Best Trekking Poles for Thru-Hiking in 2023

Have you ever been hunched over while climbing up a steep trail, with your hands looking for somewhere to rest? Inevitably, when I don’t have trekking poles, my hands end up on my lower back or chest straps. These are not particularly powerful positions and can make it more difficult to breathe properly. With poles, I can power up hills in an efficient position and take advantage of more stability and coordination on tricky descents.

A strong yet lightweight pair of trekking poles is often a high priority on a thru-hiker’s wish list. Not only do they help with hiking efficiency, but many ultralight shelters require poles to pitch. But where do you begin to choose? Though the products may all seem similar at first glance, slight differences in design make a huge difference.

Poles are a massive help when I’m trying to get up to a summit quickly before sunset.

Quick Navigation

Black Diamond Alpine FLZ (Most Durable Poles)
Leki Makalu FX Carbon AS (Best Carbon-Aluminum Blend Poles)
REI Flash Carbon (Best Easy-To-Use Poles)
Zpacks Minimalist (Best Value Poles)
Gossamer Gear LT5 (Lightest Poles)
Black Diamond Distance Z (Best Fixed-Length Poles)
Cnoc Diorite EVA (Longest Poles)
Black Diamond Trail Sport 2 (Best Budget Trekking Poles)
Trekking Pole Features To  Look For
How (And Why) To Use Poles
How to Hold Your Poles Correctly

The Best Thru-Hiking Trekking Poles of 2023

Black Diamond Alpine FLZ Trekking Poles (Most Durable Poles)

Best thru-hiking trekking poles

Best thru-hiking trekking poles: Black Diamond Alpine FLZ.

  • MSRP: $169.95
  • Weight (Pair): 18 oz / 19 oz
  • Materials Used: aluminum shafts, cork handles
  • Design: Z-folding with one flick-lock adjuster
  • Max Length: 105 cm – 125 cm / 120 cm – 140 cm

Why We Love These Poles

The Black Diamond FLZ aluminum poles are extremely durable and suitable for four-season adventures, yet they remain packable. With a z-folding design, these poles collapse down to 16 inches. They’re still adjustable with one flick lock adjuster, with two different sizes depending on your height. The cork handles wick moisture very well, and there’s an extended foam handle for grip adjustability.

For those who prefer telescoping poles, check out the Black Diamond Alpine Cork trekking poles are another durable four-season option.


  • Cork handles: Cork handles wick moisture extremely well and provide additional grip in wet / sweaty situations.
  • Z-folding design: These easily snap into place with a button that locks them into place, and then are stored by simply releasing that button.
  • Strong aluminum shafts: These poles are extremely durable and will stand up to thousands of miles of use.

Nobody’s Perfect

These poles are pricey and a bit heavier. They definitely have a place for hikers who use and abuse their gear, but I don’t recommend these if you’re trying to go as lightweight as possible.

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Leki Makalu FX Carbon AS Trekking Poles (Carbon and Aluminum Blend)

Best thru-hiking trekking poles: Leki Makalu.

  • MSRP: $229.95
  • Weight (Pair): 18.8 oz
  • Materials Used: carbon/aluminum shafts, foam handles
  • Design: Z-folding with one flick lock adjuster
  • Max Length: 110 cm – 130 cm

Why We Love These Poles

These poles are comfortable, intuitive, and durable. Leki uses a blend of carbon and aluminum to save weight while still keeping them on the lighter end. The handles are made with a comfortable foam composite and have an ergonomic shape to help with efficiency. Shock absorbers just below the handles protect you from jarring impacts.


  • Aluminum/carbon blend: The shafts on these poles have a blend of carbon and aluminum materials. This helps to save weight while still remaining durable.
  • Range of sizes: These poles come in three different size options, with 20 centimeters of adjustability.
  • Packability: The z-folding design makes these poles easy to store either inside or outside your pack.

Nobody’s Perfect

These poles are still on the heavier side. They’re also quite expensive—the highest price tag on this list. They’re a great option for hikers looking for durable and packable trekking poles, but they’re neither the lightest nor the most budget-friendly option.

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REI Flash Carbon Trekking Poles (Easy To Use)

Best thru-hiking trekking poles: REI Flash Carbon.

