Lightweight Trekking Poles

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    Michael Elza


    I am in the market for buying trekking poles for the first time and am having a bit of difficulty selecting a pair. After searching the forums for a little while I noticed an up to date discussion of recent models of trekking poles seemed to be non-existant. Right now I am between three models: BD Alpine Carbon Cork weighing in at 17 oz ; BD trail ergo cork at 18 oz ; Gossamer Gear LT4S at 7.2 oz. The Black diamond models seem to be very similar with the main difference being carbon fiber vs aluminum. The GG poles are the clear winner in weight, but after doing some research I am not sure how durable they would be. I am especially keen on durability because it will be my first pair, and I have a feeling I may not be too gentle on them. Is there anyone who has experience with these specific models or any other adjustable poles that would be recommended?

    rich y


    Locale: NorCal

    Those are a little pricey to me. You can find some lightweight poles for around $50. Search the Helinox brand on the forum. They're $50 and around 12-14oz.

    BPL Member


    Locale: USA

    Love my LT4s! You're right, it's hard to beat the weight. If you're moderately careful, they aren't as delicate as it may seem for a CF pole.

    But I might suggest, since you indicate that you're new to using poles, that you might just go to your local Sporting goods store or hiking shop and buy a cheapo pair to see if you like using them before dropping serious coin on a good pair. You could probably even pick up a pair of Swiss Gear at K-Mart of around $20.00.

    Further if you're hard on them, then you'd probably break any pair. The biggest problem is getting the tip stuck in something and snapping it as you walk. This can be remedied by simmply watching where you place them or not barrelling along out of control such that you couldn't stop if your pole got stuck in a rock crack or something.

    Mark Dijkstra


    I have a pair of Fizan Compact poles (aluminium, adjustable, 12 oz) that I really like. You can read my full review of them here:

    Seth Brewer
    BPL Member



    I found the GG LT4's to be too fragile for my use – and after multiple costly breaks I passed them along to someone who would use them as they are intended to be used — gently. I am not a gently person on my poles. I used the BD Trail Ergo Cork (not the Alpine cork – which for the almost non-existant weight savings seem overpriced) for about 1,700 miles of the A.T last year, as well as trekking in Ireland, and along the New England Trail. Still have them in my closet and never had a single problem with them. Best $99 bucks out there. If you can get them on sale then all the better (should be able to search around and find them for at least 20% off.

    I also own the Leki Malaku Corklite poles and am pleased with them. But more costly than the Trail Ergo Cork unless you find them on sale.

    Erik Basil
    BPL Member


    Locale: Atzlan

    As a relatively recent convert, let me just say: get some. Costco has a pretty light and nice set for a great price, and if you shop the "clearance racks" at REI and Sierra Trading, you can do well with light/sturdy variations.

    I picked up some Komperdells that extend out to 145cm (need it) and weigh about a pound the pair. So far, very happy with the $60 I had to spend (Sierra Trading). My buddy found real nice Leki's at the REI used gear sale… $20 set and they were "broken" — the former owner didn't know how to reset the internal clamps. 5 minutes at the sale and both pairs were "repaired" and owned.

    Brian Lindahl
    BPL Member


    Locale: Colorado Rockies

    The GG LT4S are actually 8.2oz.

    Anyway, my poles of choice are the Helinox Passport Twistlock poles. You can special order them through REI for the satisfaction guarantee (if they break on you). But they're pretty strong poles, based on my time with them.

    They're $120, 10oz, 120cm and are aluminum. Basically, the lowest weight you can get if you don't want the GG LT4S, or want an aluminum pole.

    They used to be called the Featherlite poles, so you should be able to find some reviews on them.

    Brent Mahan


    Locale: Southern New Hampshire

    +1 on the Fizan Compact poles.

    Love them. Solid, light, reasonably priced (~$83 including shipping from the UK). 5.5oz per pole including a nice strap and the baskets.

    If the price works for you, they are awesome.

    Jen Churchward
    BPL Member


    I like carbon for the vibration damping it offers. A lot of my hiking/backpacking is in rocky terrain, and I'm sure it helps combat the fatigue from constantly being hit on rock.

    I have an older version of the REI carbon poles made by Komperdell. I've had them for ~6yrs and they have done many miles of hiking, backpacking and snowshoeing with no problems so far.

