The Best Trekking Poles of 2022 for Hiking & Backpacking – Bearfoot Theory

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The Best Trekking Poles of 2022 for Hiking & Backpacking – Bearfoot Theory

Ok, let’s get it out of the way. Trekking poles may look a little nerdy, but we all just need to get over that. The second you give the best trekki

Ok, let’s get it out of the way. Trekking poles may look a little nerdy, but we all just need to get over that. The second you give the best trekking poles on this list a try on your next hike or backpacking trip, I guarantee you will love them and never think of them as nerdy again.

Trekking poles offer stability on the trail and help protect your knees. I first started hiking with trekking poles when I hiked the John Muir Trail, and I couldn’t believe the difference it made – going both uphill and downhill. Trekking poles helped me maintain a comfortable hiking pace by timing my stride with my breath and lessening the pressure on my joints. Now, I won’t go on a backpacking trip without trekking poles.

In this post, we share the best trekking poles and cover all the benefits of hiking with trekking poles.

Best Trekking Poles at a Glance

Best Trekking Poles Comparison Table

See the comparison table below for a quick summary of each of the top trekking poles for hiking. You can click on the columns to sort by what’s most important to you.

Montem Ultra Strong

Best Budget Trekking Poles

Key Features:

  • MSRP: $69.95
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 1 lb, 3 oz (pair)
  • Size: Adjustable
  • Max Length: 52 in
  • Grip: Foam
  • Gender: Unisex

Check Price: Montem

Montem Ultra Strong

Great for: budget hikers & backpackers

Pros: easy to adjust, extremely durable, great value buy

Cons: None that we can see. Of 400+ reviews on the Montem website, there are no reviews below 4 stars

Montem’s Ultra Strong Trekking Poles run $70 and they come with some pretty impressive features for that price. They have comfortable foam grips with an adjustable wrist strap, and they are quick and easy to adjust. If you are looking for your first pair of trekking poles and aren’t sure if you will like using them, these are an excellent option. Montem also has a lighter, slightly more expensive carbon fiber version, which will shave some ounces off your load if you are going backpacking.

REI Co-op Trailbreak

BFT Reader Favorite

Key Features:

  • MSRP: $69.95
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 1 lb, 1 oz (pair)
  • Size: Adjustable
  • Max Length: 55 in
  • Grip: Foam
  • Gender: Unisex

Check Price: REI

REI Co-op Trailbreak

Great for: budget hikers & backpackers

Pros: sturdy locking mechanism, great value for price

Cons: must turn the locking mechanism clockwise to get the poles to stay locked in place

For another great budget option, the REI Co-op Trailbreak Trekking Poles are your best bet. They’re simple and not super lightweight, but they’re adjustable, versatile, and have comfortable wrist straps. These are the most popular trekking poles among Bearfoot Theory readers and they even come in a printed version if you want to add a little flair.

Black Diamond Distance Z

Best Aluminum Trekking Poles

Key Features:

  • Price: $129.95
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 11.4 – 13.4 oz (pair)
  • Size: 100cm/110cm/120cm/130cm
  • Max Length: 51 in (130cm size)
  • Grip: Foam
  • Gender: Unisex

Check Price: REI | Backcountry | Black Diamond

Black Diamond Distance Z

Great for: lightweight backpacking, travel, long hikes

Pros: short collapsed length which makes storing in your pack or travel bag easy, lightweight

Cons: no length adjustability

For a high-quality, lightweight aluminum trekking pole, check out the Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking Poles. These are what Bearfoot Theory’s Director of Operations, Linda, uses on the trail and she loves them. She’s 5’3 and the 100cm size works perfectly. They are collapsible which makes packing these for travel super easy. These are also lightweight poles that cost less than half the price of carbon poles, so they’re a great value for their weight.

Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z

Best Ultralight Trekking Poles for Backpacking

Key Features:

  • MSRP: $179.95
  • Material: Carbon Fiber
  • Weight: 9.3 – 10.4 oz (pair)
  • Size: Non-Adjustable, 110cm/125cm/130cm
  • Max Length: 51 in (130cm size)
  • Grip: Foam
  • Gender: Unisex

Check Price: REI | Backcountry | Black Diamond

Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z

Great for: ultralight backpacking, trail running, long-distance hikes, travel

Pros: most lightweight trekking pole, carbide and rubber tips included, collapsible

Cons: expensive compared to other poles on our list, no length adjustability

You really can’t beat the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Poles if you are looking for ultralight gear. This is a lighter version of the Black Diamond Distance Z poles mentioned above because they’re made from carbon fiber instead of aluminum. They come in 3 sizes to meet your height and are Black Diamond’s lightest foldable poles, weighing around 10 ounces. There is also a women’s version available.

