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Trekking (or hiking) poles are a valuable resource in any outdoor person’s toolbox. They provide additional balance while supplementing core strength. They can tame seemingly insurmountable hills and save you from sprained ankles and sore knees or hips. Although their function is relatively simple, there is in fact a great deal of variety when it comes to choosing the right pole for you. Amongst the top trekking poles on the market, you’ll find aluminum, carbon fiber, and pure carbon shafts in both fixed- and adjustable-length, as well as cork, foam, and rubber grips, and either telescoping-, folding- or combination-style collapse systems.
The Best Trekking Poles - Gear Hacker

How Should I Choose?

Your choice in trekking poles depends entirely on how you plan to use them and what particular quality holds the most priority for you. Ultralight hikers looking to shed every ounce possible may want to opt for carbon fiber over aluminum shafts since it’s both lightweight and strong. However, it can’t take quite the beating that aluminum can, which is often the choice for hikers who prioritize durability over everything else.

You may be a four-season hiker in need of a pole that can do it all, from trail running on rocky terrain to snowy treks in sub-zero temperatures. Perhaps you’d prefer a versatile design that will fit a range of heights should the poles act as a hand-me-down to future hikers amongst your family or friends. Or maybe you just want to get the most bang for your buck with a jack-of-all-trades trekking pole that ticks most of your boxes and doesn’t stretch your wallet too thin.

The Best Trekking Poles - Gear Hacker

Ranges in Price, Utility

Black Diamond carries quite possibly the widest range of poles catered to various styles of trekking; these are split up into their Alpine Series, Distance Series, and Trail Series. When it comes to these three styles, I like to compare them to BMW’s 3 Series, 5 Series, and 7 Series. The Trail Series is essentially Black Diamond’s 3 Series, while Distance is the 5, and Trail is the 7. Although the 3 Series is the cheapest of these BMW models, there is quite a bit of choice within the category. A base model (say, a 328i) will get the job done minus a few bells and whistles, whereas the M3 is widely considered one of the best track-day cars ever produced and will set you back a decent amount of dough as well, although typically not as much as the top end of the other two Series. The Distance trekking poles are much like the 5 Series, a middle-of-the-road (no pun intended) set that makes them extremely popular. With the Alpine poles, a.k.a. the 7 Series, you can do it all with ease. These are four-season poles that can easily tackle day hikes, trail running, and snow hiking, but they come with a price tag that is comparable to their abilities. Fair enough.

Of course, Black Diamond is not the only brand on the market, and there are several other trekking pole contenders both in terms of quality and price. LEKI, for instance, boasts several different poles that range in price from $100 to $250. At the lower price range, you’ll find trekking poles like the Voyager, Khumbu, and Makalu, near the middle are the Sherpa and the Micro Vario Carbon, and at the very top, you’ll find the Black Series—a 2018 OutDoor Industry Award winner.

The Best Trekking Poles - Gear Hacker

How We Judged

In order to determine our favorite trekking poles, we considered several different factors. First is comfort. How do the grips feel in your hand, and how easily can you palm the top or choke down? How do the straps feel around your wrist? Are there any obtrusive features that might rub and irritate your skin?

The next important factor is weight. As I mentioned, ultralight hikers will most likely refer to a trekking pole’s weight before considering other elements and, as a result, will often gravitate to carbon fiber. However, weight can be shed in any number of ways. You can utilize a lighter grip material and thinner straps or use a fixed-length construction rather than a telescopic one, which generally requires more material (but not always, with the Gossamer Gear LT5s coming to mind). In fact, the Black Diamond Distance Zs prove that poles can be both aluminum and light.

Although comfort and weight are arguably the two most important features for your trekking poles, you may also want to consider their durability. Carbon fiber is quite strong, but the reason some hikers opt for aluminum is the simple fact that when an aluminum shaft is damaged, it can often be bent back into place, but a carbon fiber shaft will shatter, which could be a veritable nightmare for anyone on a lengthy hike. If you’re planning to do some heavy backpacking, you’ll need a pair of poles that are built to withstand the intensity of your adventure, and the pair of lightweight poles you might take trail running may not suffice. Additionally, if you expect your trekking poles to get lodged between rocks, you may want a pole with a flex tip that takes the pressure off the shaft and can be replaced with a twist if needed.

