Hiking and trekking poles can be a very helpful addition to your outdoor kit because they assist with so many things. How many times have you undertaken a hike on mountainous, steep, or uneven terrain to find your knees hurting from the strain? Trekking poles can help alleviate this issue by taking some of the strain. What's more, trekking poles aid balance and stability.
At Live For The Outdoors, we've been testing a number of trekking poles to find out which are best. Below, you will find our recommendations, along with key features you should need to consider when buying new trekking poles.
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Key features to look for in walking poles
Portability: For ease of transport and storage, including carrying in your backpack, they should pack away compactly. Z-shaped poles fold into thirds, while telescopic poles slide into themselves like a telescope. Either way, a collapsible design is generally preferable.
Length: With pole in hand your elbow should be at 90°. In this position, measure the distance from your hands to the ground and you have your optimum pole length. Opt for a pole that will lengthen 5-10cm up or down either side of this for when you’re ascending or descending.
Locking mechanism: How the sections of a pole fasten together is vital to its integrity and performance. Some use a twist-lock mechanism, while other have a clamp or lever style lock. The latter is considered more secure, longer lasting, easier to use and less prone to slippage.
Materials: Carbon or aluminium? That’s the big dilemma. Carbon poles are lighter and stiffer, but more expensive and brittle. Aluminium poles are generally cheaper and more durable, but heavy. Some poles combine both materials.
Durability: Over rough and rocky mountainous terrain, poles can take a real battering – so they need to be sufficiently strong, sturdy and durable to avoid snaps or cracks. Heavier aluminium poles can take more abuse, but lighter carbon poles are more popular these days.
Handgrips: This is all about comfort. Select your preference from foam, cork or rubber designs, and for enhanced comfort choose an ergonomic grip with shaping and cushioning. A longer handle allows you to slide your hand up and down, depending on the steepness of terrain, to effectively adjust the pole length on the move.
Weight: For moving fast and light, an ultralight carbon pole is most energy efficient – but might feel flimsy and at risk of snapping. For general hillwalking, a slightly heavier pole weighing 200-250g will generally be stronger and more durable.
Pole tips: Pole tips are usually made of hardened metal such as tungsten or carbide, housed in a plastic body They provide increased stability and traction by ‘biting’ into the ground. If you’ll be walking on roads or very rocky terrain, you can use rubber feet over the tips.
Features: Good wrist straps or slings help prevent poles being dropped, while baskets – the little round discs near the tip – stop them from plugging in the ground. Swapping in wider baskets is a good strategy if hiking in snow. Some poles also have shock absorbers – spring-like mechanisms that cushion the impact of striking the ground.
The best walking and trekking poles
Trekology Trek-Z 2.0 Cork (RRP £33)
Verdict: Compact, robust and functional, these are excellent trekking poles for the price. Their only real drawback is a little extra weight and complexity.
At just £33 per pair, these poles from start-up Trekology are remarkably well-priced. And they’re pretty decent too. The finish doesn’t quite match the more established brands, but the materials and construction are high-quality.
The four-piece shaft is made from 7075 aluminium alloy, connected via an internal cord with a protective plastic sheath. A lever lock enables a wide range of adjustment, employing a plastic collar with a metal clamp. At one end of the pole, you get a comfortable cork grip with an EVA foam extension and a simple fabric wrist strap. At the other is a tungsten carbide tip with a removable plastic trekking basket.
And despite their low cost, these poles were the only set on test to be supplied with two sets of baskets – a smaller set for mud and a larger set for snow, as well as two sets of rubber ferrules.
If we’re being fussy...
They’re slightly heavy and not the quickest to deploy, since the telescopic section partway up the shaft needs to be extended to lock the pole tension, which isn’t immediately obvious.
Shafts 7075 aluminium alloy | Collapsed Length 38cm | Adjustment 100-130cm | Weight per pair 560g
Robens Grasmere T7 (RRP £46)
Verdict: Simple but effective walking poles from a trusted brand. A little hefty in use and somewhat unwieldy when collapsed, but at this price still good value.
These trekking poles are relatively cheap, but don’t skimp on design or materials. The shafts are made from high-quality 7075 grade aluminium alloy, with extended EVA foam rubber grips and fabric wrist straps.
The top of the handle is a softer rubber rather than a hard plastic. They have a switchable anti-shock system that is turned on or off with a quick twist. The poles have a wide range of adjustment too, ensuring one size fits most.
The three-piece telescopic design employs modern lever locks rather than the older-style twist-lock system. The locking pins are metal, but the collars and clamps are plastic, while the tips are tungsten carbide with screw-in baskets. They’re also supplied with a carry bag. Admittedly they’re not the lightest poles, but don’t feel too unwieldy either, and we’d be happy to trust them on a long-distance trip or big hillwalking day.
If we’re being fussy...
Their ungainly 65cm collapsed length makes them awkward to attach to a daypack. They’re also comparatively heavy, and the plastic lever locks may not last as long as all-metal versions.
Shafts 7075 aluminium alloy | Collapsed Length 65cm | Adjustment 100-135cm | Weight per pair 588g
Helinox Passport TL130 Adjustable (RRP £135)
Verdict: Ultralight and agile yet with an excellent strength-to-weight ratio, these are ideal for fast and light mountain missions for those taller than 5ft 7in.
