Looking at Hiking sticks - Im 6-3"  -  will be doing trails & uphill treks.    Never used them before .   Thinking telescopic - but are collapsable better.   Want light weight & very durable .   Something I can use for the next 10 years.   Are they all adjustable for height?     


@jmaunsell thanks so much for reaching out about trekking poles! We've had some really good conversations here in the community on this exact topic - you can find a few one of those conversations here.

In addition, we have some community members who know a lot about trekking poles - we'll tag them to weigh in too! @Minnie @Wanderer @mathineer @Philreedshikes @CajunHiker 

Also, here's a great resource in our Expert Advice on How to Choose Trekking Poles.

And finally, a few thoughts:

  • Telescopic are likely a better choice for what you're describing, as you can shorten them for the uphills and lengthen them for the downhills.
  • Shock absorption can be really helpful if you're covering a lot of miles and/or using them repetitively
  • And then there are some personal choices, like material used in the grip (cork, rubber, foam)

Hope this helps to get you started!

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Hi @jmaunsell ,

Telescopic have a long history and will do the job well. I'd consider collapsible (Z-folding) if weight or collapsed size are an issue. If you travel you may find that telescopic may not fit in medium or smaller sized luggage.

Carbon fiber is lighter but not as strong as aluminum. Metal tends to bend if stressed while carbon fiber tends to snap. I prefer carbon fiber collapsible (by Leki) because I travel. But I've broken one pole when I tripped and fell on it.

Pay some attention to grips and straps. Try a variety of styles to see what feels best. In my experience Black Diamond straps aren't durable whereas Leki are.

All telescopic poles are height adjustable. Most collapsible poles are height adjustable but some come only in fixed lengths (e.g. some BD.) I would avoid the fixed length ones. It's important to be able to slightly shorten poles when climbing uphill and slightly lengthen them when going downhill.

One more thought. I don't know how rational this is. I've never seen anyone else discuss it. But it's occurred to me that aluminum poles make good lightning rods. If you intend to do a lot of hiking in the mountains, especially above the tree line, I'd avoid them. [Added: I did a quick Google search. It seems carbon fiber is a conductor too. Hiking poles only act as lightning rods if you hold them above your head. Otherwise assume you are the lightning rod. So poles or no poles, if you find yourself in a lightning storm seek shelter immediately. If you're on or near a peak, get down ASAP.]


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@jmaunsell I'm 6'2" and am relatively new to hiking and backpacking.  I was very skeptical about trekking poles but all of the folks that I was watching on Youtube were using them and I saw (see) a lot of folks on trail using them, so I decided to give it a shot.  I bought a pair of z-fold carbon fiber poles and hit the trail and was sold by about 1 mile in.  I definitely second the notion earlier to make sure that they're adjustable, I've tinkered with the height on mine and it was much easier if they were shorter on ups and longer on downs.  Hope this helps.  Happy trails!

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@jmaunsell Generally best to get adjustable length with flick lock style latches rather than the twist kind which are more problematic to maintain.  You definable want then to be "collapsible" for transport.  (You have to check them on a plane)

There is a particular technique to using hiking poles that makes them more effective...so find a video.  Basically your hands comes up through the loop to lightly grip the handle over the loop so your weight is supported by the loop.  You may need to adjust the loop length accordingly. In normal use you do not grip the handle tightly.

Cork grips are generally considered more comfortable.  I have foam and they work ok.  Hard plastic is only ok if you wear gloves imo...generally these days I wear sun gloves when hiking because hiking poles put your hands in a very exposed position sun wise.

Buy quality because you are putting your weight on it and if it fails you could fall and injury yourself.

Adjustable is better because you generally want shorter poles going up hill and longer going down and you may want to have one longer than the other on a traverse... and they are more useful for other things like pitching trekking pole tents...However mostly...once I have the length I like I don't tend to change it much while hiking but just change my grip...poles that have additional grip down the shaft blow the "handle" are preferred for that reason.

I have shock absorbing poles but I don't think it is necessary and it adds weight and cost.  We carry rubber tips for sections of slick rock and paved road and also for transport.

10 years is a long time but Black Diamond have historically had replacement parts.   The carbide tips do wear out with use and BD tips are fairly easy to get and replace.  They have two styles...a screw in tip and a full replacement which has to be heated to remove.  I have replaced the latter myself.  I have also replace the lower pole section when it got bent which is not uncommon.

Personally I prefer aluminum over carbon fiber because aluminum bends and can often be recovered at least for the rest of the hike so long as it doesn't fold where carbon fiber will shatter if it breaks.

You can get fixed length Z folding poles but you need to know the correct length...generally from just above your elbow to the floor.   If it is just for walking and not backpacking,  Black Diamond make some very lightweight ones in this style.  I am skeptical if that the stretchy plastic thing that allows them to "Z" will last 10 years though.



If you are uncertain about using trekking poles, a cheap way to get started is to use any old broomstick, mop handle, etc. and try it for awhile.  A shovel handle actually works quite well; for uphill travel, grasp it low, for downhill, grasp it high.  Works well to probe the brush in snake country as well....

I prefer aluminum to carbon fiber...

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.