Serious hikers have known the benefits of trekking poles for decades. Aside from providing stability while hauling a heavy load or moving over technical terrain, hiking poles have distinct advantages even on easy trails. They’re great for setting a rhythm and significantly reduce load and impact on hips, knees, and ankles when going downhill. As with most hiking and backpacking gear, balancing weight and durability is the most common consideration. Below are our top trekking pole picks of 2023, which cover the gamut from ultralight and folding models to sturdy designs for high-mountain adventures. For more background information, see our comparison table and buying advice below the picks.

Our Team's Trekking Pole Picks

Best Overall Trekking Pole

1. Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork ($140)

Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork trekking polesWeight per pair: 1 lb. 2 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
Grip: Cork
What we like: Solid construction, comfortable feel, and good price.
What we don’t: A little heavy and long collapsed length.

The carbon fiber and folding designs that get all the attention in the trekking pole market are impressive innovations, but for hikers who just want a pair of trustworthy sticks at a good price, we recommend the Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork. At $140, they’re a solid value and come with very few compromises. In fact, the all-aluminum construction is only a few ounces heavier than most of the carbon options below but still plenty sturdy for most dirt, rock, and snow travel. The Trail also has Black Diamond's comfortable, ergonomically shaped cork grips and reliable FlickLock length adjusters.

What are the downsides of the Trail Ergo? For travelers, climbers, or those who prioritize collapsibility, the 27-inch minimum length may be an issue. It shouldn’t get in the way when strapped to the outside of a pack, but it is a couple inches longer than many other three-section designs (and it can’t come close to a true collapsible pole). As downsides go, that’s pretty insignificant for most folks, and the Trail Ergo Cork stands out as our favorite all-around trekking pole. For a cheaper but slightly less comfortable and premium option in this category, see LEKI's Khumbu Lite below.
See the Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork  See the Women's Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork


Best Budget Trekking Pole

2. REI Co-op Trailbreak ($70)

REI Trailbreak trekking polesWeight per pair: 1 lb. 1 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
Grip: Rubber
What we like: Cheap yet functional.
What we don’t: No-frills design isn’t ideal for serious hikers or tough terrain.

REI Co-op’s Trailbreak line targets the budget end of the market and includes everything from sleeping pads and bags to backpacks. The Trailbreak trekking pole is the brand’s cheapest offering and has nearly all the features that beginning and occasional hikers need. You get an aluminum build, a telescoping design with lever locks, and a rubber grip. Nothing is premium here—no carbon, no cork grip, no padded wrist strap, and the locks are about as minimal as they come. In addition, the Trailbreak is only made in one size, although it is adjustable from 41 to 55 inches. But at $70, it’s tough to beat the low price.

What do you sacrifice with the REI Trailbreak? Sturdiness is a big concession, and for heavy use and difficult terrain, these poles pale in comparison to the build of a more rugged model like the Black Diamond Trail Ergo. And as we touched on above, the Trailbreak is light on features, so you miss out on useful touches including choke-up extensions and longer-lasting materials like cork handles and burlier and more reliable lever locks (REI’s own $110 Traverse below includes those upgrades). If you stick to established trails and are looking for the basics in balance and support, the Trailbreak will certainly do the trick. But more serious hikers and backpackers may want to purchase a higher-end model. For other well-built budget options, check out Black Diamond’s Trail Sport 2 and Trail Explorer 3.
See the REI Co-op Trailbreak


Best Ultralight Collapsible Pole

3. Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z ($180)

Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z trekking polesWeight per pair: 9.2 oz.
Type: Folding
Shaft material: Carbon
Grip: Foam
What we like: Incredibly lightweight and folds down small.
What we don’t: Pricey and carbon is more brittle than aluminum.

At around 9-10 ounces per pair depending on the size, the Distance Carbon Z is Black Diamond’s lightest folding trekking pole and great for minimalists (they are so light and packable that they’ve even become popular with long-distance trail runners). We love the Z-Pole technology: A sleeve on the top portion moves down from the grip, the sections slide together and connect, and a small button pops everything into place. From compacted to deployed is a two-second affair, and when collapsed, the poles are about 10 inches shorter than most telescoping designs. This can make a substantial difference for everyone from travelers and hikers wanting to store them in their bag to ultra-distance runners who carry their poles for extended stretches.

What are the downsides of these poles? Carbon is lighter than aluminum but also more expensive and brittle (it'll snap under heavy pressure rather than bend like aluminum). In addition, the Carbon Z comes in five length options but is not adjustable. Changing up your trekking pole length on the uphill or downhill is a nice feature, and the fixed length makes them less versatile in terms of letting other people use them. If you do value adjustability, Black Diamond makes the Distance Carbon FLZ that has one FlickLock Pro lever at the top for $20 more and with a small weight penalty. Finally, you give up some rigidity with the BD’s collapsible design, so thru-hikers looking for better long-term durability should check out the telescoping Gossamer Gear LT5 below. 
See the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z  See the Women's Distance Carbon Z


Best Shock-Absorbing Trekking Pole

4. LEKI Legacy Lite AS ($120)

Leki Legacy Lite AS trekking polkesWeight per pair: 1 lb. 2.4 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
Grip: Cork/rubber
What we like: LEKI's anti-shock technology helps take the sting out of impacts.
What we don’t: More moving parts than standard trekking poles.

