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With a good pair of trekking poles in your hands, you will be more surefooted on rough terrain, less fatigued on the uphill climb, and less likely to twist an ankle on the descent.
The Kelty Range 2.0 Trekking Poles are our top choice because their blended cork and EVA foam grip handles are comfortable even after hours of use and because their price tag is more than fair for the quality.
A few years back, a friend and I were assembling a gear list to send to a couple of gentlemen joining us for an ascent of Mt. Whitney. He and I had both been up many a mountain, but the other two were inexperienced climbers, so we were taking pains to make the list exhaustive. At one point during a review, I realized we had not put hiking poles on the list. When I pointed this out to my climbing buddy, he replied: "I guess I took that for granted. Hiking without poles is like hiking without whiskey."
Which, in other words, is something you just don't do. If you have never hiked with poles, try it once and you will be an instant convert. Trekking poles give you additional points of contact with the ground, greatly improving your stability on wet or slick ground, over snow and ice, and on loose rocks or unstable earth. Poles also allow your arms and upper body to take some of the burden off your legs, reducing the weight they carry by as much as 20 pounds with each step. They are particularly useful for aiding tired legs on steep uphill slogs, and on the downhill trek, poles can help prevent slips that lead to injuries, with joints like the ankle and knee most susceptible to such damage.
Also, your trekking poles can help out in myriad ways beyond the actual hike. Many tents even require the use of trekking poles to support their frame or to establish a covered vestibule area. I've also dried everything from socks to boots to entire outfits by sticking apparel on the end of a planted trekking pole or draping garments over poles wedged between trees or supported between two rocks.
When choosing the best trekking poles for your own needs, consider price, length, material, weight, and any special features that make a given pair more attractive (or less so, in some cases) such as removable baskets, special tip materials, and grip shape.
Here are the best trekking poles you can buy:
Best overall: Kelty Range 2.0 Trekking Poles
Best light poles: Hiker Hunger Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles
Best cane-style pole: Chinook Technical Outdoor Cane Walker
Best folding poles: Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Poles
Best classic walking stick: Brazos Twisted Hickory Walking Stick
Read on in the slides below to check out our top picks.
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