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9 best walking poles, tried and tested on hiking adventures

Whether you’re a hardcore hiker or a countryside rambler, make sure these are coming with you

Sian Lewis
Tuesday 02 May 2023 12:24 BST
<p>We put these through their paces over 10 miles of the hilly Lake District at least </p>

We put these through their paces over 10 miles of the hilly Lake District at least

Our Top Picks

A sturdy pair of walking poles has a lot of practical benefits if you’re heading outdoors on longer walks. They’ll aid balance on uneven surfaces, take strain away from your legs and knees, make going up and down hills easier and improve momentum by helping to swing you forwards, so long distances seem more manageable.

Wild campers even use poles to prop up tarpaulins to create makeshift tents, and some hiking poles can double up as ski touring poles or are light and foldable enough to take trail running. There’s more variety on the pole market than you might think too.

First, you’ll need to choose between fixed (i.e. one length) and collapsible poles. Fixed length poles are often cheaper and are perfectly fine for day walks as long as you pick the right height for you. Adjustable poles, on the other hand, are the best investment for serious hikers, as you can get the perfect fit when walking and pack them away in a backpack when not in use, or stick them in your luggage on international walking holidays. “Flick” locks are the best design choice if you’re buying an adjustable pole.

Poles designed with mountain trails in mind have longer grips and big mountain “baskets” (the removable ski-shoe type attachment above the pole’s tip) designed to stop you sinking into snow. Tips come in different designs, too: single-point tips are good for trails while rubber tips are better for hard surfaces.

Make sure you know how to use your new kit. Set your poles to the right height before you get started – they should be at a right angle to your elbow when you stand up straight. As you move forward, use the opposite pole to the foot you’re striding with – left foot with right pole, and vice versa, in a steady rhythm.

How we tested

We hit the hills of the Lake District with each pair of trekking poles in our round-up and walked at least ten miles over mixed terrain with each design, testing for lightness, quick adjustability and durability.

The best walking poles for 2023 are:

  • Best walking poles – Leki Sherpa FX carbon trekking poles: £164.95, Absolute-snow.co.uk
  • Best beginner poles – Silva aluminium trekking poles: £43.10, Outdoorgb.com
  • Best budget poles – Robens keswick T6 trekking poles: £37.99, Robens.de
  • Best trail running poles – Komperdell carbon cloud running poles: £219.95, Komperdell.com

Leki Sherpa FX carbon trekking poles

best walking poles
  • Best: Overall
  • Weight: 276g
  • Length : Adjustable up to 140cm

Carbon is the perfect material for walking poles due to its being lightweight, but Leki’s robust Sherpa FX goes to the top of the carbon class – at 276g these poles will never weigh you down. This pair makes a great investment for serious hikers, with a very comfortable rubberized and foam handle, a sturdy tip and easily adjustable folding components. A good pole to take out into the hills in any season, or to pack for multi-day hiking adventures abroad, these should last for years of adventures at altitude.

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Silva aluminium trekking poles

best walking poles
  • Best: Beginner poles
  • Weight: 460g
  • Length: Adjustable up to 140cm

“These poles are made for walking”, says Silva of its affordable aluminium offering, which we’d agree is a great all-rounder if you don’t want to spend on carbon, and a good choice for your first pair of trekking poles. These poles tick all the boxes at an affordable price point – they’re made from lightweight but sturdy aluminium, are adjustable with good flick locks and come with snow baskets for winter mountain conditions. The foam handles are comfy, too.

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Robens keswick T6 trekking poles

best walking poles
  • Best: Budget poles
  • Weight: 505g
  • Length: Adjustable up to 135cm

You do tend to get what you pay for with walking poles, but if you’re not sure a walking pole is for you at all, or you just want some support on a one-off camping trip, these adjustable poles from Robens are the best pair you’ll get for under £50. They adjust down to 66cm and up to 135cm using a screw mechanism, and come with a detachable basket and extra rubber tip. At half a kilo for the pair, they’re not much heavier than our other picks.

