Serious hikers have known the benefits of trekking poles for decades. Aside from providing stability while hauling a heavy load or moving over technical terrain, trekking poles have distinct advantages even on easy trails. They’re great for setting a rhythm and significantly reduce load and impact on hips, knees, and ankles when going downhill. As with most hiking and backpacking gear, balancing weight and durability is the most common consideration. Recent design breakthroughs, like the folding trekking pole, have pushed the total weight of some models to well under a pound, but these streamlined options are not for everybody. Below are our top trekking pole picks of 2022, which cover the gamut from ultralight models to sturdy designs for high-mountain adventures. For more background information, see our comparison table and buying advice below the picks.

Our Team's Trekking Pole Picks

Best Overall Trekking Pole

1. Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork ($140)

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork trekking polesWeight per pair: 1 lb. 2 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
Grip: Cork
What we like: Solid construction, comfortable feel, and good price.
What we don’t: A little heavy and long collapsed length.

The carbon fiber and folding designs that get all the attention in the trekking pole market are impressive innovations, but for hikers that just want a pair of trustworthy sticks at a good price, we recommend the Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork. At $140, they’re a solid value and come with very few compromises. In fact, the all-aluminum construction is only a few ounces heavier than most of the carbon options below but still plenty sturdy for most dirt, rock, and snow travel. The Trail also has Black Diamond's comfortable, ergonomically shaped cork grips and reliable FlickLock length adjusters.

What are the downsides of the Trail Ergo? For travelers, climbers, or those that prioritize collapsibility, the 27-inch minimum length may be an issue. It shouldn’t get in the way when strapped to the outside of a pack, but it is a couple inches longer than many other three-section designs (and it can’t come close to a true collapsible pole). As downsides go, that’s pretty insignificant for most folks, and the Trail Ergo Cork stands out as our favorite all-around trekking pole. For a cheaper but slightly less comfortable and premium option in this category, see REI’s Traverse poles below.
See the Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork  See the Women's Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork


Best Budget Trekking Pole

2. REI Co-op Trailbreak ($60)

REI Trailbreak trekking polesWeight per pair: 1 lb. 1 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
Grip: Rubber
What we like: Cheap yet functional. 
What we don’t: No-frills design isn’t ideal for serious hikers or tough terrain.

REI Co-op’s Trailbreak line targets the budget end of the market and includes everything from sleeping pads and bags to backpacks. The Trailbreak trekking pole is the brand’s cheapest offering and has nearly all the features that beginning and occasional hikers need. You get an aluminum build, a telescoping design with lever locks, and a rubber grip. Nothing is premium here—no carbon, no cork grip, no padded wrist strap, and the locks are about as minimal as they come. In addition, the Trailbreak is only made in one size, although it is adjustable from 41 to 55 inches. But at $60, it’s tough to beat the low price.

What do you sacrifice with the REI Trailbreak? Sturdiness is a big concession, and for heavy use and difficult terrain, these poles pale in comparison to the build of a more rugged model like the Black Diamond Trail Ergo. And as we touched on above, the Trailbreak is light on features, so you miss out on useful touches including choke-up extensions and longer-lasting materials like cork handles and burlier and more reliable lever locks (REI’s own $100 Traverse below includes those upgrades). If you stick to established trails and are looking for the basics in balance and support, the Trailbreak will certainly do the trick. But more serious hikers and backpackers may want to purchase a higher-end model. For other well-built budget options, check out Black Diamond’s Trail Sport 2 and Trail Explorer 2.
See the REI Co-op Trailbreak


Best Ultralight Collapsible Pole

3. Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z ($170)

Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z (2018) trekking polesWeight per pair: 10 oz.
Type: Folding 
Shaft material: Carbon
Grip: Foam
What we like: Incredibly lightweight and folds down small.
What we don’t: Pricey and carbon is more brittle than aluminum. 

At around 10 ounces per pair depending on the size, the Distance Carbon Z is Black Diamond’s lightest trekking pole and great for minimalists (they are so light and packable that they’ve even become popular with long-distance trail runners). We love the Z-Pole technology: a sleeve on the top portion moves down from the grip, the sections slide together and connect, and a small button pops everything into place. From compacted to deployed is a two-second affair, and when collapsed, the poles are about 10 inches shorter than most telescoping designs. This can make a substantial difference for everyone from travelers and hikers wanting to store them in their bag to ultra-distance runners that carry their poles for extended stretches.

What are the downsides of these poles? Carbon is lighter than aluminum but also more expensive and brittle (it'll snap under heavy pressure rather than bend like aluminum). In addition, the Carbon Z comes in four length options but is not adjustable. Changing up your trekking pole length on the uphill or downhill is a nice feature, and the fixed length makes them less versatile in terms of letting other people use them. If you do value adjustability, Black Diamond makes the Carbon FLZ that has one FlickLock at the top for $20 more and with a small weight penalty. Finally, you give up some rigidity with the BD’s collapsible design, so thru-hikers looking for better long-term durability should check out the telescoping Gossamer Gear LT5 below. 
See the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z


Best Women’s-Specific Trekking Pole

4. Leki Cressida Cor-Tec ($120)

Leki Cressida Cor-Tec trekking poles (1)Weight per pair: 15.5 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
Grip: Cork/rubber
What we like: A light and purpose-built women’s pole with premium touches. 
What we don’t: Powder baskets are sold separately.