Right off the bat, we’ll note that we typically don’t recommend trekking poles with serious shock-absorbing technology—they generally are heavier, more complex, and shock absorption isn't necessary for many. That said, for hikers who want a little extra impact resistance on the trail, LEKI's Legacy Lite AS is worth a look. These poles utilize LEKI's DSS (Dynamic Suspension System) technology to take some of the sting out of rough terrain, which can help reduce stress on the knees and wrists during long descents. Like most of LEKI's offerings, the Legacy is also reasonably light at just over a pound per pair, well built with premium touches like reliable lever locks and ergonomic cork grips, and hardwearing with a full aluminum construction.

If it isn’t already abundantly clear, LEKI and Black Diamond dominate the trekking pole market, and BD’s Trail Pro Shock below was also in the running for this spot. Why did we opt for the Legacy? Namely, the LEKI is lighter by around 2 ounces per pair, cheaper by $40, and boasts a slightly more premium construction including the aforementioned cork grips (the Trail Pro Shock uses foam). Again, both options have more moving parts that can break or fail over time, and we’d only recommend dedicated shock-absorbing poles for hikers who need the added impact cushioning. If you’ve struggled in the past with muscle or joint pain, however, it’s worth giving the LEKI Legacy Lite a try.
See the LEKI Legacy Lite AS


Best Four-Season Trekking Pole

5. Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork ($200)

Black Diamon Alpine Carbon Cork trekking polesWeight per pair: 1 lb. 1.1 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Carbon
Grip: Cork
What we like: Fantastic build quality, durable, and easy to trust in rough terrain.
What we don’t: Overkill for most three-season uses and very pricey.

For those wanting a single pair of poles for all four seasons, ranging from summer backpacking trips to backcountry skiing and mountaineering, we turn again to Black Diamond and their proven Alpine collection. Compared to the picks above, the Alpine Carbon Cork feels noticeably more substantial in your hand, and its beefed-up construction isn’t prone to flexing under heavy strain. In addition, Black Diamond outfitted the model with all their top-end components, including the trustworthy metal FlickLock Pro lever locks (the vast majority of designs use plastic), premium cork handles with foam extensions, and a full three-piece carbon fiber build. You pay extra for the poles at $200, but it’s hard to knock the quality or reliability of the design.

Where does the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon come up short? In addition to cost, the poles are realistically overkill for many users. Even for wintertime adventures like snowshoeing, a cheaper option like Black Diamond’s own Trail Ergo above will do the trick (just pick up a pair of wider snow baskets to keep them from sinking too deeply in soft snow). Further, the BDs don’t pack down as small as designs like LEKI’s Makalu FX Carbon below, which can be an issue for those needing to strap their poles to the outside of a pack. That said, we found the Alpine Carbon model to be sturdier and better suited for rough uses like ski touring and splitboarding, which is why it wins out as our top year-round choice. It’s also sold in a WR version that’s compatible with BD’s Whippet and Alpine Whippet attachments, camera mount adapter, and ultralight Distance tent for $5 more.
See the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon  See the Women's BD Alpine Carbon


Best of the Rest

6. Gossamer Gear LT5 ($195)

Gossamer Gear LT5 trekking polesWeight per pair: 10.6 oz.
Type: Telescoping (twist lock)
Shaft material: Carbon
Grip: Foam
What we like: Incredibly lightweight and well made.
What we don’t: Not too durable; expensive.

Taking the telescoping lightweight crown is the thru-hike-ready Gossamer Gear LT5. These carbon fiber sticks are listed at an incredibly low 10.6 ounces for the pair (you can save even more weight by ditching the straps), which keeps arm fatigue to an absolute minimum. Unlike the folding BD Distance Carbon Z above, the LT5’s telescoping design also adds some sturdiness for uses like pitching an ultralight shelter. Combined with a simple, reliable build and comfy foam grips, and you get the ideal hiking poles for long adventures where every ounce matters. They’re also adjustable, although the twist lock system isn’t our favorite (we prefer the added security of a lever lock).

Naturally, there are a few compromises in making the LT5 so light. To start, relative to the rest of the market, these poles aren’t super durable—it’s best to stick to established trails and avoid too much snow. Further, they’re a pricey investment at $195 considering their relatively simple feature set (the similarly expensive Distance Carbon Z above, for example, can be folded into a much smaller length). And finally, Gossamer Gear is a cottage brand, and we’ve seen the LT5 go in and out of stock frequently throughout the past few seasons. But if you take good care of them and don’t need them for travel, they’re about as good as it gets for an ultralight build. It’s worth noting that Gossamer Gear offers replacement sections of their poles should you damage one, which is a rarity in the market.
See the Gossamer Gear LT5


7. REI Co-op Traverse ($110)

REI Co-op Traverse trekking poles_1Weight per pair: 1 lb. 3.5 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
Grip: Cork
What we like: A nice upgrade from the Trailbreak above in terms of toughness and features.
What we don’t: A little heavier and lower quality than the BD Trail Ergo Cork.

REI’s Trailbreak above is their budget offering, but the $40-pricier Traverse here provides a sizable boost in all-around performance for more demanding hiking and backpacking trips. In terms of upgrades, the aluminum build is noticeably sturdier and provides a more reliable feel (especially when navigating trickier terrain), and the cork grips are more comfortable when covering long distances. REI also made some notable upgrades with the latest version, including foam extensions for climbing steep hills and nicer, cam-style lever locks (the Trailbreak’s are noticeably cheaper-feeling by comparison). Taken together, the Traverse is a well-rounded mid-range pick and a great value for what you get.

