In hiking, as in life, a little support can go a long way. This is necessary to help you get through all the twists and turns, the ups and downs of the trail you’re in.
And that’s where trekking poles come into play.
Some hikers swear by them; others scoff at their very existence.
No matter what side of the great trekking pole debate you sit on, there’s no denying the fact that trekking poles have proven invaluable, not only to the old and injured, but to new and seasoned hikers as well.
Aside from providing support and stability on all types of terrain, trekking poles help hikers keep their balance on slippery paths or over rocks, maintain a consistent gait for a faster and more efficient pace, alleviate some of the wear and tear that hiking inflicts upon the joints and lower back, and even serve as a last-minute tent pole replacement or a camera mount if you’re in a jam.
The benefits that trekking poles offer are endless…but we bet you already know that! Now the question is: how do you know which hiking poles are right for you?
With the sheer amount of options on the market–from major brands all the way to innovative and up-and-coming outdoor gear companies–it can be downright confusing to find out which poles are right for you and your next adventure.
To help you make a more informed buying decision, we took it upon ourselves to take a look at the best trekking poles the market has to offer.
Choosing the Best Lightweight Trekking Poles
For this article, we looked at a wide range of ergonomic and lightweight trekking pole models on the market, dug through reviews and testimonials, and listened in on online trekking and hiking forums to get a pulse on what newbie and seasoned trekkers want before narrowing down our list to the top 6.
We then proceeded to put these poles to the test. We utilized multiple testers, hiked with the poles side-by-side, and examined each aspect of these poles to determine which ones are truly worth their salt.
Usability was our biggest consideration in this review. We know this concept can be quite vague, so for clarity purposes, we’d like to define usability as “the degree of ease with which products can be used efficiently and effectively, and in a manner that satisfies the user”.
It’s important to understand, though, that usability isn’t a single attribute of a product, but rather a combination of factors. Thus, in evaluating the best lightweight trekking poles for hiking and backpacking, we looked at a number of factors to decide overall usability. These include the following:
The weight of the trekking poles makes a huge difference in how usable they are, especially that thru-hiking and ultralight backpacking are becoming more common these days. With lightweight trekking poles, you can move much quicker and easier, which offers great benefits on long treks. Heavy poles, on the other hand, require more effort to move in and can tire your arms quickly.
While we believe that weight matters, one caveat buyers should be aware of is that decreasing the pole weight may also diminish the pole’s durability and versatility. It’s for this reason that in this review, we picked lightweight poles that not only pack on a good weight, but also offers immense durability. In this review, the lightest trekking poles we have came at 14.8 oz per pair, while the heaviest and burliest weighed 24 oz per pair.
Since you’ll likely be holding your trekking poles for hours (and even days) on end, you’ll want to choose one that offers a comfortable grip. The most common materials used in grips are cork, foam, and rubber.
Cork ranks high in comfort and durability because it’s moisture-resistant and molds to your hand over time. The catch? Cork is heavier than foam, and it’s most often used in top-of-the-line trekking pole models (translation: they don’t come cheap).
Foam grips, meanwhile, are the softest and also the lightest among the three. They also do a decent job at wicking moisture. The kicker is that foam usually breaks down quicker than cork or rubber!
Finally, rubber grips. They are often found on budget trekking poles. Although they’re not as comfortable as cork or foam, rubber grips are relatively inexpensive, durable, and perform well in cold weather activities. In hot weather, though, rubber grips can be a bane because they can get slippery with sweat and can also cause chafing after a while.
Aside from the grip material, some poles also come with extended foam grips below the main one. These extended grips come in handy for maintaining balance while climbing steep hills. Another piece that may add extra comfort to the grip is the material used in the wrist straps. Wrist straps come in an array of designs, from mere nylon to heavily padded straps.
Trekking poles are commonly made from aluminum, carbon fiber, or a combination of both. Aluminum trekking poles are generally cheaper than those made from carbon fiber. They are heavier but are also more durable as they are more likely to bend than break.
