanism, which is durable and reliable. The speedlock system is as dependable as Black Diamond’s FlickLock system, and in addition it doesn’t need any coin or screwdriver to tighten it.
Leki Carbon Ti weighs 15 oz per pair, making itself the lightest telescoping model. You can easily carry it and will not add much weight to you.
But even if you want to compare it with lighter models, it is more comfortable, tougher and more versatile.
However the major setback of Leki Carbon Ti is its packability. It’s comparatively suitable for you, if you’re going to hold it in your hands 95% of the time or you can just strap it outside your bag.
One cool thing about Leki carbon Ti that I really like is the break-away tips to protect my pole, because certainly rips are easier and cheaper to replace than the pole section.
If you’re up for a rugged off-trail trekking, hiking or snowshoeing, Leki Carbon Ti will be great for you. They are equally good in hotter weather as they will prevent your hands from getting sweaty.
Leki Carbon Ti is bit expensive, but if it fulfills your requirement its worth the money.
Features I like:
- Lightweight and comfortable grip.
- Straps to hold on.
- SpeedLock locking mechanism
- Tough and versatile
- Durable for on-trail and off-trail use
- Break-away tips
It has the Aergon grip, which gives you a very lightweight grip and an excellent strap adjustment system. It’s one of the best grips I’ve ever experienced.
The grip is very comfortable whether your hand is placed palm down or holding the grip or chocked upon.
Similarly you can easily adjust the straps, even with your gloves on via a cam lock system. The strap material is also very comfortable against any weather or temperature.
The Micro stick weighs 17.5 oz and can be packed down to 15.5”, which is heaviest of the compact poles and with highest folded volume.
The Leki Micro Tour Stick Vario Ski is very durable and break/bend resistant as it is made up of high quality 7075 Aircraft aluminum. So it is an ideal pole if you’re looking for a long-lasting relationship.
However, the pole extension and lock system must be fully lengthened and tightened in order to avoid the extra rattle.
If your bag has very little space left then Micro Stick isn’t much preferable as it is pretty fat, because of which they have a high volume when packed.
The Micro Stick uses quick and simple to use locking systems that will help you avoid slipping and failing. No complaints here, but the Black Diamond System is superior in its simplicity.
When Leki Micro Tour Stick Vario Ski comes to you, it is delivered with round carbide hollow point tips. These tips are expensive to replace and they are known to break or fall off quite often.
You can use the Micro Stick for all but snow conditions. It is supplied with 3 season baskets, which can be easily screwed off to replace.
Features I like:
- Ergonomic grip
- Easily adjustable and efficient grip
- Changeable baskets
You can have a very nice feeling and less chafing with the Cristallo grip. It features a comfortable rubber handle, which is the most comfortable among the rubber handles.
However when compared to foam or cork handles it lies a little below the line.
Despite that you’re going to like the adjustable, soft-to-touch wrist straps that increases your overall satisfaction with Leki Cristallo.
Cristallo uses the new SpeedLock 2 system, which is as functional, dependable and easy to use as the FlickLock system.
The external lever-locksystem can be easily adjusted with your bare hands, so you won’t face the hassles of carrying a coin or screwdriver.
Leki cristallo weighs 18 oz per pair, which lies a little on the heavy side. But you can decide that based on your carrying capacity.
Similarly, the 3-section Cristallo packs down to 27”, which is among the least packable pole. However if you’re going to carry them most of the time then it won’t be an issue.
Yet they are short enough to be strapped outside your backpacks.
Leki Cristallo is known for its durability. It can easily survive handful of brutal trips and certainly is more durable than any folding style poles.
The rubber handle doesn’t absorb moisture, which means you can go snowshoeing, and glacier mountaineering with it. You can also depend on it for extended cross-country trips and backcountry skiing,
However Leki Cristallo is not an ideal pole for hot weather hiking because of their rubber handles.
Leki Cristallo price is reasobale, which is a good deal for a pole offering comfortability and ease of use.
Features I like:
- Super durable even in roughest trips
- Comfortable rubber handles
- Extremely versatile
- SpeedLock 2 locking mechanism
- Adjustable straps
Distance FLZ comprises a lightweight foam handle rather than a mega comfortable foam grip. You can find it very comfortable for extended approaches and backpacking trips.
The grip, however, is not as comfortable as Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Z, but is comfortable and durable than most rubber-gripped handles. So you can decide that in between of where you stand.
Similarly, it uses a combination of pin pop and Flick Lock locking mechanism, hence the name FLZ-Z. So you can have around 20 cm of height adjustment to shorten or lengthen going up or down the hill.
The Distance FLZ weighs 16 oz giving you the ease of carrying. It is lighter than most telescoping poles.
What I personally like about Distance FLZ-Z is that it collapses down to 15”, ideal for packing and carrying them whenever not required.
However they aren’t as tough as heavier aluminum poles. But if you’re a cross-country traveller than it is durable enough for you.
The downside of Distance FLZ-Z is that it doesn’t have any snow baskets and are great only for 3 seasons.
The Black Diamond Distance FLZ-Z price isn’t outrageous, because if want a compact packable pole, with range adjustment this is the one.
Features I like:
- Carbide tip covered with rubber tip.
- Easy length adjustment
- Compact poles
- Collapses super small to carry around
- Fairly light
You might have wondered why did I include hiking poles from just two brands – Black Diamond and Leki.
I have tried trekking poles from different other brands but none of them were as good as Leki and Black Diamond.
They are a bit expensive but I’ve found them worth the money.
The Leki Micro Vario is my favorite in the list, and I’ve been using it for several years. It has extremely comfortable foam grip, lever locking mechanism, light-weight and packable.
Make sure you pick up the hiking pole that is suitable for your hiking and provide you durability. Some people might prefer heavy but durable poles, and some might prefer lightweight and packable poles.
So pick your pair of poles you can rely on and make your hiking adventure worthwhile.