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The Best Trekking Poles of 2023

When moving over natural terrain, trekking poles help reduce strain on your body so you can focus on the objective at hand. If you haven’t already, it’s time you transfer some weight over with some of the best trekking poles of 2023.

Testing trekking poles while hiking near Moab.The author testing trekking poles while hiking near Moab, Utah; (photo/Matt Granger)
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With trekking poles, you can decrease your chances of injury and increase speed, all while lightening your load. There are a wide variety of trekking poles on the market, and trail runners, hikers, backpackers, and thru-hikers all have unique needs for their poles.

Factors like strength-to-weight ratio, packability, seasonal application, and grip style combine to create unique offerings for the ever-evolving specializations in the outdoors.

We’ve spent months researching and testing the best trekking poles to fit a variety of uses and budgets. From the mountains of Colorado to the California desert, we’ve put these poles through the wringer, evaluating them based on comfort, packed size, durability, versatility, adjustability, and overall value.

Although there isn’t a perfect pole for every person out there, we’ve broken this list into categories to help find the best trekking poles for you. If you need help deciding, refer to our comparison chartbuyer’s guide, and FAQ below for more tips on how to choose the best trekking poles for your unique needs.

The Best Trekking Poles of 2023


Best Overall Trekking Poles

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Trekking Poles

Specs

  • Weight 1 lb., 2 oz.
  • Packed size 27″
  • Material Aluminum
  • Lock style Dual FlickLock
The Best Trekking Poles of 2023

Pros

  • Comfy cork grip
  • Durable locking mechanism
  • Sturdy design

Cons

  • They don't pack down very small
Best Budget Trekking Poles

Kelty Upslope 2.0

Specs

  • Weight 1 lb., 2.7 oz.
  • Packed size 35″
  • Material Aluminum
  • Lock style Twist
The Best Trekking Poles of 2023

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Durable
  • Comfortable foam grip

Cons

  • Twist locks aren't our favorite
Runner-Up Best Trekking Poles

LEKI Black Series FX Carbon

Specs

  • Weight 1 lb., 0.1 oz.
  • Packed size 16″
  • Material Carbon
  • Lock style External lever lock
The Best Trekking Poles of 2023

Pros

  • Ultralight
  • Durable locking system
  • Easy-to-adjust length

Cons

  • Super expensive
Best Trekking Poles for Thru-Hiking

Gossamer Gear LT5

Specs

  • Weight 9.8 oz.
  • Packed size 23.5″
  • Material Carbon
  • Lock style Twist
The Best Trekking Poles of 2023

Pros

  • Lightweight
  • Carbon fiber shafts are super durable
  • Quite packable

Cons

  • Pretty minimal strap design
Best Trekking Poles for Trail Running

Black Diamond Distance Carbon Running Poles

Specs

  • Weight 6.3 oz.
  • Packed size N/A (they don’t pack down)
  • Material Carbon
  • Style Fixed length
The Best Trekking Poles of 2023

Pros

  • Super light
  • Great for technical trail running
  • Durable carbon tips

Cons

  • Poles don't fold up
Best of the Rest

LEKI Makalu Lite

Specs

  • Weight 17.6 oz.
  • Packed size 26″
  • Material Aluminum
  • Lock style Speedlock+
The Best Trekking Poles of 2023

Pros

  • Comfortable grip
  • Simple, effective locking mechanism

Cons

  • Comparatively long collapsed length

Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Poles

Specs

  • Weight 1 lb., 1 oz.
  • Packed size 25″
  • Material Carbon
  • Lock style FlickLock Pro
The Best Trekking Poles of 2023

Pros

  • Durable
  • Simple-to-use lock system
  • Comfortable straps

Cons

  • Somewhat pricey

REI Co-op Trailmade Trekking Poles

Specs

  • Weight 1 lb., 1 oz.
  • Packed size 25"
  • Material Aluminum
  • Lock style Lever
The Best Trekking Poles of 2023