Carbon fiber, meanwhile, is often used in high-end trekking poles. They are much lighter and are known to dampen vibration; thus, helping to increase your comfort levels while on the trail. While carbon fiber poles perform well, they also have the tendency to snap when too much weight or force is applied. Ultralight hikers and backpackers or anyone who prefers the lightest gear possible often go for carbon trekking poles.
For this lineup, we picked a mix of aluminum and carbon fiber trekking poles to review.
Trekking poles come in three common build varieties: telescoping, folding, and fixed.
Telescoping trekking poles usually have two or three sections that expand and collapse from each joint, allowing trekkers to adjust the poles to suit their height as well as adapt to different terrains.
Two-section trekking poles have the strongest and most solid design, making them highly suitable for skiing and snowshoeing. But they are rarely lighter and aren’t as packable as three-section trekking poles. As such, no two-section trekking poles made our list; instead, we chose to test out three-section trekking poles since they are more compact but are still strong enough for most uses.
Folding trekking poles, also known as “Z-type” poles, are relatively new on the market. Pioneered and popularized by Black Diamond in their Z pole line, folding trekking poles are significantly lighter and more compact than other pole designs as they can fold to roughly 1/3 of their full length. The poles are composed of three sections, attached together by an internal shock cord. Although folding poles usually have thin shafts and aren’t nearly as solid and length adjustable compared to two- or three-section telescoping poles, they are favored by most hikers, climbers, and even trail runners because they cause the least amount of arm fatigue.
Fixed-length poles, meanwhile, are exactly what its name says–they cannot be adjusted. These type of poles typically weigh less than other pole designs because they operate with fewer parts. But they can also be difficult to store or transport, which is why fixed-length pole models didn’t make it to this list. Instead, you’ll find two Z-type poles and four telescoping poles in this review.
Packability is a key consideration in our review since we’re looking for the best lightweight trekking poles for hikers and backpackers. Folding or Z-style poles generally win in this category because they are easier to travel with and can be quickly squeezed into a duffel or even a day pack.
Up next is the locking mechanism. All trekking poles have locking systems to keep the poles in place once length has been adjusted. The two most common locking mechanisms are:
- Twist lock – As the name suggests, twist locks hold and secure the pole segments in place by simply twisting each section. This type of locking mechanism, however, has gone out of vogue since it tends to be less secure and is prone to malfunctioning.
- Lever lock – Also known as clamp lock, the lever lock style mechanism is far more durable, easier to use, and quicker to adjust compared to twist locks. Some trekking pole models, such as Z-pole types, also use a push-button locking mechanism in addition to the clamp lock to increase strength, ease of use, and durability.
The locking mechanism is important for us in this review because it also determines the adjustability of the pole–whether it’s easy to adjust on the fly, or if users can quickly fold it in their packs.
Almost all of the poles we reviewed in this article employed a lever lock system; only one pair of poles used the classic twist lock mechanism.
As with any piece of outdoor gear, durability is essential when looking for a pair of poles. Whether you’re simply going on a quick day hike or a thru-hike of the PCT, you’ll want a good pair that will not let you down throughout your outdoor adventure.
For trekking poles, the shaft material makes a difference in durability. Aluminum is usually the stronger and more reliable choice, but as we mentioned, it is also the heavier option; carbon fiber, on the other hand, has come a long way thanks to various advances in the technology. The good thing, though, is that some manufacturers are giving hikers the best of both worlds by offering a hybrid carbon and aluminum pole.
Finally, the price. This isn’t exactly a make-or-break factor for us, but we understand that it can be a consideration for some buyers. Hence, we include a variety of trekking poles in this list–from cheap pole sets to quality budget buys, and high-end products–and discuss the pros and cons of each.
