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How To Choose Hiking Poles


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Elberta Barham



Hiking poles are essential equipment for any outdoor enthusiast. Whether you are a seasoned hiker or a beginner, having the right hiking poles can greatly improve your overall hiking experience. These handy tools provide stability and support, reduce strain on your joints, and help you maintain balance on tricky terrain.


When it comes to choosing hiking poles, there are several factors to consider. The type of terrain you will be hiking on, your fitness level, personal preference, and budget all play a role in determining the right hiking poles for you.


In this article, we will explore the key factors to consider when choosing hiking poles, including adjustability, materials, grip options, shock absorption, weight, and price range. By understanding these factors, you will be able to make an informed decision and find hiking poles that best suit your needs.


So, whether you are planning a leisurely hike through a scenic trail or embarking on a challenging mountain trek, let’s dive into the world of hiking poles and discover how to choose the perfect pair for your outdoor adventures.


Importance of Hiking Poles

Hiking poles offer numerous benefits that can enhance your hiking experience in various ways. Here are some key reasons why hiking poles are worth considering:

  1. Increased stability: Hiking poles provide added stability, especially when traversing uneven or slippery terrain. They help distribute your weight more evenly, reducing the risk of slips, falls, and twisted ankles.
  2. Reduced joint strain: When you hike downhill, your knees and joints bear the brunt of the impact. Hiking poles can help absorb some of that impact, reducing strain on your knees and hips. This is especially beneficial for those with knee or joint issues.
  3. Better balance: Hiking poles help you maintain balance, especially on challenging or steep terrain. They act as an extra pair of legs, providing additional points of contact with the ground and minimizing the risk of losing your balance.
  4. Improved endurance: By utilizing your upper body muscles, hiking poles help distribute the workload between your upper and lower body. This can reduce fatigue and allow you to hike for longer periods without feeling as tired.
  5. Aid in crossing obstacles: Hiking poles can be invaluable when crossing streams, navigating rocky paths, or maneuvering around fallen logs. They provide stability and support, allowing you to confidently tackle obstacles along the trail.
  6. Enhanced posture: Hiking poles encourage a more upright posture, which helps align your spine and distributes weight evenly. This can prevent back, neck, and shoulder pain that can occur from slouching or carrying a heavy backpack.

Whether you are a casual hiker or a seasoned adventurer, hiking poles can significantly enhance your hiking experience by providing stability, reducing joint strain, improving endurance, and offering overall comfort and support. Now that we understand the importance of hiking poles, let’s delve into the key considerations when choosing the right pair for your needs.


Considerations Before Buying Hiking Poles

Before purchasing hiking poles, it’s important to take a few factors into consideration to ensure you choose the right pair for your specific needs. Let’s explore these considerations in detail:

  1. Terrain: The type of terrain you plan to hike on plays a crucial role in determining the type of hiking poles you need. For gentle trails, basic hiking poles will suffice. However, for challenging terrains such as rocky or snowy mountains, consider investing in more advanced poles with additional features for better stability and durability.
  2. Usage: Determine whether you will be using your hiking poles for day hikes, multi-day treks, or specific activities like backpacking or mountaineering. Different activities may require specific pole features such as adjustable lengths or shock absorption capabilities.
  3. Weight: The weight of the hiking poles should be taken into account, especially if you are conscious about carrying extra weight. Lightweight poles are ideal for long-distance hikes and activities that require agility.
  4. Grip and Strap Options: Consider the type of grip and strap options available. Look for ergonomic grips that provide comfort and minimize hand fatigue. Adjustable straps should be breathable and adjustable to ensure a secure and comfortable fit.
  5. Shock Absorption: If you plan to hike on rugged terrains that involve descents or on trails with a lot of impact, consider poles with shock absorption features. These features will lessen the strain on your joints and provide a more comfortable hiking experience.
  6. Adjustability and Length: Adjustable hiking poles allow you to customize the length according to your height and the terrain you are trekking on. Telescopic poles with easy-to-use locking mechanisms are a popular choice as they offer versatility and can be easily packed away when not in use.
  7. Material and Durability: Consider the material the hiking poles are made from. Aluminum poles are lightweight and more affordable, making them suitable for most hikers. Carbon fiber poles offer increased durability but come with a higher price tag. Choose a material that matches your hiking needs and budget.
  8. Budget: Set a budget for your hiking poles. Prices can vary depending on the features and materials used. Determine the features that are most important to you and find a balance between quality and affordability.

By considering these factors, you can narrow down your options and find the hiking poles that best suit your needs. In the next sections, we will explore different types of hiking poles, their features, and the importance of adjustability, materials, grip options, shock absorption, weight, and price range.