Another feature you’ll want to keep in mind is pack size, i.e. collapsibility. If you plan to stuff your trekking poles in a day bag, you’ll want to opt for a folding collapse style like Black Diamond’s Z-poles rather than bulkier telescopic poles that simply can’t collapse down as small. You can, however, get the best of both worlds with a pair of combination folding/telescopic poles like the LEKI Micro Vario Carbons or the Black Diamond Alpine FLZs. This brings up another significant element: adjustability. Going with a pair of fixed-length poles won’t give you the same level of length versatility that you’ll find with telescopic or combination poles. You’ll also want to consider the locking mechanisms on the shafts: do they feel secure when you snap them into place, or is there any chance they might slip on the trail? Can you easily loosen or tighten the locks or do they require a special tool? Is the adjustable height range enough to suit your changing needs on the trail?

Finally, there’s the price. While it’s generally true that the amount you’re willing to spend will often determine the utility of your trekking poles, not everyone has to spend upwards of $200 for a pair of decent poles, and in fact, casual hikers may find that the best options are remarkably affordable as well as long-lasting.

The Best Trekking Poles - Gear Hacker

The Best Trekking Poles of 2021

Detailed below, you will find a list of our top trekking poles from respected makers like Black Diamond, LEKI, Gossamer Gear, and Cascade Mountain Tech. Amongst the poles we selected, you’ll find a wide range of price and utility. We’ve also rated the poles in five different categories and compiled an overall score for each. Finally, you’ll find some handy links where you can compare prices and purchase a pair for yourself.

The Best Trekking Poles: Black Diamond Alpine FLZ - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Backcountry.com

  • Comfort 90% 90%
  • Weight 60% 60%
  • Packing/Collapsibility 90% 90%
  • Durability 80% 80%
  • Locking/Adjustability 90% 90%

Pros

Combination-style pole makes them adjustable and pack small durable and versatile enough to handle all four seasons

Cons

Slightly heavy for the price

Not as adjustable as purely telescopic poles

Weight: [95-110cm] 482g (17oz), [105-125cm] 510g (18oz), [120-140cm] 567g (1lb 4oz)

Length: 95-110cm, 105-125cm, 120-140cm

Collapsed Length: [95-110cm] 34cm (13.4in), [105-125cm] 37c (14.6in), [120-140cm] 40cm (15.7in)

Shaft Comp.: Aluminum

Grip Comp.: Cork

Grip Extensions: Foam

Strap Style: Adjustable

Collapse Style: Combination (SlideLock)

Fixed/Adjustable Length: Adjustable

Tips: Carbide

Locking Mechanism: FlickLock Pro

Included Baskets: Standard

The Best Trekking Poles: Black Diamond Distance Z - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Backcountry.com

  • Comfort 70% 70%
  • Weight 90% 90%
  • Packing/Collapsibility 100% 100%
  • Durability 80% 80%
  • Locking/Adjustability 40% 40%

Pros

Excellent price for folding poles

Very light for aluminum poles

Collapse down small, pack/unpack easily

Cons

Only three-season support, unlike the Alpine series

Lack of adjustment for changing hiking styles

May not be sturdy enough for extra-heavy loads

Weight: [100cm] 323g (11.4oz), [110cm] 343g (12.1oz), [120cm] 362g (12.8oz), [130cm] 402g (14.2oz)

Length: 100, 110, 120, 130cm (39, 43, 47, 51in)

Collapsed Length: [100cm] 33cm (13in), [110cm] 36cm (14in), [120cm] 40cm (16in), [130cm] 43cm (17in)

Shaft Comp.: Aluminum

Grip Comp.: Foam

Grip Extensions: Foam

Strap Style: Distance

Collapse Style: Folding (SlideLock)

Fixed/Adjustable Length: Fixed

Tips: Carbide, Rubber

Locking Mechanism: Speed-Cone

Included Baskets: Standard

The Best Trekking Poles: LEKI Micro Vario Carbon - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Backcountry.com

  • Comfort 80% 80%
  • Weight 70% 70%
  • Packing/Collapsibility 80% 80%
  • Durability 80% 80%
  • Locking/Adjustability 90% 90%

Pros

Highly adjustable and packable

Comfortable grips/straps

Very durable for carbon fiber

Cons

A bit pricey

Weight: Men's - 481g (1lb 1oz), Women's - 459g (16.2oz)

Length: Men's - 110-130cm, Women's - 100-120cm

Collapsed Length: Men's - 40cm (16in), Women's - 40cm (16in)

