Trekking Poles

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    Ryan C
    BPL Member


    Locale: United States

    Trekking poles. Pretty basic but I have no experience with them and am pretty overwhelmed with what is available out there. They would be used for two purposes: to help me hobble along especially when my bad knee acts up, and secondly to function as a shelter support.

    What I am looking for is a good all around pair that are a decent balance between lightweight and ruggedness. I am really trying to get gear that will serve me well for all types of activity rather than having one for this and another for that. I would be using the poles everywhere from the Appalachians to the Rockies, from the depths of the Grand Canyon to mountainous tundra of Alaska (coming up this summer!), to a possible thru-hike in the near future.

    I have considered Gossamer Gear LT4s but get the impression that they may not be rugged enough for my intended use and possibly a little fragile.

    Is antishock worth the extra expense?

    Do speedlocks work better over time compared to twist locks, such as slippage?

    Any titanium models out there anyone would recommend?

    EDIT: They need to be retractable and very compact for travel use as well.

    Ken K


    Locale: St. Louis

    If you've never used them, you dont know if you'll like them. Some people can't live without them. Some people hate them altogether. Start with a cheap set like the $19 pair from Walmart. You'll be carrying an extra pound, but a weekend or two with those will tell you if it's worth springing for a good set.

    josh wagner


    he is very wise. best advise you'll get concerning this topic

    Matthew Zion


    Locale: Boulder, CO

    Antishock is a BS marketing ploy.

    The twist lock on poles is a huge hassle. Works 60% of the time (everytime).

    Carbon fiber isn't fragile, just brittle. As in the GG poles.

    That said, I don't use them anymore. But I'd definitely +1 on getting some Wal-mart ones or hit up a ski resort and get some bent up old poles and try them out before you commit. You may or may not love them.

    Dale Wambaugh
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    They may well help keep your knee from getting sore in the first place.

    True titanium ones are rare. Beware "titanium" in the model name– it may mean nothing.

    Flick locks are the only way to go. They can be easily adjusted with a Swiss Army knife. Anti-shock is a gimmick, IMHO. Getting truly UL poles you can travel with may be a challenge. Production poles (as in not SUL) only vary 4 ounces or so per pair.

    Cheap poles are like anything else cheap: usually regretted. I started with a pair of $5 ski poles from a garage sale and found that I liked the idea a lot. Rough trails and stream crossings are much easier. You can use your upper body to help climb up big steps and going down hill will be much easier on your knees.

    Check out the REI Travese Powerlock poles. Not UL, but strong, with flick locks— and you can return them.

    They have some Leki's in the outlet for $10 less:

    John S.
    BPL Member


    At Walmart, get Outdoor Products poles with latch locks costing 13 bucks apiece in green or orange. Best value out there. The baskets/tips may wear out early, but can be replaced at



    I think the advice of the inexpensive poles to experiment with is an excellent one. I'd also suggest doing a hike others and asking several people on the hike if you could try them for a few minutes. I've always let people use mine when asked.

    I played around with adjustables but found I never adjusted them. I ended up buying the fixed-length GG LT3s and love them. They are stronger than an adjustable pole of the same weight. They are not fragile and have supported my full weight several times when I slipped and the poles saved bacon.

    Also bought them longer than recommended and it works out great for me. "Stick and kick" on the flat trails like I do when I cross-country skate.

    Ryan C
    BPL Member


    Locale: United States

    Thanks for the input thus far. After a bad experience on my most recent trip, I was made to realize they will be necessary if I want to backpack any significant distance over rough terrain, even the heavy pack guys who never use them I went with think I'll be safer and less prone to injury. I sure wish I had them on the last 10 miles.

    I looked at those Walmart poles a few days ago, for $20 they are ok but I'd rather put the cash to a real set. I live in the middle of nowhere in the flat midwest and am not able to get out and test some things as much as I would like. No one I hike with uses poles either so I can't just borrow some.

    About the GG LT4 poles, when are they most prone to fail?

    I am leaning towards a pair of Leki poles at this point.

    Joshua Gray
    BPL Member


    In all honesty, if you aren't going to settle for the walmart sticks, I would just shoot for some GG LT4 or titanium goat sticks. Leki's aren't really that much better than the walmart ones, and that comes from an owner of Leki poles.

    Roger Caffin
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe

    > Any titanium models out there anyone would recommend?
    There are NO (as in ZERO) titanium trekking poles on the market. The ones labelled 'titanium' by the marketing departments are aluminium alloy. In some cases the aluminium alloy might contain a few percent titanium; in other cases I suspect the percentage is 0. One great big fraud on the consumer.