Based on our review and testing and after considering the above factors, here are the best lightweight trekking poles in the market today:
Tac9er Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles
Weight (Pair): 14.8 oz
Shaft Material: Carbon Fiber and Aircraft-Grade Aluminum
Grip Material: EVA foam
Length: 115 – 135 cm
Collapsed Size: 36.8 cm
Locking Mechanism: Push-button and Lever
What we like:
- Lightest poles among the pack
- Sweat-absorbent EVA foam grips
- Easy to adjust
- Comes with extra rubber tips, along with 3 different baskets
- Collapsible design for easy storage
- Includes a convenient carry bag
- Backed by a 1-year no-questions-asked warranty
What we don’t like:
- No grip extensions
- Wrist straps are not padded
- Only suitable for trekkers 5’4” and up
We were impressed by the Ultralight Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles from Tac9er, an up-and-coming brand dedicated to providing premium, high-performance survival gear. As the new kid on the block, these trekking poles are a revelation! And we can’t wait to tell you why.
For starters, these poles are the lightest among the bunch! At only 7.4 ounces per pole (or 14.8 ounces for the pair), these poles from Tac9er can help you go the distance effortlessly with less weight.
We gotta say, the weight savings are evident, especially when on a long hiking trip. Our testers reported little to no arm fatigue with this pair. But aside from its weight, we were also pleasantly surprised by this newcomer’s durability and robustness. This is because the poles are made from the same high-quality materials used in the space program–carbon fiber and aircraft-grade aluminum.
Its ergonomic EVA foam handles are soft, sweat-absorbent, and contoured to the shape of the user’s hands, perfect for increasing endurance without the fatigue.
The only minor issue we see with this pair is its lack of foam grip extensions. The nylon wrist straps also aren’t padded, but they are really easy to adjust.
This model features a tri-fold design, with the sections linked together by a tough, plastic-coated cable. Our testers didn’t have difficulty setting the poles up as it’s pretty straightforward: you simply attach the three sections together and secure them in place by pulling the button at the top section. The height can then be adjusted using the lever lock located in the handle part.
With a collapsed length of 36.8 cm, these poles can quickly be stowed in your duffel or strapped to the side of your trekking pack. However, as with most folding poles, its excellent packability also means you’ll have to compromise a bit on the adjustability. The usable size range is from 115 cm to 135cm, making this pair unsuitable for hikers shorter than 5’4”. It’s not a significant disadvantage for our testers, though.
Another thing we absolutely love about this pair is that Tac9er was very generous with the extra accessories. This model comes loaded with rubber tips, three interchangeable baskets, and a convenient carry bag with thick stitching. And oh, did we mention that this pair is backed by a 1 year no-questions-asked warranty? Quite a steal, right?
For the overall quality and value you get with the Tac9er Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles, they are definitely our overall #1 pick. We love the simple and practical design and the fact that they only weigh in at 14.8 ounces–the lightest in the group–which makes them the perfect choice if you’re saving the last gram. This pair really impressed us because despite being ultralight and affordable, it didn’t skimp on durability nor on accessories. And so at this price and quality, we think it represents unbeatable value, giving the Leki Micro Vario Ti Cor-Tec Trekking Poles (which feature a similar construction) a run for its money!
Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork
Weight (Pair): 16.8 oz
Shaft Material: Carbon fiber
Grip Material: Cork plus EVA foam grip extension
Length: 63-130 cm
Collapsed Size: 63 cm
Locking Mechanism: Lever
What we like:
- Carbon fiber shaft is exceptionally durable
- Premium look and feel
- Comfortable cork grips
- Sturdy clamp locks
- Padded wrist straps
- Length is adjustable
- Comes with a pair of snow baskets
What we don’t like:
- Not the lightest option
- Not easily packable
- Clamps can be tough to lock
- Doesn’t come with free rubber tips
- High price point
Leading the lineup is the four-season Alpine Carbon Cork poles from Black Diamond. This pole tops nearly all editorial reviews we have read online–and we think we now know why.
Everything about the Alpine Carbon Cork screams of quality, from the grips through to the tips! It comes with cork handles that are soft enough for comfort but are not too spongy. One of our testers reported that despite having sweaty hands, he was still able to get a good grip due to the cork handles wicking away moisture easily.
