Our Guide to Trekking Poles
Our mission is to get people outdoors. Since most people aren't enthusiasts who venture outside regularly, you can buy or rent trekking poles. Specifically, about our trekking poles rentals:
- We rent trekking poles that are higher end than those rented elsewhere, but still offer competitive pricing
- We offer a rent-to-buy program so you don't have to worry about losing money from renting
- Our self-service allows you to hire trekking poles whenever is convenient for you
Core function: Any kind of walking support is designed to give you more "touch points" with the ground, therefore improving balance & reducing stress on your body (i.e., your knees). Some people think they're too "fit" to need support, but remember that beyond just physical fitness, the terrain outdoors can be very different than in developed areas (e.g., more steep, uneven, or slippery with rain or snow), or you may need to do things you would never need to do otherwise, such as crossing a stream or river. Realistically, trekking poles are the only "valid" item for addressing this Core function. People may think they can just use a branch as a walking stick, but to be effective, branches have to be quite large, at least 1in (2.5cm) in diameter, and stripped fairly clean of twigs, bark, etc., to prevent splinters. These ideal branches are much more rare than you would think.
Do you really need it?
No, unless you need the support, as we just discussed. You can always try renting trekking poles and spending half your time using them and half without to see how the difference feels for you .
For more info, read our 'what you really need' protip
What we carry
|Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock (aluminum)||Black Diamond Trail Cork (aluminum)|
MSRP with tax
- We choose what we carry based on extensive research on what's the best value to our customers (e.g., price given performance & durability features) across all the top brands. We specifically do not carry every brand & model; for details on why we do/don't carry certain items in the following What To Use & How To Choose section
- Buy prices a grayed out box indicates we don't sell it (we may only rent trekking poles of this model)
- Rent prices are the starting prices; enter trip dates on our Catalog to get exact prices (based on total trip length, not per day!). We also don't charge sales tax, an automatic savings of almost 10%!
When you hire trekking poles online, you can select from available options or we'll pick out something for you. You can also write-in any preferences on the last page of checkout. This section describes the majority of our models & options, but sometimes we carry others.
What to use & how to choose
Sometimes it's easy to get lost in all the hype of something new (over-spending often happens on features). Our guide focuses on the fundamental factors you should always keep in mind (thus, this short list is similar across all items). Then only at the end do we have some questions to get you thinking about other minor features. Also take advantage of renting trekking poles to try out what works for you!
If you don't go very often, of course you're going to want to spend less money, but this often means real trade-offs in terms of the experience that you will have with the gear. Even if you do go often & are ready to invest in quality gear, having the upfront funds can be hard!
Now, it may seem like this price & quality trade-off is disappearing, because you can find a cheap version of almost anything for tens of dollars that still has good reviews (assuming the reviews are real). So you might be thinking: I'll just buy something cheap, and because the price is so low it doesn't matter if it's less featured or heavier or whatever compared to something higher end. When that breaks, I'll buy something cheap again, and so on. Just remember:
- Many reviews are written after only a trial use or first use: We've seen entire review videos of gear done at home, which is very different than actually being outdoors! And reviews after the first use don't tell you about durability at all
- You're headed outdoors to relax and enjoy life! Saving money only to have a trip ruined due to quality issues will feel terrible. Our program to rent trekking poles is designed to help you avoid this trade-off: you get to rent high end, quality trekking poles for around the same price as buying cheap ones (sometimes even for less!)
For this item specifically, the price vs. quality trade-off issues center around performance & durability.
- The poles weren't very durable: Adjustable poles especially have a lot of mechanical pieces that may break or get stuck, leaving you unable to adjust the pole length. Lower end poles may also use thinner aluminum which can bend more easily
If you're thru-hiking 20+ miles (32+km) per day, every advantage counts! In this case, size refers to compactness. You can carry more gear in the same size backpack if all of it is very compact, or for more weight savings, you can get a smaller size pack.
With poles there's an important material trade-off
- Carbon fiber is used when weight is important. But it shatters upon severe impact, becoming completly unusable
- Aluminum is used in most other cases. Upon severe impact, it may only bend, depending on the degree of the bend, it may still be usable
For many backpackers, the other major weight savings is that trekking poles can be used to set up an ultralight tarp tent. Another strategy to save weight (but also get less stability & balance benefits) is just to bring 1 pole! (This is often called a walking staff.) This basically is the same product: many trekking poles can be sold individually, at half the cost.
Set of 2
|Effect on other factors||Price||$70-200||$100-250|
|Rationale||Less technical material (aluminum)||More technical material (carbon fiber)|
|Price difference not so extreme high end regular poles have more features for more technical environments (e.g., alpine uses)|
Why we do/don't carry it= we rent
= we sell
Standard for most outdoor uses
|There may be issues with durability|
Here, we give you a list of questions to start thinking about other features. We hope our approach of savings these features for last gets you to more critically think about what you need & not get caught up in the hype of what's cool and over-spend your budget. Remember, we allow you to hire a trekking poles so feel free to try out various models with different features.
- What is the grip material? (Cork is the most moisture wicking & ergonomic; Foam is the softest; Rubber is the most insulating & best for winter)
- Do you want fixed length (doesn't collapse down) or adjustable length (does collapse down)?
- If adjustable length, what kind of collapsing mechanism? (Most people don't prefer twist mechanisms, and want a flip lock of some kind)
- Can you add powder baskets to convert these to snowshoe poles (or, in a tight pinch, skiing poles)?
- Does it have shock absorption technology?
The best length is one where, when your hand is at the grip, your elbow is at a 90-degree angle.
There are different ways of using poles, depending on what's comfortable for you. Some people alternate poles & legs (kind of like how your arms naturally swing), some don't. As well, if you're on steep terrain, you may want to plant both poles & use them together to either pull yourself up or brace yourself down.
Many modern trekking poles have individually replaceable components (e.g., parts of the shaft, the locking mechanisms, the tips, the baskets, etc.).
Be sure to store the trekking poles dry, this can mean taking it apart (if adjustable) to let the water run out of the insides.Otherwise the metal may corrode, leaving it less adjustable for your next trip.
We have a general protip on how to store & maintain gear that we highly recommend reviewing as well. If you send us video or a good photo series, we may be able to help you evaluate your repair needs.
The exact numbers (e.g., weights, dimensions, prices, etc.) used were updated as of September 2019 .