All that said, the REI Traverse starts to look a little less competitive when stacked up against the top-rated BD Trail Ergo Cork above. Both poles check in around the same weight (the REI is 1.5 oz. heavier per pair), have three-section telescoping designs, and are made with durable aluminum. However, we found the Traverse to be a step down in all-around material quality (from the cork to the straps), and the BD offers a more comfortable feel overall. We also prefer the Trail’s ergonomic grips, which are angled slightly forward to mimic the natural resting position of your hands. But these likely won’t be deal breakers for most hikers, and the Traverse undercuts the BD in price by a considerable $30, which will be enough to sway many.
See the REI Co-op Traverse


8. Black Diamond Trail Back ($90)

Black Diamond Trail Back trekking polesWeight per pair: 1 lb. 1 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
Grip: Rubber
What we like: Proven toughness, good all-around abilities.
What we don’t: Rubber grips aren’t the most comfortable.

As a market leader, Black Diamond has a fairly extensive trekking pole lineup. A consistent favorite is their budget-oriented Trail Back, which in many ways is a trimmed-down version of the Trail Ergo Cork above. You lose the ergonomic shape and cork grips, but the two trusty FlickLocks remain, as well as the sturdy aluminum construction. Further, among the options at under $100, the Trail Backs have a longer track record of durability than the REI Trailbreak above (but do cost $20 more).

What are you giving up with a mid-range pole like the Trail Back? Despite a recent 3-ounce drop in weight, the poles are still on the heavier end at 1 pound 1 ounce for the pair and therefore not a top choice for long-distance backpackers or thru-hikers. Also, the rubber grips are a definite step down in comfort from foam or cork, which do a better job absorbing sweat and preventing chafing while on the trail. But the Trail Back’s strong, no-nonsense construction makes a lot of sense for those looking to keep cost in check while not sacrificing much in terms of quality. Black Diamond also sells their standard Trail Poles, which tack on foam grips with extensions, beefier carbide tips, and come with both standard and powder baskets for $20 more.
See the Black Diamond Trail Back


9. REI Co-op Flash Carbon ($149)

REI Co-op Flash Carbon trekking polesWeight per pair: 13.6 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Carbon
Grip: Foam
What we like: Excellent value for the specs and quality.
What we don’t: Not as tough as our top picks.

For backpackers looking to keep weight to a minimum, the REI Co-op Flash Carbon poles are a great option, undercutting other high-end competitors by $20 or more. At well under a pound and with a carbon composite build, the poles feel light in the hands and feature soft foam grips that take the sting out of impacts and do a decent job at minimizing sweat buildup. We still give the overall edge in comfort to cork, but foam does absorb and dissipate moisture well when it’s hot and humid outside. And we like that REI utilizes a quality, metal lever lock system, which is a more secure and robust upgrade from the previous plastic version.

All that said, the Flash Carbon’s lightweight build does come with one major drawback: lack of versatility. For example, BD’s Trail Ergo Cork, Trail Back, and even their Alpine Carbon Cork above are noticeably sturdier and more confidence-inspiring for navigating rough and rocky terrain. And the Flash Carbon is decidedly less suitable for four-season adventuring, which is confirmed by the lack of snow baskets. But this likely won’t faze most fair-weather backpackers and hikers, and with REI’s excellent return policy to back them up, the Flash Carbon poles are a nice UL option. And for those trying to keep bulk to a minimum, they’re now also available in a Compact variation with a 2-inch-shorter collapsed length for the same price.
See the REI Co-op Flash Carbon


10. LEKI Makalu FX Carbon ($220)

Leki Makalu FX Carbon trekking polesWeight per pair: 1 lb. 1.9 oz.
Type: Folding (lever lock)
Shaft material: Carbon
Grip: Foam/rubber
What we like: Premium build; collapsible to 15.7 inches.
What we don’t: Heavy for a folding carbon model; the most expensive poles on our list.

Joining Black Diamond’s Distance Carbon Z above is another folding carbon design to have on your radar: LEKI’s Makalu FX Carbon (and women's Cressida FX Carbon). In short, everything about these poles exudes quality, from the angled foam grips with rubber at the back for added security, choke-up extensions for traversing and climbing, and adjustable straps that are both lightweight and breathable. The upper portion of the shaft also boasts LEKI’s SpeedLock 2+ lever lock, which provides reliable hold and can be tightened with a small dial (no extra tools needed). And when you want to pack the poles away, they collapse down to a compact 15.7 inches—simply push the button on the lower locking mechanism to release the tension. They're also sold in a shock-absorbing version for $10 more, which offers similar benefits to LEKI's Legacy Lite AS above.