  1. £37 from Robens.de
Prices may vary
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Black Diamond Alpine carbon cork trekking poles

best walking poles
  • Best: Cork grip
  • Weight: 486g
  • Length: Adjustable up to 140 cm

These carbon classics from trekking specialists Black Diamond strike a great balance between weight and durability. Flick locks are quick and easy to use and much more secure than twist locks, so once you’ve locked the poles in place, you’ll feel confident that they won’t loosen as you’re scrambling down a hill. The ergonomic grips are made from cork, but there’s also a rubberised extension for steep terrain. The poles also come with two basket sets and interchangeable tips.

  1. £99 from Blacks.co.uk
Prices may vary
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Craghoppers treklite carbon trekking poles

best walking poles
  • Best: Value for money carbon poles
  • Weight: 370g
  • Length: Adjustable up to 135cm

Carbon poles often come with a hefty price tag, but Craghoppers’ treklite offers great lightweight performance for under £100. Designed to pack down easily for travel or for attaching to the outside of your pack, these poles are adjustable up to 135cm with good stay-put flick locks, and have solid but comfortable foam grips. At just 185g per pole, the treklite is an affordable way to try out the benefits of barely-there carbon poles.

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Les Batons d’Alain trekking poles

best walking poles
  • Best: Mountain poles
  • Weight: Not specified
  • Length : Not specified

Les Baton’s d’Alain (French for “Alain’s poles”) are eye-catchingly bright fixed hiking and skiing poles designed and made in the shadow of Mont Blanc in the French Alps, by mountain guide Alain Desez. These poles have a sturdy aluminium main body and a long, padded foam grip that allows the hiker to grip the pole at different heights. Sounds simple – but when you’re hiking in rocky, mountainous ground, Alain’s poles let you adjust your grip on the fly, which saves tons of time compared to fiddly adjustable walking poles.

  1. £104 from Skimo.co
Prices may vary
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Black Diamond women’s trail trekking poles

Black Diamond Womens Trail Trekking Poles resize.jpg
  • Best: all-terrain poles
  • Weight: 480g
  • Length: Adjustable up to 125cm

These poles from Black Diamond may not be as blissfully light as the carbon options on this list, but we found them to be exceptionally durable and up to the challenge of a variety of terrains. We gave ours a real battering – we took them along rocky trails in heavy wind and rain, and even used them to scramble up and down snowy slopes (they come with detachable snow baskets) – and they performed pretty much flawlessly throughout. They’re a solid mid-range choice if you don’t want to splash out on carbon poles, but need a pair that you’re confident will withstand challenging conditions and regular adventures.

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Leki cressida trekking poles

best walking poles
  • Best: Poles for shorter hikers
  • Weight: 221g
  • Length: Adjustable up to 125cm

While we’re not sold on the idea that women need different walking poles to men, anyone who is of smaller stature will appreciate a more petite pole. Enter Leki’s cressida trekking poles which are aimed at hikers with smaller hands and shorter walkers under 5ft 6in. The aluminium shaft feels rugged and stable in all terrains, but without much weight at 221g. The clips are quick and easy to lock and unlock too, allowing you to get the right length for you and your needs.

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Komperdell carbon cloud running poles

best walking poles
  • Best: Trail running poles
  • Weight: 216g
  • Length: Adjustable up to 135cm

If you like to tackle mountain trails at pace, a pair of poles designed specifically with runners in mind can help you go further on challenging terrain. Komperdell’s excellent carbon cloud is lightweight at 216g and folds up in seconds into four slim sections in order to attach to the outside of a running vest. Extended cork grips are ideal for steep slopes and the flick locks are sturdy and reliable. These are worth the spend if you love to run and hike in the hills whenever you can.

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Walking poles FAQs

What is the best material for walking poles?

There are different pole materials to choose from, too. Carbon is a bit of a wonder material for trekking poles as it’s strong but lightweight, and aluminium is a tad cheaper but more durable. Look for grips made with cork or foam rather than plastic – these are comfier to hold, stay warm in cold weather and wick away sweat in warm weather.

The verdict: Walking poles

Our pick of the trekking pack are Leki’s high-performing carbon Sherpa poles, which ticked all the boxes for serious hiking on test. Casual walkers and those on a budget will be happy hiking with Robens’ keswick T6, while mountaineers will love the quirky Batons d’Alain and keen runners should try taking Komperdell’s carbon cloud on their trail adventures.

Tackle any terrain with the best pairs of men’s walking shoes

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