Consider models with foam, cork, or faux-cork grips. Choose rubber grips only if they will be used exclusively in winter. Always avoid plastic grips—they’re cheap but terrible.
All single-piece poles are fixed length and usually available in five- or ten-centimeter increments. Most (but not all) multipiece poles are adjustable. Adjustable-length poles will be heavier and more expensive than fixed-length models, collapsible or not. For example, the adjustable-length Black Diamond Distance FLZ and Distance Carbon FLZ are $20
Multipiece shafts are much more popular, however, and I generally recommend this style. Because they collapse down, they travel better (and don’t incur baggage fees on flights) and can be more easily lashed to a backpack when not in use, like while crossing extensive talus. Multipiece shafts are typically adjustable
Product weight is always a consideration with outdoor gear, and it’s especially important with trekking poles. You won’t notice the difference between a six- and eight-ounce pole when it’s in your backpack, but because of the leverage poles generate when swinging in your hand, a six-ounce pole will feel dramatically
You can keep it simple by purchasing one of the models mentioned earlier. But if they don’t suit your needs or budget or are unavailable, some other buying considerations are listed below.
This summer, I tested eight pairs of poles representing a range of prices, features, and designs. I had used some of these models in years past, but I gave them all a fresh look while guiding and hiking in California and Colorado. My first pair of trekking poles cost $100
To properly size your poles, stand upright and hold your elbows at a 90-degree angle. You should be able to hold the primary grip with the tip touching the floor. For difficult terrain and off-trail hiking, I prefer my poles shorter by a few centimeters. For long downhills, some people
From a performance-only perspective, Ultimate Direction’s FK poles are the best I’ve ever used. Designed with a wide, single-piece shaft—20 millimeters thick, versus the standard 16- or 18-millimeter diameter—the FK poles are the stiffest and strongest I have ever used, and my measured weight of 3.8 ounces per pole (in
Most hikers, though, will be unable to overlook a serious shortcoming: They’re not collapsible. That means they don’t travel well, they’re unwieldy when lashed to a backpack, they can’t be adjusted for different terrain or outdoor activities, and they’re fussy to use with many trekking pole–supported shelters. But if you
There are two types of multipiece shafts: telescoping and foldable. Telescoping shafts nest into each other. They’re more rigid and weigh less for a given strength, but they’re less packable.
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