Pros

  • Affordable
  • Durable

Cons

  • Locks are a bit difficult to use while on the go
  • Not the smallest pack size

Zpacks Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles

Specs

  • Weight 14.4 oz.
  • Packed size 24.5"
  • Material Carbon fiber
  • Lock style Lever
The Best Trekking Poles of 2023

Pros

  • Lightweight but durable
  • Comfortable ergonomic grips
  • Solid value for the cost

Cons

  • Plastic clasps aren't the most sturdy
  • Not the most packable

LEKI MCT Superlite Carbon

Specs

  • Weight 10.4-11.9 oz. (depending on length)
  • Packed size 12.6″-15.5″ (depending on length)
  • Material Carbon
  • Lock style Button
The Best Trekking Poles of 2023

Pros

  • Unique wrist strap/glove
  • Simple, effective locking system

Cons

  • Not the lightest poles out there
  • On the expensive side

Cascade Mountain Tech Trekking Poles

Specs

  • Weight 20.8 oz.
  • Packed size 26″
  • Material Aluminum
  • Lock style Quick-lock
The Best Trekking Poles of 2023

Pros

  • Super cheap
  • Well-made design for the price

Cons

  • Not super durable
  • Quite heavy

REI Co-op Flash Carbon Trekking Poles

Specs

  • Weight 13.6 oz.
  • Packed size 27″
  • Material Carbon
  • Lock style Lever
The Best Trekking Poles of 2023

Pros

  • Durable but not overly heavy
  • Sturdy locking mechanisms

Cons

  • Large collapsed size

Leki Black Series Carbon

Specs

  • Weight 16.6 oz.
  • Packed size 26.75″
  • Material Carbon
  • Lock style Speedlock 2+
The Best Trekking Poles of 2023

Pros

  • Great handle ergonomics
  • Rubber tops are helpful for downhills

Cons

  • Not super packable

Mountainsmith Carbonlite Pro Trekking Poles

Specs

  • Weight 17.5 oz.
  • Packed size 26.5″
  • Material Carbon and aluminum blend
  • Lock style Twist
The Best Trekking Poles of 2023

Pros

  • Anti-shock system
  • Comfortable cork and foam handle

Cons

  • Twist-lock system not as durable as other designs

TSL Connect Carbon 5 Trekking Poles

Specs

  • Weight 16 oz.
  • Packed size 16.5″
  • Material Carbon
  • Lock style Lever
The Best Trekking Poles of 2023

Pros

  • Good adjustability
  • Baskets tilt to match terrain
  • Straps snap into place magnetically

Cons

  • Lots of accessories to deal with

Trekking Poles Comparison Chart

Trekking PolePriceWeight (Pair)Packed SizeMaterialLock Style
Black Diamond Trail Ergo$1401 lb., 2 oz.27″AluminumDual FlickLock
Kelty Upslope 2$451 lb., 2.7oz.35″AluminumTwist
LEKI Black Series FX Carbon$2691 lb., 0.1 oz.16″CarbonExternal Lever Lock
Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z$1899.2 oz. 13-17″CarbonRapid deployment 
Gossamer Gear LT5$1959.8 oz.23.5″CarbonTwist
Black Diamond Distance Carbon
Running Poles
$1506.3 oz. N/ACarbonFixed length
Leki Makalu Lite$14017.6 oz.26″AluminumSpeedlock+
Black Diamond Alpine Carbon
Cork Poles
$1991 lb., 1 oz.25″CarbonFlickLock Pro
REI Co-op Trailmade $701 lb., 1 oz.25″AluminumLever
Zpacks Carbon Fiber$10014.4 oz.24.5″Carbon fiberLever
Leki MCT Superlite Carbon$20010.4 oz. 12.6″ CarbonButton
Cascade Mountain Tech$2920.8 oz.26″AluminumQuick-lock
REI Co-op Flash Carbon$14913.6 oz. 27″CarbonLever
Leki Black Series Carbon$19916.6 oz.26.75″CarbonSpeedlock 2+
Mountainsmith Carbonlite Pro$8017.5 oz.26.5″Carbon and
aluminum blend
Twist
TSL Outdoors Carbon 5$17916 oz.16.5″CarbonLever
Backpacking packs
Testing trekking poles in Colorado; (photo/Eric Phillips)