Most aluminium trekking poles are heavier than their carbon fibre counterparts, but the Helinox Passport series turns that on its head. They’re made from TH72M, which is just about the strongest aluminium alloy out there (around 20% stronger than the commonly used 7075 alloy). Yet the TL130 weighs in at just 189g per pole. That makes these the lightest trekking poles on test, undercutting even the carbon fibre models. However, they’re far from flimsy and are equipped with a decent set of features too.
In use, these poles are remarkably agile. The Z-folding tension lock system is easy to use and feels pretty solid. It also means the TL130 folds down to an impressively compact 37cm length. Velcro tabs, which are fixed midway down the extended EVA foam handle, make it easy to secure them together. And the grip itself is well-sculpted, with a sturdy webbing wrist strap.
If we’re being fussy...
The slim grip is not the most comfortable if you have big hands. The small, fixed trekking baskets sink straight into softer surfaces, and the folding design’s inner shock cord looks prone to wear. There is a small but useful range of adjustment thanks to an extending twist-lock handle, but they’ll still be too long for walkers shorter than about 5ft 7in though.
Shafts DAC TH72M aluminium alloy | Collapsed Length 37cm | Adjustment 117-130cm | Weight per pair 378g
Komperdell Carbon FXP.4 Approach Compact (RRP £140)
Verdict: Superbly engineered carbon fibre trekking poles, with a compact folded length, extended ergonomic grips, practical baskets and a brilliant self-deployment system.
These poles have a four-piece carbon fibre construction, resulting in a low weight of just 251g per pole and a folded length of just 38cm.
The FXP series uses Komperdell’s unique rapid self-deployment system, which is effective and easy to use. You can basically just shake out the pole, which snaps swiftly and securely into place pretty much by itself.
To collapse them again, simply press the integrated button located at each joint. The top of each section has an anodised aluminium liner that slots into the section above to ensure a solid connection, and they’re joined by a steel cable sheathed in plastic.
It’s a well-engineered and durable design – those clever Austrians, eh? An aluminium lever lock also enables adjustment from 105-125cm; not quite as wide a range as some, but suitable for most walkers.
The one-piece EVA foam grip is ergonomically shaped and extends a long way down the shaft too, so you can choke down when climbing steep slopes. The webbing strap is simple but effective, adjusting easily. At the tip, a tungsten-carbide ferrule plants reliably, and the large, flexible basket stops the pole from plugging in soft ground.
If we’re being fussy...
The length adjustment markings are difficult to read, and the poles aren’t the tidiest when folded, since the tension of the inner cable means they tend to spring open unless held in place.
Shafts Carbon fibre | Collapsed Length 38cm | Adjustment 105-125cm | Weight per pair 502g
Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork (RRP £145)
Verdict: Stiff but lightweight all-season carbon fibre poles with very comfortable grips and wrist straps.
These premium trekking poles are designed for all-season use, with a three-piece construction made from 100% carbon fibre.
They’re probably the stiffest carbon poles here, but at just 250g per pole they’re light. The handle has a natural cork grip with a lower section made from EVA foam rubber and a soft, rubberised top. This sits comfortably in the palm if you change grip when descending, while the foam extension also makes it easy to choke down on the pole when climbing.
The fabric strap is very comfy and supportive. Adjustment is via Black Diamond’s FlickLock Pro technology, with all locking components made from robust forged aluminium.
The replaceable tips are made from hardened tungsten carbide, with small baskets made from soft plastic. Only one set is supplied with the poles, but they are compatible with Black Diamond’s larger alpine and snow baskets.
If we’re being fussy...
They aren’t the most compact. The FlickLock Pro mechanism isn’t our favourite system either – the collars aren’t attached to the shafts, so they can come loose, and they’re only adjustable via a small (supplied) Allen key, which makes fine-tuning on the trail tricky.
Shafts Carbon fibre | Collapsed Length 61cm | Adjustment 100-130cm | Weight per pair 500g
Hilleberg Trekking Poles (RRP £177)
Verdict: Reassuringly robust yet light. A top choice for use with trekking pole tents, but also perform very well over rough terrain.
The rise of ultralight backpacking has also created a new breed of ‘trekking pole tents’ which utilise one or two trekking poles to create the tent frame. This is a great weight-saver but does require a set of robust and reliable trekking poles – which is exactly what specialist tentmaker Hilleberg has produced here.
If they seem a little over-built, that’s because they’re designed to be just as robust as the brand’s highly regarded tents. They use the class-leading DAC TH72M aluminium alloy, with extra-thick pole sections for added strength. Adjustment comes from very secure double-cam lever locks that feel rock solid.
And lastly, the poles extend to a maximum length of 145cm, giving sufficient headroom for larger shelter designs. All in all, for use with a trekking pole tent there’s probably no better option around. But they also work well when used purely as trekking poles, since the robust design gives plenty of confidence on rough terrain. They’re also not as heavy as you might think – they’re the same weight as the carbon fibre poles reviewed here.
If we’re being fussy...
They’re long, even when collapsed – not ideal if you’re looking for a compact, packable pole. We’d also like an extended grip for steeper terrain. And they have a Hilleberg price tag.
Shafts DAC TH72M aluminium alloy | Collapsed Length 65cm | Adjustment 90-145cm | Weight per pair 500g