In addition to being the priciest poles on our list, the LEKI Makalu FX Carbon has a few other drawbacks. As with other folding trekking poles, the Makalu is compact, but it's heavier than most similarly built designs at 1 pound 1.9 ounces for the pair. For comparison, Black Diamond’s Distance Carbon Z above checks in at just 9.2 ounces, while LEKI’s own Cross Trail FX.One Superlite below is also considerably lighter at just 11.6 ounces. Both of those options also fold down smaller (13 and 14.6 in. respectively) for attaching to the outside of a pack when you need to go hands-free. Like all folding poles, the Makalu is also less sturdy than telescoping models, and the carbon shaft won’t hold up as well to extended and rough use as an aluminum design like BD’s Distance FLZ below. But LEKI’s reputation is hard to beat, and the Makalu leaves little to be desired in terms of features and on-trail performance (provided you take good care of your gear).
See the LEKI Makalu FX Carbon  See the Women's LEKI Cressida FX Carbon


11. Black Diamond Distance FLZ ($160)

Black Diamond Distance FLZ trekking polesWeight per pair: 14.8 oz.
Type: Folding (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
Grip: Foam
What we like: Light, packable, and more durable than carbon.
What we don’t: Not as sturdy as the top-rated Trail Ergo.

The fixed-length Black Diamond Carbon Z above are the lightest trekking poles on this list, but the adjustable aluminum version arguably has wider appeal. In fact, for most hikers and backpackers, we think it’s the better option. The poles are noticeably sturdier and more durable (we’ve broken one of the carbon models just from sitting on it), which makes them easier to trust and lean into on the trail. In addition, we prefer the alloy FLZ for use with an ultralight shelter as the adjustability (between 6 to 8 on. depending on size) simplifies the setup process, and the thicker material holds better in the wind.

Where the Distance FLZ runs into problems is when compared with BD’s own Trail Ergo above. Despite costing $20 less, the Trail Ergo feels even more rock-solid, has more comfortable grips, and does a nicer job absorbing impacts. That said, if you value a small packed size, the Distance wins out easily (15 in. vs 27 in.), and it’s a bit lighter at just under 15 ounces per pair (the Trail Ergo Cork is 1 lb. 2 oz.). In the end, these downsides push the FLZ to a mid-pack finish on our list, but it’s well worth a look for those wanting a reliable and packable design. 
See the Black Diamond Distance FLZ


12. LEKI Khumbu Lite ($120)

Leki Khumbu Lite trekking polesWeight per pair: 1 lb. 1.4 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
Grip: Cork/rubber
What we like: Sturdy feel; cork grip and lever locks at a great price.
What we don’t: Falls short of the Trail Ergo Cork in a few areas.

There are plenty of pricey and premium poles on the market for committed adventurers, and budget options abound from brands like REI and Black Diamond. If you’re looking for something in the middle that better balances price and performance, LEKI's Khumbu Lite stands out as a competitive mid-range choice: You get a tough, sturdy, and reliable feel from the aluminum build—it doesn’t flex or bend like cheaper or ultralight options—and comfort is good thanks to the mostly cork handle. And despite the reasonable $120 price tag, LEKI didn’t skimp on premium touches, including their well-loved SpeedLock+ lever, ergonomic grips that are tilted slightly to keep your wrists in a neutral position, breathable and adjustable straps, and light but durable carbide tips. Added up, it’s a solid all-around effort and a great value from the brand.

The Khumbu Lite is a strong budget alternative to our top-rated Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork, with a similar weight, three-section telescoping design, and aluminum shaft. However, a few small nitpicks push it down our list. First, the Trail Ergo Cork offers a wider range of adjustments (from 27-55 in. compared to 39-53 in. for the LEKI), and the all-cork grips are a small step up in comfort from the LEKI's mixed cork/rubber design. The BD also comes with both powder and trekking baskets for four-season versatility, which helps bridge the $20 price gap. Finally, the Trail’s grips have a more aggressive angle (15° vs. 8° for the LEKI), which we’ve found to be a more natural resting position for your hands. But many hikers will find these differences hard to discern, and the Khumbu Lite get the edge in price.
See the LEKI Khumbu Lite  See the Women's LEKI Jannu


13. Mountainsmith Dolomite OLS ($30)

Mountainsmith Dolomite trekking poleWeight: 10 oz. (single pole)
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
Grip: Cork and foam
What we like: Great value for those who only need a single pole.
What we don’t: Average build quality and pretty heavy at 10 ounces.

The vast majority of trekking poles are sold in pairs, but some hikers and backpackers prefer to hit the trail with a single pole (including some on our team). For these folks, opting for the Mountainsmith Dolomite is a nice way to save: For $30, you get a quality aluminum setup with a cork handle, EVA foam choke-up grips, and a three-piece telescoping design that packs down reasonably small. The lever locks aren’t anything special and the build can’t match the sturdiness of our top picks above, but the Dolomite undeniably is an excellent value. 

Clearly, there are some compromises in opting for a single pole like the Mountainsmith Dolomite. For one, you lose out on the option to bring a full set for times when stability is important, such as hikes over particularly rough or steep terrain. In addition, many trekking pole-supported tents and shelters require two poles to set up (including popular builds like the Zpacks Duplex and Gossamer Gear’s The One). And a concern we have specifically with the Mountainsmith is its 10-ounce weight, which makes it one of the heavier designs on our list. For an ultralight but far pricier option, Gossamer Gear sells their LT5 model in a single pole for about $98. Alternatively, REI’s Walker Power Lock Staff is a nice middle ground at $55 and 8.8 ounces for the single pole.
See the Mountainsmith Dolomite OLS


14. LEKI Cross Trail FX.One Superlite ($200)

Leki Cross Trail FX.One Superlite trekking poleWeight per pair: 11.6 oz.
Type: Folding (button)
Shaft material: Carbon
Grip: Cork/foam
What we like: A nicely appointed option for fast-and-light enthusiasts.
What we don’t: Heavier, pricier, and less packable and proven than the Distance Carbon Z above.