Why You Should Trust Us

We pride ourselves on a testing process that exposes flaws and highlights strengths while observing a range of equipment options. When evaluating the best trekking poles — a piece of gear that needs to exhibit durability — we make a point to test features that commonly break down to ensure that only the most reliable poles made it on our list. That includes the locking mechanisms, grips, and straps.

Chris Carter, one of the lead authors of this guide, has thru-hiked the Triple Crown of long trails in the United States: the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail, and the Appalachian Trail. He knows the value of a reliable trekking pole for absorbing impact on the body, helping with stability over tricky terrain, or pitching a shelter at night. He’s quite particular about the poles he depends on in the backcountry.

We tested these poles in a wide range of environments and weather, over different types of terrain. As avid users, we’re familiar with the features that can set one pole apart from another. We make a point to analyze what makes each pole unique, testing each trekking pole option in the environments where they’re most likely to be utilized.

Buyer’s Guide: How to Choose a Trekking Pole

Weight & Packed Size

The packed-down length isn’t of vital importance to most hikers and backpackers. But, for those who plan to travel with their poles, it’s best to look for a pole that packs down small enough to fit in your luggage.

The LEKI Black Series FX is a perfect example of extreme packability. It packs down to a mere 16 inches, which would easily fit into most daypacks alongside other supplies.

For weight, you can’t beat the Gossamer Gear LT5. At 4.8 ounces per pole, you’ll hardly know they’re there, and can keep them handy for just-in-case scenarios.

Zpacks Carbon Fiber Trekking Pole on the CDT
One of the authors putting the durable, lightweight Zpacks Carbon Fiber poles through their paces on a thru-hike of the CDT; (photo/Chris Carter)

Height

One of the biggest factors for a good fit is height. Stand up straight (preferably wearing the hiking shoes you’ll hike in) and bend your arm to a 90-degree angle. Measure from the floor to your elbow to calculate your length.

In general, people 5’1″ and under will choose a 100cm pole. Those up to 5’7″ will use a 110cm pole. Hikers ranging from 5’8″ to 5’11” need a 120cm pole. And those taller than 6′ will go with the 130cm option.

Obviously, a pole with a wide range of adjustability will work for almost everyone. Once you’ve measured your size, you can explore fixed-length options (such as the Leki MCT Superlite Carbon).

Fixed Length vs. Adjustable

There are viable reasons to consider each option. With adjustable poles, you can quickly change the length. This lets you fine-tune them on the trail to your personalized height. You can adjust them if you’re exhausted and want to transfer a bit more weight to your upper body.

Adjustable poles give you the option to extend or retract on the descent or on steep ascents. The downside is an increased possibility of failure or slippage at the locking points, especially with twist locks.

PXL_20221002_234507157 2
Adjustable poles are slightly heavier but offer greater versatility; (photo/Andrew Potter)

Fixed-length poles don’t offer as much fine-tuning but can generally handle a lot of weight and they have less room for error. Generally, fixed-length poles are more ideal for trail running and other fast-paced endeavors where adjustments will only slow you down.

Some fixed-length poles, like the trail-running-specific Black Diamond Distance Carbon Poles, don’t fold up. Others are a fixed length when deployed but break down for packing, like the LEKI MCT Superlite Carbon.

Women’s Trekking Poles

Generally, women’s trekking poles have a smaller grip diameter (which offers increased comfort for smaller hands) and a shorter maximum length. For example, the top pick Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Poles have a length of 55 inches, and the women’s version has a max length of 49 inches.