REI Co-op Flash Carbon Compact Trekking Poles

Most Affordable Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles

Key Features:

  • MSRP: $149
  • Material: Carbon Fiber
  • Weight: 12.9 oz (pair)
  • Size: Adjustable
  • Max Length: 47 in
  • Grip: Foam
  • Gender: Unisex

Check Price: REI

REI Co-op Flash Carbon Compact Trekking Poles

Great for: ultralight gear on a budget

Pros: ultralight, easy to adjust, affordable

Cons: not as durable or versatile as other trekking poles

The REI Co-op Flash Carbon Compact Trekking Poles are a great choice if you are looking for budget-friendly carbon fiber trekking poles. They are easy to adjust for hiking uphill or downhill and pack down small (while not totally collapsible). The downside of these trekking poles is they aren’t as sturdy as other trekking poles on our list and don’t hold up in winter conditions because of the carbon fiber.

Black Diamond Trail Women’s

Best Trekking Poles for Women

Key Features:

  • MSRP: $109.95
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 15.6 oz (pair)
  • Size: Adjustable
  • Max Length: 49 in
  • Grip: Foam
  • Gender: Women’s

Check Price: Backcountry | REI | Black Diamond

Black Diamond Trail Women's

Great for: people who prefer smaller handles for grip

Pros: budget-friendly for lightweight poles, wrist straps are padded & comfortable

Cons: locking mechanism needs to be tightened often

The Black Diamond Trail Women’s Trekking Poles are easy on your budget and great beginner women’s trekking poles. They are durable, easy to adjust, and pretty lightweight for the price. These are the trekking poles that BFT’s content coordinator, Courtney, has used for the past year for day hikes and backpacking trips. She likes how straightforward they are and that the grips don’t feel sweaty.

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork

Most Ergonomic Trekking Poles

Key Features:

  • MSRP: $139.95
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 1 lb, 1.2 oz (pair)
  • Size: Adjustable
  • Max Length: 49 in
  • Grip: Cork
  • Gender: Women’s

Check Price: Backcountry | REI | Black Diamond

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork

Great for: 4-season use, quick hikers

Pros: sturdy, ergonomic grip for easy use

Cons: long collapsed length

The women’s version of the Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles is sized specifically for women. The cork grips are extra comfortable and shaped for smaller hands. These poles are also a great option for four-season use if you plan on hiking in snow or snowshoeing. They have a corrective angle for optimal, ergonomic grip position which most trekking poles don’t offer. There is also a unisex version available.

Leki Lhasa

Most Shock-Absorbing Trekking Poles

Key Features:

  • MSRP: $99.95
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 1 lb. 1.4 oz. (pair)
  • Size: Adjustable
  • Max Length: 49 in
  • Grip: Cork/Rubber
  • Gender: Women’s

Check Price: REI

Leki Lhasa

Great for: people who need extra joint support

Pros: smaller grip for smaller hands, DSS anti-shock system lessens the impact on your joints

Cons: not the most compact trekking poles

The Leki Lhasa Women’s Trekking Poles are a great choice if you have sensitive knees and joints and want extra protection on the trail. Made with a DSS antishock system, these poles make treks easier on your muscles, joints and ligaments. These are easy to adjust on the trail for uphill or downhill use and the inclined grip angle of 8° supports your wrists in a neutral position, making them very ergonomic too. There is also a unisex version available.

Black Diamond Alpine FLZ

Best Collapsible Trekking Poles

Key Features:

  • MSRP: $169.95
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 1 lb, 2 oz – 1 lb, 3 oz (pair)
  • Size: Adjustable, 95-110cm/105-125cm/120-140cm
  • Max Length: 55 in
  • Grip: Cork
  • Gender: Unisex

Check Price: Backcountry | REI | Black Diamond

Black Diamond Alpine FLZ

Great for: everyday hiking, 4 season use, travel

Pros: short collapsed length which makes storing in your pack or travel bag easy, easily adjustable

Cons: sometimes jam up in winter conditions

The Black Diamond Alpine FLZ Trekking Poles are great because they break down and can easily fit into checked luggage or in the side pocket of your backpack if you aren’t sure you want to bring them along. These are the trekking poles Kristen uses and loves. They are also adjustable so you can make them shorter on the uphill and longer on the downhill. These trekking poles are also made for four-season use. They come with swappable baskets which need to be purchased separately.

Benefits of Hiking with Trekking Poles

Hiking with trekking poles has a ton of different benefits – from helping you build endurance to taking stress off your knees. They help get your whole body involved in walking rather than having all the weight and pressure on your lower half. Once you try them, you’ll never go back. Here are some of the key benefits of hiking with trekking poles and why you should give them a try.

They Help Build Strength & Endurance

Hiking with trekking poles helps build strength and endurance. When you hike without them, you are only engaging your leg muscle muscles. When you hike with trekking poles, you are also using your arms, core, and upper body which builds overall body strength, distributes the work, and allows you to hike further without getting as tired.

They Improve Balance

If you are hiking in snow, on a slippery path, over rocks, or across a stream, having four points of contact helps maintain balance.

Kristen crossing a stream on a pile of rocks
trekking poles help with your balance while crossing streams and hiking on uneven terrain

They Distribute Weight

When backpacking with a heavy pack, using hiking poles helps distribute that weight so you have better balance. They also help you stand more upright and avoid leaning forward as much under the weight of your pack.