  • MSRP: $149.00
  • Weight (Pair): 12.9 / 13.6 oz
  • Materials Used: carbon shafts, foam handles
  • Design: telescoping with two flick locks
  • Max Length: 90 cm – 120 cm / 105 cm – 140 cm

Why We Love These Poles

The REI Flash Carbon poles are simple to use and comfortable to grip. They’re a strong, lightweight option ideal for thru-hikers. They weigh well under a pound yet are designed to hold up for thousands of miles. I’ve personally used these poles for a number of backpacking trips, day hikes, and trail runs. I love their ease of use.


  • Easy adjustments: The oversized flick lock adjustments are very simple, even with gloves or mittens on. The bottom section of the pole stays fixed at the maximum length while the top adjusts to the desired height.
  • Lightweight carbon shafts: These poles are very lightweight, thanks to their carbon design.
  • Two different size options: These are labeled as “men’s” or “women’s,” but they just have different ranges of sizes to adjust. If you’re a taller woman, you’ll likely want the men’s size.

Nobody’s Perfect

The foam handles on these poles are not very durable or moisture-wicking. Multiple reviewers have noted that the foam grip on top of the pole breaks off, and I actually experienced that myself. Durability is essential when selecting a product to use for thousands of miles.

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Zpacks Minimalist Trekking Pole (Best Value Poles) 

Best thru-hiking trekking poles

Best thru-hiking trekking poles: Zpacks Minimalist.

  • MSRP: $99.95
  • Weight (Pair): 10.2 oz
  • Materials Used: carbon shaft, foam handles
  • Design: telescoping with two twist locks
  • Max Length: 105 cm – 132 cm

Why We Love These Poles

These poles are super lightweight and have a wide range of adjustability. Zpacks saves weight with a simple twist lock design—which is also less prone to breaking or loosening than flick lock technology. Each pole also comes with rubber tip protectors and powder baskets.


  • Lightweight carbon shaft: At just over 10 ounces for the pair of poles, these are one of the lightest options available for thru-hikers and backpackers conscious of every gram.
  • Pack down very small: When fully packed down, their size is competitive with z-folding options.
  • Designed to pair with Zpacks tents: The pole is designed specifically to fit into the construction of all of the Zpacks plex tents, besides the Altaplex.

Nobody’s Perfect

I don’t love the twist lock adjustability. While it does save weight over flicks or clasps, it can be kind of a pain to adjust and takes a bit of getting used to.

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Gossamer Gear LT5 Three Piece Trekking Poles (Lightest Trekking Poles)

Best thru-hiking trekking poles

Best thru-hiking trekking poles: Gossamer Gear LT5.

  • MSRP: $194.99
  • Weight (Pair): 9.8 oz
  • Materials Used: carbon shaft, EVA foam handles
  • Design: telescoping with double twist locks
  • Max Length:  130 cm max length

Why We Love These Poles

Gossamer Gear is a thru-hiker fan favorite for ultralight, durable gear. Their LT5 trekking poles are the lightest poles included in this list, and their durability has been well noted amongst reviewers. (The Trek’s reviewer has put well over 3000 miles on his pair so far and says they’re still going strong. Read the full review here.) They also collapse down small enough to fit into almost any pack and pair perfectly with Gossamer Gear’s shelter setups.


  • Collapsable size: The fully collapsed size on these poles is even smaller than the Zpacks minimalist poles. This allows the pole to also work with ultralight backpacks or even a running vest for single-day adventures.
  • Pairs with GG shelters: If you’re eyeing one of Gossamer Gear’s popular ultralight shelters, these poles are designed to pair perfectly.
  • Extremely lightWeight (Pair): For the pair, these are the lightest poles included in this list.
  • Replaceable tips: Unlike many poles, the tips are modular and easily replaceable. This is a valuable feature since the tips often wear out well before the rest of the pole.

Nobody’s Perfect

Though these strike a wonderful balance of weight and durability, the LT5 poles are quite pricey. Also, the twisting lock mechanism takes a bit more time to deploy than flick- or z-folding poles.

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Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking Poles (Best Fixed Length Poles)

Best thru-hiking trekking poles

Best thru-hiking trekking poles: Black Diamond Distance Z.

  • MSRP: $129.95
  • Weight (Pair): 12 oz – 14 oz
  • Materials Used: aluminum shafts, extended foam handles
  • Design: Z-folding fixed-length poles
  • Max Length:  100 cm / 110 cm / 120 cm / 130 cm

Why We Love These Poles

Fixed-length poles absolutely have a time and place. Some hikers may only plan to use the added support for a specific type of terrain. Or, if you’re planning a relatively flat thru-hike, you might not need any adjustment. If this sounds like you, these poles are extremely durable and still very lightweight. Furthermore, they’re so easy to use that you don’t even have to break stride when pulling them off the side of your pack.