Many trekking poles on our list are billed as unisex, but Leki’s Cressida Core-Tec was built specifically for women. Notable features include narrower grips, shorter straps, and smaller overall dimensions (around 50 in. maximum and 35 in. minimum lengths), which makes them easier to stow away in a pack or duffel while traveling. Tack on a reasonable weight of just 15.5 ounces per pair—the lightest pair of aluminum poles on our list—and quality Leki components including sturdy SpeedLock + levers, ergonomic grips made of mostly cork, and breathable straps, and you get an impressively well-rounded trekking design at a competitive price.

Leki’s Legacy Lite Core-Tec is another intriguing option for women and will save you $20, but it checks in a little heavier than the Cressida and boasts slightly different grips (although both are ergonomic and cork-based). Black Diamond also makes the top-ranked Trail Ergo Cork in a dedicated women’s model that’s very popular, but it’s pricier than the Cressida by $20 and weighs a little more at 1 pound 1.2 ounces per pair. You do get both hiking and wider powder baskets with the BD (the Cressida requires you to purchase the latter separately), which is appealing for those who plan to use their poles year-round. But for 3-season lady adventurers looking for the most competitive balance of weight, durability, features, and performance, the Cressida gets our vote.
See the Leki Cressida Core-Tec


Best Shock-Absorbing Trekking Pole

5. Leki Legacy Lite Cor-Tec AS ($120)

Leki Legacy Lite Cor-Tec AS trekking polesWeight per pair: 1 lb. 1.7 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
Grip: Cork/rubber
What we like: Leki’s anti-shock technology helps take the sting out of impacts.
What we don’t: More moving parts than standard trekking poles.

Right off the bat, we’ll note that we typically don’t recommend trekking poles with serious shock-absorbing technology—they generally are heavier, more complex, and shock absorption isn't necessary for many. That said, for hikers who want a little extra impact resistance on the trail, Leki’s Legacy Lite Core-Tec AS is worth a look. These poles utilize Leki’s DSS (Dynamic Suspension System) technology to take some of the sting out of rough terrain, which can help reduce stress on the knees and wrists during long descents. Like the Cressida above, the Legacy is also reasonably light at just over a pound per pair, well-built with premium touches like reliable lever locks and ergonomic cork grips, and hardwearing with a full aluminum construction.

If it isn’t already abundantly clear, Leki and Black Diamond dominate the trekking pole market, and BD’s Trail Pro Shock below was also in the running for this spot. Why did we opt for the Legacy? Namely, the Leki is lighter by around 3 ounces per pair, cheaper by $40, and boasts a slightly more premium construction including the aforementioned cork grips (the Trail Pro Shock uses foam). Again, both options have more moving parts that can break or fail over time, and we’d only recommend dedicated shock-absorbing poles for hikers that need the added impact cushioning. If you’ve struggled in the past with muscle or joint pain, however, it’s worth giving the Leki Legacy Lite Cor-Tec a try.
See the Leki Legacy Lite Core-Tec AS  See the Women's Leki Legacy Lite Core-Tec AS


Best 4-Season Trekking Pole

6. Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork ($190)

Black Diamon Alpine Carbon Cork trekking polesWeight per pair: 1 lb. 1.1 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Carbon
Grip: Cork
What we like: Fantastic build quality, durable, and easy to trust in rough terrain.
What we don’t: Overkill for most 3-season uses and very pricey.

For those wanting a single pair of poles for all four seasons, ranging from summer backpacking trips to backcountry skiing and mountaineering, we turn again to Black Diamond and their proven Alpine collection. Compared to the picks above, the Alpine Carbon Cork feels noticeably more substantial in your hand, and its beefed-up construction isn’t prone to flexing under heavy strain. In addition, Black Diamond outfitted the model with all their top-end components, including the trustworthy metal FlickLock Pro lever locks (the vast majority of designs use plastic), premium cork handles with foam extensions, and a full three-piece carbon fiber build. You pay extra for the poles at $190, but it’s hard to knock the quality or reliability of the design.

Where does the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon come up short? In addition to cost, the poles are realistically overkill for many users. Even for wintertime adventures like snowshoeing, a cheaper option like Black Diamond’s own Trail Ergo above will do the trick (just pick up a pair of wider snow baskets to keep them from sinking too deeply in soft snow). Further, the BDs don’t pack down as small as designs like G3’s Pivot Trek below, which can be an issue for those needing to strap their poles to the outside of a pack. That said, we found the Alpine Carbon model to be sturdier and better suited for rough uses like ski touring and splitboarding, which is why it wins out as our top year-round choice.
See the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon  See the Women's BD Alpine Carbon


Best of the Rest

7. Gossamer Gear LT5 ($195)

Gossamer Gear LT5 trekking polesWeight per pair: 10.6 oz.
Type: Telescoping (twist lock)
Shaft material: Carbon
Grip: Foam
What we like: Incredibly lightweight, well-made.
What we don’t: Not too durable; expensive.

Taking the telescoping lightweight crown is the thru-hike-ready Gossamer Gear LT5. These carbon fiber sticks are listed at an incredibly low 10.6 ounces for the pair (you can save even more weight by ditching the straps), which keeps arm fatigue to an absolute minimum. Unlike the folding BD Distance Carbon Z above, the LT5’s telescoping design also adds some sturdiness for uses like pitching an ultralight shelter. Combined with a simple, reliable build and comfy foam grips, and you get the ideal trekking poles for long adventures where every ounce matters. They’re also adjustable, although the twist lock system isn’t our favorite (we prefer the added security of a lever lock).

