Best Trekking Poles 2018 - Expert Review | Mountain IQ

Best Trekking Poles 2018 – Expert Review and Comparison Table

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Looking for the best trekking poles for your next adventure? 

This comprehensive guide will quickly point you in the right direction. Whether you are looking for the Best Overall Trekking Poles, the Lightest Weight Option, or an awesome Budget Trekking Pole, we have you covered. 

Start with our comparison table and if you want more detail then dive into our full trekking pole reviews.

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Best Trekking Poles

Trekking Poles

Rating

Weight

Length (Full)

Material (Shaft / Grip)

Price

#1

Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork

(Best Overall Trekking Pole)

black-diamond-alpine-cork-trekking-poles

482g

61-130cm

Carbon / Cork

#2

Leki Micro Vario Carbon

(Editor's Choice)

leki-micro-vario-carbon-trekking-pole

454g

38-130cm

Carbon / Foam

#3

Black Diamond Distance Z

(Best Lightweight Trekking Pole)

black-diamond-distance-z-poles-review

295g

43-130cm

Carbon / Foam

#4

REI Traverse Power Lock Cork

(Best Under $100)

rei-power-lock-traverse-trekking-poles

567g

67-140cm

Aluminium / Cork

#5

Foxelli HOG1 Carbon Fibre

(Best Budget Trekking Pole)

foxelli-trekking-poles

454g

61-140cm

Carbon / Cork

Best Overall Trekking Pole

Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork

black-diamond-alpine-cork-trekking-poles

5/5 Overall Rating
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Scoring 5 out of 5, the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork pole takes the prize for the best overall trekking pole due to its superior durability, comfort and construction made from premium carbon fibre with great cork grips.

While not the lightest nor most packable pole out of the 10 tested, the Alpine Carbon Cork simply performs the best in the greatest range of terrains and conditions. This all-rounder is suitable for short day hikes as well as 200km+ treks and its strength is comparable to that of an aluminium pole but with the much-desired benefit of being lighter.

The pole achieves this versatility through its thicker carbon shaft, which adds a little bit of weight but makes it long lasting and capable of traversing rough terrain. While not a specialist pole per se, the Alpine Carbon Cork performs the best in the most categories and is why it takes our number 1 position in our list of 10 trekking poles. It is not surprising that it is also within the premium price range.

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Main Features
  • Durable carbon shaft
  • Comfortable cork grips
  • FlickLock mechanism
What we like
  • Top scorer in durability and comfort
What we dislike
  • Not very portable nor as light as other carbon poles
Key Takeaway

Rugged, durable and versatile carbon pole with greatly comfortable grips make it the number 1 pole in our top 10. Best pole out there when it comes to performance.

Best Trekking Pole Under $100

REI Traverse Power Lock Cork

rei-power-lock-traverse-trekking-poles

4/5 Overall Rating
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The REI Traverse Power Lock Cork is a great, sturdy aluminium pole that comes with a host of features, all for under $100. It is a 3-section telescoping pole, with lever locks used in most models from Komperdell, which are of a surprisingly good quality given the price you are paying.

The tough aluminium shaft means the pole is suitable for anything from short day hikes to longer multi-day treks, and the cork grips provide better comfort than most rubber grips found on poles at this price point. When collapsed, the pole sits at 67cm meaning it is not the most portable but should be able to squeeze into checked baggage.

They come with interchangeable baskets and durable tungsten carbide tips, giving the Traverse Power Lock Cork and edge over highly specialised poles when it comes to versatility.

Main Features
  • Durable aluminium shaft
  • Cork grips
  • Lever locks on shaft
  • plus
    Interchangeable baskets
What we like
  • Premium-feel pole at a great price
What we dislike
  • Length and weight make it not as portable as most poles
Key Takeaway

A great value-for-money pole with cork grips and a lever-locking durable shaft. Perfect for buyers looking for a pole that is going to last while not breaking the bank.

Editor's Choice

Leki Micro Vario Carbon

leki-micro-vario-carbon-trekking-pole

4.5/5 Overall Rating
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As the most expensive pole tested with a list price in the $150-$200 range, this Leki pole is lightweight, comfortable and portable. With a carbon fibre shaft, the Leki Micro Vario Carbon is extremely lightweight and coupled with the ability to break apart to a packable length of just 38cm, this pole will take up little to no space in your bag.