    Nate Powell


    Locale: North Carolina

    I've been really happy with my Black Diamond Trail poles. I'll agree with the poster above that the antishock thing is a joke – owned the shock version years ago and wouldn't buy them again. The fliplock system is really nice and easy to use (much better than the twist system used by Leki IMHO) – I have heard the the fliplock system on the Wal-Mart poles is the same hardware that BD uses but can't confirm that. I've owned some leki's as well and they failed on my second trip with them – I much prefer the BD's. Haven't tried the uber-light GG-type poles. I don't mind heavier poles (a pound or so for the pair) since I very rarely strap them to my pack while hiking and I like to put a lot of my weight on them during use. Just my two cents.

    Ryan C
    BPL Member


    Locale: United States

    Ok, so I have narrowed it down to two models. I think cork handles would be more comfortable overall compared to other options. Considered the REI UL poles but am leery of the twist locks, the are on sale for $90 though and also pretty light.

    Leki Corklite Aergon Speed Lock, 16.6oz, 67cm (26.5") collapsed, lifetime warranty.

    Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork, 18oz, 74cm (29") collapsed, 1 year warranty. ( said they will take them back if they were to break regardless of warranty)

    I would be interested in LT4 poles but at 33" collapsed they could be hard to travel with. The BD poles could be had for $70 on sale, cheap enough that I could always upgrade to LT4 poles if I felt the need to.

    Any thru-hikers wish to share their experiences? I am considering a thru of the AT sometime in the next couple of years.

    Andy F


    Locale: Midwest/Midatlantic

    Definitely avoid twist locks, as others said.

    I have the BD Trail Back poles. Great poles, and came with snow baskets. I purchased an extra bottom section, sawed off the bottom (with tip), and use the top section (8" or so) to connect both poles together to support a pyramid shelter.

    Dale Wambaugh
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    I use BD poles myself, but either will work. Extra poles are handy, so if you upgrade, they won't go to waste. You really need to crash hard to break a metal pole. You can break tips by getting them stuck in cracks or between boards.

    IMHO, SUL poles are better on paper than practice. I've seen the REI carbon poles snapped clean off. Flick locks are MUCH easier to live with.

    All said and done, when you have to navigate something like the mess below, you will LOVE having poles.

    Rough trail -- not for night hiking!

    Ryan C
    BPL Member


    Locale: United States

    Looks like the Black Diamond poles are the winners. I think I'll give the BD Trail Ergo Cork poles a try and they are on sale. I have scrambled a couple of times through messes similar to the photo above, my ankles ache thinking about it.

    Brian Hall
    BPL Member


    +1 for the Black diamond poles. I have had a pair for about 3 years now with no problems at all. The flick lock is definately the way to go… and I also think the shock poles are just a way for them to make $20 more on a set of poles.

    Marc Kokosky
    BPL Member


    Locale: Washington, DC Area

    I also use the BD Trails and they have never failed me. The FlikLock system is pure genious. They've saved me from many a fall. I'd recommend them time and again. You can also usually find them on sale somewhere for much less than MSRP

    Larry Dyer


    Locale: Texas

    I've also heard that the Wal-Mart flick lock poles use the same hard ware as BD. I wouldn't be surprised but I can't confirm it.

    I have the BD Trail Ergo Cork poles and I guess I could trim the black foam off to save an ounce or so since I've never used that feature but I'm not sure I want to do that. I like how comfortable the BD poles are when transitioning to the top of the grip (like you'd hold a cane) for short downhill sections instead of taking time and lengthening the poles.

    I use my poles hard and put a lot of weight on them so I've found that being able to adjust the tension of the flick locks on trail is nice (the flat head screw driver on a SAK Classic will do). If you put a lot of weight on your poles and really push off with them or use them to pull up or hop down things a lot then you'll probably appreciate the nice wide and slightly padded straps on the BD poles – I know I do.

    I've seen Komperdell poles take a pretty good beating but I'm not a fan of the twist lock system.

    John S.
    BPL Member


    Larry, yes the Outdoor Products poles at Walmart have Black Diamond flicklocks. The entire pole is probably made by Black Diamond for Outdoor Products. The just save a few bucks and put lesser tips, baskets and markings on the poles.

    Ross Bleakney
    BPL Member


    Locale: Cascades

    Here is my quick summary of poles:

    Black Diamond Flick Locks work every time. Twist locks (of all types) are finicky. Unfortunately, you pay a weight penalty with Black Diamond poles. They simply don't make any that are really light. I own several, but use them mainly for the winter (when strength is a lot more important than weight) or when traveling (they offer models that can get really compact).