The poles also include right- and left-hand specific straps, which are conveniently padded for extra comfort. For non-wrist strap wearers, you’d be glad to know that this pole features an ergonomic knob on the top of the grip for better palming during downhill portions of your trek.
Just below the cork handles are non-slip EVA foam grip extensions. This is a welcome addition for those who like to move their grip up and down the pole and is especially useful during endless uphill grinds when hiking at higher altitudes.
The Alpine Carbon Cork’s three-section telescopic carbon fiber shafts are easy to adjust thanks to Black Diamond’s dual FlickLock Pro system. These metal clamp locks are sturdy and secure, so much so that our testers often had a tough time flicking the locks open and close while on a hike. Our testers also appreciate the fact this model caters to hikers of different heights since the length can easily adjust from a minimum of 63 cm to a max of 130 cm.
At 16.8 ounces, this model isn’t exactly the lightest among the pack. But if you’re willing to deal with the extra couple of ounces, you’ll get a pair of poles that are noticeably tougher and more solid than the other carbon pole models on the market due to its slightly thicker carbon shaft diameter.
Perhaps the downside to this model is that it isn’t exactly packable compared to the other poles in this lineup. The price can also be quite intimidating for newbie hikers, but you get what you pay for. In this case, you get super durable poles, with comfortable grips and reliable shafts, plus secure locking mechanisms. It also comes with a pair of replaceable trekking and snow baskets.
Given its slightly steeper price, we think the poles should have come with rubber tips. Sharp carbide tips can be potentially damaging to rocks and fragile plants–and our backpacks, too!
All in all, the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork is an excellent choice for anyone looking for quality trekking poles given its outstanding comfort, durability, and overall usability. They have been a staple in the backpacking community for a long time, which speaks a lot about the quality of these poles. We can say for sure that these poles are a good pick when it comes to burly, all-weather terrain. But for lightweight, long-distance backpacking or thru-hiking, we believe that there are still other slightly lighter and more affordable options (that perform just as well) available, like the Tac9er poles.
Leki Micro Vario Ti COR-TEC Trekking Poles
Weight (Pair): 19 oz
Shaft Material: Aluminum
Grip Material: Aergon + Thermo Grip
Length: 110 – 130 cm
Collapsed Size: 36 cm
Locking Mechanism: Lever
What we like:
- Easy to set up and adjust
- Solid feel
- Comes with comfortable foam grip extensions
- Highly packable
- Locking system is easy to use
- Egg-shaped top section gives a good grip for palming
What we didn’t like:
- On the heavy side
- Cor-Tec grip which combines cork and rubber isn’t very comfortable
- Wrist straps not padded
- Padded tip covers not included
- No additional baskets
Leki is a German company that specialized in all things poles–trekking, cross-country, trail-running, Nordic, and ski. So, it’s no longer surprising why Leki Micro Vario Ti COR-TEC Trekking Poles look and feel premium!
This pair is a Z-style pole that features Leki’s Aergon CorTec grip, which is a combination of cork and rubber; a textured EVA foam padding just below the handle; and a bulbous egg-shaped top section great for palming.
While we appreciate both the EVA foam extensions and the top portion of the grip, we’re not big fans of Leki’s handle technology despite the rave reviews elsewhere, as we found them to be a bit too hard.
The wrist straps are also not padded, and adjusting them wasn’t exactly a breeze. You have to forcefully pull the strap upwards to release the strap locking–something which we had to discover on our own since there was no indication on the strap adjustment plastic locks. But again, these are minor inconveniences that obviously wouldn’t matter to non-wrist strap wearers.
The design and locking mechanism of the Micro Vario Ti COR-TEC poles from Leki are similar to the Tac9er poles–you can assemble and disassemble them at lightning speed thanks to the push-button release mechanism and lever lock. It also packs well, with a collapsed size of 36 cm.
But perhaps the biggest downside to this pair is its weight. At 19 ounces, these aluminum poles are definitely on the heavier side, especially for the Z-pole category. This could be the tradeoff to its aluminum construction and cork handles.
