The Best Trekking Poles of 2020 & Why You Should Use Them

Ok, let’s get it out of the way. Trekking poles may look a little nerdy, but we all just need to get over that. The second you give the best trekking poles on this list a try on your next hike or backpacking trip, I guarantee you will love them and never think of them as nerdy again.

I first started hiking with trekking poles when I hiked the John Muir Trail, and I couldn’t believe the difference it made – going both uphill and downhill. And more recently on my trek to Everest Basecamp, my trekking poles helped me maintain a comfortable hiking pace by timing my stride with my breath. Now I won’t go on a backpacking trip without them.

In this post, we share the best trekking poles for men and women across different budgets. We also cover all the benefits of hiking with trekking poles and why you should consider using them.


 The Best Trekking Poles of 2020

There are so many options on the market today and the technology, as well as durability, of trekking poles is only getting better and better each season. Here are our favorite budget, ultralight, unisex, and women’s trekking poles of 2020.

Best Budget Trekking Poles

Best Budget Option: Montem’s Ultra Strong Trekking Poles run $60 and they come with some pretty impressive features for that price. They have comfortable foam grips with an adjustable wrist strap, and they are quick and easy to adjust. If you are looking for your first pair of trekking poles and aren’t sure if you will like using them, these are an excellent option. Montem also has a lighter, slightly more expensive carbon fiber version, which will shave some ounces off your load if you are going backpacking.

  • MSRP: $59.99
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 1 lb, 3 oz (pair)
  • Size: Adjustable
  • Grip: Foam
  • Gender: Unisex
Montem Trekking Poles

Check Price: Montem

Best Budget Option at REI: For a budget option at REI, the REI Co-op Trailbreak Trekking Poles are your best bet. At only $60, they’re some of the least expensive trekking poles you’ll find. They’re simple and not super lightweight, but they’re adjustable, versatile, and have comfortable wrist straps.

  • MSRP: $59.99
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 1 lb, 1 oz (pair)
  • Size: Adjustable
  • Grip: Rubber
  • Gender: Unisex
REI Co-op Trailbreak Trekking Poles

Check Price: REI

Best Unisex Trekking Poles

Best Value: For a good quality, ultralight trekking pole at a great price, check out the Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking Poles. These are what Bearfoot Theory’s Director of Operations, Linda, has and she loves them.

  • Price: $99.95
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 11.4 – 13.4 oz (pair)
  • Size: Non-Adjustable, 4 sizes available
  • Grip: Foam
  • Gender: Unisex
Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking Poles

Check Price: Backcountry / Moosejaw / REI

Best Adjustable Unisex Option: The Black Diamond Distance FLZ Trekking Poles are similar to the Distance Z version mentioned above, except they’re adjustable. This can come in handy when adjusting for uphill vs downhill hiking. They do weigh a few ounces more, however.

  • MSRP: $139.95
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 15-17 oz (pair)
  • Size: Adjustable, 3 sizes available
  • Grip: Foam
  • Gender: Unisex
Black Diamond Distance FLZ Trekking Poles

Check Price: Backcountry / Moosejaw / REI

Most Ergonomic: The Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles have a corrective angle for optimal, ergonomic grip position which most trekking poles don’t offer. The cork grips add extra comfort too.

  • MSRP: $129.95
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 1 lb, 2 oz (pair)
  • Size: Adjustable
  • Grip: Cork
  • Gender: Unisex
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles

Check Price: Backcountry / REI / Moosejaw

Best for Long Distances: Kim, Bearfoot Theory’s past community manager, used the Black Diamond Trail Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles for the entire length of the Pacific Crest Trail and stands by their durability. Fellow hiking friends went through 2-3 poles on the trail. Kim did have to order 1 replacement part, due to human error, and also raves about Black Diamond’s remarkable customer support.

