Whether you're a keen walker or just getting started, hiking poles are a valuable investment. In this guide, we've rounded up our pick of the best hiking poles available right now, to help ensure you choose the right one for you.
Hiking poles have come a long way from the alpenstocks of old. They’ve also become pretty obligatory out on the hills, for a host of good reasons. They’ll improve your balance on tricky trail sections and easier ground alike (although you'll want to invest in a quality pair of hiking boots or walking shoes first), and also take strain off your knees on long descents.
Many walkers find that the best hiking poles help to maintain a better pace and walking rhythm, and poles are particularly helpful for river crossings, enabling an easy vault across smaller streams, and careful testing of rocks ahead on wider river beds. Similarly, being able to probe suspect-looking ground before standing on it has saved many a walker from an unpleasant trip.
Read on for our ranking of the best hiking poles. If you're looking to improve your walking gear in general, you might also want to explore our guides to the best walking trousers, the best hiking backpacks and the best walking socks.
How to choose the best hiking poles
Hiking poles are particularly useful for taking the pressure off of your legs when walking long distances, and especially for providing support ascending or descending slopes.
Most modern trekking poles are now very compact and easy to carry. Many will fold away easily or can be attached to your backpack when they’re not needed, as well as being lightweight and slim.
Look out for adjustable hiking poles with a locking mechanism as this will allow you to keep the pole at your desired height, and is perfect if multiple people use them. The pole should be long enough so that your elbow is at a 90 degree angle when walking.
The next thing to consider is the shaft material – usually either aluminium or carbon fibre. Aluminium is more durable, although just a tad heavier than carbon, but if you’re hiking regularly you can expect aluminium poles to last longer.
A firm grip is also essential, and to stop your hands sweating excessively during your hike, EVA foam is the best grip material to go for to keep the poles breathable at all times.
We’ve picked out some of the best hiking poles for long and short hikes as well as different types of terrain and weather conditions. Take a look at our round up and invest in that much needed support for your next adventure.
- The best hiking boots specifically for women
- The best women’s walking shoes
- Stay warm when walking with the best fleece jackets
The Leki Sherpa XTG is a testament to how advanced hiking pole design has become. They might look like full-featured walking poles (which they are indeed), but the weight has tumbled off a cliff. A mere 263g per unit for ‘standard’ alloy poles is impressive, as is the spec list here, which includes pretty much the kitchen sink. Aluminium poles usually come in heavier than their more expensive carbon brethren, but tend to bend under serious pressure, rather than shatter like carbon.
The two ‘speedlock’ adjusters use levers not twisty friction locks, which means they’re more reliable and easier to operate wearing gloves, and they stretch enormously from 110cm out to 145cm. The Sherpa’s pack down to a reasonable 70cm, so won’t jut out foo far from your rucksack, and also feature an extended foam grip down the top shaft, allowing you to choke your grip down the shaft on more technical sections of the trail.
The BD Alpine Carbon Z is a perfect companion for weekend travel adventures and big days out. Weighing in at a shade over 200grams a pole (depending on length), the Alpine carbon breaks down to less than 40cm long, making it highly packable for travel or on-route.
Old-school cork grips give plenty of feedback whether you’re barehanded or wearing gloves, and new reinforcements around the joints add to the pole’s durability and strength. As these are fixed length you’ll need to choose your size wisely, but that fixed nature removes unnecessary weight, and also reduces faff on long days and especially for early alpine starts, which is a major boon.
For those avid hikers who want to take on longer trails, you may want to consider some extra support. The Black Diamond Distance Carbon FLZ carbon fibre hiking poles are designed to provide added stability on steep inclines and more extensive walks.
They are a fixed length, but they fold up into three parts making them easy to pack into a backpack quickly and efficiently. EVA foam handles are in place to keep hands comfortable and dry even during the toughest of hikes and customers have found them to feel incredibly sturdy; just make sure they are locked into place before setting off!
Experienced hikers can expect good things from these versatile poles. The shaft is adjustable for different heights and very durable as made from aluminium. They are said to be lightweight and easy to lock in place so you can be sure to remain stable on your journey. The grips are made from cork and rubber, which isn’t as breathable as EVA foam, but regarded as comfortable nonetheless.
Whether you’re hiking on rocky, snowy, grassy or unpredictable terrain, the Enkeeo Ultralight trekking poles come with a range of accessories to tailor them to your hike. You’ll get 2 snow baskets, 2 mud baskets and 4 rubber tips, so you can fully prepare for the road ahead and feel safe and study in all weather conditions. They are particularly good in boggy conditions and provide much needed support for going up and down hill in such conditions. The grips are said to remain comfy and non-slippery when walking in the rain and overall these poles are easy to adjust whenever you need to.
If you’re more of a casual hiker who just goes on light trails at the weekends, then these Black Diamond Trail Poles might be the best hiking poles for you. They are height-adjustable and have foam grip handles which make them very comfy for walking, and first-time hikers found these to be easy to get on with. Some locking mechanisms can be tricky to get into place, but this one is easy to click into place and you won’t get sprung with any unexpected collapsing parts during your walk.
If you often try out different trails and levels of hiking route, then these Cascade Mountain Tech poles will make sure you’re prepared for all eventualities. You’ll get an accessory kit which includes a range of tips and baskets for different terrains and weather conditions, and the adjustable height means you can make sure you have the right stability for ascending and descending slopes. They aren’t as compact as some other hiking poles, but still fold down or can be attached to a backpack with ease.
The more casual walker may only want one pole to begin with, and this Leki Tucson trekking pole with flex-tip is designed to be adaptable to a range of terrains when starting out with hiking. The length of the pole is completely adjustable which means you can change it to suit your needs when going up or down hill or when walking on flat terrain. You’ll also have a comfy handle with a wrist strap for extra security when walking.