  • Extremely easy deployment: These poles deploy in about five seconds. All you have to do is snap the shaft into place by pulling on the top piece. This is extremely helpful for hikers who like to stay on the move, and store or use poles quickly, depending on the terrain.
  • Lightweight aluminum construction: The aluminum shafts are strong and durable. And, because there is no added weight for adjustable sizing, they’re still one of the lightest poles included in this list.
  • Extended foam handles: The foam handles extend below the typical grip area. This helps to increase the usability of these poles, even with the fixed length. Reaching your hands further down on the grip “shortens” the poles for steeper climbs.

Nobody’s Perfect

Obviously, lack of versatility is a huge downside for fixed-length poles. They’re really best used for either mostly flat terrain or if you only plan to use poles on the ascent or descent exclusively.

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Cnoc Diorite EVA Poles (Extra-Long Poles)

Best thru-hiking trekking poles: Cnoc Diorite.

  • MSRP: $180
  • Weight (Pair): 14.8 oz
  • Materials Used: Carbon fiber shaft, extended EVA foam handles
  • Design: Telescoping with double flick lock
  • Max Length: 158 cm

Why We Love These Poles

We love supporting small businesses, and the Diorites are made in the US by Portland-based Cnoc. Telescoping from a collapsed length of 71 centimeters all the way out to a whopping 157, these poles have the greatest functional length of any on this list, making them great for tall hikers or tall tents like the Zpacks Altaplex.

These poles are fully modular, so you can replace any individual section that breaks, as well as the carbide tips. Cnoc is also known for its great customer service.


  • EVA foam handle: EVA foam makes for a comfy handle that’s extra long to accommodate a variety of grip positions. Cnoc also makes a cork-handle pole.
  • Replaceable tips: Unlike many poles, the tips are modular and easily replaceable. This is a valuable feature since the tips often wear out well before the rest of the pole.
  • Adjustable polyester and microfiber straps: The straps are wide and plush with microfiber interiors for comfortable wear around the wrist. They’re also color-coded (yellow on the left and green on the right) so you don’t mix them up.

Nobody’s Perfect

The poles only collapse to 28 inches (71 centimeters) which is still fairly long for storing in your pack. They’re also one of the priciest poles on this list.

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Black Diamond Trail Sport 2 (Best Budget Trekking Poles)

Best thru-hiking trekking poles

Best thru-hiking trekking poles: Black Diamond Trail Sport 2.

  • MSRP: $60
  • Weight (Pair): 20.4 oz
  • Materials Used: Aluminum shaft, extended rubber handle
  • Design: Telescoping with one external flick lock
  • Max Length: 140 cm

Why We Love These Poles

Not everyone wants to spend upwards of $200 on hiking sticks. At 20 ounces, the Trail Sports aren’t ultralight, but they’re light and functional enough to make sense for backpacking—at a fraction of the cost of premium poles. They’re a great choice for beginners and budget-conscious thru-hikers alike.


  • Ventilation channels in handles: Ventilation channels help to create more airflow in the rubber handles. The handles are extra-long to accommodate a variety of grip positions.
  • Adjustable nylon webbing straps: The straps can be tightened or loosened to adjust the fit and width.

Nobody’s Perfect

With only one flick-lock adjustment, they only collapse to 32 inches—almost three feet tall. So they’re not the most packable. The rubber handle isn’t the most comfortable grip material compared to cork or foam and doesn’t do a great job managing palm sweat.

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Features to Look For in the Best Thru-Hiking Trekking Poles

Aluminum vs. carbon fiber shaft: Aluminum and carbon fiber are the two most common materials found in trekking poles. Aluminum poles are more durable and less sensitive to temperature changes but significantly heavier than carbon poles. Carbon poles are lighter but more brittle and generally more expensive.

Flick lock vs. twist lock adjustment: The two most common adjusting mechanisms are flick locks and twisting locks. Flick-lock poles use a little lever that will unlock the pole pieces so you can slide the sizing up or down. Twist locks require you to twist to the left to release the pole and twist it right to close it.

Flick locks are very convenient but tend to loosen over time and require tools to fix. On the other hand, twist locks are a bit more of a pain to adjust but are easier to repair in the field.

Foam vs. cork handles: The poles included in this article use either foam or cork handles. Foam handles are a bit more comfortable to the touch, but they don’t wick moisture as well. In other words, if you tend to sweat a lot foam handles become a bit slippery. Cork handles feel a bit rougher to the touch for some, but they do a much better job of wicking moisture.

