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Whether you’re a pro athlete or a person who likes to get a little exercise now and then, hiking is a great way to burn some calories while spending time in the great outdoors. Some of the most beautiful and thrilling hikes take place in rough terrain – rocks, underbrush, mud. In these situations, it helps to have a way of balancing yourself. Hiking poles provide the perfect solution.
Hiking poles are strong enough to lean on for support yet lightweight enough that you can walk with them for long periods without tiring your arms. Many hiking poles fold or collapse onto themselves, creating a smaller size that’s easy to transport when not in use.
If you’re looking for a new set of hiking poles, you’ve come to the right place. At BestReviews, we perform diligent product research so our readers can make wise purchases. We’ve collected all the information you need to know about hiking poles in the shopping guide below.
In our quest to find the perfect products for our readers, we never accept free samples from manufacturers. The best reviews are those that are unbiased, and that’s our goal. If you’d like to read about our favorite hiking poles on today’s market, please refer to the product matrix at the top of this page for more information.
Two of the most vital parts of a hiking pole’s anatomy are the shaft and the grip. The shaft is the length of the pole, and the grip is the part where you place your hands. When selecting new hiking poles, you’ll want to pay attention to the materials with which the shaft and grip are made.
The material with which a hiking pole’s shaft is made affects the pole’s overall weight, durability under stress, and cost.
Aluminum: Hiking poles with aluminum shafts tend to cost less than poles made of other materials. What’s more, they’re revered for their durability. That said, aluminum poles tend to weigh more than other options.
Composite: A hiking pole shaft made of composite material consists either partially or entirely of carbon fiber. Carbon hiking poles tend to cost more than aluminum poles, and they weigh less. Those who hike in extremely tough conditions should be advised that a carbon fiber pole could splinter or break under extreme stress.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Trekking Poles
Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock Trekking Poles are made of an aluminum alloy. Narrow in diameter and weighing just 10 ounces apiece, these poles are lightweight and popular with consumers. The grips, designed to be tough on the outside but soft and comfortable for the user, consist of dual-density foam. They contain a lower grip area for carrying the poles. Nicely padded adjustable wrist straps are included as well.
You should pay particular attention to the grip material in your hiking pole. After all, your hands will be in constant contact with the grip while using the hiking poles. Poor grip material can lead to discomfort, hand fatigue, or injury.
Cork: Hand grips made of cork conform to the shape of your hand better than other materials. And cork resists moisture, so the sweat from your hands won’t seep into the material. As such, cork hand grips work well in hot weather.
Foam: Foam is the softest possible hand grip material. However, it’s not as durable as other materials, and it may absorb sweat from your hands, which some people do not like.
One of the common questions is whether to buy a pair of trekking poles or one walking stick. Consider this: two poles can give symmetrical support, thus providing greater balance than a single walking stick on any one side of your body.
Rubber: Rubber hand grips work well in cold weather, as rubber resists temperature changes better than other materials. It also absorbs shock as the poles strike the ground. Notably, because rubber almost sticks to the hand, you may develop blisters when using rubber hand grips in warm, sweaty weather.
When shopping for hiking poles, you should also pay attention to the diameter and size of the hand grips. If you have small hands, for example, a child’s or woman’s hiking pole may fit your hand better than a unisex pole.
When hiking, opt for the "buddy system.” It is always safer to have someone along with you – not just in case of accidents, but also for the enjoyment of sharing the adventure and the vistas.
Some hiking poles include more than just a shaft and grip. Manufacturers may add features that make the trek easier or give the pole additional capabilities.
Here are some of the “extra” features you might see on some hiking poles for sale.
Some hiking poles include a screw through which you can attach a camera to the pole. This allows you to use the pole like a monopod and have the camera ready to shoot while you’re hiking.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
BAFX Products Anti-Shock Hiking/Walking/Trekking Poles
BAFX hiking poles are very popular. This is due, in part, to the manufacturer's clear instructions that give people confidence in setting them up in the first place. The BAFX Anti-Shock Trekking Poles are designed for moderate trekking, but owner feedback suggests that some have pushed them through quite difficult terrain and come out the other side still smiling! A few owners say the handles are uncomfortable in hot conditions, and the twist locks also receive some criticism. However, this seems to be a common occurrence with hiking poles, regardless of manufacturer.
