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Trekking Poles and Hiking Staffs

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How to Choose Trekking Poles

Trekking poles improve your stability by providing support for hiking on all types of terrain. Key considerations as you shop for trekking poles:

  • Length: A correctly sized pole puts your elbow at 90° when pole tips touch the ground.
  • Key features: Weight, adjustability, shock absorbers and locking mechanism.

Pole Length

Adjustable-length poles simplify finding the correct size:

  • If you're 6 feet or taller, go with a 51-inch or greater maximum length.
  • If you're shorter than 6 feet, any adjustable pole should work for you.
  • For fixed-length poles, consult the pole maker's sizing guidelines. 

Pole Features

  • Low weight: Lower swing weight makes poles easier (less fatiguing) to use - and more expensive.
  • Adjustable: Makes getting the right size simple, and allows you to shorten poles on uphills and to lengthen them on downhills; most poles adjust from about 24" to 55" long.
  • Fixed length: Fixed-length poles are less complex, saving both weight and cost.
  • Foldable: This type of fixed-length pole packs small, saves weight and is quick to deploy.
  • Shock-absorbing: Internal springs absorb shock, minimizing fatigue and wear and tear on joints. Most poles let you turn off shock absorption for uphill power.

Pole Locking Mechanisms

  • External lever lock: You open and close a curved clamp on each pole section to customize length.
  • Push-button lock: Allows you to collapse fixed-length poles down short for packing.
  • Twist lock: Requires a firm grip to operate; twist one way to tighten, the opposite to loosen.

Pole Shaft Materials

Most poles are aluminum (sturdy but slightly heavier) or a carbon fiber composite (ultralight rather than ultra-strong, and slightly higher priced).

Pole Grip Materials

  • Cork:  Absorbs sweat well, dampens vibration and conforms to your hand shape.
  • Foam:  Ultrasoft and absorbs sweat.
  • Rubber:  Insulates from the cold and absorbs vibration, though not as soft as other options.

Shop Hiking Poles at REI

We carry top hiking pole brands like Black Diamond, Komperdell and Leki. Find your perfect set of hiking poles today.