Shaft Comp.: Pure Carbon

Grip Comp.: Foam

Grip Extensions: Foam

Strap Style: Men's - Lock Security Strap (Skin), Women's - LEKI Skin Strap

Collapse Style: Combination (ELD)

Fixed/Adjustable Length: Adjustable

Tips: Flex Tip (Short)

Locking Mechanism: Speed Lock 2

Included Baskets: Standard

The Best Trekking Poles: Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Amazon.com

  • Comfort 100% 100%
  • Weight 70% 70%
  • Packing/Collapsibility 50% 50%
  • Durability 80% 80%
  • Locking/Adjustability 90% 90%

Pros

Incredibly comfortable grip and wrist strap

Telescopic design and thicker carbon makes them both adjustable and durable

Cons

Not as light as other carbon fiber poles

Larger pack size

A bit pricey

Weight: 486g (1lb 1.1oz)

Length: 100-130cm

Collapsed Length: 61cm (24in)

Shaft Comp.: Carbon Fiber

Grip Comp.: Cork

Grip Extensions: Foam

Strap Style: 360° nubuck

Collapse Style: Telescopic (FlickLock)

Fixed/Adjustable Length: Adjustable

Tips: Carbide

Locking Mechanism: FlickLock

Included Baskets: Standard

The Best Trekking Poles: Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z - Gear Hacker
  • Comfort 70% 70%
  • Weight 100% 100%
  • Packing/Collapsibility 100% 100%
  • Durability 70% 70%
  • Locking/Adjustability 40% 40%

Pros

Lightweight, great for trail running

Easy to unpack

Cons

Only 3 oz. lighter than the distance Zs at almost double the price

Similar price to the Alpine series but with only three-season support

Lack of adjustment for changing hiking styles

May not be sturdy enough for extra-heavy loads

Weight: [100cm] 263g (9.3oz), [110cm] 275g (9.7oz), [120cm] 283g (10oz), [130cm] 295g (10.4oz)

Length: 100, 110, 120, 130cm (39, 43, 47, 51in)

Collapsed Length: [100cm] 33cm (13in), [110cm] 36cm (14in), [120cm] 40cm (16in), [130cm] 43cm (17in)

Shaft Comp.: Carbon Fiber

Grip Comp.: Foam

Grip Extensions: Foam

Strap Style: Distance

Collapse Style: Folding

Fixed/Adjustable Length: Fixed

Tips: Carbide, Rubber

Locking Mechanism: Speed-Cone

Included Baskets: Standard

The Best Trekking Poles: Black Diamond Trail Sport 3 - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Amazon.com

  • Comfort 60% 60%
  • Weight 30% 30%
  • Packing/Collapsibility 40% 40%
  • Durability 100% 100%
  • Locking/Adjustability 80% 80%

Pros

Excellent value at a low price

Very durable, great for heavy backpacking

Cons

Large pack size due to telescopic design

Heavy

Weight: 624g (1lb 6oz)

Length: 100-140cm

Collapsed Length: 64cm (25in)

Shaft Comp.: Aluminum

Grip Comp.: Rubber

Grip Extensions: Rubber

Strap Style: Vari-width nylon webbing

Collapse Style: Telescopic (FlickLock)

Fixed/Adjustable Length: Adjustable

Tips: Flex Tip

Locking Mechanism: FlickLock

Included Baskets: Standard

The Best Trekking Poles: Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Quick Lock Cork - Gear Hacker
  • Comfort 60% 60%
  • Weight 80% 80%
  • Packing/Collapsibility 30% 30%
  • Durability 40% 40%
  • Locking/Adjustability 70% 70%

Pros

Incredible price for carbon fiber and cork

Comes With An Impressive Number Of Accessories

Cons

Doesn’t pack down small unless disassembled

Quick lock mechanism can complicate packing/unpacking

Could be more durable; entry-level hikers may want to opt for aluminum

Weight: 442g (15.6oz)

Length: 66-137cm

Collapsed Length: 66cm (26in)

Shaft Comp.: Carbon Fiber

Grip Comp.: Cork

Grip Extensions: Foam

Strap Style: Adjustable

Collapse Style: Telescopic (Quick Lock)

Fixed/Adjustable Length: Adjustable

Tips: Tungsten Carbide

Locking Mechanism: Quick Lock

Included Baskets: Boots, Mud, Snow and Small Tips

The Best Trekking Poles: Gossamer Gear LT5 - Gear Hacker

Buy Now at Gossamergear.com

  • Comfort 70% 70%
  • Weight 100% 100%
  • Packing/Collapsibility 50% 50%
  • Durability 30% 30%
  • Locking/Adjustability 80% 80%