    Jacob D
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Bay

    Michael, I have 2 of the 3 that you mentioned. My experience with twist lock poles (all of them I've used) is sooner or later the lock mechanism has issues.

    The REI poles have been the worst of the bunch, right out of the gate they we fussy and often don't like to lock. Eventually my LT4's and Ti Goat poles also had issues with the rubber bushing becoming stuck inside the pole. In at least one case I believe some plant oils/residue caused the rubber to swell.

    I depend on my poles to pitch my shelter so I carry BD poles with their "Flick Lock" now. I do like the light weight of the other options, but I think frequent replacement of the rubber piece and/or checking the screw that holds it in place (and adding lock tite as needed) are important maintenance points of those UL poles.

    Brian Lindahl
    BPL Member


    Locale: Colorado Rockies

    Helinox has lighter poles that have the flick-lock capability. They weigh 14oz, as opposed to 18oz for the BDs. Personally, I've never had issues with the twistlock kind, but I've used neither Lekis nor REIs.

    Michael Elza


    Jacob, which BD set do you have that you prefer? Based on what I've read it seems like it would be wise to stay away from the twist-locks. I too plan to use my poles to pitch my shelter so I may take the same route you chose.

    Brian, do you have any experience with the flick-lock Helinox pair? I'd be interested in them as well if they have proven to be durable and dependable. The weight savings definitely interests me.

    Michael Elza


    Is the vibration dampening of CF poles vs Aluminum easily noticeable, or at least noticeable enough to warrant spending some extra cash for them?

    James holden
    BPL Member


    1. get flick locks

    2. get either the costco poles

    3. or get whatever is on sale at REI or backcountry, etc… somewhere with an unlimited money back guarantee

    starter poles arent something that should be overthought

    Jen Churchward
    BPL Member


    Good question re. the vibration damping! I know it makes a difference on my bicycles with a carbon fork vs an aluminium one.

    I just did a quickie test on concrete between my REI carbon poles and my hubby's Black Diamond aluminium ones. With the aluminium poles you do get minor vibrations that run through the poles and up into the foam handles. It's probably not that noticeable if you're hiking, but I was concentrating on the vibration so I noticed it. It feels like the slight tingling that you would get from a small tuning fork or from putting your hand on your computer case near the fan. When I did the same with the carbon poles, there was no vibration at all.

    Brian Lindahl
    BPL Member


    Locale: Colorado Rockies

    No experience with the Helinox flick-lock poles, but if you special order them through REI, you can return them if you're unsatisfied, even a year or two later. I can't imagine you'd have any problems with the flick-lock design, and my experience with the twist-locks show that the poles themselves are more than durable and dependable. I tend to beat on my gear pretty bad, for example, tossing my poles off small cliffs when downclimbing, or slamming them into nooks while traversing talus fields, amongst other various atrocities… hah.

    Shock absorption is a gimmick designed for people who will buy extra features due to a fear of the unknown (i.e. a groundsheet for a tent). You'll notice carbon's antishock benefits when mountain biking, but you don't need it in your trekking poles.

    Fatigue from using trekking poles comes in 3 flavors:
    1) hands, from gripping (not vibrations, but from overgripping, or just gripping for long durations)
    2) shoulders and arms (from using them to pull yourself up terrain, not vibrations)
    3) elbows and wrists (from using them to support your weight as you descend, not vibrations)

    Aluminum trekking poles are not rigid solid steel columns. They have quite a bit of natural give and flex to them.

    Maybe if you were an elderly person, it might have some benefit, but fatigue from vibrations is a silly idea for the typical human, drummed up by marketing departments to sell more 'stuff'.

    Michael, since you're new here, I'll give you a bit of advice:

    One of the tenants of lightweight backpacking is to identify 'fear of the unknowns' and understand how it causes you to add more weight and 'stuff' to your pack that you really don't need. Go light FIRST, and if you run into a problem, it's not the end of the world. Next trip, just add some more 'stuff' or weight, but ONLY if you feel like it really would have made a significant difference during your trip.

