If you want to save yourself from joint pain and maintain stability when hiking, then you need a hiking pole. Hiking poles offer a lot more benefits to their users than mere stability. They reduce your chance of falling, improve your body posture, keep your breathing calm, and enhance your blood circulation. There is no reason why someone wouldn’t want to use one.
Buying a hiking pole, however, can be tricky without prior research. They come in different types, with a number of features to be considered. To help you get the most suitable hiking pole for your hiking trip we have compiled a comprehensive buying guide for you.
What to Look for in a Hiking Pole
1. Types of Hiking Poles
To help you understand the differences in the types of hiking poles available on the market, we’ve described them in detail below.
● Trekking Poles
Trekking poles are pairs of hiking poles. They largely enhance your balance, which reduces the chances of falling off the trail. They offer length adjustability and are usually shock-absorbent.
● Hiking Staff
A hiking staff is a single hiking pole. It is preferred over flat terrain. It adds minimal weight on the back. It’s adjustable and may be shock-absorbent. Some of them have a built-in camera plate, which also makes them a monopod.
● Telescoping Hiking Poles
Telescoping poles are the oldest type. They come in two or three sections. Two sections make these poles more durable, which is suitable for rough handling. However, they take up more and are much heavier too. Poles with three sections are the most commonly used. They are lightweight and offer more adjustability. They are stronger than folding hiking poles, but not as strong as two-section ones.
● Folding Poles
Folding poles are similar to tent poles. They are light-weight, and can fold into more than three parts. Some of them come with a fixed height, featuring a flip-lock mechanism. They are quite durable but not as much as the telescopic poles.
2. Shaft Material
Most walking poles are made up of either aluminum or carbon-fiber. Carbon-fiber is lighter but less durable. It becomes weak when bent and is suitable for light-duty. However, it is less expensive than aluminum. Aluminum is a little pricier, but a lot more durable than carbon-fiber, which makes it suitable for tough users. With aluminum, you’ll have to compromise on its weight.
3. Grip Material
Some common grip materials are foam, cork, and rubber. Cork is most preferred for handles because it takes the shape of your hand with use. They are comfortable and keep your hands cool during warm conditions. However, they don’t absorb sweat and get slippery.
Foam makes the lightest hiking pole handles. It can absorb sweat better than other materials. They are comfortable, but not as much as cork grips.
Rubber is the best handle material for cold weather trips. It offers better insulation than foam or cork. However, rubber does not absorb sweat, and is quite heavy.
4. Basket Size
The basket of a hiking pole is the part of the pole that surrounds the point. It disperses the weight of the pole when hiking in snow or mud, allowing you to have a firm grip even in wet conditions.
There are different basket sizes based on the activities they are used for. Some hiking poles enable you to change your basket according to your plans, while others come with a fixed basket. If you plan to use the same pole over various terrains, then go with the one that offers adjustability. Larger baskets are recommended for snowboarding and mountaineering, but not for exploring the woods in the summer. Smaller baskets are suitable for dry and rocky trails.
5. Walking Pole Length
Some poles are adjustable in length, while others offer fixed poles in a variety of lengths. If you plan to go with an adjustable hiking pole, consider this height-length guide.
- A maximum length of 51 inches is suitable for people over 6 ft.
- For people under 6 ft., adjustable hiking poles can be reduced to suitable lengths.
Following is a general guideline for fixed hiking poles. You must also check the manufacturer’s size chart.
- For people less than 5 ft., a 39-inch long pole is quite suitable.
- For people up to 5.7 ft., a 43-inch long hiking pole works fine.
- For people between 5.8 and 5.11 ft., a pole length of 47-inches is appropriate.
- For people over 6 ft., a 51-inch long hiking pole is ideal.
Moreover, if you’re going hiking, then make your poles long enough that your forearms make a 90⁰ angle with your elbows when gripping them. If you plan to move up-hill, then your hiking poles should be 5-10 cm shorter than is normally required for your height. Only then they’ll prevent back and shoulder pain. When moving downhill, you’ll need a 5-10 cm longer hiking pole than you would normally have.
6. Locking Mechanism
The locking mechanism of the poles keep them from slipping, when in use. The lock enables you to extend the poles to their fullest length or collapse them for storing. There are four types of locking mechanisms.
● External Lock
This type of lock features a lever. It is quick and convenient to adjust.
● Push-Button Lock
This locking mechanism requires a single pull to lock the pole in place. To collapse back the pole, use the push button again.
● Twist Lock
The twist lock uses screws to lock or unlock the pole. It’s not as easy as other locking systems but is more durable.
● Combination Lock
Some poles feature a combination of one or two locking mechanisms. That’s mainly to achieve more durability, convenience and reduce weight.
There are times when you don’t need a hiking pole. Therefore, your hiking pole must be portable and compressible enough to fit in your backpack. Their minimized length should be about 26-27 inches.
Many poles are made less reactive and more shock-absorbent. They feature an internal spring system that absorbs shocks to enhance the stability of the hiker. This feature is more needed when moving down-hill. You can turn it off when moving up-hill. It’s highly recommended for hikers with unstable joints or previous injuries.
The Top Three Best Hiking Poles
No matter which hiking pole you buy, it’ll be most appropriate if you consider all the factors mentioned in our buying guide. However, to help you further, we’ve gathered a list of our top 3 favorite options in the market. You can peruse through their features and pick the best for yourself.
1. TheFitLife Nordic Hiking Poles Review
These poles are no longer available. We recommend the TrailBuddy poles at the link below as a good alternative.
These high-quality, aluminum-built, Nordic poles are super sturdy and durable. They feature an anti-shock mechanism that saves your shoulder and arms from any kind of shock when moving downhill. Their versatile product offers equal stability over various terrains. They come with an adjustable length option and can extend to any length between 65-135cm. This makes them suitable for users in most height ranges. They are also easy to pack due to their collapsibility and lightweight design.
The comfortable foam handles are quick at absorbing sweat, and thus, are protected from slipping. This maintains a firm grip and further enhances your balance. These hiking poles also come with a carrying case, and all the required rubber accessories, including a pair of large and small snow baskets, four rubber tips etc.
2. TREKOLOGY TREK-Z Tri-fold Hiking Poles Review
These three-section, telescopic hiking poles are quite portable and compact. They can collapse down to 38 cm, and can easily fit into your luggage or backpack. You’ll hardly notice their 270g weight on your back. Since these poles are also available in a variety of length ranges, you can choose the 100-120 cm option, if your height is 5.8 ft. or shorter, but if you are taller than that, then you should go with the 115-135 cm length range.
Moreover, these poles feature a metal flip locking system to keep the pole length in place on the trail. These locks are easy to use and more durable than plastic locks. The high-quality aluminum used in their construction is quite durable and resistant to corrosion. The EVA foam grip absorbs sweat and offers a comfortable and cool grip. This keeps your hold firm in almost all environments. These hiking poles are accompanied by a complete range of required accessories to make them usable over various terrains too.
Hiking poles are quite an important tool for your trip. You’ll find a great variety of them once you are in the market, be it online or offline. To choose the most suitable one, make sure to consider all the points highlighted in our buying guide. All the mentioned hiking poles are durable and convenient, yet unique in one way or the other.
If you are looking for something more durable, then the FitLife Nordic Hiking Poles are a good option. However, they cannot be used over longer treks. For a more durable locking system, you can try TREK-Z tri-fold hiking poles. Moreover, you could also choose any product with our buying guide as well.