Pros

Incredibly light

Highly adjustable

Comfortable grip/strap

Cons

Could be more durable

Expensive

Twist locks could be more elegant

Weight: 300g (10.6oz)

Length: 60-130cm

Collapsed Length: 60cm (23in)

Shaft Comp.: Carbon Fiber

Grip Comp.: Foam

Grip Extensions: N/A

Strap Style: Adjustable

Collapse Style: Telescopic (twist-lock)

Fixed/Adjustable Length: Adjustable

Tips: Carbide, Rubber

Locking Mechanism: Twist lock

Included Baskets: Standard

Black Diamond Alpine FLZ

The Best Trekking Poles: Black Diamond Alpine FLZ - Gear Hacker

Best Overall Pole

  • Comfort 90% 90%
  • Weight 60% 60%
  • Packing/Collapsibility 90% 90%
  • Durability 80% 80%
  • Locking/Adjustability 90% 90%

Price: $160

Weight: [95-110cm] 482g (17oz), [105-125cm] 510g (18oz), [120-140cm] 567g (1lb 4oz)

Length: 95-110cm, 105-125cm, 120-140cm

Collapsed Length: [95-110cm] 34cm (13.4in), [105-125cm] 37c (14.6in), [120-140cm] 40cm (15.7in)

Shaft Comp.: Aluminum

Grip Comp.: Cork

Grip Extensions: Foam

Strap Style: Adjustable

Collapse Style: Combination (SlideLock)

Fixed/Adjustable Length: Adjustable

Tips: Carbide

Locking Mechanism: FlickLock Pro

Included Baskets: Standard

What We Like: Combination-style pole makes them adjustable and pack small. Durable and versatile enough to handle all four seasons

What We Don’t: Slightly heavy for the price. Not as adjustable as purely telescopic poles

Black Diamond’s Alpine FLZs are combination trekking poles with cork grips and aluminum shafts. Easy to deploy and adjust, these light and durable trekking poles can tackle all four seasons with little to no issue. By utilizing both a telescopic top shaft and folding collapse style, they’ve got excellent collapsibility and adjustability, while the aluminum shafts bolster their durability. It’s no wonder these do-it-all poles have taken the crown as our Best Overall Pole.

The Alpine FLZs come in three different sizes: 95-110cm, 105-125cm and 120-140cm. With a range of 15cm for the smallest pair and 20cm for the medium and large, the Alpine FLZs are slightly less adjustable than a telescopic trekking pole, which typically has around a 30cm adjustment range. Like what you’ll find with all of Black Diamond’s Z-poles, the Alpine FLZs utilize a rapid deployment system, making them space-conscious and very simple to unpack on the trail. If you’re planning to go the ultralight route, however, you might want to look elsewhere, as aluminum shafts and cork handles do no favors to the Alpine FLZ’s overall weight.

I’m a big fan of these trekking poles, which may just be the most versatile amongst the Black Diamonds on our 2021 list. By combining a folding collapse style with a telescopic upper shaft, they pack small and can still be adjusted to suit your changing needs. The aluminum shaft improves durability while the cork grip dials up the comfort. So whether you’re soaking in the summer sun out on the trail or trekking through the snow in the dead of winter, you can bring these poles with confidence. Just make sure that if you’re planning to purchase a pair for yourself, you know which size will fit you best, as there are three from which to choose.

Black Diamond Distance Z

The Best Trekking Poles: Black Diamond Distance Z - Gear Hacker

(Runner-Up) Best Overall Pole

 
  • Comfort 70% 70%
  • Weight 90% 90%
  • Packing/Collapsibility 100% 100%
  • Durability 80% 80%
  • Locking/Adjustability 40% 40%

Price: $99.95

Weight: [100cm] 323g (11.4oz), [110cm] 343g (12.1oz), [120cm] 362g (12.8oz), [130cm] 402g (14.2oz)

Length: 100, 110, 120, 130cm (39, 43, 47, 51in)

Collapsed Length: [100cm] 33cm (13in), [110cm] 36cm (14in), [120cm] 40cm (16in), [130cm] 43cm (17in)

Shaft Comp.: Aluminum

Grip Comp.: Foam

Grip Extensions: Foam

Strap Style: Distance

Collapse Style: Folding (SlideLock)

