Trekking poles are an essential piece of outdoor gear. They redistribute workload from your lower body to your upper body, dramatically reduce the impact hiking has on your knees, increase your stability, improve your balance, and can be used for a multitude of different sports—day hiking, backpacking, trail running, backcountry skiing, and more.
Search the term “trekking poles,” and you’ll get some 10.7 million results back with brands offering different styles and a range of features. It’s a lot to process, especially if you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for. And even if you do, choosing the right one from this sea of options can still feel overwhelming.
To guide your search, here’s some basic info on trekking poles.
Key Questions to Consider
Before shopping, ask yourself some questions about how you plan to use your trekking poles and what qualities are important to you. Do you want ultralight poles, or are you willing to sacrifice low weight for increased durability? What size are your ideal trekking poles when compacted? Where will you be using them, and for what activities? Keep these answers in mind as you shop.
Determining the Ideal Size for Your Trekking Poles
Stand up straight, bend your elbow to 90 degrees, and measure from the floor to your elbow with a tape measure. That’s how tall you want your trekking poles to be. Generally speaking people 5’ and under need 39-inch poles; those up to 5’7″ use 43-inch poles; 5’8″ to 5’11” need 47-inch poles; and 6′-plus need 51-inch poles.
There are typically four choices for trekking pole grips: EVA foam, rubber, cork, or some combination of those. Foam grips are the most comfortable, but they’re less durable than the others. Rubber grips are the most durable option, and they provide the best grip in dry conditions, but they get slippery when wet. Cork grips are comfortable and hold their grip even when wet while providing moderate durability (they also have an appealing classic look).
Telescopic vs. Folding
In terms of how they break down for storage, trekking poles can be either telescopic or folding. Both styles have their benefits. Telescopic poles collapse in on themselves (like a telescope) and can be easily adjusted to a variety of lengths. Folding poles fold up like a tent pole and can break down to smaller sizes than many telescopic alternatives.
Carbon fiber poles are typically the lightest option (and usually more expensive). Titanium poles offer the best weight-to-durability ratio. Aluminum poles are also highly durable and can withstand a wide temperature range, but they’re usually the heaviest options.
Ready to start shopping? We surveyed options from the most highly regarded brands across styles and price ranges. These are the best trekking poles of 2022.