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The 5 Best Hiking Poles – Why You Want a Pair!

Best Hiking Poles

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When you decide which of the best hiking poles to choose, first decide whether you want to hike with two poles or with one pole. Most hikers prefer to use a pair of hiking poles. Two poles offer more benefits even though some hikers prefer using one pole.

Read more about the benefits and features of the best hiking poles below.

5 Best Hiking Poles

Hiking PolesMaterialWeightGripLockMSRP
Black Diamond (1-3):
1. Distance CarbonZCarbon fiber5 oz. eachRubberFlip$159.95
2. Women’s Trekking PolesAluminum12.5 oz. eachRubberFlip$99.95
3. Trail Back Trekking PolesAluminum10.76 oz. eachRubberFlip$79.95
4. Cascade Mountain Tech Quick LockCarbon fiber8 oz. eachCorkFlip$57.99
5. Leki Micro Vario CarbonCarbon fiber8.4 oz. eachRubberFlip$199.95

Contents

How Do You Benefit From the Best Hiking Poles?

Keep Your Balance

For short, few mile day hikes on an easy or moderate trail, you might not need to use hiking poles. However, when you have a heavy, fully loaded backpack, you want a pair of the best hiking poles to help you balance. Also, when hiking on a difficult trail, you want the benefits you get from hiking poles.

Read this to learn about the 12 Hiking Gear Essentials for Your Day Hike.

Poles also give you stability when you go around a puddle. You can easily slip near a puddle but poles help keep you steady as you go around the puddle.

Best Hiking Poles

Poles can help you go over rocks and logs too. Poles keep you steady as you climb over a rock or log. You might use a log to cross water and hiking poles give you much better balance on a log.

Stay Out of the Water – Stay Dry!

When you need to cross a stream or river, hiking poles help you stay on your feet as you cross the water. When you have two hiking sticks as you cross the water, the sticks help you keep your footing. You could easily slip on slippery underwater rocks that you cannot see.

The hiking sticks help you find the rocks and keep you balanced as you walk over or walk by the rocks. You can stash the poles on your pack if you do not use them.

Often you need to cross streams where you cannot see the bottom. Mud obscures the bottom. Also, you want to know the stream’s depth. Using your hiking poles lets you quickly find out the depth. You want to avoid stepping too deeply in a fast moving stream!

Also, your trekking poles also come in handy as a way to find out whether a stream has a soft, bottom or a solid floor. You want to cross where the stream has a solid floor to avoid sinking in the stream. When the stream has a soft, muddy bottom you also run the risk falling or tiring quickly.

The Best Hiking Poles Help Your Knees and Hips

When you have a heavy pack on a rugged, steep trail, hiking poles provide some relief. When you hike up or down a steep trail, the best hiking sticks relieve knee and hip stress. Keeping your balance can be tricky when you carry a fully loaded backpack. Hiking poles help you stay balanced.

On a trail’s steep parts, hiking poles let you dig into the trail and pull yourself up. This takes the pressure off of your knees and hips. When you hike down the trail, your poles keep you steady. They also remove pressure and strain from your knees and hips.

How the Best Hiking Poles Help Your Knees and Hips

Some hikers question whether hiking poles relieve stress and strain on your knees. They question whether they help keep your knees healthy. My research and experience say the hiking poles save your knees. Hiking poles make hiking easier on your knees.

Best Hiking Poles

What Does Harvard Medical School Say Hiking Poles and Your Knees?

Regarding hiking poles and whether they help your knees, the Harvard Medical School published a Harvard Health Letter that says:

Research confirms that hikers probably benefit from using hiking poles. Hiking uphill may be the more satisfying and metabolically challenging part of hiking, but descents are physically more difficult in many ways. Going downhill is much harder on the hip and leg muscles and puts compressive forces on the knees that are three or four times higher than the forces experienced when walking on level ground.  