While our testers have determined that this pair holds up well to all kinds of beating, they also reported some arm fatigue after the hike due to the pole’s weight. Thus, this might not do well for backpackers looking to keep weight to a minimum.
These poles also do not offer a great deal of length adjustability. Plus, with its high price point, you’d expect the extras (such as rubber tips and different baskets) would come standard. Unfortunately, these are sold separately.
Overall, we think the Leki Micro Vario Ti COR-TEC Trekking Poles are a superb and well-designed pair, with an exceptionally solid feel and look! Ultimately, its high price, heavy aluminum design and additional weight, and the lack of extras kept us from making this set our overall pick. But if you want something that packs small, and don’t mind the extra weight and price, then these poles may be the ones for you.
Montem Ultra-strong Trekking Poles
Weight (Pair): 19.2 oz
Shaft Material: Aluminum
Grip Material: EVA Foam
Length: 60.9 – 135 cm
Collapsed Size: 60.9 cm
Locking Mechanism: Lever
What we like:
- Great price
- Top section of the grip is good for palming
- Comfortable EVA foam handles that look like cork
- Foam grip extensions
- Good adjustability
- Good for occasional use and moderate hikes
What we didn’t like:
- Not the lightest
- Pole is bulky
- Pole sections have no stopper
- Flip locks are plastic
- Locks can easily come loose
Up next is Montem’s Ultra-Strong Trekking Poles. It was a close fight between this and the Hiker Hunger Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles, but after considering a number of factors such as the price and ease of use, this pair from Montem eventually won out.
What we love most about the Montem Ultra-Strong Trekking Poles is its simplicity. This three-section telescoping pole is fairly practical and straightforward in its design, with its aluminum build, EVA foam handles, grip extension, and lever locks.
At first glance, you’d think that the handle is made of cork, but is actually EVA foam designed to mimic the look of cork. Though we think this can be slightly misleading, this isn’t exactly a deal breaker for us because EVA foam is an excellent material. In addition, our testers appreciate the textured foam grip extensions, useful for climbing steep terrain, as well as the padded wrist straps for comfort.
Just like the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork, adjusting the length of the Montem poles is easy thanks to its lever locks. However, Montem’s locking mechanism pales in comparison to Black Diamond’s FlickLock Pro. We found out that the flick locks, which are made of plastic and could be prone to breakage, need to be tightened a bit to keep the pole sections secure and keep them from rattling. However, we’re wary of tightening them too much as this could cause the locks to snap.
This pair is also easy to store and adjust with its minimum length of 60.9 cm to its maximum length of 135 cm.
But at 19.2 ounces, Montem Ultra-Strong Trekking Poles are no doubt on the heavy side. The aluminum construction significantly increases the pole’s weight, which might be an issue for ultralight hikers. And while common knowledge suggests that the heavier the pole, the more durable it is, this might not be the case for Montem. A number of reviews online mentioned the pole breaking easily. This, however, didn’t happen during our testing.
For an entry-level pole, and at only $49.99, the Montem Ultra-Strong Trekking Poles is a good option. While this pair didn’t really impress us and failed to tick off some of our requirements such as durability and weight, it is still suitable for light use and moderate hikes.
Hiker Hunger Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles
- Weight (Pair): 15.2 oz
- Type: Telescoping
- Shaft Material: Carbon Fiber
- Grip Material: Cork plus EVA Foam Grip extensions
- Length: 60.9 – 137 cm
- Collapsed Size: 60.9 cm
- Locking Mechanism: Lever
What we like:
- Comfortable cork handles
- Foam extension grips
- Well priced
- Comes with a number of attachments
What we didn’t like:
- Poles are prone to cracking
- Locking mechanism isn’t very reliable
- Not packable
Next, we have the Hiker Hunger Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles. This pair is similar to the Montem Ultra-Strong Trekking Poles in that they are relatively inexpensive and feature a three-section telescoping design, but that’s probably where the similarity ends.