Naturally, there are a few compromises in making the LT5 so light. To start, relative to the rest of the market, these poles aren’t super durable—it’s best to stick to established trails and avoid too much snow. Further, they’re a pricey investment at $195 considering their relatively simple feature set (the similarly expensive Distance Carbon Z above, for example, can be folded into a much smaller length). But if you take good care of them and don’t need them for travel, they’re about as good as it gets for an ultralight build. It’s worth noting that Gossamer Gear offers replacement sections of their poles should you damage one, which is a rarity in the market. 
See the Gossamer Gear LT5


8. REI Co-op Traverse ($100)

REI Co-op Traverse trekking poles_0Weight per pair: 1 lb. 2.5 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
Grip: Cork
What we like: Sturdy feel; cork and lever locks at a great price.
What we don’t: A little heavy and falls short of the Trail Ergo Cork in a few areas.

REI’s Trailbreak above is their budget offering, but the $40-pricier Traverse here provides a sizable boost in performance for more demanding hiking and backpacking trips. All in all, it’s a competitive mid-range choice: you get a tough, sturdy, and reliable feel from the aluminum build—it doesn’t flex or bend like cheaper or ultralight options – and comfort is good thanks to the cork handle. And REI made some notable upgrades to the latest version, including foam extensions for climbing steep hills and nicer, cam-style lever locks. Added up, it’s a solid all-around effort and yet another great value from the brand. 

The Traverse is a strong budget alternative to our top-rated Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork, with a similar weight, three-section telescoping design, and aluminum shaft. However, a few small nitpicks push it down our list. In particular, we found the Traverse to be a step down in all-around material quality (from the cork to the straps), and the BD offers a more comfortable feel. We also prefer the Trail’s ergonomic grips, which are angled slightly forward to mimic the natural resting position of your hands. But many hikers will find these differences hard to discern, and the REI get the clear edge in price.
See the REI Co-op Traverse


9. Black Diamond Trail Back ($80)

Black Diamond Trail Back trekking polesWeight per pair: 1 lb. 4 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
Grip: Rubber
What we like: Proven toughness, good all-around abilities.
What we don’t: Rubber grips aren’t the most comfortable.

As a market leader, Black Diamond has a fairly extensive trekking pole line-up. A consistent favorite is their budget-oriented Trail Back, which in many ways is a trimmed-down version of the Trail Ergo Cork above. You lose the ergonomic shape and cork grips, but the two trusty FlickLocks remain, as well as the sturdy aluminum construction. Further, among the options at under $100, the Trail Backs have a longer track record of durability than the REI Trailbreak above (but do cost $20 more).

What are you giving up with a mid-range pole like the Trail Back? To start, they are rather heavy at 1 pound 4 ounces for the pair and therefore not a top choice for long-distance backpackers or thru-hikers. Also, the rubber grips are a definite step down in comfort from foam or cork, which do a better job absorbing sweat and preventing chafing while on the trail. But the Trail Back’s strong, no-nonsense construction makes a lot of sense for those looking to keep cost in check while not sacrificing much in terms of quality.
See the Black Diamond Trail Back


10. REI Co-op Flash Carbon ($139)

REI Co-op Flash Carbon trekking polesWeight per pair: 13.6 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Carbon
Grip: Foam
What we like: Excellent value for the specs and quality.
What we don’t: Not as tough as our top picks.

For backpackers looking to keep weight to a minimum, the REI Co-op Flash Carbon poles are a great option, undercutting other high-end competitors by $20 or more. At well under a pound and with a carbon composite build, the poles feel light in the hands and feature soft foam grips that take the sting out of impacts and do a decent job at minimizing sweat buildup. We still give the overall edge in comfort to cork, but foam does absorb and dissipate moisture well when it’s hot and humid outside. And we like that REI utilizes a quality, metal lever lock system, which is a more secure and robust upgrade from the previous plastic version.

All that said, the Flash Carbon’s lightweight build does come with one major drawback: lack of versatility. For example, BD’s Trail Ergo Cork, Trail Back, and even their Alpine Carbon Cork above are noticeably sturdier and more confidence-inspiring for navigating rough and rocky terrain. And the Flash Carbon is decidedly less suitable for 4-season adventuring, which is confirmed by the lack of snow baskets (for reference, REI’s own Traverse above does come with them). But this likely won’t faze most fair-weather backpackers and hikers, and with REI’s excellent return policy to back them up, the Flash Carbon poles are a nice UL option.
See the REI Co-op Flash Carbon


11. Leki Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA ($140)

Leki Micro Vario Ti Cor-TecWeight per pair: 1 lb. 4.3 oz.
Type: Folding (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
Grip: Cork/Rubber
What we like: Collapsible to 15.5 inches.
What we don’t: Heavy for a folding model.

With a folding-style design, Leki’s well-loved and ergonomic cork grips, and a competitive price of $140, the Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA is one of our favorite poles in this category. This aluminum model folds down to a mere 15 inches, which is among the smallest on our list. And we love Leki’s SpeedLock 2 locking system—it can be tightened with a small dial, no extra tools needed. The ability to easily keep the locks tight adds to the already durable nature of these poles.