  • MSRP: $179.95
  • Material: Carbon Fiber
  • Weight: 1 lb, 1.1 oz (pair)
  • Size: Adjustable
  • Grip: Cork
  • Gender: Unisex
Black Diamond Trail Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles

Check Price: Backcountry / REI / Moosejaw

Best Ultralight Trekking Poles

Best All-Around: You really can’t beat the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Poles. This is the ultralight version of the Black Diamond Distance Z poles mentioned above as they’re made from carbon fiber instead of aluminum. They come in 4 sizes to meet your height and are Black Diamond’s lightest foldable poles, weighing around 10 ounces.

  • MSRP: $169.95
  • Material: Carbon Fiber
  • Weight: 9.3 – 10.4 oz (pair)
  • Size: Non-Adjustable, 4 sizes available
  • Grip: Foam
  • Gender: Unisex
Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking Poles

Check Price: Backcountry / REI / Moosejaw

Best Adjustable Ultralight Option: The Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ Trekking Poles are the adjustable ultralight version of the Carbon Z poles mentioned above. This can come in handy when adjusting for uphill vs downhill hiking. They do weigh a few ounces more, however.

  • MSRP: $189.95
  • Material: Carbon Fiber
  • Weight: 11.7 – 13.6 oz (pair)
  • Size: Adjustable, 3 sizes available
  • Grip: Foam
  • Gender: Unisex
Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ Trekking Poles

Check Price: Backcountry / REI / Moosejaw

Best Technology: The Leki Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles have all the technical features you could ever want. They are the heaviest of all the ultralight options mentioned here, but if you want all the bells and whistles which make for very comfortable and easy to adjust trekking poles, these could be the ones for you.

  • MSRP: $199.95
  • Material: High Modulus Carbon
  • Weight: 1 lb, .9 oz (pair)
  • Size: Adjustable
  • Grip: Foam
  • Gender: Unisex
Leki Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles

Check Price: Backcountry / REI / Moosejaw

Best Trekking Poles for Women

Best Budget Option: The Black Diamond Trail Women’s Trekking Poles are easy on your budget and great beginner poles. They are durable, easy to adjust, and pretty lightweight for the price.

  • MSRP: $99.95
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 15.6 oz (pair)
  • Size: Adjustable
  • Grip: Foam
  • Gender: Women’s
Black Diamond Trail Women's Trekking Poles

Check Price: Backcountry / REI / Moosejaw

Most Ergonomic: The women’s version of the Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles is sized specifically for women. The cork grips are extra comfortable and shaped for smaller hands. These poles are also a great option for four-season use if you plan on hiking in snow or snowshoeing.

  • MSRP: $129.95
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 1 lb, 1.2 oz (pair)
  • Size: Adjustable
  • Grip: Cork
  • Gender: Women’s
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Women's Trekking Poles

Check Price: Backcountry / REI / Moosejaw

Best Lightweight Option: The women’s version of the Black Diamond Distance FLZ Trekking Poles are available in two women-specific adjustable sizes. These are some of the lighter weight women’s specific trekking poles out there and they also come in a cool teal color which we love.

  • MSRP: $139.95
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 14.6 – 15.7 oz (pair)
  • Size: Adjustable, 2 sizes available
  • Grip: Foam
  • Gender: Women’s
Black Diamond Distance FLZ Women's Trekking Poles

Check Price: Backcountry / REI / Moosejaw

Best for Joints: If you are worried about protecting your knees or ankles when hiking, the Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Poles are exceptional companions. These poles have a shock-absorbing cushion to absorb the shock from hard hits and control what you feel.

  • MSRP: $149.95
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 1 lb, 2.8 oz (pair)
  • Size: Adjustable
  • Grip: Foam
  • Gender: Women’s
Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Women's Trekkin Poles

Check Price: Backcountry / REI / Moosejaw

Best Four-Season Trekking Poles

Best Four Season Poles: The Black Diamond Alpine FLZ Trekking Poles are specifically made for four-season use. They come with swappable baskets which need to be purchased separately with other poles.