They Reduce Pressure on Joints

Trekking poles help take the weight off your lower half, reducing the pressure on your knees and ankle joints. I especially notice the difference when hiking downhill which normally puts a lot of pressure on my knees and ankles – trekking poles alleviate that significantly.

They Can Increase Your Hiking Speed

Trekking poles can help you develop a consistent rhythm, which over time, can increase your average hiking speed. They also help to displace the effort required to climb upwards as you have the ability to utilize your arms to propel you forward.

They’re Versatile in a Pinch

Trekking poles can also be a great last-minute tent pole replacement if you are in a jam. Some tents, like Zpacks, actually use a pole as part of their set-up, allowing you to save weight. Trekking poles also make for a great splint for medical emergencies, make you appear taller to wildlife, and can even protect you from snakes.

A backpacking tent set up in Minnesota with trekking poles
Zpacks tents require trekking poles to set up – which reduces your pack weight!

How to Choose Trekking Poles

When you are shopping for new trekking poles, there are a number of things to consider. In this section, we break down how to find the right pair for you.

Poles vs. Staff

Two poles are better than one. A singular hiking staff (think about a long wooden stick) is generally only effective when carrying little to no load on your back and when used on flat terrain. We recommend buying trekking poles which are sold as a pair and used in tandem. If at any time you only want to use one, just throw the second pole in your pack.

Grip

Cork, foam, and rubber are the three most common choices for grips. We love cork grips as they wick moisture from sweaty hands. They also conform to the shape of your hand over time and help absorb some of the vibrations from the ground.

Foam grips actually absorb moisture. They are also comfortable, but depending on how sweaty your hands typically get, foam grips can retain smells over time.

The third type of grip is rubber, which insulate hands from the cold. So, if you mostly hike in cold wintery weather, consider rubber grips. However, in warmer temperatures rubber gripped trekking poles can cause chafing or blistering on hands.

Selecting the type of grip you want on your trekking poles will narrow down your selection and is one of the first decisions you should make. One isn’t necessarily better than another, you’ll learn your preference over time.

A man uses trekking poles while hiking in the woods
Trekking pole grips are a personal preference – we prefer cork because it molds to your hand and isn’t sweaty

Men’s vs. Women’s

Women’s trekking poles are generally shorter and have smaller grips which is important if you have smaller hands. Men’s specific trekking poles are now less common, with more being unisex.

Wrist Straps

Many poles come with straps which can be essential if you are using them for winter hiking to prevent post-holing. Straps are also handy because they keep your poles attached to your wrists so you can let go of the grips to grab a drink of water or look at a map without having to put them down. Some trekking poles have removable wrist straps which are nice for long-distance hiking if you are paying close attention to the overall weight.

Pole Material

Most trekking poles made today are made of aluminum or carbon fiber. Aluminum poles are more prone to bending but are a much cheaper option. Carbon fiber poles are much lighter and better at reducing vibrations, but they are more prone to snapping under high stress. Carbon fiber poles are also more expensive.

Packability

Many trekking poles can be folded up (kind of like tent poles), some are telescoping, and some cannot be packed down at all.

Think about where you will store your trekking poles when not in use or when traveling with them. Do you want to be able to pack them up? Are you planning on flying with them?

Most daypacks and backpacking packs have loops on the back where you can strap your packable trekking poles when not in use. And most airlines require that trekking poles be placed in checked luggage so if you plan on traveling with them, packable ones will be the best option for you.

Black Diamond Alpine FLZ trekking poles

Shock Absorbing

Some poles are shock absorbing. This is highly encouraged if you have weak or damaged ankles, knees, or hips.

Adjustable vs Set Size

It is important that you select a set of trekking poles that are the right size for you. Some are adjustable which gives you more flexibility in case you want to adjust the size – you can shorten them when going uphill and lengthen them when going downhill – or lend them out. Others come in a range of set sizes so check the size before you buy and make sure it’s right for you. Ideally, your elbows should be at 90 degrees when holding them. If you’re taller than 6 feet, the best trekking poles will have a maximum length of at least 51 inches.

Locking Mechanism

For adjustable hiking poles as mentioned above, in our personal opinion, the locking mechanism is one of the biggest things to consider when selecting poles. Most poles today use an external lever lock instead of twist locks. External lever locks are clamp-like devices that make adjusting your poles quick and easy.

Adjustable trekking pole lever lock

Baskets

Baskets on trekking poles are essential for treks on snowy or muddy ground (think snowshoeing). The more snow, the larger the basket you’ll want. Baskets are sometimes sold separately.

A person snowshoeing in the winter using trekking poles
Baskets are the discs at the bottom of some trekking poles and are key for snowshoeing or hiking on snowy or muddy ground

Got any questions about hiking with trekking poles? What are the best trekking poles you’ve found? Let us know in the comments below.

Here are the best trekking poles including women's hiking poles, and ultralight, collapsible options for all budgets.

Written by
Kristen Bor

Hey there! My name is Kristen, and this is my outdoor blog. I discovered the power of the outdoors in my 20s, at the time I needed it most. Now 15 years later, prioritizing that critical connection with nature continues to improve my life. My goal at Bearfoot Theory is to empower you with the tools and advice you need to responsibly get outside.

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