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Hiking poles - what to look for?

Hi -

I've been convinced! I think I'll get hiking poles for this summer. There are approximately a million online, and except for
- lightweight
- foldable

I have no idea what to look for. Suggestions?


Angel Diva
Mine are from LL Bean and adjustable/collapsible. That’s all I know about hiking poles, except that they are darn useful.


Angel Diva
When I was picking out trekking poles for hiking, I went to my local REI. What I was checking was the length range and how the grips felt in my hands. Some poles don't go short enough. Some grips are too big. Ended up with trekking poles for women that fold in thirds by Black Diamond. Came with two sets of tips, rubber and sharp.
I think everyone else is more experienced than I am on this, but I just picked up the Black Diamond Traverse trekking poles. They came with a snow basket and a regular basket. I was happy with them on my hike up Mt. Mansfield on the Stowe side.


Angel Diva
I have Black Diamond too - very lightweight, collapsible and adjustable. Love them. Even skied with them for my last day as I managed to lose my ski poles (no loss - they were very old and were hand-me-downs). Didn't have time to look for new ski poles so just used my trekking poles and they were perfect. I was VERY careful not to lose them as they cost way way more than did my old ski poles.
Generally, I don't find that poles over $100 are worth it for the 99% of us regular hikers.
That would be me - a regular (or semi-regular) hiker! Don't fret; I wasn't considering going over $100. I'm not even sure I want to hike with them - I like the feeling of having my hands free. But we discussed this before and I learned about collapsing them when you are scrambling, so . . .
That would be me - a regular (or semi-regular) hiker! Don't fret; I wasn't considering going over $100. I'm not even sure I want to hike with them - I like the feeling of having my hands free. But we discussed this before and I learned about collapsing them when you are scrambling, so . . .
I wasn't crazy about hiking poles at first, but have come to love them on steep downhills. I usually tuck them away in my backpack for the uphill part, and take them away on the downhill.
Lightweight, for sure. I find most very heavy. I have Black Diamond Traverse poles for backcountry skiing and I can't stand the weight for hiking. I have an older set of Leki poles and newer Black Diamond carbon fiber ones.

Definitely ones that fold or collapse in three sections - these can then be easily strapped onto a pack when required. I prefer a "FlickLock" style of connection (this is the Black Diamond name, but other brands have similar) rather than screw-down tightening. I've had screw-down poles collapse under my weight too many times.

My newer poles have cork handles, and although I didn't notice a big difference in feel when I moved to cork, now if I use my older non-cork ones I can't believe the slimy sweatiness.

Some of these reviews are for old models of poles that aren't made anymore, but if you're looking at some you might find a set of reviews here: BGT Pole Reviews
I think there's always kind of a learning curve where when anyone starts using them they don't like them, but pretty quickly they become indispensable. I don't know how I ever crossed creeks and rivers before without them. The only place I don't like them is in thick brush.


Certified Ski Diva
I refused to use hiking poles for many years, but after breaking my ankle twice in a short period of time it never got back to full strength and they have become indispensable, especially when carrying camping kit.

Personally I don't like folding poles, but each to their own. I use Black Diamond Trail poles, which collapse telescopically into 3 sections and use the flick lock system.


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
What to look for:
  • Grip size and material - make sure the size and shape of the grip is comfortable in your hand. I find some too large for me. I also muc prefer cork to either plastic or foam.
  • Strap material and shape - put the straps on correctly (hand up through the strap, then grasp the pole grip with the strap in the palm so you can push off on the strap and have a relaxed grip on the pole), and make sure they're adjusted to the right length. Is the padding type and placement adequate so they don't dig into your wrist?
  • Length adjustability - poles come in 2 or more sections, and collapsed length partly depends on the number of sections. More sections means shorter collapsed length, but it also means more adjustment places that can fail.
  • Adjustment type - twist lock, flip lock, and folding are your main options. Many prefer the flip lock as it tends to give a more secure closure with less chance of coming loose. I have twist locks that have been in service year-round for over 4 years that still function flawlessly.
  • Pole material and weight - most poles are aluminum, carbon, or a combination. You'll find that carbon is generally more flexible and lighter, but they will shatter or split when truly stressed while aluminum poles are stiffer and will bend and kink at their failure point. Carbon poles are also subject to scratching and deterioration of the outer coating if not kept clean and well cared for. Weight is a consideration for arm fatigue.
  • Anti-shock or not - this is purely personal preference; I love the anti-shock feature but my husband hates it. It changes trail feel by absorbing the shock of the pole plant, and some find this dampening of trail feel to be disconcerting.
  • Tips and baskets - if you plan to use the poles for hiking only, small "sand" baskets are adequate. You may also want rubber tips if you'll be in slick rock-type terrain. If you'll be using them for fitness walking as well, you may want "walking feet", and snow baskets are a real help if you'll be using them for winter hiking or snowshoeing. Many poles will come with some combination of these accessories.
Take a look at the Cascade Mountain Tech pole options (their products are sold at some Costco stores). Most of them come with all the tips and baskets at a VERY reasonable price. They also have replacement parts available on their website for super cheap should a failure occur. In addition, their customer service department is outstanding. I have the carbon twist lock with cork grips and couldn't be happier, and being able to purchase replacement parts when my knee collapsed and I fell on them at Hanging Lake was awesome so I didn't have to buy all new poles; I could buy just the lower sections that broke.


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
Sheesh. Sorry about the multiple posts. Mods, could you please delete the first two versions of my post?


Ski Diva Extraordinaire
I'll just add that I favor poles that can be adjusted for length (not just collapsed in parts). You can still collapse them to store on your pack, but being able to make length adjustments while hiking is (I find anyway) useful, because the length that's helpful for climbing (shorter) isn't always the length that's useful for descending (longer).

I have a pair of basic LL Bean poles and they are fine. I don't fret about pole weight because I actually want my arms to get a bit of a workout as well as my legs and lungs.

Also, you can go on YouTube and watch a video on how to use hiking poles. It sounds obvious, but you want to be placing them in sync with your stride in a way that is most helpful and efficient, and a video will quickly show you how to do that and not waste effort.

Remember you can also just use one pole if you like. I use two when carrying a pack, but sometimes just one for light hikes.
we have poles, and we bring them, but we typically don't use them except for tricky sections. for me, i use them on tricky descents. my husband and daughter have them and carry them if we hear the hike is quite hard - but they almost never use them.

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