Three Things to Consider Before Buying Trekking Poles

Trekking poles are an essential tool for hiking and backpacking.

Man sitting on cliff with trekking poles
A good pair of trekking poles can make it easier to carry heavy loads when you’re hitting the trail.Unsplash/Khamkhor

Tired of staying at home and scrolling through everyone else’s scenic social media photos? Then gear up for your own outdoor adventure. If your plans involve hiking in the mountains, running unpaved trails, backcountry camping, or all of the above, consider investing in a dependable pair of trekking poles. While they may look simple, the latest generation of trekking poles are tools engineered to increase your comfort and safety across a wide variety of terrain and conditions and provide extra stability when climbing and descending hills. If the weather turns sour, trekking poles will help you tackle wet, icy, and snowy surfaces. The added support cushions your knees and ankles, enabling you to keep pushing ahead. Whether you are new to hiking or just need a new pair of trekking poles, here are three things to think about before making your purchase.

TrailBuddy Trekking Poles - 2-pc Pack Adjustable Hiking or Walking Sticks - Strong, Lightweight Aluminum 7075 - Quick Adjust Flip-Lock - Cork Grip, Padded Strap
This shafts on this pair adjust from 24- to 54-inches long.TrailBuddy

Trekking poles are available in three styles: telescoping, folding, and fixed. It’s easy to adjust the height on a telescoping pole, which is useful when you want to shorten the shaft for hiking up an incline or lengthen it when heading downhill. Most models feature a twist-style lock or a lever/clasp lock. The twist lock operates by turning the sections of the shaft in opposite directions to loosen or tighten. However, some people prefer lever or clasp locks because they’re less likely to loosen while hiking. If you’re not keen on tightening and loosening adjustable poles, folding “Z” poles disassemble into several pieces that are often held together in order by an elastic cord. Fixed-length trekking poles are popular with ultra-light hikers because they tend to weigh less.

Retrospec High Point Trekking - Adjustable Lightweight Hiking/Walking Sticks
These poles come with your choice of aluminum or carbon shafts.Retrospec

Durability and weight are two primary considerations when shopping for trekking poles. A heavy set of poles can tire your arms and slow you down. Lighter weight poles are generally better for backpacking and long-distance hikes. Still, trekking poles need to be tough enough to withstand the wear and tear of serious use. Trekking pole shafts are usually constructed from either aluminum or carbon fiber. Carbon shafts are the lightest option available. They excel at dampening vibration. However, they can break or splinter under heavy loads. Aluminum trekking poles are typically more affordable and more durable.

Foxelli Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles – Collapsible, Lightweight, Shock-Absorbent, Hiking, Walking & Running Sticks with Natural Cork Grips, Quick Locks, 4 Season/All Terrain Accessories and Carry Bag
This pair has adjustable shafts and extra tips for different conditions.Foxelli

The handles on your trekking poles are critical for comfort on a long day of hiking and are typically constructed from cork, foam, or rubber. Cork handles will mold to the shape of your hands after repeated use, creating an almost custom fit. Extremely light in weight, cork handles also help dampen vibration, and they provide an excellent grip even when wet. However, they tend to be the most expensive option. Foam handles are more affordable than cork. They are also soft and can help absorb sweat. Rubber grips are good for hitting the trail in frigid climates since they insulate against both cold and vibration.