Fixed/Adjustable Length: Fixed

Tips: Carbide, Rubber

Locking Mechanism: Speed-Cone

Included Baskets: Standard


What We Like: Excellent price for folding poles. Very light for aluminum poles. Collapse down small, pack/unpack easily

What We Don’t: Only three-season support, unlike the Alpine series. Lack of adjustment for changing hiking styles. May not be sturdy enough for extra-heavy loads

If you’re looking for a pole that can do it all reasonably well without costing an arm and a leg, Black Diamond’s Distance Z trekking/running poles may just be your best option. These foldable, fixed-length unisex poles feature aluminum shafts along with a foam grip and extension, and a breathable, moisture-wicking strap. The Distance Zs come in at a close second on our list of top poles, with several very handy features that will make trekking a breeze.

The three-section folding-style collapse system makes these significantly more compact than a telescopic trekking pole like the Trail Sport 3 or even the Alpine Carbon Cork. The speed-cone deployment, utilizing SlideLock technology, means that they can easily pack away and deploy rapidly. Unpacking your Distance Zs to take on the trail is quick and easy thanks to the SlideLock system. The Distance Zs utilize Z-pole’s fixed-length construction, so make sure you know what size pole will fit you best. The four-length options include 100cm, 110cm, 120cm, and 130cm (39, 43, 47, and 51in).

Much like with any purchase, there are pros and cons associated with Black Diamond’s Distance Z trekking poles, however in this case they essentially cancel each other out. They are not the cheapest nor are they the most expensive; they are neither the lightest nor the heaviest. The fixed-length construction means they can’t be easily shared amongst hikers of differing heights but it does mean they will always be ready to go for you. Since equipment sharing isn’t exactly a typical practice amongst hikers – at least when it comes to poles – this should likely be a non-issue. I’m personally a big fan of the folding-style collapse system; it seems vastly superior to the telescopic system when it comes time to pack these away.

All in all, I really do like the Distance Zs. These jack-of-all-trades trekking poles check all the important boxes for everyday use, as they are well built with a reasonable price and weight. Just make sure that if you are buying these as a gift for the hiker in your life, that you know their height.

LEKI Men and Women’s Micro Vario Carbon

The Best Trekking Poles: LEKI Micro Vario Carbon - Gear Hacker

Best High-End Ultralight Pole

  • Comfort 80% 80%
  • Weight 70% 70%
  • Packing/Collapsibility 80% 80%
  • Durability 80% 80%
  • Locking/Adjustability 90% 90%

Price: $199.95

Weight: Men’s – 481g (1lb 1oz), Women’s – 459g (16.2oz)

Length: Men’s – 110-130cm, Women’s – 100-120cm

Collapsed Length: Men’s – 40cm (16in), Women’s – 40cm (16in)

Shaft Comp.: Pure Carbon

Grip Comp.: Foam

Grip Extensions: Foam

Strap Style: Men’s – Lock Security Strap (Skin), Women’s – LEKI Skin Strap

Collapse Style: Combination (ELD)

Fixed/Adjustable Length: Adjustable

Tips: Flex Tip (Short)

Locking Mechanism: Speed Lock 2

Included Baskets: Standard

What We Like: Highly adjustable and packable. Comfortable grips/straps. Very durable for carbon fiber

What We Don’t: A bit pricey

As arguably the most expensive trekking poles on the 2021 list, the LEKI Micro Vario Carbons have a lot to prove, and in fact, they do it quite swimmingly. You’ll find that not only are these some of the lightest trekking poles on our list, but also amongst the most comfortable and the highest rated by experienced hikers, and as such they have earned the title of Best High-End Ultralight Pole. The men’s and women’s versions of this pole are practically identical with just a few key differences: the “women’s specific” poles are slightly shorter (ranging from 100-120cm rather than 110-130cm) and lighter, and have contoured grips for smaller hands (plus the pink top on the grip).

The men’s trekking poles come in at just around 1lb 1oz (481g) while the women’s poles are just over a pound (16.1oz or 459g). The LEKI Micro Vario Carbons are what is considered a combination-style trekking pole; as well as folding down into short segments, the poles also have a segment of telescoping length adjustment directly below the grip, enabling the user to not only pack down the poles to a small size, but also adjust the length as needed. These poles pack down to only 40cm (16in), making them one of the smallest on our 2021 list, and excellent if you need to take them in your carry-on luggage.