Types of Hiking Poles

When it comes to hiking poles, there are generally two types to choose from: trekking poles and hiking staffs. Let’s take a closer look at each type:

  1. Trekking poles: Trekking poles are the most common and versatile type of hiking poles. They typically consist of two or three telescoping sections that can be adjusted to different lengths. Trekking poles often come with ergonomic grips for better handling and adjustable straps for added support. These poles are suitable for a wide range of terrains and hiking styles, from gentle trails to more challenging mountain treks.
  2. Hiking staffs: Hiking staffs, also known as walking staffs, are single hiking poles that resemble a traditional walking stick. They are often made of a single piece of material and are favored by hikers who prefer a simpler design. Hiking staffs are ideal for those who need minimal support or prefer using only one pole during their hikes. They are particularly useful for providing stability on flat or uneven terrain.

Both trekking poles and hiking staffs have their advantages and disadvantages, so it ultimately comes down to personal preference and hiking style. If you prefer the versatility of having two poles for better stability and balance, trekking poles are the way to go. On the other hand, if you prefer a single pole for a more minimalistic approach or need support primarily on flat terrain, a hiking staff may be a better choice.


Regardless of the type you choose, make sure to consider the other factors we discussed earlier, such as adjustability, materials, grip options, shock absorption, weight, and price range. Now let’s move on to discussing the importance of adjustability and length when selecting hiking poles.


Adjustability and Length

When choosing hiking poles, one crucial factor to consider is the adjustability and length of the poles. Adjustable hiking poles offer the flexibility to customize the length to suit your height, trekking terrain, and personal preference. Here are a few key points to keep in mind:

  • Terrain and Incline: Adjustable poles are especially beneficial when hiking on varied terrain. For uphill sections, you can shorten the poles to provide better power and leverage. Conversely, when descending, lengthening the poles helps maintain balance and stability.
  • Height Compatibility: Hiking poles come in various lengths, and it’s important to select the right length based on your height. Most poles offer adjustable length ranges to accommodate people of different heights. Before purchasing, check the manufacturer’s specifications to ensure the poles will be suitable for your height.
  • Packing and Transportation: Adjustable poles can be collapsed into a compact size, making them easier to pack and transport. Telescopic poles with a secure locking mechanism allow you to quickly adjust their length and conveniently store them in your backpack when not in use.
  • Shared Use: If you are planning to share your hiking poles with family members, friends, or hiking partners, adjustable poles are ideal. You can quickly and easily adjust the length to accommodate different individuals, ensuring everyone has a comfortable and personalized hiking experience.

In general, the recommended way to determine the correct length of your hiking poles is to set them to a position where your forearm is parallel to the ground when holding the grip. However, personal comfort and preference also play a role. Some hikers may prefer slightly longer or shorter poles based on their specific needs and terrain.


By choosing adjustable hiking poles and setting the length correctly, you can optimize your hiking experience by maintaining balance, reducing strain on your joints, and maximizing efficiency on different types of trails. Next, we will discuss the importance of materials and durability when selecting hiking poles.


Materials and Durability

The materials used in the construction of hiking poles play a significant role in their durability, weight, and overall performance. Understanding the different materials available will help you make an informed decision when selecting hiking poles. Here are the most common materials used in manufacturing hiking poles:

  • Aluminum: Aluminum is a popular choice for hiking poles due to its lightweight nature and durability. Aluminum poles provide excellent strength-to-weight ratio, making them suitable for most hikers. They are generally more affordable compared to other materials, making them a practical option for those on a budget.
  • Carbon Fiber: Carbon fiber poles are known for their exceptional strength and lightness. They offer significant weight reduction without compromising on durability. Carbon fiber poles are favored by experienced hikers and those seeking high-performance gear. However, it’s worth noting that carbon fiber poles tend to be more expensive than aluminum poles.
  • Composite Materials: Some hiking poles are made from a combination of materials, such as carbon fiber and aluminum, to offer a balance between strength, weight, and cost. These composite poles provide a good compromise, ensuring durability while still being relatively lightweight.

When choosing hiking poles, consider the type of terrain you will be hiking on and your personal preference for weight and durability. If you frequently hike on rugged or challenging terrain, you may want to opt for sturdier poles made from aluminum or composite materials. If weight is a primary concern or you engage in fast-paced activities, such as trail running, carbon fiber poles may be a better choice.


In addition to materials, pay attention to other durability-related features such as the quality of the locking mechanisms used for adjustable poles. Look for poles with reliable locking systems to ensure they stay securely in place while you hike.