As expected, there are tradeoffs to this design. As with other folding trekking poles, the Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA is compact, but it's quite heavy at over 1 pound 4 ounces for the pair (the sacrifice of the more affordable price tag and alloy build). Additionally, folding poles in general are less sturdy than their telescoping counterparts, making these some of the least weight-bearing aluminum poles on this list. That said, they’ll surely take a beating better than the carbon fiber Gossamer Gear LT5 and BD Distance Carbon Z above, as well as Leki’s own high-end Micro Vario Carbon.
See the Leki Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA  See the Women's Leki Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA


12. Black Diamond Distance FLZ ($140)

Black Diamond Distance FLZ trekking polesWeight per pair: 1 lb.
Type: Folding (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
Grip: Foam
What we like: Light, packable, and more durable than carbon. 
What we don’t: Not as sturdy as the top-rated Trail Ergo. 

The fixed-length Black Diamond Carbon Z above are the lightest trekking poles on this list, but the adjustable aluminum version arguably has wider appeal. In fact, for most hikers and backpackers, we think it’s the better option. The poles are noticeably sturdier and more durable (we’ve broken one of the carbon models just from sitting on it), which makes them easier to trust and lean into on the trail. In addition, we prefer the alloy FLZ for use with an ultralight shelter as the adjustability (between 6 to 8 inches depending on size) simplifies the set-up process and the thicker material holds better in the wind.

Where the Distance FLZ runs into problems is when compared with BD’s own Trail Ergo above. Despite costing the same, the Trail Ergo feels even more rock-solid, has more comfortable grips, and does a nicer job absorbing impacts. That said, if you value a small packed size, the Distance wins out easily (15 in. vs 27 in.), and it’s a bit lighter at 1 ounce less per pole. In the end, these downsides push the FLZ to a mid-pack finish on our list, but it’s well worth a look for those wanting a reliable and packable design.
See the Black Diamond Distance FLZ


13. Mountainsmith Dolomite OLS ($30)

Mountainsmith Dolomite trekking poleWeight: 10 oz. (single pole)
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
Grip: Cork and foam
What we like: Great value for those who only need a single pole.
What we don’t: Average build quality and pretty heavy at 10 ounces.

The vast majority of trekking poles are sold in pairs, but some hikers and backpackers prefer to hit the trail with a single pole (including some on our team). For these folks, opting for the Mountainsmith Dolomite is a nice way to save: for $30, you get a quality aluminum set-up with a cork handle, EVA foam choke-up grips, and a three-piece telescoping design that packs down reasonably small. The lever locks aren’t anything special and the build can’t match the sturdiness of our top picks above, but the Dolomite undeniably is an excellent value. 

Clearly, there are some compromises in opting for a single pole like the Mountainsmith Dolomite. For one, you lose out on the option to bring a full set for times when stability is important, such as hikes over particularly rough or steep terrain. In addition, many trekking pole-supported tents and shelters require two poles to set up (including popular builds like the Zpacks Duplex and Gossamer Gear’s The One). And a concern we have specifically with the Mountainsmith is its 10-ounce weight, which makes it one of the heavier designs on our list. For an ultralight but far pricier option, Gossamer Gear sells their LT5 model in a single pole for about $98.
See the Mountainsmith Dolomite OLS


14. G3 Pivot Trek ($159)

G3 Pivot Trek trekking polesWeight per pair: 1 lb. 5 oz.
Type: Folding
Shaft material: Aluminum
Grip: Foam
What we like: A 4-season-ready pole that’s cheaper and folds down smaller than the BD Alpine Carbon Cork above.
What we don’t: No cork handles or metal locks; all-mountain baskets sold separately.

New for 2021, G3’s Pivot Trek slots in as a highly packable and 4-season-ready option at a decent price. We’ll start with the positives: This pole is solidly built for trail use with a full aluminum construction and includes thoughtful touches like extended ergonomic grips with multiple positions for traversing and navigating tricky terrain. When it comes time to pack the poles away, the three-piece design folds down to a diminutive 15.25 inches for the long version (13.75 in. for the short variation). The bottom sections of the pole also wrap around the handle and lock in place with magnets, which helps keep things compact and makes it easy to quickly secure the Pivot to the outside of a backpack.

Why do we have the G3 Pivot Trek ranked here? Although it’s fully 4-season-capable with a QuickFlick Utility Tab for adjusting binding risers or boot buckles, it doesn’t come with all-mountain baskets (you can purchase them separately for $10). The Pivot is also heavier than Black Diamond’s Alpine Carbon Cork above by around 4 ounces per pair, which can add up quickly on long and steep tours (on the flip side, it’s nearly 10 in. shorter when collapsed due to the folding rather than telescoping design). And at this price point, you lose out on some premium features like cork handles and metal lever locks, both of which the BD has. But if you get out year-round and prioritize packability and durability over weight and comfort, the Pivot has a lot of appeal.
See the G3 Pivot Trek


15. Leki Makalu Lite Cor-Tec ($120)

Leki Makalu Lite Cor-Tec trekking polesWeight per pair: 1 lb. 1.1 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
Grip: Cork with rubber
What we like: Comfortable grip. 
What we don’t: Less durable than the BD Trail Ergo Cork above.

Leki has built a reputation around its super comfortable cork grips and their ergonomic shape. With a slight forward tilt, they have a very natural feel in the hands, and the build quality of the grips is second to none. Their Makalu Lite carries on this tradition while including modern features like lever locks and a minimalist strap design at a reasonable weight of around 1 pound 1 ounce per pair. You do miss out on Leki’s top-end SpeedLock 2 at this price point, but their simplified SpeedLock + remains a solid partner. Expect consistently strong holds, and as a bonus, you can adjust the locking mechanism without a screwdriver.

