Trekking poles. What comes to mind when you hear the words trekking poles? Do you imagine large, heavy wooden carved ones that remind you of the Viking Era? Or do you perhaps see dirty thru hikers carrying their homes on their backs as they quickly tap their trekking poles racing right by you?
I mean what exactly are trekking poles? When you see them they kind of look just like ski poles. Which is confusing because you are not skiing a snowy mountain, you are just walking in the woods. This begs the question: would you want or even need trekking poles? What are the benefits of trekking poles? Are there different types or styles of trekking poles to choose from? And finally, what type of trekking poles are the best for you? Well, I have some answers for all those questions plus trekking pole recommendations for you!
Why Try Trekking Poles?
Trekking poles, in all honesty, are not vital to hiking adventures. When it comes to gear you do not need them like you need water, a first aid kit, or sunblock. But truthfully, they can make the steeper treks up tough elevations much more comfortable. Have you ever felt your knees grow weary while stomping around in the wild? The cause of this knee pain is most likely stress on your joints which can be extremely painful. Trekking poles work to ease that shock on ascents and descents. This relieves pain and inflammation of your joints. That stability gives you the strength to do longer miles, steeper elevations and really just enjoy the journey more.
Trails are known to be wild and full of obstacles. They can be rocky and gravelly paths, or full of hidden tree roots just waiting to trip you. Sometimes trails are even similar to sandy quicksand that like to swallow your feet right up. If balance is not your strong suit, having trekking poles can be great anchors on these types of paths.
Think of trekking poles as an extra set of limbs designed to keep you on your feet. With them you can have more confidence when crossing swiftly moving rivers, or if you are faced with traversing snowfields and ice patches. Trekking poles are also great on any narrow ridgelines or in strong winds that want to push you right off your feet. Having trekking poles equals having more balance.
A nice hidden benefit of bringing along trekking poles on your camping and hiking adventures is that you can actually use them as tent poles! Talk about multi functional. Many ultralight tents available on the market now have been specifically designed to use trekking poles in lieu of traditional tent poles. And trust me on any backpacking adventure having gear that has multiple uses is a life saver on weight, practicality, and ease. Some favorite tent options that use trekking poles for structure are the ZPacks Duplex and Triplex, the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2, and the Tarptent Stratospire 2.
How To Pick Trekking Poles
Now that you have a better understanding of the benefits of bringing along trekking poles on your next hike; how exactly do you decide what trekking poles options are the best for you? When you step into any outdoor gear retail store you are faced with many options that vary in price, design, material and fancy or not so fancy functions. Plus if you are an online shopper, it can get even more overwhelming with so many options to choose from. Do not worry! Here are some simple go to things to look for to help you decide which type of trekking poles to buy:
Size: This is really the most important aspect in terms of usability. Your trekking poles have to be the right size for your frame. Many poles are adjustable and figuring out the right length is pretty simple. To find the length that’s best just hold your trekking poles in each hand. Check to see if your arms are bent at a right angle when the poles are touching the ground. Too tall poles will push your shoulders up and back and too short poles will cause you to have a hunchback. Neither of which are comfortable or good for your back health.
Material: Most trekking poles are composed of either carbon fiber or aluminum material. Carbon fiber is a popular choice for its durability and how lightweight the fiber reinforced plastic is. However since this material is harder to make, these options come with a higher price tag. Aluminum material trekking poles are stronger than carbon fiber and usually less expensive. But they are heavier for when you opt to carry them strapped to your pack.
Design: Three designs to choose from for trekking poles are telescoping, trifold, and fixed. Fixed poles are really the least practical trekking poles in my opinion. Similar to ski poles, they do not fold or adjust. That makes them impossible to stow in or on your pack when not actively in use on trail. Trifold designed trekking poles have three pieces that are held together by an internal tension cord and held in place by a push button locking mechanism. This makes them very lightweight, compact and great for travel. Lastly, telescoping trekking poles have the most adjustability for height. You can also use them easily as tent poles. You can adjust the height quickly and they are the most common type of trekking pole design.
Now that you have an idea of what trekking poles are, why you would want these extra limbs, and what to look for when choosing a set – let’s get to my favorite recommendations.
TREKOLOGY Trek-Z Trekking Hiking Poles: These poles are super durable and can withstand just about anything. I mean, they are made out of aircraft-grade aluminum after all! How cool is that? They are trifold style trekking poles that are very compact and lightweight in design. Price is just shy of $43.
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork: The quality on these poles can not be beat. They may not be the lightest poles on the market but they have these nice ergonomic cork handles that are very comfortable to grasp. The dual flick-lock system makes adjusting the height very straightforward. Price is around $140.
LEKI Micro Vario COR-TEC TA AntiShock Poles: These trekking poles are great for backpackers, runners or thru hikers. The reason being when you fold them down they get to the very super small size of just 15 inches in length. That makes quick storage very nice. Another bonus is once the trekking poles are fully extended, the top portion has a special Speedlock+ mechanism that can be extended to accommodate a wide range of heights and needs. Price is $160.
BAFX Products Anti Shock Hiking Trail Poles: Simple and the cheapest trekking pole option on the list are these guys. They are pretty straightforward in design with no bells or whistles. They are durable, easy to adjust, and overall pretty comfortable. Best part is the price is under $25.
Trekking poles are really a great add to your adventure gear collection. Although they are not always needed they can make backpacking, thru hiking and unsteady terrain much more comfortable and safe. And really who does not want to enjoy the outdoors just a little bit more? As always remember to use leave no trace principles and just have fun.
Kaitlin is a former ballerina who now travels around the country in an 18-foot converted school bus. Her and her tall one husband have welcomed 34 sweet children into their home the past eleven years. Although they would be a forever home for all of them they were able to adopt their daughter buckets and are legal guardians of their son monkey. Follow their crazy adventures on Instagram @runawaymusbus.