Trekking, or hiking poles, can make walking on rough or slippery terrain much easier. Some poles are better quality than others and some cost less than others, but be sure you buy the best hiking poles you can afford. They are going to be supporting your weight and you want something that’s trustworthy.
What are hiking poles for?
Hiking poles can help you keep your balance, take weight off of your joints, and be used to test out unsure footing.
If you have bad knees then hiking poles or sticks are going to be a must in order to keep weight off of them and reduce impact while out hiking. A person with bad balance could also benefit. However, anyone who is a regular hiker or is going hiking soon should consider them as an option. Hiking poles improve your balance and reduce the weight on yours legs and transfer it to your upper body.
I recently went on a long hike through The Narrows at Zion National Park. Here you are walking through water with a very rocky bottom for miles. I saw people without poles and they were not having fun. My hiking poles along with my water sandals got me through the hike and back with ease.
Decent hiking poles that just “get the job done” will suffice in many situations like this, but you really want to get the best hiking poles you can afford to get the most out of the advantages they offer. Here some great options to consider:
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
In my opinion, these are the top of the line and about the best hiking poles you can get. Sure, they are also the most expensive but they are the highest quality as well. They have all of the bells and whistles like cork grips, adjustable and interchangeable tips. These also have the heavy duty light aluminum which is stronger than the carbon fiber.
One other thing that you may notice about these is the slanted or curved handles. This makes walking and hiking with them feel much more natural in the hands. These would be my first choice on this list, with the Foxelli’s being my second choice.
Foxelli Trekking Poles with Accessories and Carry Bag
These shock absorbant poles come with accessories and a travel bag. Fully adjustable for children or adults and the cork handles are easy to grip and absorb sweat. Perfect for anything from ice hiking to a easy hike in the woods. Foxelli offers a 120 day money back guarantee if yours aren’t satisfactory for any reason, and a 3 year warranty for defects.
Foxelli includes an assortment of attachments for different surfaces and terrains. This pair of hiking poles has great reviews and Foxelli offers stellar customer service if you have any issues. These hiking poles would make a great choice and are also among the best hiking poles you can get.
BAFX Products Anti Shock Hiking / Walking / Trekking Trail Poles
Inexpensive yet fully functional, these are the best selling trekking poles on Amazon. They have many of the features that the higher priced Foxelli’s do with much of the same functionality. Probably the best budget trekking poles for the money.
You aren’t going to get the cool cork handles, extra accessories, or travel bag. They come with a 1 year warranty against defects rather than 3. Predominantly good reviews, but there are reports of these poles breaking with light use only. Could be due to a manufacturing defect which would be covered in the warranty.
Hiker Hunger 100% Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles
These Hiker Hunger trekking poles are made of 100% carbon fiber and are top notch quality. They are ultra light, shock absorbant and come with a 1 year warranty. They are still affordable and less than some of the top name brand poles.
They come with a few different tips and you can go to the manufacturer’s website to see which tips are optimal for which conditions. Very durable and good for long distance hikes. If taken care of these should last a long time.
TrailBuddy Trekking Poles – Adjustable Hiking or Walking Sticks
These are my “high quality budget poles” on this list. You can check the current price on Amazon here. They come in a variety of different colors and are lightweight like the others. Made of aluminum, they are claim to be stronger than the carbon fiber competitors.
Cork grips, quick adjust, and padded straps are a few more of the features that might make these poles a good choice. There are a few reports of early breakage but that of course all depends on the situation. In my opinion if you are going budget you might as well get the BAFX poles above, just like if you want the best quality you should probably keep reading and check out the Black Diamond’s below.
How to use trekking poles
First you will want to adjust the pole length so that when you grip the handle your elbow is at about a 90 degree bend. You will then put your hands through the loops and grip the handles firmly. After you have done these two things you are ready to begin your hike.
As you are walking you can move each pole will move forward as the opposite leg does in order to maximize your balance. Or you can move each pole forward with the leg on the same side in order to minimize weight onto the legs. Here is a great in-depth article on how to get the most out of using trekking poles.
Should I use one trekking pole or two?
I would advise using two, although one is better than none. They come in pairs most of the time for a reason. If you use two you are reducing the impact to both knees and joints in both legs. You will not only reduce strain to your knees but also your ankles, hips, back, shoulders and even neck. Descents will also be safer with dual poles to keep you steady.
Can I use a wood hiking stick instead?
Sure you can. However, poles are lighter weight, adjustable, easier to grip, and less prone to breaking. There is also a zero chance you will get a splinter from one! If you would prefer to use a wood hiking stick then by all means do so. I love a good hiking stick.
There is something cool and unique about a wooden hiking stick. You can carve your name onto them, you can sand them and stain them and even mount them on your wall. In my opinion they are more decorative and a bit less functional than a pole that is manufactured for the specific purpose of keeping strain and weight off of your knees. To each his own though!
Basic how to use trekking poles tips
Using hiking poles isn’t rocket science and using them comes pretty naturally for most people. Just in case though, below I have listed a few key tips to make sure you are getting the most out of using your trekking poles.
- move each pole forward when the opposite leg does
- make use of the straps
- adjust the poles so that when you grip the handles your elbows are at 90 degrees
- be careful when planting your poles on rocky terrain
- if going uphill or stepping up onto a ledge, move both poles forward at the same time
- 2 poles are always better than one
- allow the poles to take weight off of your legs
- use the right tips for the hike