Best Trekking Poles 2020 | Top 8 - Outdoors Magic

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Best Trekking Poles 2020 | Top 8

Find your perfect pair of walking or hiking poles with our in-depth group test and buyer’s guide

Today, the best trekking poles are a common sight in the hands of elite walkers, hikers, backpackers and ultra-runners. There are good reasons for this. There are recognised physical benefits to using poles. In fact, poles can take up to 40% of weight off your knees. They also help you to generate rhythm and momentum so you can move more quickly.

Poles can save your hips, ankles and feet by helping to absorb impacts; and they also aid balance on slippery and rocky terrain.

In addition, they can be used as a probe in thick undergrowth or when crossing rivers; they help to stabilise the weight of a heavy pack; and they can even be used instead of tent poles for solo backpacking tents.

It’s important to use trekking poles correctly, however. Conventional wisdom is that your elbow should form a right angle when you’re holding the poles. With your arm held in this position, measure the distance from your elbow to the floor so you know what length you need – though most poles are adjustable. This is important, as you may want to change their length. For example, many people shorten them on long uphill pulls and lengthen them for descents. You’ll soon get used to adjusting them like this, but look for a mechanism that you can operate easily. Poles with clear marks along the shaft will also help you set them to the desired position.

Trekking Poles: What To Look For

Heavy poles can cause fatigue, whether carried in your hands or stashed on your back. Fortunately, modern poles are getting lighter all the time thanks to the use of aluminium and even carbon fibre. A decent, lightweight pair of poles will weigh somewhere between 450 and 550 grams. Carbon fibre poles tend to be lighter and stiffer, but they can crack. They’re also more expensive. Aluminium poles are usually slightly heavier, but also cheaper and more durable.

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You won’t always be using your poles, so consider their packability. How do they fold down, and what is their packed length? Can you carry them easily on or in your hiking backpack? Manufacturers have developed various different systems for shortening poles. Some are telescopic, others fold into sections. These usually break down into two or three pieces, linked by an internal cord.

Look for a reliable and easy to use locking mechanism that is easy to adjust if needed. Some poles use a twist lock system, while others use a clamp or lever lock. The latter is the most common as it is generally easiest to use, more straightforward and longer lasting.

Other important design features to consider are the hand grips. Most are made from foam, cork or rubber. Look for ergonomic grips that feel comfortable in the hand, with a good strap or sling.

The round discs at the bottom of the pole are called baskets. They stop the pole from plugging in the ground, and are especially useful in snow. Almost all poles have interchangeable baskets, but often the larger snow baskets have to be bought separately.


The Best Trekking Poles Reviewed

With dozens of poles out there, what should you look for? This group test includes eight of the best trekking poles around, comparing features and performance. We’ve picked out an overall best buy and highlighted best value poles for those on a budget.

Note: Prices and weights are given per pair.

BEST BUY: Leki Micro Vario Carbon
Antishock Trekking Poles

The Micro Vario Carbon folds together on itself into a compact package. Photo: Chris Johnson

Price: £174.95
Weight: 504g

Leki make some of the best trekking poles in the business. They’ve been leaders in the market since 1970 and now make dedicated poles for all manner of outdoor sports, from skiing and trekking to trail running and Nordic walking.

The Micro Vario Carbon Antishock poles are laden with features. They fold in three sections, packing down to 40cm. The carbon upper and aluminium lower shafts easily snap into place, and then collapse down again with an easy click external locking device. The ‘Speed Lock 2’ height adjustment system is a simple but secure lever mechanism.

One unique feature is the ‘dynamic suspension system’. This is a rubberised ring near the tip of the pole that, according to Leki, absorbs up to 40% of impacts. And it does make a significant difference on hard rock.

The handle is hard foam with an extension further down the pole for quick hand adjustment. Together with the lightweight and breathable strap, it’s one of the most comfortable systems we’ve come across. It’s also one of the key differences between the men’s and women’s versions. The ‘Lady’ has a grip designed specifically for women and a shorter length difference of 100-120cm. It all adds up to make them the best trekking poles in our test.

Read our full review of the Leki Micro Vario Carbon trekking poles here


Komperdell Hikemaster Trekking Poles

Price: £80
Weight: 586g

Tough, fairly lightweight and with no fiddly bits, these durable aluminium poles from Austrian manufacturer Komperdell do exactly what you would expect from a walking pole.

The poles themselves extend between 105 and 140cm and they’re very easily adjustable using the lever locks. They break down simply into three sections to stow easily on the outside (or inside) of your pack.

There’s a comfortable hold as well thanks to the anatomically shaped grip which has a good bit of softness to it. All-in-all, we’d say the Hikemaster is the ideal combination of size and weight for long treks into the mountains.

Read our full review of the Komperdell Hikemaster trekking poles.


Leki Thermolite XL Vertical Trekking Poles

Price: £130
Weight: 484g

Another extremely lightweight option from Leki, the Thermolite XL Vertical trekking poles put very little strain on your arms in use, and are barely noticeable when packed away. The three-section design stows telescopically, giving a small packed length, while the SpeedLock 2 mini lever makes them quick and easy to adjust the height.

The grip, in particular, we found super comfortable thanks to the Ergonomic Aergon foam, which extends right down the pole for easy grip adjustment on steep ascents. Overall, they strike the perfect balance for almost all needs, and are one of the best trekking poles around.

Read our full review of the Leki Thermolite XL Vertical trekking poles.


