Three best hiking poles
Hiking poles are simple tools that can help you navigate challenging terrain while engaging your arms and core. They resemble ski poles, with a grip at the top and a narrow shaft that is strong enough to support you even if you stumble. This allows you to go on longer hikes, as the poles transfer more energy from your arms, and can help you carry a heavy backpack or other gear. Some poles are telescopic, so you can easily fit them in your car or backpack.
Finding hiking poles that are light enough to carry comfortably yet strong enough to fully support you can be challenging, but good poles can last you for years. Our guide has everything you need to consider when shopping for hiking poles, including our top three product picks. We love the Trail Pro Shocks from Black DIamond because they are practically indestructible.
Considerations when choosing hiking poles
The main difference between good hiking poles and an unreliable set is the materials. The two most important parts of a hiking pole are the shaft and the grip.
Shafts are usually made of either aluminum or carbon fiber. Aluminum is the more common and more affordable option, and it's a favorite of many hikers for its durability. However, aluminum hiking poles are somewhat heavier than carbon fiber or composite poles. Carbon fiber poles are lighter than aluminum poles, but they may shatter in tough conditions or under extreme stress.
Grips may be made of cork, foam, or rubber. Cork grips are lightweight and easily shape to fit your hand. Foam is extremely soft but prone to absorbing sweat and moisture. Rubber is the best choice for cold conditions but may be less comfortable when directly against your skin than other materials.
Fixed-length vs. adjustable
Fixed-length hiking poles need to fit you perfectly and cannot be adapted to different conditions. Adjustable poles can work for multiple users because they can be easily adjusted to fit different heights. In addition, they are easier to store and can be shortened for uphill climbs. However, you'll need a trustworthy locking mechanism to prevent the poles from shortening when you apply pressure.
Attachments and extra features
Some hiking poles include additional attachments and features, which may include a built-in compass in the handle, a camera mount, or shock absorption.
Entry-level hiking poles for casual hikers range between $15 and $20 and are usually made of aluminum. For $20 to $50 are mid-range hiking poles that work well for short to moderate hikes. Poles in this range may be telescopic or adjustable. Hiking poles for $50 to $100 often have carbon fiber shafts and durable metal tips. They may also include additional accessories like carrying bags or baskets.
Q. Can hiking poles be used for other activities besides hiking?
A. Yes, especially if they have snow baskets. Many hiking poles can also be used for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.
Q. How should hiking poles be stored?
A. The most important part of a hiking pole is the tip, which is usually made of metal. To keep the tip sharp, you should avoid storing your hiking poles with the tip touching the ground or another surface. Hanging your hiking poles is a good way to avoid this.
Hiking poles we recommend
Best of the best: Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Trekking Poles
Our take: These are some of the most rugged and reliable hiking poles available.
What we like: There's no need to worry about bending or breaking these tough aluminum poles. Though there are many cheaper poles available, and the snow baskets are on the large side, these poles hold up well on any hike.
What we dislike: The high price means these poles are best suited to serious hikers.
Best bang for your buck: BAFX Products Adjustable Anti-Shock Hiking Poles
Our take: This is a sturdy and easy-to-adjust pair of aluminum poles that can handle more challenging hikes.
What we like: The comfort of the handles combined with the tough aluminum shafts makes these hiking poles great for longer hikes.
What we dislike: Though the shafts are strong, the extension locks are prone to failing early, which could lead to injury if the locks fail at the wrong moment.
Our take: Despite the low price of these hiking poles, they are made of high-quality carbon fiber, making them lighter than many aluminum poles.
What we like: The inclusion of the snow baskets and protective rubber tips increase the value of an already affordable pair of poles.
What we dislike: It is possible for the shafts to shatter if they are put under extreme strain, but this is unlikely.
Pete McPherson is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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