Another bonus of women’s trekking poles is that the minimum length is shorter, which increases packability. Also, the women’s options, due to their smaller size, shed a bit of weight.

In reality, it’s less about the sex of the given user and more about the size. Anyone looking for a smaller grip and a shorter pole should consider buying a women’s trekking pole.

Some women find female-specific poles to be game-changers on trail; (photo/Daniel Deemer)

Value

When spending money on outdoor gear the product’s pricepoint, durability, and reliability come into play. The trekking poles on this list range in price from $45 (Kelty Upslope 2.0) to $260 (LEKI Black Series FX Carbon). As the price increases, the poles exhibit more features while shedding weight.

For the average user, finding a balance between quality and price can ensure you get the trekking poles you need without breaking the bank. At only $80, the Mountainsmith Carbonlite Pro provides a lightweight carbon build for users looking to shed weight, and it exhibited more than adequate durability for our testers, especially for the price.

Grips

Trekking pole grips come in three primary materials: cork, foam, and rubber. Ideal grips will wick moisture well, be comfortable on your skin, and work as shock absorbers. Cork and foam are the most common materials used for trekking pole grips, and for most, the preference simply comes down to feel.

  • Cork is extremely light, wicks moisture well, and is also very environmentally friendly. Cork grips are the best at absorbing shock, and also break in over time, forming to your hand. The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork offers an ergonomic cork grip.
  • Foam grips are also very light, but rather than wicking moisture, they tend to absorb it. The tradeoff would be for grip, as EVA foam is quite tacky. Higher quality foam, like on the Makalu Lite, performs well across all categories. Between foam and cork, the weight difference is negligible.
  • Rubber grips are rarely used in modern trekking poles, and tend to be utilized strictly for snowsports.
IMG_20220928_141912 2
The type of grip on your pole greatly impacts your pole’s level of comfort; (photo/Andrew Potter)

Tips

Most manufacturers of trekking poles offer the industry standard – carbide tips. They’re extremely durable and offer grip and pinpoint precision over a variety of terrain, performing equally as well over rock, ice, and softer, variable surfaces.

Carbide tips can inflict some damage on the environment, however, so some prefer rubber tips when traversing delicate landscapes. They can also be noisy over rocky terrain. Gossamer Gear includes some very handy rubber boots with their ultralight LT5 poles, which are easy to place and remove.

As the primary source of contact with the ground, any tip will wear down over time, and should be replaced when the metal wears up to or near the plastic.

Rubber tip protectors come with or are available for most trekking poles. They’re not only useful if you find yourself on shelves of rock or pavement, but can extend the life of your tips in storage (and keep them from snagging clothing in your pack).

Baskets

Trekking poles generally come with “mud baskets.” They not only prevent splashing and give support in mud, but can also help when traveling over soft dirt or sand. They are especially helpful for thru-hikers who will encounter snow on high-elevation passes.

If you’re traveling over snow without baskets, you’ll find out the snow depth pretty quickly, and unless you can lengthen the poles to match that depth, they’ll be rendered useless.

Almost all poles available today come with standard-size mud baskets, and many even come with some extra powder baskets for all-season use. If you want to utilize your poles for winter sports, check to see if they come with powder baskets, and be sure to check compatibility if you order them from a different manufacturer.

Zpacks Carbon Fiber Trekking Pole on the CDT
Trekking poles make you more efficient when traveling long distances; (photo/Chris Carter)

Do You Need Trekking Poles?

Advantages of Trekking Poles

  • Distribute some of the work and weight distribution to your upper body. Although using your arms can increase your overall energy use (see cons below), trekking poles are an effective and useful leg-saver, especially on longer or more strenuous outings.
  • Save your knees and joints on descents. Studies show that using poles significantly reduces the impact on your knees while hiking downhill. When more weight gets factored into the equation, trekking poles can be essential for long-term health.
  • Improve your balance on uneven terrain. That’s especially true over river crossings where slippery rocks can ruin your day.
  • Help you maintain a consistent gait. Meaning, trekking poles can lead to a faster, more efficient pace.
  • Add a multipurpose tool to your kit. Many options can be used as ski poles with the addition of powder baskets. They can also be used as tent poles for ultralight backpacking tents, or for making shade on sweltering days where coverage is lacking.