This combination folding/telescopic pole truly is the best of all worlds. It packs small, is easily deployed, and it’s highly adjustable, all while being durable and comfortable. From summer hikes to winter treks you can use these poles with confidence. It’s no wonder that LEKI is a highly respected brand and popular among experienced hikers. Upgrading to this level of quality, however, does come with a steep price tag.

Best of The Rest

Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork

The Best Trekking Poles: Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork - Gear Hacker

Best Telescopic Pole

  • Comfort 100% 100%
  • Weight 70% 70%
  • Packing/Collapsibility 50% 50%
  • Durability 80% 80%
  • Locking/Adjustability 90% 90%

Price: $170

Weight: 486g (1lb 1.1oz)

Length: 100-130cm

Collapsed Length: 61cm (24in)

Shaft Comp.: Carbon Fiber

Grip Comp.: Cork

Grip Extensions: Foam

Strap Style: 360° nubuck

Collapse Style: Telescopic (FlickLock)

Fixed/Adjustable Length: Adjustable

Tips: Carbide

Locking Mechanism: FlickLock

Included Baskets: Standard

What We Like: Incredibly comfortable grip and wrist strap. Telescopic design and thicker carbon makes them both adjustable and durable

What We Don’t: Not as light as other carbon fiber poles. Larger pack size. A bit pricey

As with all of Black Diamond’s Alpine series, the Alpine Carbon Cork trekking poles are built to withstand four-season alpine terrain with ease. As their name would suggest, these particular poles feature carbon fiber shafts and cork grips. Unlike the folding Alpine FLZs, these poles utilize a telescopic collapse system and adjust using Black Diamond’s newly redesigned FlickLock® Pro technology. In addition, they feature a soft-touch grip top and the new solution strap, ensuring a comfortable and secure grip. The Alpine Carbon Corks are undoubtedly the best telescopic poles on our list, boasting an excellent degree of comfort and durability without sacrificing versatility.

Although there’s a sizable price tag associated with the Alpine Carbon Corks, the added features do a great job of ensuring you get your money’s worth. These four-season trekking poles are exceedingly comfortable, one of the more durable carbon fiber poles on the market, they’re easy to adjust, and they’re incredibly versatile. These poles should be able to do it all for years and years.

There really only seem to be two main drawbacks to these poles: for one, their pack size is held back by a telescoping collapse system, and two, the weight is not significantly lower than the Alpine FLZs, but they’ll still cost you an extra 20 bucks. If you’re planning to engage in some technical climbing, you might want to opt for smaller and more packable poles, but for everything else the Alpine Carbon Corks should have you covered.

Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z

The Best Trekking Poles: Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z - Gear Hacker

Best Light Travel Pole

  • Comfort 70% 70%
  • Weight 100% 100%
  • Packing/Collapsibility 100% 100%
  • Durability 70% 70%
  • Locking/Adjustability 40% 40%

Price: $170

Weight: [100cm] 263g (9.3oz), [110cm] 275g (9.7oz), [120cm] 283g (10oz), [130cm] 295g (10.4oz)

Length: 100, 110, 120, 130cm (39, 43, 47, 51in)

Collapsed Length: [100cm] 33cm (13in), [110cm] 36cm (14in), [120cm] 40cm (16in), [130cm] 43cm (17in)

Shaft Comp.: Carbon Fiber

Grip Comp.: Foam

Grip Extensions: Foam

Strap Style: Distance

Collapse Style: Folding

Fixed/Adjustable Length: Fixed

Tips: Carbide, Rubber

Locking Mechanism: Speed-Cone

Included Baskets: Standard

What We Like: Lightweight, great for trail running. Easy to unpack

What We Don’t: Only 3 oz. lighter than the Distance Zs at almost double the price. Similar price to the Alpine series but with only three-season support. Lack of adjustment for changing hiking styles. May not be sturdy enough for extra-heavy loads

If you’re already a fan of Black Diamond’s Distance Z poles and ready to spend a few extra dollars to shed some ounces, look no further than the Distance Carbon Zs. These three-season carbon fiber trekking poles have a lightweight, three-section foldable shaft built for fast adventure athletes and a comfortable foam grip. Their impressive weight and pack size make them an easy winner for Best Light Travel Pole.

