Best trekking poles: Your secret weapon for walking further and faster

Time to tackle those mountain peaks like the pros do
Top hiking poles and how to use them

Hiking poles are a popular accessory when you head to the outdoors, but if you've never used them the benefits can seem unclear. You've never needed help walking before, what good are a couple of sticks going to be?

If your quads have ever been screaming during a particularly steep climb to reach the summit of a hike, though, then poles are a smart investment. Pushing through them when climbing takes strain off your legs and makes you more stable, so you're less likely to slip or fall when climbing or descending – as well as meaning you can keep going for longer.

Things to consider when buying poles for the first time are weight, length, the locking mechanism (twist or click), the folding mechanism (telescopic or ‘Z’) and how they attach to your pack. All these factors vary and can affect your experience hiking with them.

Most poles are constructed from aluminum, which is strong and durable and won’t bend or crumple under the stresses of hikes featuring challenging ascents. Higher-end models look to save weight by being made of carbon fibre – but this weight-saving comes at the price of being less sturdy than aluminium.

They generally measure between 110cm and 130cm, but many come in longer and shorter versions. Poles made specifically for women are also available, which usually go from 90cm to 120cm.

The best hiking poles

How to use trekking poles: A quick guide

You can have the most expensive pair of poles in the world but if you don't know how to use them you may as well be carrying a couple of big sticks. Once you've got the right pair of poles for your size and the terrain you're planning to hike, you need to put some effort into using them properly. Check out our full guide on how to use trekking poles.

  • Strap up: The straps are designed to take some of the weight through your wrists. That means your hands won't get tired as quickly.
  • The uphills: Use them to help push the body up ascents without the need to bend over with your hands on your thighs. Plant them either side and push your weight through them.
  • The downhills: Put your hands over the top of the poles and place them in front as you ascend. It'll reduce the weight going through your leg joints.
  • On the flat: Place them asymmetrically at each side like extensions of your arms. Keeping one in contact with the ground with each step will help reduce stress on your legs by sharing the load more evenly across your body.
  • Practice makes perfect: Don't expect to be able to use them perfectly straight away and definitely don't take on a really tough climb before getting used to them.

Best for multi-terrain

Black Diamond Trail Pro

Buy now: Black Diamond (UK) / Black Diamond (US) / Amazon | $139.95

The best hiking poles

A classic redesigned for 2019, these aluminum poles are ideal for all types of hiking terrain at all times of the year. They now feature a ‘Smashlock’ telescopic system – the lower part of the poles click into position simply by pulling them out to their maximum length, and to stow them away, you unlock the Flicklock Pro on the upper part of the pole and push them down on the ground.

The wrist strap length is adjustable, so if you are wearing gloves with them you can extend them for more room. The poles feel sturdy and would stand to up a battering. These are a great all-round option whether you're planning a multi-day trip through the Pyrenees or an afternoon powerhike along the South Downs.

Weight: 530g a pair

Best for saving weight

Leki Micro Vario Carbon

Buy now: Leki (UK) / Leki (US) / Amazon | $199.95

The best hiking poles

When you are looking to cut down on grams, you should search out carbon-fibre poles, and these are some of the best available. Not only are they light but they're also quick and easy to fold and stow away.

They fold up almost in an instant at the press of a button (the all-new External Locking Device), which collapses them in a ‘Z’ system (an internal wire holds them together), meaning they take up less space in your bag than many other poles.

We also love the design on the wrist straps and the ergonomic handles, and together they combine for a soft and comfortable grip, meaning the many physical pains of a multi-day hike are no more.

Weight: 480g a pair

Best on a budget

Newfeel NW P120

Buy now: Newfeel (UK) / Decathlon (US) | $34.99

The best hiking poles

If you want a pair of poles but would rather remain at the lower end of the price range, this Newfeel pair come highly recommended. The aluminum construction means they are light and strong and ideal for beginners and occasional hikers – perfect to get a feel for how to use them before making a bigger investment.

They feature Velcro-based wrist straps, and the tungsten carbide tips that strike the ground are easily replaceable if they get damaged. Once you’ve started with these, your journey into pole-based hiking has begun, and you’ll look on in sympathy at those trekking sans poles.

Weight: 454g a pair

Best for quick walkers

Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z

Buy now: Black Diamond (UK) / Black Diamond (US) / Amazon | $130

A hikers secret weapon: The best hiking poles to walk further whilst

Durable and quick to extend/collapse, the Distance Carbon Zs are ideal for experienced hikers who are looking to trek at speed and save weight and time with their poles. The clever design means you flick the top section and the entire pole clicks into place.

Carbon construction is where the weight is saved, and these are ridiculously light, so if you are moving quickly through the hills you won’t be slowed down by extra grams.

They are sold by length and are not adjustable, so make sure you know which measurement is right for you. Handily, the poles are compatible with other accessories, such as Black Diamond’s Distance tent, where you can use them to hold up the tent itself, saving you having to schlep extra weight.

Weight: from 273g depending on length

Best for anti-shock

Leki Cressida Antishock

Buy now: Leki / Amazon | $139.95

A hikers secret weapon: The best hiking poles to walk further whilst

The Cressidas are telescopic with an anti-shock twist system incorporated into the lower pole. This means they have a surprising amount of shock-absorption – like suspension on a bike, it absorbs the impact every time you plant the pole on the ground, which, over the course of a long hike, will cushion your arm muscles and joints in your wrists, shoulders, and elbows.

The grips are made of cork, which is not only comfortable for long hikes but also helps wick away sweat when you're working hard on a climb.

Weight: 470g a pair

Best for beginners

Robens Coniston T7

Buy now: Robens (UK) / Robens (US) / Amazon | $34.39

A hikers secret weapon: The best hiking poles to walk further whilst

A perfect entry-level pair of Z-folding poles, these are made of aluminum so are strong and durable and pack down to a small size, meaning they are easily stowed away in your bag. They may not be as quick to assemble as other models, but they are comfortable to use, and reliable.

All of Robens’ poles are named after villages in the Lake District too, so you know the makers have done their research. If you find they make a big difference to your hikes you can start looking at lighter, higher-end poles. After all, you can never have too many poles.

Weight: 520g a pair

Best for intermediate hikers

Craghoppers Pro Lite

Buy now: Craghoppers (UK) / Amazon (UK) | £65

A hikers secret weapon: The best hiking poles to walk further whilst

A mix of carbon-fibre tubes and an aluminum base means that these are a good mix of strength for hikers with a few grams saved via the use of carbon. They are priced well and offer an easy and quick telescopic stow-away system, with strong locks that won’t let you down mid-hike.

A solid, mid-range option for those looking for support on longer hikes but who don’t want or need lighter carbon-fibre models.

Weight: 470g a pair

Best for Nordic walking

Komperdell Carbon Bamboo

Buy now: Alpinetrek (UK) / CampSaver (US) | $98.97

A hikers secret weapon: The best hiking poles to walk further whilst

These will draw envious comments from other walkers if nothing else – the bamboo-based design makes these Komperdells a thing of beauty. There’s a carbon pole at the core, so they're strong, and they're wrapped in bamboo for a retro look and feel.

These are designed for Nordic walking rather than trekking up mountains, but they come with changeable tips, so will do the job in the hills if you’re not too carefree with them. These are unadjustable in length and do not fold down, though, so you will need to choose the correct size for your height.

Tags:    Trekking
Tagged    Trekking