Get a Grip: Trekking Poles Worth Trying
Walking sticks may be a retro way to hike, but modern trekking poles offer so much more in the way of comfort and support for hikers. Take a look at which ones our gear reviewers can't get enough of.
Remember the days when you had to forage around for a walking stick as you hiked your favorite trail? It helped sturdy you on the uphills and took some of the load off the downhills, and of course they were ideal on tricky creek crossings. But they were heavy and often broke easily.
These days, you may still choose the natural route, but companies like Black Diamond, Helinox, MSR, and Leki are giving hikers lots of trail stabilization options with ultra-light weights, gender-specific styles, ergonomic grips, powder baskets (for hiking in snow or snowshoeing) and even anti-shock suspension. With so many styles available, it can be tough to decipher what’s worth investing in, but there are some standouts you should look for when shopping for your next set of trekking poles.
Three hiking poles that pass the test
Of the variety of trekking poles I tested, the Leki Cressida Aergon poles were a real winner. They sport an insanely comfortable grip, with natural cork handles that didn’t make my hands sweaty. As I worked them in, they naturally conformed to my hand shape making them even more comfortable to handle. Extending them was a literal snap with the benefit of the SpeedLock mechanism—no pinched fingers from push-buttons, and no breakable plastic twist-locks. Top that off with their lightweight, sturdy frames, and their ability to collapse down to a good size to fit on the side of my pack and I was set. Available in men’s and women’s styles. $159
Also worth mentioning are the Helinox Passport poles. Weighing in at a scant 11.2 ounces, these were the lightest of the styles I sampled. Constructed of DAC Anodized aluminum, they easily locked in place with a TensionLock system. As a smaller, lighter hiker, they offered great support—and at their price point, a real bargain. $99
Washington Trails magazine editor, Eli Boschetto, tested the Black Diamond Ultra Mountain Carbon Z-Pole. They're a fixed-length model that extends with an innovative, lock-free connecting system for use, then folds down to a mere 16 inches, making them easily stowable. He found them to be ultra-light and ultra-sturdy over all types of terrain, with two-tiered foam grips for choking up or down as needed. Available in a variety of styles and sizes for men and women. $99–$169
Why hike with poles: stability, safety, and stress off your knees
So do yourself a favor and pack a pair of poles on your next hike. They’re so much more useful than just making you look sporty. They help balance heavy loads, easing the weight on your back; they take a great deal of stress off your knees on those steep downhills; and they help support you when crossing talus fields and streams—all to help keep you safer and hiking longer.