The Distance Carbon Zs have 100% carbon fiber shafts, making them around 3 oz. lighter than their equivalent length in the Distance Zs. These claimed weights are 263g (9.3oz) for the 100cm trekking poles, 275g (9.7oz) for the 110cm poles, 283g (10oz) for the 120cm poles, and 295g (10.4oz) for the 130cm poles.

Carbon fiber shafts mean that the Distance Carbon Zs are both light and relatively durable, though not quite as durable as its aluminum competitors (or its aluminum counterpart, The Distance Zs). As far as lightweight trekking poles go, the Distance Carbon Zs are a very decent choice. Carbon fiber is by no means a flimsy material and these poles should be able to handle just about anything you throw at them. Like all poles in the Distance series, they can only tout three-season support, so if you’re looking for something to ski with, you may want to consider the Alpine series instead. However, if you’re a trail runner or simply love going the ultralight route, these will make an excellent addition to your arsenal.

Black Diamond Trail Sport 3

The Best Trekking Poles: Black Diamond Trail Sport 3 - Gear Hacker

Best Beginner/Casual Pole

  • Comfort 60% 60%
  • Weight 30% 30%
  • Packing/Collapsibility 40% 40%
  • Durability 100% 100%
  • Locking/Adjustability 80% 80%

Price: $70

Weight: 624g (1lb 6oz)

Length: 100-140cm

Collapsed Length: 64cm (25in)

Shaft Comp.: Aluminum

Grip Comp.: Rubber

Grip Extensions: Rubber

Strap Style: Vari-width nylon webbing

Collapse Style: Telescopic (FlickLock)

Fixed/Adjustable Length: Adjustable

Tips: Flex Tip

Locking Mechanism: FlickLock

Included Baskets: Standard

What We Like: Excellent value at a low price. Very durable, great for heavy backpacking

What We Don’t: Large pack size due to telescopic design. Heavy

If you’re just getting into the hiking game and seeking out a pair of trekking poles that won’t skimp on quality nor break the bank, Black Diamond’s Trail Sport 3 poles may fit the bill. These three-section telescopic poles feature aluminum shafts and rubber grips, making them our top choice for casual hikers or those just starting out, and the study aluminum design will absorb all sorts of punishment without skipping a beat. However, these may not be the best choice for experienced distance hikers, much less those willing to spend a little more in order to optimize their comfort, pack size or weight.

A great value but far from top of the line, the Trail Sport 3s make for an excellent pair of poles for beginning or casual hikers. They offer reliable support for day-hikes, treks and backpacking adventures withFlickLock® adjustability and a new rubber grip with ventilation channels for better breathability. Ultralight hikers will definitely want to look elsewhere, as the Trail Sport 3s are the heaviest set of trekking poles on this list at 1lb 6oz (624g). Unlike the fixed-length construction of the Distance Z and Distance Carbon Z, the Trail Sport 3’s three-section aluminum shaft is fully adjustable and will fit a wide range of hikers, however this means they can only collapse down to 64cm (25in).

Amongst Black Diamond’s Trail series, these still might not be your best option, as both the Trail Back poles (which cost $10 more) and the Trail Explorer 3 poles (which cost $10 less) are both higher rated on the Black Diamond website. However, their telescopic design and aluminum shafts make these poles shockingly durable, while the rubber grips are surprisingly comfortable.

Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Quick Lock Cork

The Best Trekking Poles: Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Quick Lock Cork - Gear Hacker

Best Budget Ultralight Pole

  • Comfort 60% 60%
  • Weight 80% 80%
  • Packing/Collapsibility 30% 30%
  • Durability 40% 40%
  • Locking/Adjustability 70% 70%

Price: $55

Weight: 442g (15.6oz)

Length: 66-137cm

Collapsed Length: 66cm (26in)

Shaft Comp.: Carbon Fiber

Grip Comp.: Cork

Grip Extensions: Foam

Strap Style: Adjustable

Collapse Style: Telescopic (Quick Lock)

Fixed/Adjustable Length: Adjustable

Tips: Tungsten Carbide

Locking Mechanism: Quick Lock

Included Baskets: Boots, Mud, Snow and Small Tips
What We Like: Incredible price for carbon fiber and cork. Comes with an impressive number of accessories

What We Don’t: Doesn’t pack down small unless disassembled. Quick lock mechanism can complicate packing/unpacking. Could be more durable; Entry-level hikers may want to opt for aluminum

Another entry for our budget trekking poles, Cascade Mountain Tech’s Quick Lock poles will get you where you need to go while saving you quite a few bucks. Within the Quick Lock series you’ll find practically every combination of either aluminum or carbon fiber shafts, foam or cork grips, and telescopic or folding collapse systems with a range of prices from $25 to $65. For the purpose of this review, we have selected the Carbon Fiber Quick Lock with Cork Grips, a customer favorite on the CMT website and our personal favorite for Best Budget Ultralight Pole.

