Trekking poles - what to look for?

HI guys
What do you think are the most important things to look for when buying trekking poles?


I would check a few things 1- weight 2- handle composition 3- moveable parts. The weight for obvious reasons, the handle of trekking poles can be various industrial vs bio wicking materials. Some absorb moisture better than others so read up on this before you make a choice. Lastly consider where you will be hiking: forest, cold environments, hot deserts… Sand/soil/grit… These inevitably make their way into moveable parts. If you like packing it up nice and small then awesome, but keep them clean when folding them up. Also some have built in spring action and a little give is nice but not always ideal.

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The answer to this is going to very much be based on your personal preference. Walk around the shop with them, and always google some reviews.

So some things to avoid/note:

  1. Avoid rubber handles, these tend to cause blisters. Foam is good, cork is best (mine are foam, and I have had no issues).
  2. Make sure the tips are carbide/tungsten or something of the like. Some cheaper poles have steel ends and do not bite into rock as well. The tips should look like this:
  3. Shock absorbers in poles are largely a gimmick, unless you have known wrist issues. They will just add unnecessary weight.
  4. Contentious perhaps - always buy two! One acts as a stabilizer, but doesn’t do much more than that. This is my preference, but using two poles adds a whole new dimension to hiking. It takes while to get used to, but once you do you are essentially a 4x4, obstacles that used to take effort aren’t so bad any more (watch a video or two on the correct technique - maybe good before you go and buy so you can be sure to do a proper check that they fit you in store).
  5. Learn how to apply the strap properly before you go and test them, whether the strap fits your unique hand and wrist shape can be the difference between comfort and chafed/painful wrists.
  6. Carbon fiber is lighter but more brittle. Aluminium is heavier, but is cheaper and less likely to snap.
  7. How often will you adjust their length? Flip locks are good if the answer is often. Twist locks are more of a pain to adjust but are usually lighter. I use twist locks, but once my poles are out, I don’t usually adjust them till I’m back in the car.
  8. Take weight seriously - What seems a few tens of grams on paper can become a whole lot of fatigue after swinging your poles back and forth for hours on end.

I definitely prefer flip-locks over twist-locks - basic construction, less likely to go wrong and easier to service in the field if necessary.

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Thanks for the tips!
I’ve only had good good experiences with my Black Diamond carbon poles (bought them on sale; think aluminum is just fine if you’re on a budget), which ticks all the high-end tips:
Ergonomic cork grips.
Three piece adjustable with flick locks (love that secure “clip” when they are properly tightened)
Carbide tips
And small baskets (which I prefer i South Africa’s generally dry and firm terrain).

Personally I’ll also skip on the shock-absorbers; just seem like something else that can break and unless you’re running there’s not a great deal of impact in any case (or you need to re-look at how you use them).

And a big yes for two poles - it’s like an extra pair of skinny legs on steep terrain.