Overall, selecting hiking poles made from durable materials ensures they can withstand the rigors of your hiking adventures and provide long-lasting performance. Now let’s move on to discussing the importance of grip options and strap features when choosing hiking poles.


Grip and Strap Options

The grip and strap options of hiking poles are essential for comfort, control, and preventing fatigue during your hikes. The right grip and strap features can make a significant difference in your overall hiking experience. Here are the key considerations to keep in mind:

  • Grip Designs: Hiking poles typically feature various grip designs, such as cork, foam, or rubber. Each grip material has its pros and cons, so it’s essential to choose one that suits your preferences and hiking conditions. Cork grips offer excellent sweat absorption and are comfortable to hold, while foam grips provide cushioning and insulation, making them ideal for cold weather hiking. Rubber grips offer good traction and durability.
  • Ergonomic Features: Look for hiking poles with ergonomic grip shapes that fit naturally in your hand. The grip should be slightly contoured to prevent your hand from slipping and provide a comfortable grip for long hikes. Some grips feature extended foam sections, which allow you to change hand positions on steep ascents or descents.
  • Strap Designs: Adjustable straps are an important feature of hiking poles as they provide additional support and help alleviate hand fatigue. Look for straps that are adjustable, padded, and moisture-wicking. The straps should be comfortable and allow for easy hand movement without restricting circulation.
  • Hand Positioning: Consider how the grip and strap work together to promote proper hand positioning. The strap should allow you to relax your grip while still maintaining control of the pole. This helps to minimize hand and wrist fatigue, especially during long hikes.

Choosing the right grip and strap options is crucial to ensure a comfortable and secure hold on your hiking poles. It’s a personal preference, so try out different grip materials and strap designs to see which ones feel the most natural and comfortable to you.


The grip and strap options you select can have a significant impact on your overall hiking experience, providing you with better control, reduced fatigue, and added confidence on the trail. In the next section, we will discuss the importance of shock absorption and anti-shock features in hiking poles.


Shock Absorption and Anti-Shock Features

Shock absorption is a crucial consideration when choosing hiking poles, especially if you plan to hike on rugged or rocky terrains. Hiking poles with shock absorption capabilities help reduce the impact on your joints and muscles, providing a more comfortable hiking experience. Here’s why shock absorption is important and what to look for:

  • Reduced Joint Impact: The shock absorption feature in hiking poles helps absorb the impact of each step, particularly when going downhill or hiking on hard surfaces. This reduces the stress and strain on your knees, ankles, and hips, minimizing the risk of overuse injuries.
  • Increased Comfort: Hiking poles with shock absorption help to smooth out the bumps and vibrations as you walk, offering a more comfortable trek. This is especially beneficial during long hikes or when carrying heavy backpacks.
  • Improved Stability: The shock absorption feature improves the stability of your hiking poles by reducing the rebound effect. Instead of the pole bouncing back forcefully, the shock absorption system helps dampen the impact, providing better control and stability on uneven or rough terrains.
  • Adjustable Shock Absorption: Some hiking poles offer adjustable shock absorption systems, allowing you to customize the level of cushioning depending on your personal preference and hiking conditions. This versatility ensures that you can adapt the shock absorption feature to suit the terrain and your comfort needs.
  • Anti-Shock Features: In addition to shock absorption, some hiking poles also incorporate anti-shock features. These features include internal springs or elastomers that further reduce vibration and impact. Anti-shock technology can be particularly beneficial for hikers with sensitive joints or those who frequently encounter rough terrains.

When selecting hiking poles with shock absorption and anti-shock features, it’s important to consider the overall build quality, reliability, and adjustability of the system. Look for hiking poles with well-designed shock absorption mechanisms that can withstand repeated use and provide consistent cushioning on the trail.


By choosing hiking poles with shock absorption and anti-shock features, you can minimize the strain on your body and enjoy a more comfortable and stable hiking experience. Next, we will discuss the importance of weight and portability when selecting hiking poles.