Black Diamond Trail Pro Trekking Poles

Price: £100
Weight: 530g

These well-engineered poles from Black Diamond are made from lightweight and durable aluminium. They’re not as light as the carbon fibre poles on test here (though a lighter and more expensive carbon version is available). The two pole sections lock together with a ‘Double FlickLock Pro’ mechanism, which is easy to use, secure and reliable. A supplied Allen key is used to adjust the torsion of the FlickLock clamps. Similar locks on other poles can be tightened or loosed by hand, without the need for a tool – though once adjusted, the Black Diamond poles shouldn’t need changing very frequently.

To extend the poles, you pull the SmashLock until it clicks, then extend the top part and clamp it shut. To collapse them, you simply undo the FlickLock and push it all down in one go. Pretty satisfying, though you need to do it in the right order to prevent the two parts from coming apart.

The foam grip is comfortable all day long, with a strap that is padded on both sides. The carbide tip is hard-wearing, but there is no shock absorption (though again, a more expensive shock-absorption version is available). The tips can be swapped out for a soft rubber option, but you’ll need to buy those separately. The same applies if you want snow baskets, as the poles are supplied with only a single set of narrow trekking baskets.

Thanks to the two-section design, the poles have an impressive adjustment range of 35cm, though this means the collapsed length is a fairly unwieldy 65cm.


MSR DynaLock Ascent Carbon Backcountry Poles

Price: £130
Weight: 500g (Large)

MSR poles just keep getting better and better. These Ascent poles are designed for ‘snowshoers, mountaineers and splitboarders’ as well as trekkers, and are impressively light. They are made from carbon fibre, but with Kevlar reinforcements for added durability. They’re available in two sizes – the small can be adjusted between 100-120cm and the large from 120-140cm. Both sizes pack down very small (44.5cm Large; 36.2cm Small), with a hook-and-loop band that keeps all the sections together.

The three pole sections extend easily and can then be adjusted and locked in place. The tension of the lock can be adjusted by hand and is effortless to use. The long grip is made of hard foam that is comfortable and ergonomically shaped. The tips are solid carbide steel, though there is no shock absorption.

The poles come with two sizes of baskets, one for snow and a smaller one for regular hiking. They’re easy to screw on and off. This is an excellent pair of carbon poles that should be durable and long lasting. In fact, they’re one of the best trekking poles out there and proved a close contender for best buy – though they’re not the cheapest option.


Helinox Ridgeline LTL135 Trekking Poles

Price: £185
Weight: 470g

These poles are made from a super tough aluminium alloy – but for aluminium poles they are seriously light. They are made up of three sections linked with a nylon cord that fit together beautifully and extend easily in one motion. The adjustment clamp is made from tough plastic but doesn’t seem as solid as the Black Diamond and MSR poles on test here. That said, over our testing, nothing gave us cause for concern. Helinox recommends releasing tension for storage, which requires the use of a flathead screwdriver. To collapse the poles, just push two button locks to release the tension and then pull them apart. It takes seconds.

The hard foam grip feels comfortable, though the webbing straps only have padding on one side, and aren’t as soft as others on test. You’ll also need to make sure these poles are the right length for you, as the adjustment range is only 10cm (125-135cm). Still, when it comes to sorting the best trekking poles from the rest, these are near the top.

Craghoppers Twin Prolite Trekking Poles

Price: £65
Weight: 470g

These well-priced poles have an upper section that is made from carbon fibre and a lower section that is aluminium. It’s a good idea that makes them durable yet very lightweight.

Both sections of the poles need to be adjusted for length. They have an adjustment range of 100cm to 125cm – tall walkers may want to test them first to make sure that’s long enough. The poles are telescopic and pack down to 61cm – stowable on a pack, but not tiny.

The price difference is apparent in the locking mechanism, which is plastic, not the engineered metal of more expensive poles. That said, they work just fine, and with a little adjustment from the one-handed torsion screw, the poles locked firmly in place.

The handles are foam with a plastic top and webbing straps. All are comfortable enough. The tip is carbide steel with supplied rubber ferrules. You also get a pair of small trekking baskets as standard.

Overall, when it comes to value for money, the Prolites are among the best trekking poles. They are also impressively lightweight. They aren’t as perfectly engineered as more expensive poles, but there’s little reason to suggest they won’t prove to be reliable walking companions.


Vango Camino Trekking Poles

Price: £33
Weight: 560g

These Vango poles are the cheapest on the test and offer excellent value. The pole sections are made from a sturdy aluminium alloy. Other components, such as the clamps, are plastic. While these may not be as durable as more expensive metal parts, they felt robust enough. They are straightforward to adjust and the locking torsion can be changed without a tool. We did find that, if pulled too hard, the poles do come apart, as there’s only a plastic ring holding them together. This could be a potential weak point, although over a couple of months testing it was fine.

The pole is telescopic and packs down to 67cm, which is not very compact. This does give them a large adjustment range though – from 105 to 135cm. One feature unique to these poles is a built-in anti-shock system. The spring-loaded handles have a considerable bounce – push down, and they drop around 25cm. For low-level walking this may be very useful, though for trail running or mountaineering you’ll definitely need something more rigid for stability.

The poles have tungsten carbide steel tips with a set of rubber caps, plus a space for the trekking basket. The handle is comfortable, and the strap has a delicate micro-fleece lining. Overall, for the price, these are an excellent option for walkers on a budget looking for the best trekking poles under £35.


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