A variety of experiments … (showed) that hiking poles significantly reduce (the downhill) forces, as well as movement in the joints that create strain. Other studies (showed) that hiking poles keep people more upright while hiking, help with stability, and are associated with a reduced risk of ankle fracture.

Harvard Health Letter (2011, March). Talking of walking in 3 easy pieces [Web log post]. Retrieved June 4, 2019  https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/talking-of-walking-in-three-easy-pieces

More Benefits From Using Hiking Poles!

The Harvard Health Letter also lists benefits including:

  • Stronger bones
  • Healthier heart
  • Better mental outlook

The letter also states that moving your arms while using hiking sticks might improve your heart’s health even more.

Clear the Way!

Another hiking pole benefit includes clearing the way when sections of the trail become overgrown. Also, the overgrown trail sections might have poison ivy, poison oak, or briars. Again, your poles come in handy to move the poison or sharp plants out of your way.  

Self Defense?

Hiking poles probably offer only a modest defense against large animals like wild cats or bears, but you can use your hiking poles to scare away smaller creatures like snakes. Even though you prefer not to use them for protection, they might be nice to have if needed.

Walk the Walk

In addition to using hiking poles, be mindful about how you walk. When you put your foot down, Let your weight fall on the front and middle of your foot. This lets your hamstring muscles work. Your hamstrings help your knee joints flex reducing the strain on the joints.

Best Hiking Poles

Best Hiking Poles Features

The best hiking poles have several features that you want including:

  • Strong
  • Lightweight
  • Adjustable

Quality Costs

If you want the best quality hiking poles, you have to pay for that quality. Some poles cost close to $200.00! When you pay that much for hiking poles, you get your money’s worth.

Still, you can have good poles for less money. You can have a pair of good budget poles for less than $50.00. See the Cascade Mountain Tech poles described below.

For less than $100, you can have very good budget poles. See the Black Diamond Women’s Trekking Poles and the Black Diamond Trail Back Poles.

Best Hiking Poles Materials

You need to decide whether you want hiking poles made from aluminum or carbon fiber. Both have benefits. Both materials give you the benefit of a lightweight strong hiking pole.

Two different methods are used to make carbon fiber and aluminum. The material found in hiking poles is an aluminum alloy and comes from a chemical process. Carbon fiber comes from a mechanical process.

  • Aluminum – The best aluminum hiking poles are lightweight and strong. Aluminum is combined with other elements so you have a stronger pole. Choose aluminum if you expect to be rough on your poles. Aluminum is also cheaper.
  • Carbon Fiber – The material found in the best carbon fiber hiking poles results from a mechanical process that combines carbon fibers with plastic. Carbon fiber poles give you flexibility and resist shock.

More Features To Consider

In addition to material, you need to decide whether you want the following features:

  • Adjustable Poles
  • Locking System
  • Packability
  • Grip
  • Weight
  • Tips/Baskets
  • Women’s vs. Men’s Poles

Adjustable Poles

Decide if you want adjustable poles. Adjustable trekking poles offer more flexibility. Shorter poles help when you hike uphill. Longer poles help when you hike downhill.

Adjustable poles offer the benefit of lengthening or shortening your hiking pole depending on the trail’s incline. You might want nonadjustable for flat hikes since nonadjustable poles are usually lighter.

Locking System

Decide what kind of locking system do you want? The most popular locks:

  • Flip – uses a lever you can easily adjust
  • Twist – uses a screw and is strong and long lasting

Packability

Usually shorter is better so you can pack your poles for a trip or easily store them in your backpack if you do not need them. Look for foldable poles.

Grip

What kind of pole grip do you want? 

Best Hiking Poles
  • Foam – soft and absorbs sweat, breaks down faster, lighter
  • Cork – absorbs sweat, a good choice for hot weather, durable
  • Rubber- Protects from the cold, durable, slippery when wet

Weight

Lighter is better.