Black Diamond’s Distance Carbon Z above is our favorite ultralight collapsible design, but LEKI offers an intriguing alternative in their Cross Trail FX.One Superlite. In sum, these poles are purpose-built for covering ground quickly: They clock in at a scant 11.6 ounces per pair, fold down to just 14.6 inches for stashing in or on a pack, and come with thoughtful features like a wraparound mesh wrist strap and LEKI’s sleek trail running basket with a carbide tip. LEKI also beefed up the lower portion of the poles with 14-millimeter carbon fiber (the rest of the shaft is 12mm) for added assurance over rough ground. Added up, the Cross Trail FX.One Superlite is one of the most specialized options here and a great match for trail runners and speed-focused mountain athletes.

As we touched on above, the LEKI Cross Trail FX.One Superlite goes head-to-head with Black Diamond’s Distance Carbon Z above. In parsing out the differences, the LEKI is heavier by 2.4 ounces per pair, a little larger when folded down (14.6 in. vs. 13 in. for the Distance in the 110cm length), and costs $20 more. It’s also newer and less proven than the Distance, which has earned a solid reputation for longevity over the years. That said, some may find the weight and price penalties worth it for the Cross Trail’s more comfortable cork grip (the BD’s is foam) and unique strap system. If you don’t mind the inherent tradeoffs in opting for superlight carbon poles, both are well-made and highly capable options for those aimed at moving fast and light. For a similarly premium option from LEKI, check out their adjustable Black Series FX Carbon, which are heavier at just over a pound but tack on lever locks and extended foam grips for $60 more.
See the LEKI Cross Trail FX.One Superlite


15. Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Quick Lock ($52)

Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Quick Lock trekking polesWeight per pair: 1 lb.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Carbon
Grip: Foam or Cork
What we like: Cheap and very light.
What we don’t: Not built to last.

Carbon fiber typically is associated with high-end builds and premium prices, but Cascade Mountain Tech offers a pair of carbon poles for around $50-$60 (colorways vary on Amazon). On paper, the poles stack up really well with a 1-pound weight, simple lever locks, and foam grip extensions. Impressively, Cascade Mountain Tech didn’t skimp on accessories either, with rubber tips and two sets of baskets for mud and snow. The Carbon Fiber poles are available with either a foam or cork grip, and while we typically prefer cork, we lean towards foam in this case as a cheap cork grip will break down over time.

The main downside in choosing the Cascade Mountain Tech poles is durability. The carbon shaft does a great job keeping weight low but is more likely to get a crack or snap under a load than another budget pole like the aluminum REI Trailbreak above. Moreover, the overall construction is rather cheap, and the cost-cutting in the plastic adjustment system doesn’t inspire confidence in its longevity. But if you take good care, going with Cascade Mountain Tech gets you a set of lightweight poles for about 1/3 of what you’d pay for carbon from a company like Black Diamond (even REI’s composite Flash Carbon poles above are around $100 pricier).
See the Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Quick Lock


16. Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock ($160)

Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock trekking polesWeight per pair: 1 lb. 4.3 oz.
Type: Telescoping (lever lock)
Shaft material: Aluminum
Grip: Foam
What we like: Proven shock-absorbing system.
What we don’t: Extra weight and price.

As we touched on previously, shock absorption isn’t a must-have feature for many hikers and comes with some notable downsides, including added weight and complexity. But if the extra give is appealing to you, Black Diamond’s Trail Pro Shock is a popular alternative to LEKI's Legacy Lite AS above. Impressive damping and rebound control built into the pole’s handle helps avoid a common pitfall of anti-shock poles: bottoming out and an unpredictable rebound. The system works quite seamlessly and reacts well to both light and hard impacts. The rest of the setup is classic Black Diamond, with quality materials and components like their metal FlickLock Pro.

Cons are the expected sacrifices for the Trail Pro Shock's additional tech. Weight goes up relative to non-shock-absorbing options at over 1 pound 4 ounces (even LEKI's shock-absorbing Legacy is lighter at 1 lb. 2.4 oz.), and you pay a bit of a price premium as well. At $160, we’d prefer cork grips, but the foam handles with choke-up extensions still are fine performers. All told, the Trail Pro isn't for everyone, but its four-season-ready construction and functional shock absorption earn it a spot on our list.
See the Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock  See the Women's Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock


Trekking Pole Comparison Table

Trekking Pole Price Type Lock Weight Shaft Grip Length*
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork $140 Telescoping Lever 1 lb. 2 oz. Aluminum Cork 27 in.
REI Co-op Trailbreak $70 Telescoping Lever 1 lb. 1 oz. Aluminum Rubber 25 in.
Black Diamond Distance Carbon $180 Folding N/A 9.2 oz. Carbon Foam 13 in.
LEKI Legacy Lite AS $120 Telescoping Lever 1 lb. 2.4 oz. Aluminum Cork/rubber 27 in.
Black Diamond Alpine Carbon $200 Telescoping Lever 1 lb. 1.1 oz. Carbon Cork 24 in.
Gossamer Gear LT5 $195 Telescoping Twist 10.6 oz. Carbon Foam 23.5 in.
REI Co-op Traverse $110 Telescoping Lever 1 lb. 3.5 oz. Aluminum Cork 25 in.
Black Diamond Trail Back $90 Telescoping Lever 1 lb. 1 oz. Aluminum Rubber 24 in.
REI Co-op Flash Carbon $149 Telescoping Lever 13.6 oz. Carbon Foam 25 in.
LEKI Makalu FX Carbon $220 Folding Lever 1 lb. 1.9 oz. Carbon Foam/rubber 15.7 in.
Black Diamond Distance FLZ $160 Folding Lever 14.8 oz. Aluminum Foam 15 in.
LEKI Khumbu Lite $120 Telescoping Lever 1 lb. 1.4 oz. Aluminum Cork/rubber 26 in.
Mountainsmith Dolomite OLS $30 Telescoping Lever 10 oz. (1) Aluminum Cork/foam 25 in.
LEKI Cross Trail FX.One SL $200 Folding Button 11.6 oz. Carbon Cork/foam 14.6 in.
Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon $52 Telescoping Lever 1 lb. Carbon Foam 28 in.
Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock $160 Telescoping  Lever 1 lb. 4.3 oz. Aluminum Foam 26 in.