  • MSRP: $159.95
  • Material: Aluminum
  • Weight: 1 lb, 2 oz – 1 lb, 3 oz (pair)
  • Size: Adjustable, 2 sizes available
  • Grip: Cork
  • Gender: Unisex
Black Diamond Alpine FLZ Trekking Poles

Check Price: Backcountry / REI / Moosejaw


Benefits of Hiking with Trekking Poles

Hiking with trekking poles has a ton of different benefits – from helping you build endurance to taking stress off your knees. They help get your whole body involved rather than having all the weight and pressure on your lower half. Once you try them, you’ll never go back. Here are some of the key benefits of hiking with trekking poles and why you should give them a try.

They Help Build Strength & Endurance

Hiking with trekking poles helps build strength and endurance. When you hike without them you are only engaging your leg muscle muscles. When you hike with them, you are also using your arms, core, and upper body which builds overall body strength, distributes the work, and allows you to hike further without getting as tired.

They Distribute Weight

When backpacking with a heavy pack, using trekking poles helps distribute that weight so you have better balance. They also help you stand more upright and avoid leaning forward as much under the weight of your pack.

They Reduce Pressure on Joints

Trekking poles help take the weight off your lower half, reducing the pressure on your knees and ankle joints. I especially notice the difference when hiking downhill which normally puts a lot of pressure on my knees and ankles – trekking poles alleviate that significantly.

They Can Increase Your Hiking Speed

Trekking poles can help you develop a consistent rhythm, which over time can increase your average hiking speed. They also help to displace the effort required to climb upwards as you have the ability to utilize your arms to propel you forward.

They Improve Balance

If you are hiking in snow, on a slippery path, over rocks, or across a stream, having four points of contact helps maintain balance.

They’re Versatile in a Pinch

Trekking poles can also be a great last-minute tent pole replacement if you are in a jam. They also make for a great splint for medical emergencies, make you appear taller to wildlife, and can even protect you from snakes.

Here are the best trekking poles of 2020 for men and women. You'll also learn how to choose the best pair for you and the benefits of hiking with them.

How to Choose Trekking Poles

When you are shopping for new trekking poles, there are a number of things to consider. In this section, we break down how to find the right pair for you.

Poles vs. Staff

Two poles are better than one. A singular hiking staff (think about a long wooden stick) is generally only effective when carrying little to no load on your back and when used on flat terrain. We recommend buying trekking poles which are sold as a pair and used in tandem, and if at any time you only want to use one, just throw the second pole in your pack.

Grip

Cork, foam, and rubber are the three most common choices. We love cork grips as they wick moisture from sweaty hands. They also conform to the shape of your hand over time and help absorb some of the vibrations from the ground.

Foam grips actually absorb moisture. They are also comfortable, but depending on how sweaty your hands typically get, foam grips can retain smells over time.

The third type of grip is rubber, which insulate hands from the cold. So, if you mostly hike in cold wintery weather, consider rubber grips. However, in warmer temperatures rubber gripped trekking poles can cause chafing or blistering on hands.

Selecting the type of grip you want on your trekking poles will narrow down your selection and is one of the first decisions you should make. One isn’t necessarily better than another, you’ll learn your preference over time.

Here are the best trekking poles of 2020 for men and women. You'll also learn how to choose the best pair for you and the benefits of hiking with them.

Men’s vs. Women’s

Women’s trekking poles are generally shorter and have smaller grips which is important if you have smaller hands. Men’s specific trekking poles are now less common, with more being unisex.

Wrist Straps

Many poles come with straps which can be essential if you are using them for winter hiking to prevent post-holing. Straps are also handy because they keep your trekking poles attached to your wrists, so you can let go of the grips to grab a drink of water or look at a map without having to put them down. Some trekking poles have removable wrist straps which is nice for long-distance hiking if you are paying close attention to overall weight.

Pole Material

Most trekking poles made today are made of aluminum or carbon fiber. Aluminum poles are more prone to bending but are a much cheaper option. Carbon fiber poles are lighter and better at reducing vibrations, but they are more prone to snapping under high stress. Carbon fiber poles are also more expensive.