    I was reading a kid's book the other day to my daughter, about Duck and Racoon going on a picnic. Duck shows up at Racoon's house and Racoon doesn't want to go. He goes through a plethora of scary 'what ifs' and concludes that going for a picnic is dangerous. Duck goes through his fun 'what ifs', and Racoon realizes that he was having a fear of the unknown. Racoon decides to go. Duck waits in the living room while Racoon gets ready. It takes forever. Racoon finally comes out of his room, loaded to the gils with all sorts of 'gear' to cover any possible scenario that would occur on a picnic.

    Do NOT be Racoon!

    For example, I saw your post about wanting to go with a bivy and tarp. If a fear of getting your bag wet is telling you to buy a bivy, why not try a slightly larger tarp without the bivy, first? It's less weight, less money, and you won't know if it'll work for you until you try it. Bivyless tarping works for many in some pretty bad storms.

    I'm not trying to be critical, it's just that many people don't at first realize this very important tenant of lightweight backpacking: Don't bring something based on fear, bring it based on experience! I didn't realize this tenant until AFTER I had spent a lot of money on stuff I didn't need, and thought I did, all because of fears of the unknown and 'what ifs'. I only wish someone had explained this to me much earlier! It's hard to make that philosophical shift, but once you do, it's great.

    Cheers and good luck!

    Dave T


    My approach:

    Light (CF) poles without antishock (gimmick!)

    Wriststraps removed

    Flickloks might be more foolproof, but I use REI/Komperdell poles with the internal twist-lock, and have had few problems. I do take them apart and rinse/dry them when they get grimy.

    Once you start using them, you will be hooked! Such a difference-maker for all conditions, up/down/flat ground, stream crossings, loose footing, snowfields, etc.

    p.s. George Tenet used to be a tenant in my apartment building and vigorously upheld the tenets of the CIA.

    Timothy Salizzoni


    Locale: Upstate SC

    I have the LT4 right now and I really like them. They're east to adjust, grip is comfortable, and light enough that you don't really know you're carrying them. I've been a little rough on them and they held up…until my last trip. I was crossing a quick stream over some wet rocks and lost footing. I tried to catch myself with the pole and it got lodged between a rock on the way down and snapped. I ordered a replacement half and I'm still happy with them, but if you fall on them there's always a chance they could give out on you.

    Jacob D
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Bay

    I've got the Alpine Carbon Corks. Nice poles. The wrist straps are comfy too (for me anyway). I picked them up on sale a while back, they're not inexpensive.

    I also tried out a pair of their fixed length z-poles… these are pretty cool but fixed length can be troublesome when using them to pitch a shelter.

    Marc Edwards
    BPL Member


    Do you have padding in your footwear to protect your leg joints from shock?
    So why is having padding for your wrists and arms a gimmick?
    Make up your own mind. If you hike and experience painful jamming to your wrists protect yourself. Regardless of age. No need to be macho about this.
    Low pole weight also decreases strain on the wrists caused by having to direct the poles, especially on the downhill.
    I have had excellent experience with the Komperdell twist lock antishock al poles, but models keep changing.
    good luck, and take care of your body.

    Derek M.
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern California

    Just to play the devil's advocate here, have you considered simply not using trekking poles?

    Everyone has their own reasons for using trekking poles, and many people clearly love them– but before your potential love affair starts with your would be sticks, just be aware that constantly accelerating and decelerating ~8oz poles on each arm takes a lot of energy when you're doing it thousands of times a day. I think there is a lot of denial about this, but it is simple physics and physiology.

    With all that said, it's possible that you will not like trekking poles, so I would suggest starting off with something that is either relatively inexpensive, or something that you know you will easily be able to resell here on the Gear Swap.

    Note to trekking pole enthusiasts: I come in peace, now please don't hit me with your sticks! :)

    Marko Botsaris
    BPL Member


    Locale: Santa Cruz Mountains, CA

    "but it is simple physics and physiology."

    Actually it isn't at all. I think the verdict depends on a lot of things, but you are completely leaving out all the energy expended in stabilizing your body – your reasoning might be closer to correct walking on a track. But depending on the weight you carry, the terrain, whether you have an old injury, etc. using the poles can save you a lot of strain on stabilizing muscles and yes, energy – the lever arm is longer so you can apply more torque with less force, and also don't feel you have to over compensate in case you might slip, and so on.

    So nope. Not simple.