Cons of Trekking Poles

  • Your overall energy output is increased. This may seem counterintuitive, but we’ve found the benefits of physiological preservation, balance and safety outweigh the effects of extra output.
  • Additional cargo. If you choose not to use your poles, they become another piece of gear to carry or be strapped to your backpacking backpack. This is where packability becomes essential.
Zpacks Trekking Pole
Whether or not you need a trekking pole for your adventure is entirely up to you, but we feel that the pros outweigh the cons in most cases; (photo/Chris Carter)

How to Properly Use Trekking Poles

If you’re buying trekking poles for the first time, or have simply never thought about the best way to use them, it can be helpful to understand the most efficient way for them to complement your stride.

Height: For setup, you’ll want your arms to be at a 90-degree angle when the tips are weighted on the ground in front of you. This is especially important to consider when buying fixed-length poles, as adjustable poles offer the benefit of micro-adjustments.

Wrist straps: The wrist straps should comfortably wrap around your wrists (not so tight that they’re squeezing, but not so loose that they’ll slip off your wrists if dropped). With your hands vertical on the grips, the top of the strap should rest where your wrist hinges if you were to lift your thumb from that position.

Stride: As an extra set of legs, the most efficient way to use trekking poles is to extend the opposite pole so that it hits the ground just before your opposite foot (i.e. the left pole should extend as you’re lifting your right foot to step). On very steep descents, many prefer moving their hand to the top portion of the grip and placing both poles at once for balance.

PXL_20221002_233208118 2
Practice the proper technique of using a trekking pole before heading out on any extended trip; (photo/Andrew Potter)

Placement: Placing poles as you walk on mellow terrain is simple (see paragraph above). Over rock or talus, however, it can become a bit more complicated. It’s never good to have the pole wedged in between or just behind a rock as you step, as they may stick in the ground and break/bend under the force. Otherwise, you simply want to place them in a secure position that helps keep you balanced.

When on the trail, it’s not uncommon to see a wide range of trekking pole techniques. Some people sling them along and place them in random increments, whereas others really lean into the poles and transfer weight with each step.

While there are a variety of ways to have them bear weight when moving through technical terrain, the above technique (alternating opposite pole from leg) has proven to be the simplest, most efficient technique for walking along flat, moderate, and steady uphill terrain.

PXL_20221002_233908081 2
A solid trekking pole can make your trip much less brutal on your body; (photo/Andrew Potter)

FAQ

Are trekking poles worth it?

Trekking poles aren’t required, but they can certainly be helpful. For long treks with a heavy pack, they help distribute your weight and decrease the impact on descents. They’re also great for stabilization on rocky treks, when hiking along an exposed trail, or when river crossings might get a bit techy.

Is it better to hike with one trekking pole or two?

You could use a single pole or a hiking staff, but, in general, we recommend a pair of hiking poles. They provide a more balanced, ergonomic gait and increased stability.

Packable options allow you to stow a pole away when both don’t seem necessary, or if you need one hand free for snapping photos.

Trekking Poles Help on Steep Hikes
Trekking poles provide stability while hiking on an exposed trail; (photo/Matt Granger)
How tall should my trekking pole be?

The trekking pole grip should rest comfortably in your palm when your arms are bent at a 90-degree angle.

In general, people 5’1″ and under will choose a 100cm pole. Those up to 5’7″ will use a 110-115cm pole. Hikers ranging from 5’8″ to 5’11” need a 120cm pole. And those taller than 6′ will go with the 130cm option.

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