Packability

Many trekking poles can be folded up (kind of like tent poles), some are telescoping, and some cannot be packed down at all.

Think about where you will store your trekking poles when not in use or when traveling with them. Do you want to be able to pack them up? Are you planning on flying with them?

Most daypacks and backpacking packs have loops on the back where you can strap your packable trekking poles when not in use. And most airlines require that trekking poles be placed in checked luggage so if you plan on traveling with them, packable ones will be the best option for you.

Adjustability, grip type & pole material. Learn the benefits of hiking with trekking poles & how to choose the best trekking poles for your next adventure.

Shock Absorbing

Some poles are shock absorbing. This is highly encouraged if you have weak or damaged ankles, knees or hips.

Adjustable vs Set Size

It is important that you select a set of trekking poles that are the right size for you. Some are adjustable which gives you more flexibility in case you want to adjust the size – you can shorten them when going uphill and lengthen them when going downhill – or lend them out. Others come in a range of set sizes so check the size before you buy and make sure it’s right for you. Ideally, your elbows should be at 90 degrees when holding them. If you’re taller than 6 feet, the best trekking poles will have a maximum length of at least 51 inches.

Locking Mechanism

For adjustable hiking poles as mentioned above, in our personal opinion, the locking mechanism is one of the biggest things to consider when selecting poles. Most poles today use an external lever lock instead of twist locks. External lever locks are clamp-like devices that make adjusting your poles quick and easy.

Adjustability, grip type & pole material. Learn the benefits of hiking with trekking poles & how to choose the best trekking poles for your next adventure.

Baskets

Baskets on trekking poles are essential for treks on snowy or muddy ground (think snowshoeing). The more snow, the larger the basket you’ll want.

Baskets are the discs at the bottom of some trekking poles and are key for snowshoeing or hiking on snowy or muddy ground

Got any questions about hiking with trekking poles? What are your favorites? Leave a comment below or join the conversation in the Bearfoot Theory Outdoor Adventurers Facebook Group.

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you make a purchase, we receive a tiny bit of compensation at no added cost to you. We only write about products that we truly love, and any purchases you make help keep the content on this blog free. Thanks for all of your support, and if you ever have any questions about any of the products featured on this site, please email us. Thanks!

Written by Kristen Bor

Hey there! My name is Kristen, and this is my outdoor blog. I discovered the power of the outdoors in my 20s, at the time I needed it most. Now 15 years later, prioritizing that critical connection with nature continues to improve my life. My goal at Bearfoot Theory is to empower you with the tools and advice you need to responsibly get outside.

20 comments on “The Best Trekking Poles of 2020 & Why You Should Use Them

  1. I didn’t know that Poles are that important! I should tell my cousins about it in no time. They are actually new in trekking and climbing that’s why I keep on researching about things about these stuff for them.

  2. Hey Kristen, I’m so glad I came across this post! We’ll be heading up to the far north of Finland in November so I’m currently putting a kit list together. Are there any dedicated trekking poles for winter conditions you’d recommend or would it just be a case of regular poles + suitably sized baskets for each? Thanks again for sharing this and will definitely be reading more of your articles before we leave!

    1. Hey Laura! Finland sounds awesome. For winter conditions you are totally right, it is all about ensuring you have a basket for the bottom. I wouldn’t skimp on quality since in the snow trekking poles can often hold more weight due to snow pack. Kristen and I are both yet to break any Black Diamond poles, they are super durable. Sounds like you are going to have an awesome vacation, be safe!

  3. I almost always hike with my poles! Especially here in Santa Barbara, CA… the trails are often steep and rocky and they are especially helpful for descending when the trail gets slippery from loose rocks or dirt, or when there are many large boulders to step off. I have unstable ankles so the poles help give me confidence and also help my knees. I agree they also help you use your whole body while hiking and give the upper body a workout also. Especially when carrying a heavy backpack. I just got new poles, the Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Poles. Love them! Headed out now for a 6 mile hike with them.