*Editor's Note: "Length" is the minimum or collapsed length for the trekking poles.

Trekking Pole Buying Advice

Trekking Pole Types: Telescoping, Folding, and Fixed

Telescoping poles made of two or three sections are the most common type on the market, and are known for their durability and ease of use. As such, they’re popular with everyone from day hikers to backpackers and even mountaineers. The different pole sections expand from each joint by a locking system that can be opened for adjustment and secured while on the trail. These points of connection also are their greatest weaknesses, so a quality locking mechanism is highly recommended (we discuss this in more detail below). In this category, we prefer light poles with simple feature sets: secure locking mechanisms, quality aluminum or carbon fiber construction, and comfortable grips.

Trekking poles (REI Flash strapped to pack)
Telescoping poles collapse down for strapping to the outside of a pack

Black Diamond pioneered the ultralight folding category with their Z-Pole line. Much like the poles that come with a tent, you can separate the pieces and pack them down into a compact size (often around 10 in. shorter than a comparable telescoping pole). More recently, LEKI has made a strong push with their FX series, which includes the Makalu FX Carbon and Cross Trail FX.One Superlite above (among others). In terms of downsides, most folding poles have very thin shafts, can bear less weight than their telescoping counterparts, and are either not adjustable or limited in their adjustments lengthwise. Favored by fast hikers, trail runners, climbers, and travelers, these poles will cause the least amount of arm fatigue over long miles.

Trekking poles (folding down Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z)
Black Diamond's Distance Carbon Z poles fold down to a compact 13 in.

A third category of trekking pole is the straight-shaft, fixed-length design. These are relatively uncommon because it can be difficult to store or transport such a long item (especially when fastened to your pack or in a suitcase), and they can’t be adjusted for up and downhill travel. As such, no fixed-length poles made our list. If you’re in the market, however, we recommend checking out the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Running Poles, which weigh just 6 ounces per pair (for the 110cm length).

Shaft Materials

Generally, hiking poles are made either from carbon fiber, aluminum, or a combination of the two (a three-section pole may have two carbon upper pieces and an aluminum lower, for example). High-end trekking poles are often made from carbon, which is lighter and stiffer but also more expensive and brittle (and when carbon fiber breaks, it breaks; aluminum may just dent or bend and still be usable). Carbon’s tendency to snap under hard stress can be somewhat offset by a thicker diameter construction, at the penalty of weight.

Price and overall durability are the main reasons hikers opt for aluminum poles. There's something to be said about a confidence-inspiring design like the Black Diamond Trail Ergo, which is super stable and has virtually no wobble even on steep descents. In the end, the casual hiker or someone who is rough on their gear will probably be happiest with an aluminum or hybrid aluminum/carbon pole. On the other hand, an all-carbon build remains the best option for the weight-focused hiker/backpacker. 

Trekking poles (crossing river with BD poles)
Aluminum poles get the clear edge in durability over carbon

Locking Mechanisms

Outside of an ultralight folding trekking pole, chances are you’ll be eying one with some sort of locking mechanism. The classic style used a twist lock: To tighten, you twist each section closed to lock the segments into place. These poles are haunted by inconsistent performance, with hikers either over-tightening to the point of seizing, or twisting too loose, resulting in perpetual issues with collapsing. Needless to say, the twist lock has gone out of vogue. And while there are a few models out there that do a good job—such as what you get on Gossamer Gear's LT5—we typically recommend avoiding the twist lock.

Trekking poles (locking mechanisms)
Our preferred lever lock (open) on the right with twist lock on the left

Enter the lever lock. Using an external clamp to either open to adjust or close to lock the pole sections, it’s an easy-to-use system. Better still, the tendency for segments to slip when in the locked position is significantly reduced, giving additional confidence to the user. There are still a few risks of accidentally opening the lock when moving through heavy brush or the need to occasionally tighten the lever with a screwdriver (LEKI's SpeedLock 2+ on the Makalu FX Carbon doesn’t require a tool to adjust), but these are minor nitpicks. The lever lock is the new standard.