Some poles also feature extended handles. This gives the hiker ability to adjust their grip depending on the terrain.

Packability: Lightweight trekking poles are typically designed one of two ways: telescoping and z-folding. Telescoping poles typically have higher ranges of adjustability. They use either twist or flick-lock technology to expand into different sizes. However, they don’t pack down quite as small as a z-folding pole.

Z-folding poles break into three different sections and pack small enough to fit even onto the side of a trail running vest. However, they typically have only one or zero points of size adjustability. Because of this, they won’t have as great of a range of size manipulation. The shafts of folding poles are thinner since the sections don’t need to slide into each other. This makes them lighter but also potentially less durable. On the other hand, they don’t need twist- or flick-lock mechanisms, which means fewer breakage-prone components.

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Why Poles are Effective and How to Use Them

You typically want trekking poles fixed at a length where your elbows are at 90 degrees

Trekking poles are extremely helpful for both the uphill and downhill. On the ups, the poles help propel your momentum forward and hike in a continuous rhythm. I find that when I don’t have poles, my hands make their way to my back on steep hills, and I cut off proper breathing.

On the downhills, your poles act as extra limbs to help navigate tricky terrain. They also reduce the impact on your knees and ankles by absorbing some of the downhill shock on your body while you cruise long descents. Additionally, they help you to navigate obstacles like stream crossing by providing extra stability.

To get the best use out of your trekking poles, you want them at a length where your elbows stay at 90 degrees. This is why most poles are adjustable: so they can become a bit longer on the descents and shorter on the ascents. I highly recommend adjustable poles. The only scenario where I think fixed-length poles make sense is if you’re only planning to use poles on either the ups or downs, not all the time.

While there are size charts depending on your weight, it’s best to measure yourself. If you’re shopping in person, you want to grab the pole upside down underneath the basket and adjust it to the length where your elbow is at 90 degrees. This will be the size of your poles on flat terrain. I recommend choosing a size with roughly five centimeters of adjustability in each direction from your flat ground size.

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How To Hold Trekking Poles

Some people prefer to hold the poles firmly by the handles. This grip is intuitive and allows you to slide your hands up and down the handles to adjust the length of the pole depending on the slope angle. Some manufacturers now make poles with extra-long handles for just this reason.

Meanwhile, other people prefer to grip the poles “ski style” by feeding their hands up through the bottom of the strap and holding the handle loosely so the top of the strap runs between their thumb and index finger. This allows the pole to swing more freely and allows the user to plant it firmly without having to keep a death grip on the handle.

To sum up: trekking poles are helpful for just about every uphill athlete. They’re wildly popular amongst backpackers because of their momentum and impact-absorbing benefits. Furthermore, most ultralight shelters require trekking poles to pitch. Whether weight, price, or packability is your main priority when selecting poles, there’s a great option here for every hiker.

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Aaaaaand one of my favorite trekking pole benefits is their compatibility with ultralight shelters.

Featured image: Graphic design by Chris Helm.

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Comments 10

  • teempade04 : Jan 28th

    this is really good post, thank you for sharing with us

    • Kenneth McDonald : Jan 30th

      Great article – but where are the Cascade Mnt Tech carbon fiber poles on your list?

  • Travis : Jan 30th

    Hard to take this article seriously when only name brands are considered. The CMT cork-handled carbon poles are <$60 and you can get aluminum ones for $30. I’ve used the CMT poles for 1500 trail miles and find it very difficult to imagine there’s $150 of extra value in the name brands. (My carbon/cork poles were $50 at time of purchase.)

    Over my travels, I’ve seen the CMT poles just as much (or more) as Leki and BD. In fact, I can purchase my exact carbon cork poles on Amazon for $53 and have cheaper/lighter poles than the “budget” option in the article.

    • Bunny : May 27th

      huge oversight imo not to include cascade mountain tech poles. hard to justify paying up for anything else.

  • Jeff : Feb 8th

    Great article, I duck tape 12 ounce lead sinkers to my poles when I am day walking but take them off for backpacking.

  • Stephen Marsh : Feb 13th

    So many of the pictures show handles that are not black. I had no idea foam handles now come in cork colors

  • Cheri : Mar 17th

    Disappointed to not see Cascade Tech and BD Ergo Cork. The Ergo sets this pole off from all the others. Pacer Poles would also have been one to look at.


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