These budget-friendly poles weigh in at less than a pound! The 442g (15.6oz) Quick Lock Carbon Fiber Corks are significantly lighter than the 1 lb. 6 oz. Trail Sport 3s (which should come as no surprise, since those are aluminum), and even lighter than the Alpine Carbon Corks, which go for more than three times the price. As far as carbon fiber trekking poles go, you’ll struggle to find anywhere near this low of a price without skimping on quality.

One of the best things about Cascade Mountain Tech trekking poles is all the cool stuff that comes with them. You’ll get four different accessories for the tips of your poles: this includes hard-surface tips like the boot tips and the smaller round tips, both of which can be slipped on and off the end of the pole, as well as the larger snow baskets and smaller mud baskets, which slip over the tip and then screw on just above it. You can keep all your accessories together with the included carrying case, and if you have any confusion about your poles, feel free to peruse the included instruction manual. It’s a surprising amount of accessories for such a small price tag!

The Quick Lock Carbon Cork trekking poles from Cascade Mountain Tech are an excellent purchase for entry-level hikers seeking to lighten their load. You simply won’t find better value for money on a pair of $55 carbon fiber poles. Experienced hikers, however, may want to open their wallets a little wider for slightly more versatile carbon fiber poles like the three-season Distance Carbon Zs or the four-season Alpine Carbon Corks.

If you’re not a fan of cork, you’ll be happy to know that you can purchase the foam-grip version of these poles for the exact same price. In addition, if you’d prefer your carbon fiber poles either slightly lighter or more durable, you can drop another 10 dollars and opt for Cascade Mountain Tech’s 11oz. Ultralight Carbon Fiber 2-Section poles or the ultra-strong 3K Carbon Fiber poles.

Gossamer Gear LT5

The Best Trekking Poles: Gossamer Gear LT5 - Gear Hacker

Best Ultralight Telescopic Pole

  • Comfort 70% 70%
  • Weight 100% 100%
  • Packing/Collapsibility 50% 50%
  • Durability 30% 30%
  • Locking/Adjustability 80% 80%

Price: $195

Weight: 300g (10.6oz)

Length: 60-130cm

Collapsed Length: 60cm (23in)

Shaft Comp.: Carbon Fiber

Grip Comp.: Foam

Grip Extensions: N/A

Strap Style: Adjustable

Collapse Style: Telescopic (twist-lock)

Fixed/Adjustable Length: Adjustable

Tips: Carbide, Rubber

Locking Mechanism: Twist lock

Included Baskets: Standard
What We Like: Incredibly light. Highly adjustable. Comfortable Grip/Strap

What We Don’t: Expensive. Could be more durable. Twist locks could be more elegant

These three-piece telescopic trekking poles are the more compact version of GG’s famous twist-lock Lightrek (LT4/LT3) poles. Gossamer Gear’s “take less, do more” motto is in full effect with these incredibly light poles, which weigh in at only 10.6oz (300g). With a design that makes these poles easy to unpack and adjust, they’ve quickly become our favorite ultralight telescopic trekking pole.

Don’t be fooled by the grips at first glance – even though they look like cork, they are definitely EVA foam. While there is no traditional grip extension like what you’ll find on all our other trekking poles, the LT5s do sport a decently long grip that should cater to a variety of grip styles and hopefully circumvent the need for constant height adjustments to the shaft. The length of the LT5s is adjusted via a relatively simple internal twist lock system; all you’ll need to do is extend each section to your desired height and then using two hands, grasp both sections and twist them together to tighten.

The LT5s are certainly a competitor amongst the top-end trekking poles on this list, and if shedding every ounce possible is a major priority for you, these lightweight and versatile poles should be at the top of your shopping list. However, in terms of value for money, you may be better off with the slightly heavier but more durable and packable LEKI Micro Vario Carbon poles, which will set you back about the same amount of money, or the Distance Carbon Zs, which will save you enough to buy a couple of freeze-dried meals to boot. It’s worth noting that these were slightly difficult to purchase outside of the Gossamer Gear website; I couldn’t even find them for purchase on Amazon.

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