Why get a pair of hiking poles? While they may not be necessary on shorter, lighter jaunts, hiking poles come in real handy when tackling long treks with a lot of gear on your back. By providing extra support and stability for on each step, hiking poles help take the weight and stress off your joints, back and legs, transferring it to the ground instead. You probably wouldn’t notice much of a difference without a pack, but once you’re doing some long-distance hauling with 30 pounds on your back, you will. They also help add a nice, even cadence and rhythm to your walking. So we rounded some of the best hiking poles available in 2018. You’ll something for everyone here – ultralight carbon fiber, flexible-yet-sturdy aluminum. Poles that pack down to a foot long, Poles that pack down to almost three feet long, and a whole range of price tags.
Coming in at only 17 ounces of weight, the Leki Micro Vario are designed with the ultralight backpacker in mind. But that doesn’t mean they don’t have all the features you need in a good pair of hiking poles. The shafts are made of Carbon, and feature what Leki calls Dynamic Suspension System – or DDS, for short. They’re very subtle shock absorbers at the bottom of the shaft that cushion the blows, without adding weight or being too obtrusive. There are 5 telescoping carbon sections for maximum portability, and the carbon sections are protected by an aluminum sleeve.
If you’re looking to carry even less weight than the Leki Micro Vario, the Flash Carbon from REI is just that, weighing only 14.8 ounces a pair. They’ve got a 3-section, carbon composite design that easily adjusts. The handles are breathable EVA foam in an ergonomic shape, with adjustable wrist straps so you don’t lose them. The Flash Carbon are also outfitted with low-profile trekking baskets and tungsten carbide tips that won’t bend or break on hard terrain. This should be your choice if you’d like a lightweight pair of poles, but don’t need the features or higher price tag of the Leki Micro Vario.
Gossamer Gear bills the LT4 as the lightest adjustable carbon fiber hiking pole on the planet, and at a breathtaking 9 ounces per pair, we won’t argue. They adjust from 35inches to 53inches for hiking, but if you need to use them to pitch a shelter (as many ultralight enthusiasts do, to cut down on tent weight), they can stretch up to 140cm. The LT4 poles are of course adjustable, with a single telescoping twist lock, and the grips are comfy foam. The only drawback is potentially that, for their weight and price, they do not fold down very small; 35 inches, almost 3 feet, is a bit long for packing and transferring when not in use. Pair them with a good pair of ultralight hiking boots.
The Black Diamond Distance Z Carbon can contend with the Gossamer Gear LT4 as the lightest carbon fiber hiking poles, also boasting a pair that weighs only 9 ounces. The difference, however, is that the Distance Z carbon come only in fixed-length poles. You’ve got four lengths to choose from, and they each use Black Diamond’s Z-Pole technology. Z-Pole Technology allows them to fold down despite their fixed length, connecting the different sections with a concealed inner cord, and cones on the end of each section ensures they fit together in a moment. The pole baskets also feature shaft catchers to keep the sections secure when folded. The lightest of the four options weighs only 9 ounces, and the longest, still only 10.4 ounces, making these a good lightweight option if you are happy with just one useable length, and at a lesser price point.
If you’re just looking for cheap, lightweight hiking poles that get the job done, Montem Ultra Strong Hiking Poles are a solid choice. Built from aluminum, they are lightweight and strong, if not slightly more bendable than carbon fiber. But you can still go hard on them without too much worry. EVA foam is more comfortable and absorbs sweat better than cork, which definitely helps with grip. Rubber tips and baskets are included. And best of all, these poles are dirt cheap; you can easily snag a pair off Amazon for less than $50.
The LEKI Instructor Lite poles are just a little bit different. They’ve got these sweet handles and grips, which they call Trigger Shark 2, that feature individual wrist straps for a good grip. The pole is made of two segments – a strong, aluminum upper segment, and a lightweight, stiff carbon lower segment to keep weight down while remaining sturdy; a pair of comes in at 13.9 ounces, or about 6.5 per pole. They lock together with a simple snap of the Speed-Lock clamp. And should you find yourself hiking on paved road, you add a rubber Power Grip Pad to the bottom, which is made of vulcanized rubber and will provide a nice, study grip without damaging the pole tip. For super comfy, easy-to-grip and still relatively light pair of poles, the LEKI Instructor Lite is a great choice at a decent price.
If you’re a trail runner or ultralight backpacker, looking for the most packable, compact hiking poles on the market, the Black Diamond Alpine FLZ may be a good choice. They use the same Z-Pole design the Distance Z Carbon, connected by hidden cords and ready to deploy in as little as two seconds. The poles are a durable aluminum construction, and they have 60mm trekking baskets and Compactor Powder Baskets for hiking in the snow; you get solid, four-season use out of these puppies. The natural cork grip with non-slip, EVA Foam keeps them firmly in your grasp, and they fold down to as little as 14 inches – while extending to a length of 43” on the same model. If you’re looking for the ultimate in portability, these are the trekking poles you should be looking at.
These lightweight trekking poles are made from a patented alloy, which the brand has named TH72M, which makes them as strong and durable as aluminum, but as light and ready-to-go as carbon fiber poles. The allow, however, allows them to be much more flexible than either carbon or aluminum, so they will bend and bounce back before breaking. They collapse down to about 13.8” for the shortest version, letting you throw them in your pack – or hook them on the outside – without much a problem. The TL stands for Tension Lock, which is exactly how these poles lock together, and they are equipped with carbide tips, a super squishy foam grip, and moisture-wicking straps, so your hands never get too sweaty. You can choose from both fixed and adjustable length poles.