    Kevin S.
    BPL Member


    I have the BD trail ergo cork. I bought them as starter set to see if they were for me. I had planned on upgrading if I found I liked hiking with trekking poles. I still have them and they are fine for my needs. I haven't felt the need to upgrade yet, and can't imagine hiking without them.

    Derek M.
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern California

    You bring up good points. It's probably not as simple as I'm making it out to be. Sure, there is the potential that energy is saved by having to use your core muscles less in stabilization.

    Still, there are two points that I'll make about this:

    1. You still use energy in your arms, shoulders, and (yes) core muscles to stabilize yourself with trekking poles. You argue that you use less energy overall with the trekking poles as support, pointing out a lever advantage. I am not convinced of this, and would need to see real data before changing my mind.

    2. Your retort seemed to be making the assumption that, on a level track, you don't really use your core muscles for stabilization while walking (either with, or without a backpack on). This couldn't be farther from the truth. Do you think you could still walk (even on level ground) without the use of your core stabilizing muscles? No, you would slump over and fall.

    The point I'm making is that you are using your core muscles anyway, with or without trekking poles, level or steep grade, it doesn't matter. Those muscles are always at work while walking, or even just standing still.

    Do you need to use slightly more core strength while negotiating difficult terrain? Probably. Do you need to use that much more core strength that using trekking poles as support would save you energy. I highly doubt it. But again, the only way for us to settle this would be with real data, and I don't know of any studies addressing this.

    Why am I such a trekking pole hater?

    Well, I'm not actually. I think trekking poles are great for:

    1. People who have trouble balancing
    2. People with injuries that makes walking without external support difficult
    3. People who frequently have to cross streams where no longs sticks can be found to use as support
    4. People who like to work out their upper bodies while hiking

    and finally, and probably most importantly

    5. People who enjoy hiking more with trekking poles than without them.

    I've got no problem with trekking pole use whatsoever; I am, however, extremely dubious of the claim that trekking poles will save you energy while hiking. I don't think this is the right argument for trekking pole use because I suspect that it's false. There are only two studies that I know of that deal at all with trekking pole use. The one done at James Madison University several years ago concluded that people who use trekking poles or walking sticks burn more calories than people who don't. The other study, from Northumbria University, was very poorly designed in my opinion, but nonetheless concluded that trekking pole use can prevent some muscle soreness. They did not measure energy expenditure though.

    Anyway, trekking poles probably do have a lot of benefits, but almost certainly one of them is not that they will save you caloric expenditure, so again, I think that is the wrong argument to make in favor of trekking pole use.

    Note: my apologies to the OP for this thread hijack.

    Dale Wambaugh
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    I've been using the BD Alpine Carbon Cork poles and like them. I got them used and didn't have a scale when I bought them and was surprised at the weight– expecting carbon poles to be universally lighter. You can get aluminum poles close to the same weight for considerably less money. My BD Trail model aluminum poles are 19oz vs the 17.8oz scale weight of the carbon model. IMHO, they are functionally identical, except that carbon poles are better on salt water beaches. I guess you could debate how each would do in a fall, but I'll decline testing that :)

    I DO like a more robust pole. I have no doubt that I expend a little more energy overall when using poles, but I hike for the exercise anyway and getting a little upper body workout along with the walking is just fine with me. Getting up the big steps, crossing "rock hopper" streams and the great downhill assistance of poles makes hiking much more enjoyable for me. My wife got a new Ti knee a year ago August and she was quickly sold on poles (and the recipient of my "cast off" BD Trail poles). Anyone with knee issues would find poles a blessing, particularly on the steep downhill sections.

    Do get a pole with flick locks. I see that some of the newer models have metal reinforcements on the lock levers. I have had no problems with the all plastic ones, but if they can make them tougher with no real weight increase, so much the better. I like extended foam grips on the upper shafts, making for quick change-ups on a big step. A little baseball bat tape could make up the difference on those without.

    I use the straps too, just like with cross country ski poles. I don't move my arms in a full stroke and just flick the poles ahead, using the straps to full advantage. The straps really come into play when you put your weight down on the pole, with no need for a death grip to hold yourself up. Both my wife and I find that our hands don't swell when walking with poles.

    All my UL shelters now incorporate trekking poles as well.

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