It’s worth noting that Leki also makes the Makalu Lite Cor-Tec AS pole, which includes a low-profile shock-absorption system at the bottom (the same tech you get with Leki’s Legacy Lite Core-Tec AS above). In practice, we haven’t been overwhelmed with this type of functionality and don’t think it’s worth spending the extra $20 per pair, plus it’s another piece that can potentially break. And when evaluating either Leki model against the competition, Black Diamond's Trail Ergo Cork above is more durable and weighs around the same, although it also costs $20 more.
See the Leki Makalu Lite Cor-Tec


16. Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Quick Lock ($45)

Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Quick Lock trekking polesWeight per pair: 1 lb.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Carbon
Grip: Foam or Cork
What we like: Cheap and very light.
What we don’t: Not built to last.

Carbon fiber typically is associated with high-end builds and premium prices, but Cascade Mountain Tech offers a pair of carbon poles for under $50. On paper, the poles stack up really well with a 1-pound weight, simple lever locks, and foam grip extensions. Impressively, Cascade Mountain Tech didn’t skimp on accessories either, with rubber tips and two sets of baskets for mud and snow. The Carbon Fiber poles are available with either a foam or cork grip, and while we typically prefer cork, we lean towards foam in this case as a cheap cork grip will break down over time.

The main downside in choosing the Cascade Mountain Tech poles is durability. The carbon shaft does a great job keeping weight low but is more likely to get a crack or snap under a load than another budget pole like the aluminum REI Trailbreak above. Moreover, the overall construction is rather cheap, and the cost-cutting in the plastic adjustment system doesn’t inspire confidence in its longevity. But if you take good care, going with Cascade Mountain Tech gets you a set of lightweight poles for about 1/3 of what you’d pay for carbon from a company like Black Diamond (even REI’s composite Flash Carbon poles above are nearly $100 pricier).
See the Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Quick Lock


17. Leki Cross Trail 3 Carbon ($190)

Leki Cross Trail 3 Carbon trekking polesWeight per pair: 14.5 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Carbon
Grip: Cork
What we like: Typical Leki quality in a lightweight and fully featured package.
What we don’t: We’re not sold on the unique grip/strap design.

The fifth and final Leki pole to make our list is also the lightest: their Cross Trail 3. The Cross Trail features Leki’s latest strap design, which resembles their popular ski pole technology. In short, the quick-release concept allows you to “snap” the strap into a slot in the pole and is designed to provide a boost in energy as you plant. And unlike the models above, the strap itself covers nearly your entire hand, which translates to added security over particularly steep or technical sections. It’s tough to quantify the performance benefits on the trail, and the design is pretty polarizing, but it really comes down to a matter of personal preference. 

The rest of the Cross Trail 3’s build is up to typical Leki standards. The carbon poles are light at just 14.5 ounces per pair, and you also get the brand’s proven and reliable SpeedLock 2 adjustment system (also found in their popular Micro Vario Carbon and Vario Cor-Tec TA above). All in all, it’s a quality option with a full set of premium features (including extended grips to help with climbing and traversing), but we’re just not convinced that the new Hybrid Cross Shark strap system will be appealing to the majority of hikers. If you’re intrigued by the design, however, it’s also worth checking out Leki’s ultralight, fixed-length MCT Superlite (11.1 oz. per pair) and more affordable aluminum models.
See the Leki Cross Trail 3


18. Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock ($160)

Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock trekking polesWeight per pair: 1 lb. 4.3 oz. 
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
Grip: Foam
What we like: Proven shock-absorbing system.
What we don’t: Extra weight and price.

As we touched on previously, shock absorption isn’t a must-have feature for many hikers and comes with some notable downsides, including added weight and complexity. But if the extra give is appealing to you, Black Diamond’s Trail Pro Shock is a popular alternative to Leki’s Legacy Lite Cor-Tec AS above. Impressive damping and rebound control built into the pole’s handle helps avoid a common pitfall of anti-shock poles: bottoming out and an unpredictable rebound. The system works quite seamlessly and reacts well to both light and hard impacts. The rest of the set-up is classic Black Diamond, with quality materials and components like their metal FlickLock Pro.

Cons are the expected sacrifices for the Trail Pro Shock's additional tech. Weight goes up relative to non-shock-absorbing options at over 1 pound 4 ounces (even Leki’s shock-absorbing Legacy is lighter at 1 lb. 1.7 oz.), and you pay a bit of a price premium as well. At $160, we’d prefer cork grips, but the foam handles with choke-up extensions still are fine performers. All told, the Trail Pro isn't for everyone, but its 4-season-ready construction and functional shock absorption earn it a spot on our list.
See the Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock  See the Women's Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock


Trekking Pole Comparison Table

Trekking Pole Price Type Lock Weight Shaft Grip Length*
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork $140 Telescoping Lever 1 lb. 2 oz.  Aluminum Cork 27 in.
REI Co-op Trailbreak $60 Telescoping Lever 1 lb. 1 oz. Aluminum Rubber 25 in.
Black Diamond Distance Z $170 Folding N/A 10 oz. Carbon Foam  14 in.
Leki Cressida Core-Tec $120 Telescoping Lever 15.5 oz. Aluminum Cork/rubber 25 in.
Leki Legacy Lite Core-Tec AS $120 Telescoping Lever 1 lb. 1.7 oz. Aluminum Cork/rubber 27 in.
Black Diamond Alpine Carbon $190 Telescoping Lever 1 lb. 1.1 oz. Carbon Cork 24 in.
Gossamer Gear LT5 $195 Telescoping Twist 10.6 oz. Carbon Foam 23.5 in.
REI Co-op Traverse $100 Telescoping Lever 1 lb. 2.5 oz. Aluminum Cork 22 in.
Black Diamond Trail Back $80 Telescoping Lever 1 lb. 4 oz. Aluminum Rubber 25 in.
REI Co-op Flash Carbon $139 Telescoping Lever 13.6 oz. Carbon Foam 25 in.
Leki Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA $140 Folding Lever 1 lb. 4.3 oz. Aluminum Cork/rubber 15 in.
Black Diamond Distance FLZ $140 Folding Lever 1 lb. Aluminum Foam 15 in.
Mountainsmith Dolomite OLS $30 Telescoping Lever 10 oz. (1) Aluminum Cork/foam 25 in.
G3 Pivot Trek $159 Folding N/A 1 lb. 5 oz. Aluminum Foam 15.25 in.
Leki Makalu Lite Cor-Tec $120 Telescoping Lever 1 lb. 1.1 oz. Aluminum Cork/rubber 27 in.
Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon $45 Telescoping Lever 1 lb. Carbon Foam 28 in.
Leki Cross Trail 3 Carbon $190 Telescoping Lever 14.5 oz. Carbon Cork 25.6 in.
Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock $160 Telescoping  Lever 1 lb. 4.3 oz. Aluminum Foam 26 in.

*Editor's Note: "Length" is the minimum or collapsed length for the trekking poles.

Trekking Pole Buying Advice

Trekking Pole Types: Telescoping, Folding, and Fixed

Telescoping poles made of two or three sections are the most common type on the market, and are known for their durability and ease of use. As such, they’re popular with everyone from day hikers to backpackers and even mountaineers. The different pole sections expand from each joint by a locking system that can be opened for adjustment and secured while on the trail. These points of connection also are their greatest weaknesses, so a quality locking mechanism is highly recommended (we discuss this in more detail below). In this category, we prefer light poles with simple feature sets: secure locking mechanisms, quality aluminum or carbon fiber construction, and comfortable grips.

Trekking poles (REI Flash strapped to pack)
Telescoping poles collapse down for strapping to the outside of a pack

Black Diamond pioneered the ultralight folding category with their Z-Pole line. Much like the poles that come with a tent, you can separate the pieces and pack them down into a compact size (oftentimes 10 inches shorter than a comparable telescoping pole). More recently, Leki has made a strong push with their Micro Vario series, which includes the Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA above and pricier Micro Vario Carbon (not listed here). Most folding poles have very thin shafts, can bear less weight than their telescoping counterparts, and are either not adjustable or limited in their adjustments lengthwise. Favored by fast hikers, trail runners, climbers, and travelers, these poles will cause the least amount of arm fatigue over long miles.

A third category of trekking pole is the straight-shaft, fixed-length design. These are relatively uncommon because it can be difficult to store or transport such a long item (especially when fastened to your pack or in a suitcase), and they can’t be adjusted for up and downhill travel. As such, no fixed-length poles made our list. If you’re in the market, however, we recommend checking out the Ultimate Direction FK, which weighs just 4 ounces per pole.

Trekking poles (glacier hiking with the Leki Micro Vario )
Crossing a glacier with the Leki Micro Vario trekking poles

Shaft Materials

Generally, trekking poles are made either from carbon fiber, aluminum, or a combination of the two (a three-section pole may have two carbon upper pieces and an aluminum lower, for example). High-end trekking poles are often made from carbon, which is lighter and stiffer but also more expensive and brittle (and when carbon fiber breaks, it breaks; aluminum may just dent or bend and still be usable). Carbon’s tendency to snap under hard stress can be somewhat offset by a thicker diameter construction, at the penalty of weight.

Price and overall durability are the main reasons hikers opt for aluminum poles. There's something to be said about a confidence-inspiring design like the Black Diamond Trail Ergo, which is super stable and has virtually no wobble even on steep descents. In the end, the casual hiker or someone that is rough on their gear will probably be happiest with an aluminum or hybrid aluminum/carbon pole. On the other hand, an all-carbon build remains the best option for the weight-focused hiker/backpacker. 

Locking Mechanisms

Outside of an ultralight folding trekking pole, chances are you’ll be eying one with some sort of locking mechanism. The classic style used a twist lock: to tighten you twist each section closed to lock the segments into place. These poles are haunted by inconsistent performance, with hikers either over-tightening to the point of seizing, or twisting too loose, resulting in perpetual issues with collapsing. Needless to say, the twist lock has gone out of vogue. And while there are a few models out there that do a good job—such as what you get on Gossamer Gear's LT5—we typically recommend avoiding the twist lock.

Trekking poles (locking mechanisms)
Our preferred lever lock (open) on the right with twist lock on the left

Enter the lever lock. Using an external clamp to either open to adjust or close to lock the pole sections, it’s an easy-to-use system. Better still, the tendency for segments to slip when in the locked position is significantly reduced, giving additional confidence to the user. There are still a few risks of incidentally opening the lock when moving through heavy brush or the need to occasionally tighten the lever with a screwdriver (Leki’s SpeedLock + on the Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA doesn’t require a tool to adjust), but these are minor nitpicks. The lever lock is the new standard.