Weight and Portability

The weight and portability of hiking poles are important considerations for hikers who are mindful of carrying excess weight or need gear that can be easily transported. Here’s why weight and portability matter when choosing hiking poles:

  • Reduced Fatigue: Lightweight hiking poles can significantly reduce fatigue during long hikes. Carrying lighter poles means less weight on your arms, allowing you to conserve energy and hike for longer distances.
  • Increased Agility: Lighter poles offer increased agility and maneuverability on the trail, making it easier to navigate through challenging terrains or quickly change your hiking pace. This is particularly advantageous for those engaging in fast-paced activities like trail running.
  • Ease of Transportation: Portable hiking poles are essential for travelers or backpackers who need gear that can be easily packed and transported. Telescopic poles with a collapsible design are particularly convenient as they can be adjusted to a compact size and fit snugly inside a backpack or luggage.
  • Flight-Friendly: If you plan to bring your hiking poles on a plane, be aware of airline regulations regarding carry-on or checked baggage. Lightweight and portable hiking poles are more likely to be compliant with size and weight restrictions, allowing for hassle-free travel.
  • Durable Materials: When considering weight, it’s important to find a balance between lightweight design and durability. Opt for hiking poles made from strong yet lightweight materials like aluminum or carbon fiber to ensure they can withstand the rigors of the trail without being overly heavy.

When choosing hiking poles, consider your hiking style, the duration of your hikes, and your personal preferences for weight and portability. For long-distance backpacking or multi-day treks, prioritizing lightweight and compact poles can significantly enhance your outdoor experience.


Remember, while it’s important to prioritize weight and portability, it shouldn’t come at the expense of sacrificing other essential features like durability and performance. Finding the right balance between these factors will ensure that your hiking poles are both lightweight and reliable.


Now that we’ve discussed the importance of weight and portability, let’s move on to the final section where we will cover the price range and tips for budgeting when purchasing hiking poles.


Price Range and Budgeting

When it comes to buying hiking poles, the price range can vary depending on factors such as brand, materials used, additional features, and overall build quality. Setting a budget and understanding your needs are important steps in finding the right hiking poles while staying within your financial means. Here are some tips for budgeting and navigating the price range:

  • Assess Your Hiking Frequency and Needs: Consider how often you will be using the hiking poles and the type of terrain you will be hiking on. If you plan to hike regularly or tackle more challenging trails, investing in higher-quality poles may be worth the extra cost. However, if you are a casual hiker or just starting out, there are plenty of affordable options available that will meet your needs.
  • Quality vs. Price: While it’s tempting to opt for the cheapest option, keep in mind that the durability and performance of hiking poles can vary significantly based on price. Cheaper poles may not withstand heavy use or offer the same level of comfort and features as more expensive ones. Assess the build quality and read reviews to ensure you’re getting a reliable product that matches your budget.
  • Consider Trade-Offs: Determine which features are most important to you and be willing to make trade-offs if necessary. You may find that sacrificing some extra features can help you stay within your budget while still obtaining a pair of hiking poles that meet your basic needs.
  • Look for Sales and Deals: Keep an eye out for sales, discounts, or off-season deals when purchasing hiking poles. Many outdoor retailers offer promotions throughout the year, allowing you to snag a quality pair of hiking poles at a more affordable price.
  • Warranty and Customer Support: Consider the warranty and customer support provided by the manufacturer. Investing in hiking poles that come with a warranty can offer peace of mind and ensure that you are protected in case of any manufacturing defects or issues.

Remember, your hiking poles are an investment in your outdoor adventures. While it’s important to stay within your budget, it’s equally crucial to choose poles that provide reliable performance and durability. Balancing quality, features, and price will help you find the best value for your money.


With a little research and consideration, you can find hiking poles that fit your budget while meeting your specific needs and requirements. Now that we’ve covered the various factors to consider when buying hiking poles, let’s conclude our discussion.



Choosing the right hiking poles is an important decision that can greatly enhance your outdoor adventures. By considering factors such as adjustability, materials, grip options, shock absorption, weight, and price range, you can find the perfect hiking poles that suit your specific needs and preferences.


Hiking poles provide numerous benefits, including increased stability, reduced joint strain, improved balance, and enhanced endurance. They help you navigate challenging terrains, tackle obstacles, and maintain good posture while hiking.


When selecting hiking poles, it’s essential to evaluate the type of terrain you will be hiking on, your intended usage, and your personal preferences. Adjustable poles offer versatility and adaptability, allowing you to customize the length based on the incline and your height. Materials like aluminum and carbon fiber strike a balance between weight and durability, while different grip and strap options cater to comfort and control.


Consider your budget and prioritize features that are essential to your hiking style. While there are affordable options available, remember that investing in higher-quality hiking poles often means better performance and durability in the long run. Look for sales and deals, and take advantage of warranties and customer support offered by manufacturers.


In conclusion, hiking poles are invaluable tools that enhance stability, reduce strain, and provide support during your hiking journeys. By selecting the right hiking poles that align with your needs and preferences, you can confidently embark on your hikes, fully equipped for a comfortable and enjoyable outdoor experience.