Best Trekking Poles for Backpacking in 2024

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 Pursuit FLZ (Most Durable Poles)
Leki Cressida FX Carbon (Best Women’s-Specific 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)
Diorite Gear Carbon Fiber Poles (Longest Poles)
Cascade Mountain Tech Aluminum Poles (Best Budget Trekking Poles)
Trekking Pole Features To  Look For
Why Use Poles
How To Adjust
How To Hold Your Poles Correctly

The Best Backpacking Trekking Poles of 2024

Black Diamond Pursuit FLZ Trekking Poles (Most Durable Poles)

best backpacking trekking poles

Best backpacking trekking poles: Black Diamond Pursuit FLZ

  • MSRP: $160
  • Weight (Pair): 17 oz (S/M) | 18 oz (M/L)
  • Materials Used: aluminum shafts, cork handles
  • Design: Z-folding, fixed length
  • Max Length: 110 – 125 cm (S/M) | 125 – 140 cm (M/L)

Why We Love These Poles

The Black Diamond Pursuit 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 as little as 41 centimeters / 16 inches for the smaller size. They’re still adjustable with one flick lock adjuster. The poles come in 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 — 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 them if you’re trying to go as lightweight as possible.

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Leki Cressida FX Carbon Trekking Poles (Best Women’s Poles)

best backpacking trekking poles

Best backpacking trekking poles: Leki Cressida FX Carbon

  • MSRP: $230
  • Weight (Pair): 17.2 oz
  • Materials Used: Carbon shafts, cork handles
  • Design: Z-folding with one flick lock adjuster
  • Max Length: 120 cm

Why We Love These Poles

These poles are comfortable, intuitive, and durable. They’re smaller than most unisex poles, having been designed with smaller people in mind, and the handles are smaller to accommodate smaller hands as well.

For men and larger people who love the features of the Cressida, you might want to check out the Makalu FX Carbon, the Cressida’s unisex counterpart. This pole has all the same features but is larger overall.


  • Ergonomic grip: The extended cork grips and rubberized grip head allow for a variety of grip styles, and the grip is designed to better fit a woman’s hand.
  • Packability: The z-folding design makes these poles easy to store either inside or outside your pack. They pack down to a scant 16 inches, making them one of the most compact poles on this list.

Nobody’s Perfect

Despite being compact, these poles are on the heavier side. They’re also quite expensive—the highest price tag on this list. Because they’re designed for women, they’re shorter than your average unisex pole and thus might be too short to set up certain trekking pole tents.

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.

READ NEXT – Leki Cressida FX Carbon Trekking Poles Review

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REI Flash Carbon Trekking Poles | Flash Carbon Compact Poles (Easy To Use)

Best backpacking trekking poles: REI Flash Carbon.

  • MSRP: $169
  • Weight (Pair): 12.9 oz (compact) | 13.6 oz (regular)
  • Materials Used: carbon shafts, foam handles
  • Design: telescoping with two flick locks
  • Max Length: 90 – 120 cm (compact) | 105 cm – 140 cm (regular)

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: The Compact Flash Carbon is shorter and may feel more comfortable for shorter hikers. The weight difference between the two sizes is negligible.

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 backpacking trekking poles

Best backpacking trekking poles: Zpacks Minimalist.

  • MSRP: $100
  • 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.
  • Can be bought as single pole or pair: Make sure you select the right option! Hikers who only use a single pole will appreciate the option to save money on a superfluous secondary pole.

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.

READ NEXT – Zpacks Minimalist Trekking Pole Review

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

Best backpacking trekking poles

Best backpacking trekking poles: Gossamer Gear LT5.

  • MSRP: $195
  • 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: 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 backpacking trekking poles

Best backpacking trekking poles: Black Diamond Distance Z.

  • MSRP: $140
  • Weight (Pair): 11.2 oz (100 cm) | 11.6 oz (110 cm) | 12.2 oz (120 cm) | 12.6 oz (130 cm)
  • 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. 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.
  • No telescoping sections to collapse on you: There’s nothing worse than trusting your weight to a trekking pole on uneven terrain and having one of the telescoping sections collapse on you. Happily, that risk doesn’t exist with these fixed-length poles.

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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Diorite Gear Telescopic Carbon Fiber Poles with EVA Foam (Extra-Long Poles)

Best backpacking trekking poles

Best backpacking trekking poles: Diorite Gear

  • 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.
  • Can be bought as singles or pairs: Like the Zpacks Minimalist above, you also have the option to buy just one Diorite pole if you need a replacement or prefer to hike with just one pole.

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.

READ NEXT – Diorite Gear Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles Review

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Cascade Mountain Tech Aluminum Quick Lock Trekking Poles (Best Budget Trekking Poles)

Best backpacking trekking poles: Cascade Mountain Tech Aluminum

  • MSRP: $30
  • Weight (Pair): 20.8 oz
  • Materials Used: Aluminum shaft, cork handle with extended EVA foam grip
  • Design: Telescoping with two external flick locks
  • Max Length: 137 cm

Why We Love These Poles

Not everyone wants to spend upwards of $200 on hiking sticks. At 21 ounces, these bad boys aren’t ultralight by any stretch, 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.

Carbon fiber edition: Cascade Mountain Tech also makes a popular carbon fiber pole —with fun colorways! — at 16.6 ounces for the pair. The MSRP is $65, but you can find them for slightly less on Amazon, and they often pop up at Costco for under $40.


  • Spare parts available: You can replace virtually every component of the pole individually, extending your poles’ lifespan and saving you even more money in the long term (not to mention keeping your poles away from the landfill for longer).
  • Adjustable nylon webbing straps: The straps can be tightened or loosened to adjust the fit and width.
  • Hybrid cork/EVA handle: Cork feels better in the hand, but it’s also heavier than EVA. CMT’s hybrid approach maximizes functionality while minimizing weight.

Nobody’s Perfect

Durability could be an issue with these poles, especially if you go with the carbon fiber version — we’ve read several accounts of them snapping at inopportune times. Still, plenty of other hikers have had them last a full thru-hike or longer, and it’s hard to argue with the price point.

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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 cushier, but they don’t wick moisture as well. In other words, if you tend to sweat a lot, foam handles become slippery and can even leave black marks on your hands. 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.

Telescoping vs. Z-Folding: 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 connected by an internal cord. They 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 breakable components.

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Why Poles Are Effective

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.

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How To Adjust Trekking Poles

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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Two Ways 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 among 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.

Our list of the best backpacking trekking poles was updated by our editorial staff on 26 February 2024. Thanks to the commenters for your input; Cascade Mountain Tech has been added to the list by popular request.

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Comments 12

  • 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.

  • darrell johnson : Mar 1st

    Could you include Pacerpoles in your 2024 survey, I have been hiking with them for over 27,000 thru hiking miles so far, and they truly have made all the difference, saved my wife and me on countless occasions, and kept the tent over our heads

  • Dan Mullins : Mar 8th

    Used CMT carbon fiber poles for 2 years/1100 miles and ended up switching back to their aluminum version. Their carbon fiber shafts are just too thin for use on trails with more technical terrain such as talus fields or creek beds where the tip may see a momentary lateral (bending) load. After snapping a few carbon poles in the Sierra and switching to their aluminum version, I have only good things to say about their reliability. The lever locks and handles are extremely well built and reliable. The carbide tip inserts don’t last for more than 600 miles and can’t be replaced which is my only gripe. If you are trekking on less demanding trails, CMT’s carbon fiber may work for you. Would not use the carbon fiber variant on something like the Pacific Crest Trail. CMT figured out how to make a great product with a very respectable price point.


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