Trekking poles (locking mechanisms comparison)
Leki's SpeedLock 2 (left) and Black Diamond's FlickLock (right)

Trekking Pole Grip Construction

Materials: Cork, Foam, and Rubber
Trekking pole grips come in three main types: cork, foam, and rubber, with cork being our personal favorite. A quality cork handle has an exceptionally comfortable feel in the hand and wicks sweat very well. It also will conform nicely to your hand over time, making it great for long-distance treks and multi-season use. If cork isn’t your thing, the next best bet is foam. EVA foam is soft, provides a measure of shock absorption, and does a decent job at wicking moisture in the summer months (although it will typically retain more moisture than cork). Rubber is the third option and usually found on budget trekking poles. We’ve found these grips to be best for cold weather activities because they shed rain and snow, but they lack the sweat absorption and premium feel of foam and cork.

Trekking poles (descending)
Quality foam and cork handles are great for long-distance backpacking

Ergonomic Handle vs. Standard Handle
Looking beyond the grip materials, another consideration is whether or not to get an ergonomic handle. These types of grips have a slight forward angle, typically around 15 degrees, which is supposed to mimic where your hands would naturally rest. Not surprisingly, what feels “natural” to one person may not to another, and this in the end is a very personal choice. That being said, we’ve enjoyed our fair share of ergonomic grips (Leki is a standout in this area, and we also like Black Diamond’s Ergo models).

Trekking poles (foam versus cork grips)
Choosing a standard (left) or ergonomic (right) grip is mostly a matter of personal preference

Choke-up Extensions
Many poles will have a second, smaller grip below the main one. This is what we refer to as a choke-up extension, or extended grip. These predominantly foam grips are great for finding a secure hold lower on your poles while climbing steep hills or sidehilling, improving balance and leverage. For those who often travel on steep or technical terrain, extended grips are a must-have feature. For a DIY alternative, you can wrap duct tape around your poles under the large grips for a more secure hold.

Trekking poles (choke-up extensions)
Choke-up extensions are valuable on steep climbs

Wrist Straps
The final piece in the grip construction is the wrist strap. There is an impressive diversity of strap designs, ranging from heavily padded to simple nylon. And some hikers ditch the straps altogether because they’d rather not be connected to their poles should they take a fall or use the system improperly (correct technique is entering from the bottom opening of the strap). In choosing a strap, the biggest consideration is noticing any potential irritants. If a seam is rubbing against the back of your hand on a short walk, that can turn into serious chafing by mile 10. In general, the straps on most quality trekking poles are very comfortable. Even the simple webbing on the Leki Micro Vario Cor-Tec TA is very smooth. At the other end of the spectrum, you get nearly full hand coverage with Leki's Cross Trail 3, but many hikers and backpackers will find the design overkill and a bit polarizing.


The weight of the trekking poles is our second biggest consideration (first is comfort), and we wouldn’t blame you for putting it atop your priority list. A light pole will fatigue your arms less quickly, which is a big benefit on long treks. On short trips, you may not notice a 2-ounce difference, but when you think of the number of times your arms swing forward over an extended trip, it’s easy to realize how a little weight savings can go a long way.

Trekking poles (four pairs on ground)
Weight can add up quickly on the trail, so it's important to choose a pair of poles that matches your objectives

For moving light and fast, the lighter the better, with a caveat that durability diminishes once you get into the ultralight category (we see it happen right around 1 pound). On the extreme end are poles like the Gossamer Gear LT5 (10.6 ounces for a pair) or Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z (9.3 to 10.4 ounces, depending on length). These are great for ultralight backpackers and thru-hikers, but the shaft materials are too delicate for bushwhacking or 4-season use. Our preference is to go lightweight without having to be constantly worried about snapping the poles, which is why we rank the BD Trail Ergo atop our list.

Trekking poles (Black Diamond Carbon Z)
Trekking in Peru with the ultralight Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z

Packed Size

Packed size or collapsed length isn’t a make-or-break specification for us, but it is a consideration for travelers that need to fit their poles into a suitcase and hikers that strap their poles to their pack. Folding poles take the prize for the smallest packed size, which is as little as 13 inches. Properly protected, they’re even small enough to store inside a daypack.

Trekking poles (folded down)
Folding trekking poles pack down impressively small

Not everyone puts such a high value on a compact size, which is partly why three-section poles remain the most popular style on the market. Their average minimum length is 24 to 27 inches, which is small enough to attach to the outside of a backpacking pack, and also can fit into most luggage. Two-section telescoping designs are where it may become an issue for squeezing into a duffel or suitcase, and you can forget about traveling with a fixed-length pole.

Trekking poles (telescoping vs. folding)
A telescoping design (left) compared to a more compact folding model (right)


For trekking poles, durability and weight almost always go hand in hand. The first places manufacturers look to cut weight are the thickness of the material and the diameter of the pole. A smaller diameter and thinner pole logically will be less durable and flex more under pressure than its wider and thicker counterpart. The other part of the equation is the material itself. As mentioned above, even though aluminum may not be as strong as carbon fiber, it is the better choice in terms of durability because it has a lesser chance of breaking. This is why some manufacturers make a hybrid carbon and aluminum pole with the aluminum section at the bottom. Banging up against trail debris or snagging the pole in between rocks may only dent or bend the aluminum rather than crack or shatter the carbon.

Trekking poles (crossing river in Patagonia)
Aluminum poles, like the BD Trail Ergo Cork, are sturdier than their carbon fiber counterparts

As with any piece of outdoor gear, it’s best to think through your individual needs. Because we like to use our trekking poles year-round and on varied terrain, we’re willing to deal with the extra couple ounces to get a more reliable build like the proven Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork. But if we were setting off on a thru-hike of the PCT, we’d be willing to compromise a lot more on durability.