  4. Looking to buy my wife her first set of poles for casual 5-10 mile hikes on the North Country Trail here in western Pa. We are probably headed to Yellowstone winter 2018 to met long lost family and hopefully do a little snowshoeing. I really don’t want to spend $100+ on 1 pair of poles, but yet want quality. If the first set works out, then I’ll buy a second set for myself, although I’m a little more hardcore than she is. Working my way up the ultramarathon chain, with 30k’s under my belt, and 50k’s scheduled for 2018. Right now I’ve narrowed my selection down to 3 different poles. Hiker Hunger Carbon Fiber, Paria Tri Fold Carbon Cork and Black Diamond Trail Back. Any thoughts. Other suggestions?

    1. Black Diamond stands by their product. Kristen and I both use Black Diamond and highly recommend their poles. If you are looking for a more wallet-friendly option have you checked out REI poles?

  5. I’ve never hiked with trekking poles, I might give it a try. Looking at getting the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z-Pole Poles. They seem light weight and can easily be stored when not using.

  6. Excellent breakdown, much appreciated. My anniversary is coming up and I think I’m going to get my wife the Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Poles as a gift, and I’m eyeing the Leki Micro Vario Ti Cor-Tecs for myself… thanks for the helpful information & recommendations!

  7. Thank you so much for these recommendations. I’ve never used poles before but over the last few months, I’ve begun to see how useful they could be. On a recent trip to the Atlas Mountains, I sprained one of my knees (I think I actually did it on the ridiculously steep stairs in our riad) but I think having poles would have made hiking during the rest of my trip a lot more comfortable. I’m also pretty rubbish at getting down things (useful, I know) so I think it’d be handy to have some extra support when descending.

  8. Good article, how to choose poles etc., but you don’t describe how to use them. Very rarely do I see hikers using poles properly. My experience has been not only two of us hiking, but also on many Sierra Club and other group excursions. Usually hikers just plop them on the ground ahead of themselves and don’t put any pressure on them.. They’re ‘just for show’ until perhaps they get to a stream crossing. Properly used on the trail, they should be planted alongside the hiker, and pressure put on them to help propel forward motion and reduce stress in knees. This is especially important going uphill. I can remember only once seeing a hiker using her poles properly, mostly in back of herself. I complimented her on it and she told me she had an excellent mentor who had instructed her. . .I go with Black Diamonds, and never ever get on a trail without them. They have kept me from falling more than once, for one thing. . . .One saying I picked up: “Go with poles, that’s why animals have four legs.”

  9. Regarding Wrist Straps
    You left unmentioned the proper use of Wrist Straps!
    Wrist Straps, used correctly, (1) take most of the load from the hands to the arms and (2) eliminate the need to firmly grasp the handles (except for control).
    In the last 14 months I have been trekking/climbing in Nepal three times on paths, on rocky slopes and in deep snow. I have consistently found poles – when used correctly – to be an essential tool for support, load transfer, balance and agility. Once, I even hiked 3 miles on a broken ankle using my poles!
    My poles have taken a thrashing, so durability is more important to me than weight. And, yes, I have seen that many people, including hundreds of trekkers, fail to use the strap lengths, or the pole length for that matter, correctly. Getting good advice on correct pole use, and following that advice, is no less important than good boot and (other) gear advice.

  10. Another benefit of poles that have three sections (preferably without the bungee cord connecting them) is that they are useful in backcountry first aid situations to build a split. I made my choice of trekking poles with this as a must have (Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork. ) replacing a similar pair i left behind at a trailhead. Stuff happens out there either to you or someone you are with or someone you come across.

    1. Yes, very true – thanks for sharing that. Hiking poles are handy for so many things and are good to have in case of an emergency.

Leave a comment

You can leave a comment, but you wont be able to add any links.

* You can not add any links to your comment as was previously mentioned above