Tips/Baskets

Tips dig into loose dirt and rock to give you better traction. Replace your tips every 2,000 miles. You do not need baskets unless you hike snowy trails.

Women’s vs. Men’s Best Hiking Poles

There is only a slight difference between women’s and men’s poles. Women’s poles are slightly shorter. They also have slightly shorter handgrips. Usually, a unisex pole works very well for women and men. Just choose the hiking pole that meets your requirements whether it is a woman’s or man’s pole.

5 Best Hiking Poles

Black Diamond (1-3):

1. Distance Carbon Z

Black Diamond’s Distance Carbon Z makes an ideal hiking pole for hikers who want lightweight gear. The Carbon Z weighs 9 ounces. The pole has a three-section foldable design. The design allows you to quickly open and use your poles. The pole features rubber tips and a lightweight foam grip.

Features Include:

Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z
  • Carbon fiber  
  • 5 ounces each
  • EVA grip (feels like rubber)
  • Flip-lock
  • $169.95 MSRP*

2. Women’s Trail Trekking Pole

The Black Diamond Women’s Trail has an updated EVA foam grip for added comfort. The pole has a fusion comfort strap for added security That gives you better handling. The Trail is a great pole for any trail.

Features Include:

  • Aluminum  
  • 12.5 ounces each
  • EVA grip (feels like rubber)
  • Flip-lock
  • $99.95 MSRP*

3. Trail Back Trekking Poles

The aluminum Trail Back Trekking Pole gives you a stable hike on any trail. You can easily adjust the pole to meet your needs on the trail. Enjoy the rubber grip that has an EVA foam extension for more comfort.

Features Include:

  • Aluminum  
  • 10.76 ounces each
  • Rubber grip
  • Flip-lock
  • $79.95 MSRP*

Cascade Mountain Tech Quick-Lock

Cascade Mountain Tech makes a great budget, carbon fiber trekking pole. They are useful for hiking uphill, downhill, and on flat terrain. The Quick-Lock poles weigh only 8 ounces each, the poles will not slow you down on the trail. They will improve your hiking endurance to help you hike farther and longer.

Features Include:

Cascade Mountain Tech Quick Lock
  • Carbon Fiber
  • 8 ounces each
  • Cork grip
  • Flip-lock
  • $44.99

Leki Micro Vario Carbon – Women’s

The Micro Vario Carbon has features that help you as you hike the uphill and downhill parts of the trail. The Micro Vario Carbon provides more stability and safety as you hike. The lightweight pole folds easily for conveniently packing in your backpack.

Features Include:

Leki Micro Vario Carbon
  • Carbon fiber
  • 8.4 ounces each
  • Foam grip
  • Flip lock
  • $199.95 MSRP*
Hiking PolesMaterialWeightGripLockMSRP
Black Diamond (1-3):
1. Distance Carbon ZCarbon fiber5 oz. eachEVA FoamFlip$159.95
2. Women’s TrekkingAluminum12.5 oz. eachEVA FoamFlip$99.95
3. Trail BackAluminum10.76 oz. eachEVA FoamFlip$79.95
4. Cascade Mountain Tech Quick LockCarbon fiber8 oz. eachCorkFlip$57.99
5. Leki Micro Vario CarbonCarbon fiber8.4 oz. eachEVA FoamFlip$199.95

All of these poles make excellent choices and offer you a lot of value. We chose Black Diamond. We chose the Black Diamond Trekking Poles for Women and the Black Diamond Trail Back Trekking Poles.

Conclusion

Many hikers enjoy the benefits hiking poles offer. Major benefits include:

  • Keeping your balance
  • Relieving stress on knees and hips

Important features to consider include:

  • Poles materials
    • Carbon fiber
    • Aluminum
  • Grip materials
    • Foam
    • Cork
  • Locking system
    • Adjustable
    • Flip lock
  • Price

A well-made hiking pole offers benefits to help you enjoy your hike and make a useful addition to your hiking gear.

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Best Hiking Poles