Trekking poles (locking mechanisms comparison)
LEKI's SpeedLock 2 (left) and Black Diamond's FlickLock (right)

Trekking Pole Grip Construction

Materials: Cork, Foam, and Rubber
Trekking pole grips come in three main types: cork, foam, and rubber, with cork being our personal favorite. A quality cork handle has an exceptionally comfortable feel in the hand and wicks sweat very well. It also will conform nicely to your hand over time, making it great for long-distance treks and multi-season use. If cork isn’t your thing, the next best bet is foam. EVA foam is soft, provides a measure of shock absorption, and does a decent job at wicking moisture in the summer months (although it will typically retain more moisture than cork). Rubber is the third option and usually found on budget hiking poles. We’ve found these grips to be best for cold weather activities because they shed rain and snow, but they lack the sweat absorption and premium feel of foam and cork.

Trekking poles (backpacking with Black Diamond poles)
Quality foam and cork handles are great for long-distance backpacking

Ergonomic Handle vs. Standard Handle
Looking beyond the grip materials, another consideration is whether or not to get an ergonomic handle. These types of grips have a slight forward angle, typically around 15 degrees, which is supposed to mimic where your hands would naturally rest. Not surprisingly, what feels “natural” to one person may not to another, and this in the end is a very personal choice. That being said, we’ve enjoyed our fair share of ergonomic grips (LEKI is a standout in this area, and we also like Black Diamond’s Ergo models).

Trekking poles (foam versus cork grips)
Choosing a standard (left) or ergonomic (right) grip is mostly a matter of personal preference

Choke-up Extensions
Many poles will have a second, smaller grip below the main one. This is what we refer to as a choke-up extension, or extended grip. These predominantly foam grips are great for finding a secure hold lower on your poles while climbing steep hills or sidehilling, improving balance and leverage. For those who often travel on steep or technical terrain, extended grips are a must-have feature. For a DIY alternative, you can wrap duct tape around your poles under the large grips for a more secure hold.

Trekking poles (choke-up extensions)
Choke-up extensions are valuable on steep climbs

Wrist Straps
The final piece in the grip construction is the wrist strap. There is an impressive diversity of strap designs, ranging from heavily padded to simple nylon. And some hikers ditch the straps altogether because they’d rather not be connected to their poles should they take a fall or use the system improperly (correct technique is entering from the bottom opening of the strap). In choosing a strap, the biggest consideration is noticing any potential irritants. If a seam is rubbing against the back of your hand on a short walk, that can turn into serious chafing by mile 10. In general, the straps on most quality trekking poles are very comfortable—even the minimalist design on the LEKI Makalu FX Carbon is very smooth. At the other end of the spectrum, you get nearly full hand coverage with LEKI’s Cross Trail FX.One Superlite, but many hikers and backpackers will find the design overkill and a bit polarizing.


The weight of the trekking poles is our second biggest consideration (first is comfort), and we wouldn’t blame you for putting it atop your priority list. A light pole will fatigue your arms less quickly, which is a big benefit on long treks. On short trips, you may not notice a 2-ounce difference, but when you think of the number of times your arms swing forward over an extended trip, it’s easy to realize how a little weight savings can go a long way.

Trekking poles (four pairs on ground)
Weight can add up quickly on the trail, so it's important to choose a pair of poles that matches your objectives

For moving light and fast, the lighter the better, with a caveat that durability diminishes once you get into the ultralight category (we see it happen right around 1 pound). On the extreme end are poles like the Gossamer Gear LT5 (10.6 ounces for a pair) or Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z (9.2 to 10.4 ounces, depending on length). These are great for ultralight backpackers and thru-hikers, but the shaft materials are too delicate for bushwhacking or four-season use. Our preference is to go lightweight without having to be constantly worried about snapping the poles, which is why we rank the BD Trail Ergo atop our list.

Trekking poles (hiking with Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z)
Backpacking in Washington state with the ultralight Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z

Packed Size

Packed size or collapsed length isn’t a make-or-break specification for us, but it is a consideration for travelers who need to fit their poles into a suitcase and hikers who strap their poles to their pack. Folding poles take the prize for the smallest packed size, which is as little as 13 inches. Properly protected, they’re even small enough to store inside a daypack.

Trekking poles (strapped to outside of pack)
Folding hiking poles pack down impressively small

Not everyone puts such a high value on a compact size, which is partly why three-section poles remain the most popular style on the market. Their average minimum length is 24 to 27 inches, which is small enough to attach to the outside of a backpacking pack, and also can fit into most luggage. Two-section telescoping designs are where it may become an issue for squeezing into a duffel or suitcase, and you can forget about traveling with a fixed-length pole.

Trekking poles (telescoping vs. folding)
A telescoping design (left) compared to a more compact folding model (right)


For trekking poles, durability and weight almost always go hand in hand. The first places manufacturers look to cut weight are the thickness of the material and the diameter of the pole. A smaller diameter and thinner pole logically will be less durable and flex more under pressure than its wider and thicker counterpart. The other part of the equation is the material itself. As mentioned above, even though aluminum may not be as strong as carbon fiber, it is the better choice in terms of durability because it has a lesser chance of breaking. This is why some manufacturers make a hybrid carbon and aluminum pole with the aluminum section at the bottom. Banging up against trail debris or snagging the pole in between rocks may only dent or bend the aluminum rather than crack or shatter the carbon.

Trekking poles (crossing river in Patagonia)
Aluminum poles, like the BD Trail Ergo Cork, are sturdier than their carbon fiber counterparts

As with any piece of outdoor gear, it’s best to think through your individual needs. Because we like to use our trekking poles year-round and on varied terrain, we’re willing to deal with the extra couple ounces to get a more reliable build like the proven Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork. But if we were setting off on a thru-hike of the PCT, we’d be willing to compromise a lot more on durability.