You may find a hiking pole with a small compass built into the handle. Such compasses won’t be the most accurate models on the market, but they may help you find your bearings in a pinch.
You’ll use a pole’s locking mechanism to ensure the sections don’t collapse when they’re supporting your weight. You can flip a lever lock or twist a ring to lock the pole’s sections in place.
Keep an eye on the wear and tear of your poles. If they have lots of dents or the tips are worn down, it might time to replace them.
For a more comfortable hike, look for a pole that includes shock-absorption technology. These poles have springs built right into the pole.
Shock-absorbing springs work best for downhill hiking.
With some hiking poles, you can disable the springs when hiking uphill or on flat ground.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Hikker Anti-Shock Hiking Poles
The main stem of the Hikker HP-5 Anti-Shock Hiking Pole is a light aluminum alloy; each pole weighs about 13 ounces. There's a two-stage grip with a rubber section for carrying when collapsed and a "cork" handle for hikers to hold when walking. This handle gives a nice firm grip and isn't affected by heat or cold, but it can be prone to damage. The Hikker pole uses an adjustable wrist strap.
Many hiking poles sold today include the ability to adjust the length of the pole easily. These are adjustable-length hiking poles. The sections of an adjustable-length hiking pole collapse into each other, much like a telescope. Having this type of pole works well for many reasons.
Easy Transport: When hiking in areas where you don’t need the poles, an adjustable-length pole can be collapsed down to its minimum length and strapped to a backpack, making it easy to carry.
Uphill and Downhill Assistance: When hiking in terrain that features long uphill or downhill sections, an adjustable-length pole eases the trek. Just make the pole a little shorter on uphill sections and longer on downhill sections.
When hiking on long uphill sections of trail, it may help to shorten the pole by a couple of inches. When going downhill, the reverse is true: it may help to lengthen the pole by a couple of inches.
Multiple Users: If more than one person will be using the hiking poles, you’ll definitely want adjustable-length poles. This way, each person will be able to adjust the poles to a height that meets his or her needs.
Some people prefer fixed-length hiking poles. These generally weigh less than adjustable poles.
However, potential buyers should realize that fixed-length poles work best when you’re hiking primarily on flat terrain.
Product in Depth
Product in Depth
Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles
The Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Quick Lock Trekking Poles are the only poles in our ratings made from carbon fiber. This material is tough, but it's also remarkably light; each pole weighs just eight ounces. The difference between the weight of a carbon fiber pole and an aluminum pole may not seem like much – after all, it's just a few ounces – but when you've been walking all day, every ounce makes a difference. The grips are made of EVA foam, which attempts to combine the breathability of cork with the toughness of plastic and rubber.
To find the best hiking pole length for you, look for one that’s adjustable within 20 to 24 inches shorter than you are. So if you’re 6 feet tall, look for a pole that can be set between 48 and 52 inches in length.
Carbon fiber composite hiking poles tend to weigh a few ounces less than aluminum poles.
Many hiking pole designs contain wrist straps specific to the left or right hand. The padding on the grip lines up with the proper hand when you use the matching wrist strap.
Use rubber protectors on the tips of the hiking poles to protect the carbide or steel tips. They will last longer this way.
Q. How do I know which height is most comfortable for my hiking pole?
A. Before setting the pole length on an adjustable hiking pole, stand as you normally would with the pole tip on the ground. Leave your upper arm at your side, and bend your elbow at 90 degrees. The position of your hand should correspond to the position of the hand grip on the hiking pole. Next, set the length of the pole. You’ll want to set it so that you can hold the grip comfortably in this arm position.
Q. Is a special technique required for using hiking poles?
A. The pole in your right hand should strike the ground at the same time as your left foot. Other than that, you should try to walk as naturally as possible when using hiking poles. Don’t change your stride to accommodate the poles.
Q. How do I clean a hiking pole?
A. You should wipe down the surface of your hiking poles after each use. After a few uses, especially in rough conditions with a lot of dust or moisture, you’ll want to clean the joints with a damp rag. The poles should pull apart slightly to allow you to clean the joints. After this task is complete, dry the areas with a clean rag.
If you see rust stains on any of the clamps or locking mechanisms, spray WD40 on a rag and clean the areas. When not in use, store your hiking poles in a dry place. Follow any additional manufacturer’s instructions for keeping your hiking poles clean.
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At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.