    I've used Gossamer Gear poles and I've been happy with them. I've used both the fixed length poles and the adjustable length ones. For backpacking and late season day hiking, I use the adjustable length poles, and just put up with the finicky nature of twist locks. They are remarkably strong for their weight. However, carbon fiber poles are very weak when it comes to sideways pressure (there is more technical term for this). Basically, if you set one side on bench, and step on the pole, you will break it. This is true of most metal poles, but the amount of pressure needed to break it is a lot less for a carbon pole. I've broken two carbon fiber poles. The first I stepped on. A metal pole probably would have broken as well. The second time I was mindlessly using the pole to whack some weeds. I hit a rock or solid piece of wood and broke the pole. A metal pole would probably have been fine. The point being that while carbon fiber poles are strong enough for intended use, they are remarkably fragile when used improperly. Despite that shortcoming, the weight savings is worth it to me.

    I have also broken metal poles and have been with my friends when they have broken theirs. If you hike enough, and are clumsy enough (or, in my case, stupid enough) then you will break a pole sooner or later, regardless of what type of pole it is.

    Jeffs Eleven
    BPL Member


    Locale: NePo


    Speed lock is same as flik lok.

    both are money.

    the strap adjustment on my Lekis is the best!

    one thing about speed locks and I think Flik lok is that you can tighten them when necessay. Tighten the whole nut on the locks. Like a quick release seat post on a bike

    peter vacco


    Locale: no. california

    i use PacerPoles and love 'em. Just love them to death. wore out 2 pr of leki makalu's (which were ok), but the PacerPoles simply work all around better. i have a real tent and so i use the poles to hang food on at night (no trees). poles let you fall with grace.

    Scott Smith


    Thought I'd make a plug for the LT4s. In the last year, mine have been to the top of Mt. Borah multiple times, the top of the Middle Teton, almost a month over a few trips in the Wind River Range, and a number of other trips in Idaho, Wyoming and Utah. They may have some battle scars but they've never broken. I absolutely love 'em. Even though there are reports of breakage, my personal impression is that they aren't nearly as fragile as you might think. Like everything else in life, I suspect they will fail at some point in time but mine haven't yet.

    Serge Giachetti


    Locale: Boulder, CO

    + 1 on BD's. Haven't yet tried GG poles, but I like the support and durability of my BD's. I've been through a few pairs in the last few years and BD's definitely have held up the longest. They are heavier, but if you are using them most of the time, I don't see this as a big issue since they are actually doing a good job of transferring and balancing the weight of your body +pack. Carbon fiber isn't all that much lighter than aluminum but I think its much more useful for a trekking polel because it dampens the impact better which makes for a much smoother ride.

    Also, trekking poles are the one item that I always buy at REI with their excellent return policy.

    Scott Truong


    Locale: Vancouver, BC

    Walmart Outdoor Products Poles: 9.8 oz each (on my scale) a little less than 24" compacted. ($25 Pr)

    Tigoat AGP: 3.5 oz each. 29.5" compacted. $130 pr ($13 shipping)

    I just got the Tigoat poles about 5 minutes ago. Haven't used them yet, so no idea as to field performance.

    I normally don't place all my weight on a pole when I hike and I'm only 155lbs soaking wet anyways, so I don't foresee a problem.

    The twist lock is really really easy to use, and maintenance/cleaning is not an issue at all. Pretty straightforward. I was surprised as I expected them to be more of an issue from what I read vs the flint locks.

    I have to say though, the Walmart poles are excellent and the fact that they compact down to such a small size is a huge bonus. I travel quite a bit and just bungee the poles to the outside of my bag. The poles are shorter than my MLD Burn.

    Considering I need at least one pole for my shelter, I'm a little hesitant to do the same with the carbon AGPs.

    However, I often just carry the poles or just use one pole like a walking stick. Therefore the weight saving may mean more to me.

    I haven't gotten quite use to using two. The grips on the AGP are a lot more comfortable and maybe the lighter swing weight might make a difference. Also it's good to have a set of poles in case of emergency (one trip proved this when my buddy's knees started acting up).

    … but hmmmmm… it's a real toss-up between the two, because the Walmart ones are more packable, much thicker and at least subjectively, "feel" more rugged/robust. For $25 I don't think anyone can go wrong with the Wally Outdoor Product poles. The AGPs are a lot lighter, very easy to use, look wicked and the makers are great guys..

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