Trekking pole (holding up shelter)
Thru-hikers are often willing to sacrifice a little durability to shave weight

Winter Use

To keep your gear closet from overflowing (and your bank account plentiful), it’s always nice to find a single piece of gear that can be used year-round. A durable trekking pole can be just that: great for simple day hikes or backpacking trips in the summer, but burly enough for snowshoeing or even the occasional ski tour. So what makes a trekking pole suitable for winter? Typically it will come from the telescoping category. The stiffer design and telescoping function is important for uphill and downhill travel, particularly for skiing or mountaineering. That said, there are some robust folding poles like the Black Diamond Alpine FLZ and G3's new Pivot series.

Beyond having a strong shaft material, interchangeable baskets are a must for winter use. Many trekking poles come with, or offer as an accessory, powder snow baskets. The wide diameter baskets keep the poles from sinking in deep snow, just like a ski pole. Not all trekking poles have this option, however, so make sure to verify prior to purchasing.

Trekking poles (MSR DynaLock Ascent in snow)
Using sturdy, 4-season trekking poles in snow

Shock-Absorbing Poles

Adding shock absorption to trekking poles seems like a no-brainer. They have the built-in give that takes additional stress off of knees as well as your wrists on a long descent. But, a quick scan of the picks above will show only a few poles with shock absorption made our list. What gives? First and most importantly is the extra weight. On longer treks, those additional ounces really count (although the Leki system only adds 1 ounce per pole). Most importantly, simplicity in the outdoors is your friend, and one fewer part to break is a win for us. There are undoubtedly good reasons to get a shock-absorbing pole, but we encourage you to think through the compromises to make sure they’re worth it.

Trekking pole (Leki DSS shock-absorbing technology)
Leki's low-profile shock absorbers are built into the bottom of the pole

Women’s-Specific Trekking Poles

Most trekking poles are billed as unisex products, but there are a number of models that include a women’s version (Leki also has an entire collection of women’s-specific poles). What differentiates the women’s trekking pole is a narrower diameter grip, intended for smaller hands, and a shorter maximum length. For reference, the women’s version of the BD Trail Ergo Cork can be extended to 49 inches, while the men’s extend to 55 inches. Realistically, anyone that doesn’t need the extra length and would benefit from the smaller-diameter grips should choose a women’s trekking pole. Another benefit is women’s poles have a shorter minimum length (typically around 4-5 inches shorter in telescoping models), which makes them easier to stow away in a suitcase for traveling.

Trekking poles (wading through river in Patagonia)
Women's-specific poles typically have narrower grips and shorter maximum lengths

Cheap Trekking Poles

Uncomfortable foam, cork disintegrating into your palms, wrist straps chafing your hands, frail locking mechanisms collapsing. Need we go on? A poorly made, cheap trekking pole is just not worth it. Now we’re not saying you have to spend $150 to feel safe and secure; there are a number of poles under $100 that we still highly recommend. Moreover, if you are looking for a trekking pole for stability around town or want to try them without paying through the nose, you can forego some of the fancy lightweight features and get a classic aluminum pole at a reasonable price.

The REI Co-op Trailbreak telescoping poles (#2 on our list) are a great deal at $60 and will do the trick for easy local trails and day hikes. If you plan to use the poles for backpacking, we still recommend sticking with the pricier options on the list. As with most items you get for the backcountry, it’s well worth it to get a piece of gear you can rely on.

Trekking poles (Montem descending)
Cheap trekking poles are fine on easy trails, but don't expect them to hold up to serious use

Hiking with One Trekking Pole

Although the vast majority of hikers use two trekking poles, it’s worth mentioning that a certain contingent prefers one. We’ve found that this is most often thru-hikers who want to carry the least possible weight and gear, and one pole does afford you added balance and support compared to not using any at all. For those using an ultralight shelter with trekking pole support, obviously the design will need to require only one pole. For example, most Hyperlite Mountain Gear shelter models aside from the Echo require one pole, while popular ultralight tents like the Zpacks Duplex require one pole on each end (two total). In the end, the choice comes down to personal preference, and one pole can be a fine option for those who want some of the benefits while keeping a hand free. And in terms of buying, almost all trekking poles are sold in sets, although the Mountainsmith Dolomite above is a notable exception. Further, some cottage brands like Gossamer Gear do allow you to order one by including a note to “ship only 1 pole and refund 50%".

Trekking poles (hiking with one pole in Patagonia)
Hiking with one pole can cut down on weight while still offering added stability

Trekking Pole Tents and Shelters

For ultralight backpackers and thru-hikers, a trekking pole-supported shelter is a great way to trim weight. If you’re considering one of these designs, keep in mind you’ll need a compatible set of poles. One key factor is pole length, and many shelters are designed to function with set dimensions. For example, Zpacks’ popular Duplex works with poles approximately 48 inches long, while Gossamer Gear’s The One is best with two 49-inch poles. In addition, we’ve found adjustable pole designs simplify the set-up process (fixed-length poles are cumbersome and harder to get in place). Finally, the durability of your trekking poles is important: ultralight carbon models may be great while hiking, but if they snap, you’ll need to get creative to make your shelter functional. For us, a balanced design like the Black Diamond Distance FLZ makes a lot of sense. It’s reasonably light at 16 ounces, sturdy and tough with its aluminum build, and the adjustable length ensures the Distance FLZ will fit with most shelters on the market.
Back to Our Top Trekking Pole Picks  Back to Our Trekking Pole Comparison Table

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