While slightly less durable than aluminium poles or carbon poles with a telescoping design, the Micro Vario Carbon was surprisingly tough for its size and weight. Its foam handles offer a softer feel than the traditional cork and scored well in the comfort category.

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Main Features
  • Full carbon design
  • Break apart shaft to 38cm
  • Foam grips
What we like
  • Light and packable premium pole
What we dislike
  • Not as durable as other poles
Key Takeaway

This slick carbon pole is lightweight, small when folded and relatively durable for a carbon construct. With superb foam grips this is the luxury of trekking poles and this is certainly reflected in its high price.

Best Lightweight Trekking Poles

Black Diamond Distance Z

black-diamond-distance-z-trekking-poles

4.5/5 Overall Rating
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The Black Diamond Distance Z weighs in at under 300g making it the lightest pole tested. It features Black Diamond’s own tent-pole-like folding construction, bringing it to just 43cm when folded. With a carbon fibre construct and foam handles, the pole is perfect for hikers or trail runners looking to use it when needed while being able to pack it away at short notice when not.

The pole is surprisingly strong for a tent-style carbon pole yet it lacks in versatility as it is not adjustable and comes with only one type of basket and tip. There are, however, different length poles which can be bought to suit different heights and/or preferences.

The poles come with a premium price tag, but can be justified for avid through hikers or trail runners who need a light and easily deployable pole.

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Main Features
  • Super lightweight
  • Tent-pole foldable construction
  • Carbon shaft
  • plus
    Foam grips
What we like
  • Light and packs small
What we dislike
  • Limited to trail use
Key Takeaway

Packable, lightweight pole that is perfect for use on trails, but not suitable for more rugged or differing terrains.

Other Reviewed Trekking Poles

Leki Corklite DSS Antishock

leki-corklite-trekking-poles

3.5/5 Overall Rating
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This aluminium pole with cork handles outperforms the rest of the field in terms of comfort. Leki achieves this through using premium cork, sculpted in a way that moulds to your hands, with rubber inlays offering durability and smooth cork for comfort.

Where the Leki Corklite DSS Antishock falls short is that it doesn’t live up to its moniker ‘Corklite’ as it is one of the heaviest models we tested at over 500g per pair. While this is not a significant detraction from what is a pole, it is noticeably heavier than its carbon fibre counterparts and so may not be the preferred pole of day trekkers looking for something light and packable.

One reason the pole is heavier is that Leki have incorporated anti-shock technology into the shaft to improve comfort. Thus, the pole makes up in comfortability where it lacks in being lightweight but at over $150, you will have to pay a premium to get your hands on one of the top poles of the year.

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Main Features
  • Best-in-market cork handles
  • Anti-shock tech
  • Aluminium shaft
  • plus
    Cork handles
What we like
  • Most comfortable pole due to premium build and cork handles
What we dislike
  • Not very portable and on the heavy side
Key Takeaway

A luxury pole that prides itself in comfort, achieved through a combination of the best cork handles in the market and innovative anti-shock technology in the shaft. Geared towards serious hikers who are willing to pay a premium for the best pole out there.

Leki Micro Vario Ti COR-TEC

leki-micro-vario-carbon-trekking-pole

4/5 Overall Rating
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This aluminium pole from Leki is like their carbon offering of the Micro Vario Carbon, in that it is a 3-piece with a tent-pole breakaway mechanism and comes with Leki’s top quality cork grips with rubber inlays.

Being aluminium means the pole is over 100g heavier than Leki’s carbon offering and is one of the heaviest poles we tested at 567g. This does have its benefits though, as the aluminium build is very tough and should be able to width stand whatever you throw at it while packed away or while in use.

Like all Leki poles, this one is supremely comfortable and is reasonably priced for a tent-pole style. While it is a touch heavy, it scored well in every category placing it just behind the Micro Vario Carbon but at a lower, more enticing price.

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Main Features
  • Aluminium 3-piece design
  • Tent-pole breakaway mechanism making it portable
  • Quality and comfortable cork grips
What we like
  • Most portable pole tested at a reasonable price
What we dislike
  • On the heavy side of the spectrum
Key Takeaway

Good quality portable pole with one of the most comfortable grips out there. Perfect for those looking for a pole that will fit into their backpack but that want to pay a little less than what a carbon pole would cost.