Trekking pole (holding up shelter)
Thru-hikers are often willing to sacrifice a little durability to shave weight

Winter Use

To keep your gear closet from overflowing (and your bank account plentiful), it’s always nice to find a single piece of gear that can be used year-round. A durable trekking pole can be just that: great for simple day hikes or backpacking trips in the summer, but burly enough for snowshoeing or even the occasional ski tour. So what makes a trekking pole suitable for winter? Typically it will come from the telescoping category. The stiffer design and telescoping function is important for uphill and downhill travel, particularly for skiing or mountaineering. That said, there are some robust folding poles like the Black Diamond Alpine FLZ

Beyond having a strong shaft material, interchangeable baskets are a must for winter use. Many trekking poles come with, or offer as an accessory, powder snow baskets. The wide diameter baskets keep the poles from sinking in deep snow, just like a ski pole. Not all trekking poles have this option, however, so make sure to verify prior to purchasing.

Trekking poles (MSR DynaLock Ascent in snow)
Using sturdy, four-season trekking poles in snow

Shock-Absorbing Poles

Adding shock absorption to trekking poles seems like a no-brainer. They have the built-in give that takes additional stress off of knees as well as your wrists on a long descent. But, a quick scan of the picks above will show only a few poles with shock absorption made our list. What gives? First and most importantly is the extra weight. On longer treks, those additional ounces really count (although the LEKI system only adds 1 ounce per pole). Most importantly, simplicity in the outdoors is your friend, and one fewer part to break is a win for us. There are undoubtedly good reasons to get a shock-absorbing pole, but we encourage you to think through the compromises to make sure they’re worth it.

Trekking pole (Leki DSS shock-absorbing technology)
LEKI's low-profile shock absorbers are built into the bottom of the pole

Women’s-Specific Trekking Poles

Most trekking poles are billed as unisex products, but there are a number of models that include a women’s version (LEKI also has an entire collection of women’s-specific poles). What differentiates the women’s trekking pole is a narrower diameter grip, intended for smaller hands, and a shorter maximum length. For reference, the women’s version of the BD Trail Ergo Cork can be extended to 49 inches, while the men’s extend to 55 inches. Realistically, anyone who doesn’t need the extra length and would benefit from the smaller-diameter grips should choose a women’s trekking pole. Another benefit is women’s poles have a shorter minimum length (typically around 4-5 inches shorter in telescoping models), which makes them easier to stow away in a suitcase for traveling.

Trekking poles (wading through river in Patagonia)
Women's-specific poles typically have narrower grips and shorter maximum lengths

Cheap Trekking Poles

Uncomfortable foam, cork disintegrating into your palms, wrist straps chafing your hands, frail locking mechanisms collapsing. Need we go on? A poorly made, cheap trekking pole is just not worth it. Now we’re not saying you have to spend $150 to feel safe and secure; there are a number of poles under $100 that we still highly recommend. Moreover, if you are looking for a trekking pole for stability around town or want to try them without paying through the nose, you can forego some of the fancy lightweight features and get a classic aluminum pole at a reasonable price.

The REI Co-op Trailbreak telescoping poles (#2 on our list) are a great deal at $70 and will do the trick for easy local trails and day hikes. If you plan to use the poles for backpacking, we still recommend sticking with the pricier options on the list. As with most items you get for the backcountry, it’s well worth it to get a piece of gear you can rely on.

Trekking poles (Montem descending)
Cheap trekking poles are fine on easy trails, but don't expect them to hold up to serious use

Hiking with One Trekking Pole

Although the vast majority of hikers use two trekking poles, it’s worth mentioning that a certain contingent prefers one. We’ve found that this is most often thru-hikers who want to carry the least possible weight and gear, and one pole does afford you added balance and support compared to not using any at all. For those using an ultralight shelter with trekking pole support, obviously the design will need to require only one pole. For example, most Hyperlite Mountain Gear shelter models require one pole, while popular ultralight tents like the Zpacks Duplex require one pole on each end (two total).

In the end, the choice comes down to personal preference, and one pole can be a fine option for those who want some of the benefits while keeping a hand free. And in terms of buying, almost all hiking poles are sold in sets, although the Mountainsmith Dolomite above is a notable exception. Further, some cottage brands like Gossamer Gear do allow you to order one by including a note to “ship only 1 pole and refund 50%".

Trekking poles (hiking with one pole)
Hiking with one pole can cut down on weight while still offering added stability

Trekking Pole Tents and Shelters

For ultralight backpackers and thru-hikers, a trekking pole-supported shelter is a great way to trim weight. If you’re considering one of these designs, keep in mind you’ll need a compatible set of poles. One key factor is pole length, and many shelters are designed to function with set dimensions. For example, Zpacks’ popular Duplex works with poles approximately 48 inches long, while Gossamer Gear’s The One is best with two 49-inch poles. In addition, we’ve found adjustable pole designs simplify the setup process (fixed-length poles are cumbersome and harder to get in place). Finally, the durability of your trekking poles is important: Ultralight carbon models may be great while hiking, but if they snap, you’ll need to get creative to make your shelter functional. For us, a balanced design like the Black Diamond Distance FLZ makes a lot of sense. It’s reasonably light at 14.8 ounces per pair, sturdy and tough with its aluminum build, and the adjustable length ensures the Distance FLZ will fit with most shelters on the market.
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