For starters, these trekking poles from Hiker Hunger are lightweight, at only 15.2 ounces per pair, thanks to its carbon fiber construction. It also comes with cork handles and foam grip extensions for a premium look, similar to some of the more established brands in the industry. However, the nylon wrist straps that come with the poles don’t feel very comfortable.
Another model which we can compare the Hiker Hunger poles to is that of Tac9er’s. Both are in the same price point, are lightweight, and are made from the same pole material. The difference, however, is that this pair from Hiker Hunger feels more delicate than Tac9er’s. Despite its cork handles, Hiker Hunger poles feel a bit flimsy in hand. The thin nature of the carbon fiber weave used to construct the poles may give the pair a light-as-a-feather feel; however, it doesn’t inspire confidence in the users.
And while these poles offer a wide range of adjustability–from 60.9 cm to 137 cm–we’re not big fans of its locking mechanisms. The flick locks are made of plastic and don’t feel as strong and as reliable as the metal locks from brands like Black Diamond.
Nevertheless, the interchangeable tips that come with this pair is a nice bonus and add to its versatility.
All in all, these Hiker Hunger carbon fiber poles are a decent pick given its low price. But durability and longevity may not be these poles’ strongest suit. If you want lightweight, durable, and packable carbon fiber poles at the same price, you’d be better off with the Tac9er Trekking Poles.
BAFX Products Anti-Shock Trekking Poles
Weight (Pair): 24 oz
Shaft Material: Aluminum
Grip Material: Plastic Rubber
Length: 65 – 132
Collapsed Size: 65 cm
Locking Mechanism: Twist Lock
What we like:
- Very cheap
- Padded wrist straps
- Foam extensions
- Built-in springs
What we don’t like:
- Heavy poles
- Twist locks are unreliable
- Difficult to adjust poles
- Rubber grips are hard and uncomfortable
- Too basic
At 24 ounces, BAFX Products Anti-Shock poles cannot be categorized as lightweight poles. We already know this from the get-go; still, we included it in our list primarily because it’s the bestselling trekking poles on Amazon.
So what’s up with these poles? Well, they’re the cheapest in this lineup, priced only at $21.99 per pair. They’re also the most classic-looking pair with their rubber handles, twist locks, and burly aluminum shafts.
As for the performance, don’t expect much from these poles. While the aluminum shaft is quite solid and seems to hold up well to rough treatment, we’re not very confident with its twist locks as they are prone to slipping and are hard to adjust on the fly.
Perhaps the only consolation is that you get built-in springs to reduce vibration, as well as mud baskets and two sets of rubber tip covers.
Overall, the BAFX Products Anti-Shock trekking poles have more cons than pros. In other words, you truly get what you pay for. These poles are too basic and flimsy for most uses. While they might be a decent pair for occasional hikers, we think it’s worth spending a bit more on other budget options on this list such as the Montem Ultralight Trekking Poles.
Trying to determine the best lightweight trekking poles is not easy as there are so many on the market today, but we feel you can’t lose with the poles we highlighted in this review.
And based on our testing and observation and after weighing in on all the factors we mentioned above, we can say that Tac9er Ultra-light Trekking Poles stand out as our favorite value pick.
Don’t get us wrong–the high-end trekking poles on this list like the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles and the Leki Micro Vario Ti COR-TEC Trekking Poles did extremely well, but their price can be less than enticing!
The runners-up on this list are the Montem Ultra-Strong Trekking Poles, Hiker Hunger Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles, and the BAFX Products Anti-Shock poles. These three picks are decent poles, but didn’t impress us as much as the Tac9er, Black Diamond, and Leki poles did.
All things considered, the Tac9er Ultra-light Trekking Poles checked all the right boxes for us: they’re lightweight, durable, packable, easy to use, and available at a great price! For these reasons, and because they’re such a steal, we think the Tac9er Ultra-light Trekking Poles will work for everyone–from occasional hikers to die-hard backpackers.
We hope you enjoyed this trekking pole review and make sure you come back often for more valuable and informative outdoor product guides!