REI Co-op Flash Carbon

rei-co-op-flash-carbon-trekking-poles

3.5/5 Overall Rating
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The REI Co-op Flash Carbon pole is constructed by Komperdell for REI and can be considered an entry level carbon pole that is affordable. At just 425g it is very light, which can be attributed to the super thin carbon used in the shaft, with only aluminium used to build the locking mechanisms that allow for adjustability.

We found the thin carbon to be lacking on the durability side and believe this is due to the lightweight build. This takes away some comfort and the foam grips were not as good as the best foam grips out there nor were they as comfortable as the cork standard.

Despite this, the pole is versatile and its length can be adjusted easily and being so light makes it easy to carry and a treat to use.

Main Features
  • Carbon shaft
  • Foam handles
  • Aluminium locking system for adjustability
  • plus
    Very light
What we like
  • Lightweight and affordable
What we dislike
  • Thin carbon shaft is not very durable
Key Takeaway

An affordable carbon pole that is very lightweight and adjustable. Lacks in strength and comfort but suits the person looking to pay under $150 for a carbon pole.

Black Diamond Alpine FLZ

black-diamond-distance-flz-trekking-poles

4/5 Overall Rating
Read Full Review

Black Diamond has become the market leader in producing dependable, good quality poles and the Alpine FLZ is no exception. As an aluminium pole, it has a solid build with a rugged, durable feel yet this comes at the cost of being the heaviest pole we tested at over 560g.

Despite being on the heavy side, Black Diamond’s unique ‘Z’ style tent-pole folding mechanism means the pole is one of the shortest when folded at just over 40cm. This is great for portability and means the set of poles will fit into almost any daypack with considerable ease.

The pole is versatile and comes with a set of snow baskets and so will fare well in almost any condition. Its cork handles are a nice finishing touch that rubber stamp the quality of Black Diamond products and give it an edge over competitors in the area of comfort.

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Main Features
  • ‘Z’ style folding system
  • Cork handles
  • Aluminium shaft
  • plus
    Comes with snow baskets
What we like
  • One of the most portable designs
What we dislike
  • Heaviest pole tested
Key Takeaway

Durable pole that sits on the heavy side of the spectrum, but with a very small and packable design. Cork handles give it a premium feel and make it suitable for hikers looking for poles they can carry in their backpack.

Best Budget Trekking Poles

Foxelli HOG1 Carbon Fibre

foxelli-trekking-poles

3/5 Overall Rating
Read Full Review

This carbon shaft, cork grip pole from Foxelli is probably the cheapest carbon/cork combination pole out there, rivalled only by the Hiker Hunger Carbon Fibre pole. Sitting in the $50-$100 range, the HOG1 Carbon Fibre pole is lightweight due to its carbon build but unfortunately does not score well for durability as the quality of carbon used in the shaft certainly lacks behind that used in more premium poles.

The thin carbon build compromises the strength of the shaft and the telescoping locking mechanisms didn’t perform consistently when tested. Where the pole did score well was in comfort, where the cork grips gave a great consistent feel on all terrains and the section of foam under the cork allowed for choking down on the grip when navigating tricky situations.

Main Features
  • Carbon/cork build
  • Foam on lower portion of grip
  • Comes with many attachments (baskets, tips etc.)
  • plus
    Comes with snow baskets
What we like
  • Comfortable and very affordable
What we dislike
  • Shaft is not strong and locking mechanisms are shaky
Key Takeaway

Cheap carbon/cork pole that is ergonomic and comfortable but that lacks severely in durability and quality of build.

Hiker Hunger Carbon Fibre

hiker-hunger-trekking-poles

3/5 Overall Rating
Read Full Review

The Hiker Hunger Carbon Fibre pole is almost a carbon copy of the Foxelli pole reviewed above. Also priced in the $50-$100 range, this carbon pole features cork handles with foam lowers that were relatively comfortable for what you are paying.

The carbon fibre is thin and super lightweight making it quite brittle and susceptible to damage, which certainly doesn’t fare well in terms of durability when compared to other carbon poles. Like the Foxelli pole, it comes with a variety of baskets and tips and like the Foxelli, the locking mechanisms leave much to be desired.

Main Features
  • Cheap price for a carbon pole
  • Decent cork grips with foam lowers
  • Loads of attachments
What we like
  • Comfortable and cheap
What we dislike
  • Prone to breaking due to cheap carbon fibre
Key Takeaway

Very inexpensive, carbon pole with cork/foam grips that lacks durability and does not offer much in terms of performance.

