Top Most Recommended Hiking Poles

Published on 02/20/2024 · 8 min readStep up your hiking game: Discover the top most recommended hiking poles, chosen for their durability, comfort, and support on any terrain.
Nicole O, Camping Expert
By Camping Expert Nicole O

Photo by Kampus Production

TL;DR: Hiking poles are very useful for making hiking both more enjoyable and safer. They’re a great investment for anyone, from day hikers to thru-hikers.

Whether you’re brand new to hiking and the outdoors, or you’re an experienced backpacker, getting a good pair of trekking poles can be a game changer, and make hiking feel easier and more fun. Read on for my top reasons to carry a pair of trekking poles with you, as well as my most recommended trekking poles for hiking and backpacking.

The Benefits of Using Trekking Poles

There are numerous benefits that come with using a pair of trekking poles on your hike. They can improve your experience and enjoyment, make hiking safer, and protect your body in the long run. Here are some examples:

Protecting your Joints

The number one reason to own and use trekking poles is to protect your leg joints (knees and ankles). While hiking and backpacking is a wonderful, healthy hobby, it can wreak havoc on your joints—your knees especially—if you are out hiking all the time. Once you add in the extra weight of a backpack, or the strain of steep terrain, hiking can take a toll on your body in the long run. Trekking poles incorporate your upper body into hiking, taking some of the load off of your legs and joints and turning hiking into a bit more of a full body workout. They also help absorb shock on steep downhills. In the long run, taking care of your joints by lightening the load will pay dividends in being able to enjoy hiking and backpacking as a hobby throughout the span of your life.

Another reason to use trekking poles is that they can help make river crossings easier and safer. Being able to use your poles to test how deep the water actually is and having three points of contact while crossing adds a ton of stability, and therefore makes it safer. Or, if you’re rock hopping across some stream crossings, it can be helpful to plant your poles to make jumps and hops easier. Trekking poles are also helpful for testing ice strength and mud depth before committing your full body weight to an uncertain surface.

Photo by PNW Productions

Saving You From Falls or Slips

Trekking poles can also be tremendously useful if you’re a bit clumsy. Personally, I feel like my poles save me from a fall or slip at least once per hike—so for that, I am eternally grateful for them. Even if you don’t consider yourself clumsy, falls happen to all of us. It can be nice to have two arm extensions to catch yourself. I always take trekking poles if the hike I am doing will be particularly snowy or muddy, as they add stability in slippery scenarios.

Increasing Speed

While hiking should be about enjoying the journey and not just rushing, it is nice to put some miles down sometimes (especially on a road walk, or something monotonous like that). Hiking with poles actually increases your speed! Using hiking poles helps you get into a better rhythm while hiking, and allows you to propel yourself forward a little bit with each pole plant. Again, I believe in enjoying hiking and trails and stopping to smell the roses, but sometimes you’re just hungry and want to speed run the last couple miles to your car or the next town.

Replacing Tent Poles

Trekking poles are also useful for setting up certain ultralight backcountry shelters. Some shelters aren’t freestanding, so they require poles to set them up. It’s a win-win to use trekking poles to alleviate the weight in your pack and set up your shelter—or to have a backup if you forget your tent poles!

Forcing Better Posture

Using trekking poles encourages you to hike in a more upright stance. Some people, myself included, slouch or keel over on tough hikes sometimes. Using trekking poles can help you remain more upright, and engage your core during your hike. This helps you feel better both while hiking and after hiking.

Photo by Yaroslav Shuraev

The Best Trekking Poles

So, now that we are all well-versed on the numerous benefits of using trekking poles while hiking or backpacking, let’s get to which ones are the best! Here are my favorite sets of trekking poles currently on the market:

1. Black Diamond Distance Carbon Poles

The Black Diamond Distance Carbon Poles are my favorite poles on the market. These are what I personally use. I love how lightweight and reliable they are. They weigh only 3 ounces each, making them the lightest poles on this list, so they’re great for ultralight hikers. They’re also made from carbon fiber, so while they’re technically less sturdy than an aluminum pole, I have personally used and abused these poles and never snapped them. The foam grip is designed to wick moisture and keep your hands dryer, which is very important in warm or humid environments to avoid blisters forming. They also come in a variety of sizes, so you can get whichever size suits your needs. These cost $169.95, making them the most expensive poles I have on this list, but also the most lightweight (as it tends to go in the backpacking world).

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2. Leki Cross Trail 3 TA Trekking Poles

The Leki Cross Trail 3 TA Trekking Poles are amazing for anyone looking to get a new pair of ultralight trekking poles added to their gear kit, but who don’t want a carbon fiber pole. The full cork handles are perfect for anyone that has sweaty hands or who hikes in the heat often. Cork wicks away sweat from the hands, making your hiking a dryer experience, and less likely to give you any blisters. These poles are made out of aluminum, so they're sturdy and won’t break or snap easily. Also, the straps on the handles are adjustable, allowing you to get a perfect fit. They weigh eight and a half ounces each, making this another fantastic lightweight option.

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3. Mountainsmith Dolomite 7075 OLS

The Mountainsmith Dolomite 7075 OLS trekking poles are a perfect option for anyone who is not looking to spend a ton of money on a new pair of trekking poles. These poles are made out of aluminum, so they’re a bit heavier than other options listed above, but at this price point ($69.95), it’s hard to complain. Aluminum is a sturdy material. so you’re less likely to bend or snap the poles, which can sometimes happen on a gnarly fall.

4. Leki Cressida AS Trekking Pole

The Leki Cressida AS Trekking Pole is a great option for mountaineers. This pole is made out of aluminum, so it is very sturdy, but also weighs more than the other poles I have listed. This is a great option if you have any mountaineering adventures planned for the future! It’s sold as one single pole, since many mountaineers prefer to have a free hand for dealing with gear. This pole comes in weighing 1 lb, 1 oz.

The one pole versus two poles debate is a hot topic in the backpacking community. Some people love only having one pole, while others think it’s silly. I’ve tried both, and generally prefer having two poles since it feels more even and effective. However, many people prefer only having one pole, since it keeps their other hand free to deal with gear, water, or anything else that comes up.. This comes down to personal preference, so you’ll have to experiment to find what’s best for you!

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How to Choose the Right Trekking Poles

Which poles (or pole) are right for you depends on your hiking style, your environment, and your personal preference. If you’re a major backpacker, and are trying to keep your pack weight down, you’re going to want an ultralight option. The best choice for you would likely be my favorites, the Black Diamond Distance Carbon poles. While they do cost a little more than the other options, it’s worth it to splurge a little on these poles if you’re going out for a long-distance trek.

On the other hand, if distance isn’t an issue, you can opt for poles that are a little heavier. One major factor in your choice is your environment. If you often hike in a hot or humid environment, I’d recommend grabbing the Leki Cross Trail 3 TA, due to its cork grip. Cork is the best material for hiking pole handles, as it wicks sweat away and prevents blisters. Keep these various factors in mind as you’re choosing which trekking poles are right for you.

Find the Best Trekking Poles For You

There are many options for hiking poles on the market, and choosing the best pair for you comes down to your personal preferences for weight, material, your hiking style, and your budget. If you’re still looking for more advice on which trekking poles will suit you the best on your future outdoor adventures, reach out to me personally, or another Curated Camping and Hiking Expert for free, personalized advice. Happy trails!

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