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Trekking Poles do many things for the hiker and walker, like: Helping someone navigate tough or slippery terrain by providing a third and fourth point of support, preventing a fall. Taking some of the weight off of your legs and knees, letting your arms share some of the work. Assisting on uphill climbs, and they make going downhill easier. Having interchangeable tips allow them to work on snow, ice, mud, gravel, rock, or dirt. Offering a place to lean on while taking a break and allow you to probe surfaces for safety and hold aside brush.

Most trekking poles are collapsible to one degree or another, but there are other considerations—the terrain you’ll be walking on, your own comfort level, your physical condition, and your personal preferences. Here’s a simple guide to choosing the best trekking poles for you.

Feather Light

This product has an easy-to-use lever system that allows quick changes in length. TrailBuddy

Trekking poles should be long enough to reach the ground from your hand when your elbow is at a 45-degree angle. That ideal length is going to change when hiking on inclines—shorter when walking up a slope, longer when walking down a slope. If you’ll be going uphill and down often, choose poles that have fast, easy adjustments so you don’t have to spend a lot of time unlocking and locking the mechanisms until you get the length just right. Look for a set of poles that have lever locks, which are quick and easy to adjust.

Built to Last

A spring mechanism near the grip greatly reduces felt vibrations. TheFitLife

Obviously, you need to lift up and set down your trekking poles as you walk. If you walk on pavement or hike on very hard surfaces, that translates to vibrations up the shafts and to your hands. The cumulative effect of all those vibrations can result in discomfort or even pain. Trekking poles with integral shock absorbers greatly decrease that vibration, making for a much more comfortable trek.

High-Tech Material

At only 7.6 ounces each, you’ll barely feel these on the trail. Foxelli

If you’ll be carrying a heavy backpack and going long distances, or if conserving energy is important, look to trekking poles made from carbon fiber. These poles are much lighter than aluminum and require much less exertion to lift, move forward, and reset. They cost more than aluminum poles, but can weigh less than 8 ounces each.

Comfortable Grip

Out in the powder? This product accepts 100mm powder baskets to combat the snow. Black Diamond

Trekking poles with grips that are set at an angle rather than in line with the shaft place your wrist in a more natural position. You won’t need to keep your wrist bent when planting the tips, thus reducing the chance of bringing on wrist pain.