Reduce stress on knees and make steps more secure and stable by using a trekking pole, or ideally a pair, when walking over uneven terrain.
BEST FOR LOW BUDGET
Go Outdoors Freedom Trail Walker Pole £10 (each)
This very low-priced pole has the essential features a hillwalker needs but no more. The handle is of moulded plastic with a webbing wrist strap, and while this is well shaped it’s not as comfortable in the hand as poles with softer foam grips or softer padding on the strap, but it works well enough and the strap is easy to adjust. To ease hand jarring you get an internal spring mechanism to cushion each step and this function can be turned on or off by twisting the pole. However, this does switch between on and off very easily so I found that the tip only needed to snag a little in the ground for the anti-shock function to kick in. Length adjustment is the common internal expanding cam design. These are sold as single poles, but many hillwalkers find a pair of poles is better.
- Max length 135cm
- Packed length 65.5cm
- Weight 291g (one pole)
Best for low budget with improved performance
Vango Camino £16.50 (each)
For a small rise in cost compared against lower-priced designs, you get some welcome improvement in performance with this pole. Firstly, you get an area of soft foam padding on the handle as well as the webbing wrist strap and this greatly improves comfort. Also, the wrist strap adjustment is locked by a cam within the handle, so there isn’t the uncomfortable buckle sitting on the back of the hand. A very soft anti-shock spring mechanism is built into the handle to cushion each step and this works well. The length is adjusted through external cam levers which are very easy to work and, in my experience, tend to be less likely to jam than internal mechanisms. The Camino is slightly lighter than lower-priced poles, and is available as a single unit – so when comparing prices and weight note that some other poles are sold in pairs. But overall the slight price increase over the most basic poles is worthwhile given the performance benefits.
- Max length 135cm
- Packed length 66.5cm
- Weight 271g (one pole)
Best for saving weight
Alpkit CarbonLite Twins £59 (pair)
This pole is around half the weight of lower-priced ones so you can carry a pair of them for the same weight as a single pole. The weight benefit comes from the use of a carbon fibre composite material, which won’t bend like a metal pole when overstressed, so a little more care is needed here to prevent them from breaking. The handle and wrist strap are padded for more comfort, while the webbing is locked within the handle rather than via a chunky buckle that can be uncomfortable on the hand. Length adjustment is via an internal locking cam mechanism, rather than the external cam method and there is no anti-shock mechanism, so while the poles jar the hand a little more when walking on hard surfaces they are more stable on softer ground. The price is higher compared to the budget options, but you are getting a pair of poles for the price – and that weight benefit will be ideal for lightweight backpacking and trekking.
- Max length 134.5cm
- Packed length 62cm
- Weight 282g (per pair)
Best for minimal packed size
Helinox Passport TL130 £160 (pair)
If you are not using your poles for every step of a walk then the more compact they are the easier they are to stow on, or even inside, a rucksack. This pole has a folding design, which allows it to be remarkably short in length when packed. The sections are linked with an internal cord, like a tent pole, which allows them to flick into place before locking. The length can then be fine-tuned with an internal locking mechanism in the handle section. The handle and wrist strap are both well padded and there are no uncomfortable buckles on the strap. While these are not the absolute lightest option they are still lighter than average. You don’t get an internal anti-shock mechanism and its slim design is a little more bendy than some others, so it’s not the best for really uneven rocky ground, but it is great for fast and light trekking over easier terrain. The price is on the dear side though, so you really need to want a compact pole to warrant the cash.
- Max length 132cm
- Packed length 37cm
- Weight 374g (per pair)
Best for taller hillwalkers
Leki Sherpa XL V £125 (pair)
Leki produce a wide range of trekking poles and this model has some key benefits that set it apart from many others. Firstly, it extends to a maximum length of 145cm, making it around 10cm longer than most, so it is better for taller walkers. Also you get a soft, foam padding that extends down the shaft, which is ideal for following a zigzagging path up a hillside or scrambling without having to continually adjust the pole’s length to suit the uneven terrain. The wrist strap is very elaborate with a Velcro fastening around the hand and you can unclip this from the handle when using the lower shaft grip. The shafts are locked in place with an external locking cam style lever, making these quick and easy to adjust. The drawbacks are that the weight and packed size are both a little higher than others, so if you don’t need that extra length or extended grip then you won’t benefit from the extra cash outlay.
- Max length 145cm
- Packed length 72cm
- Weight 580g (per pair)
Best for most natural walking action
Pacerpole Dual Lock £107 (pair)
For the most efficient and comfortable walking the Pacerpole is designed with a contoured handle, which allows a more natural hand, wrist and arm position in use. The wrist cord, as opposed to a padded webbing strap, is only provided for security rather than for taking the load. There is no soft padding on the handles but comfort comes mostly from the unique shape, although it would be nice if there were some padding. The lower pole section extends and is locked in place by an internal pin, while the top section has an external camming lever. I’ve used Pacerpoles for many years and they do allow a very natural walking style, making them great for backpacking and trekking. The drawback is the weight and price tag, along with a slightly longer packed length. But if you tend to use poles for all your walking and you don’t have to stow them on a pack regularly for scrambles, then they are great.
- Max length 130cm
- Packed length 65cm
- Weight 582g (per pair)