Trekking Poles Buyers Guide - Key Features 

The market for trekking poles has become increasingly populated by models that range vastly in price, quality and purpose. Finding trekking poles that are suited to your needs and that fit into your budget is no easy task - so much so that many casual hikers overlook this essential piece of gear altogether.

A decade ago, it was considered a luxury to hike with trekking poles, something reserved for only the most serious of hikers. As time has gone by, the benefits poles provide have been realised by your average hiker looking to gain in comfort, balance and stability as well as to prolong the health of their joints.

Here are the key features you should look out for when buying trekking poles.

Durability

The material used for the various sections of trekking poles (handle and shaft) tends to be the overarching determinant of the other key features such as durability, weight and comfort.

This makes the choice of material especially important when making the decision to purchase trekking poles.

Most shafts tend to be made of either aluminium or carbon fibre with each providing its own range of pros and cons. As the cheaper option, aluminium poles tend to last longer and can take quite a battering before they become unusable as the metal will bend and dent slightly before it breaks. Although still very light, aluminium poles are a bit heavier than their carbon fibre counterparts and so may be preferable for shorter, off trail hikes where durability is a concern.

Carbon fibre poles are a slightly more premium offering in that they are engineered to be extremely light and hold their shape exceptionally well. The main drawback of carbon fibre is that the shaft is brittle and once cracked or damaged, the poles are essentially useless. They do provide better shock absorption over aluminium poles and so are recommended for long hikes on trails where weight is a concern.

Handle material is equally important as it determines the comfort of the trekking poles. Cork handles offer the best comfort as they are smooth and durable and fit to your hand over time.

Rubber handles are the most common and the cheapest. They are great in cold, wet weather where grip is a concern, but they perform poorly in hot climates as they become slippery and can cause chafing and discomfort.

Foam handles are relatively new and are hands down the most comfortable grips out there but to achieve this they sacrifice on durability. Naturally, foam degrades at quite a rapid rate, but many premium trekking poles use them as they are brilliant at wicking away moisture and are lighter than both cork and rubber.

Comfort

Comfort is the primary job of any trekking pole, whether it be through proving you with stability or by easing the stress on your knees. An uncomfortable pole is a burden as it can cause you pain and discomfort during your hike.

As stated above, comfort largely depends on the material of the grip as this is the only part of the pole that comes into contact with your body. Past this, the material and weight of the shaft will affect the ergonomics of the pole and the ease of using it.

A marginally heavier pole can cause fatigue when you consider the number of times you have to lift the poles up in an average hike. The ability to absorb shocks is another important driver of comfort and you will find many brands advertising ‘shock absorbers’ on their latest poles.

Shock absorbers can be very useful on descents where your body and knees take the most strain, but can compromise the stability and ‘power’ you receive from your poles when climbing uphill. You should look for poles that boast the ability to switch off this shock absorbing effect or just look for poles that don’t offer them at all as they are not a vital element of trekking poles nor do they offer significant benefits over standard poles.

Weight

Weight is an issue for everything in hiking from boots to backpacks to jackets. Ultra-lightweight and ultrathin are common buzzwords in the hiking vocabulary, especially as thru-hiking becomes increasingly popular.

Typically, where you gain on weight you lose in durability and this largely holds true for trekking poles. Carbon fibre poles are the lightest but fall short of the durability seen in aluminium poles.

Portability

The ability to pack your trekking poles is highly dependent on the type of hiking you intend to do. If you are just day hiking, then you can always expect to have your poles in your hands, whereas if you're travelling on various modes of transport between hikes you may prefer poles than don’t take up much space and that can fit into your daypack.

Z-style poles are the most portable and are often referred to as ‘tent poles’ due to the way they break apart and fold up. While being the most portable, these poles will lack in durability as they essentially come apart at more points than your typical telescope pole which just slides into itself.

Versatility

Trekking poles are not considered to be versatile in general as they are only suited for trekking and shouldn’t be used for other sports such as skiing. Where trekking poles can be versatile is in their ability to be used in different weather and trail conditions.

Trekking poles with interchangeable baskets are the best for hikers looking to trek on-trail, off-trail and in the snow. Poles that are more durable are also more versatile in that they can be used for off-trail hiking as opposed to lightweight trail poles.

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