Finding the Best Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles
Trekking poles will enhance your stability in all types of terrain whether you are hiking, snowshoeing, scrambling, fording streams, or moving uphill or downhill. The best carbon fiber trekking poles are rugged and versatile enough to handle a wide range of conditions and situations.
How to Choose the Best Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles
Trekking poles have several different components. The makeup of each different component can affect the overall quality of the pole.
Why Carbon Fiber?
Trekking poles are either aluminum or carbon fiber. Compared to aluminum, carbon fiber trekking poles are less prone to bending, and they are lighter at 12-18 ounces per pair (versus 18 to 22 ounces for aluminum poles). (source)
The lighter weight makes carbon fiber the material of choice for longer hikes and any treks that require changes in elevation.
When choosing the best carbon fiber trekking poles, you should also keep the material’s shock absorption qualities in mind. The poles will reduce vibrations when on the trail. Some poles may also have a spring-loaded shock absorber feature that provides further vibration dampening. (source)
The Value of Versatility
To maximize the usefulness of your trekking poles, you may want to choose a model that offers easy customization. For example, you may want to change the “baskets,” which are the disks located just above the tip of the pole. In wintertime, you may choose to switch to larger baskets for better stability on powdery snow. You should check how easy such a change is before purchasing your poles.
Many of the best carbon fiber trekking poles have adjustable lengths. Not only can hikers change the height of the stick to fit with their height, but they can also make adjustments to suit the terrain better.
Longer poles provide better support when moving downhill, but shorter poles are more helpful for uphill walking. If you hike on varied terrain, then poles that are easy to lengthen or shorten while on the trail may be the best options for you. (source)
Adjusting the Length and Collapsible Poles
Trekking poles can not only be lengthened or shortened, but some are also collapsible. This is a useful feature because it allows you to pack the poles easily when they are not in use. However, you do not want the collapsibility to reduce strength and performance, so the locking mechanism and joints are noteworthy variables in choosing the best carbon fiber trekking poles.
Trekking poles have three different locking options. The first is a push-button lock. You will normally find this on foldable, fixed-length poles. The user pushes a button to either lock or collapse the pole. Some adjustable length poles have a push-button lock for collapsing combined with another type of lock for adjusting the length.
The second option, twist locks, use an expander and screw design to lengthen or shorten the pole. This option is becoming less frequent as more pole makers opt for the sturdier lever lock design.
Lever lock systems are the most common option on today’s trekking poles (source). A lever lock is a clamp-like fitting that sits around the pole. When open, the clamp is released, and the user can adjust the length. When closed and locked, the lever holds the pole firmly in place at its set length. Lever locks offer quick adjustment times and ease of use. For example, you can operate a lever lock even if you are wearing heavy gloves.
Grips and Straps
Trekking pole grips come in four main varieties. These are cork, hard plastic, rubber, and foam. Hard plastic is the cheapest option, but it cannot handle excess moisture, and it has no padding or shock absorbing qualities. Usually, only the lowest price poles have plastic handles.
Rubber handles do provide extra grip, but they do not wick away excess moisture. For this reason, they are best for cold-weather trekking.
Cork and foam grips are usually the most expensive options, but they are also the most versatile. These two materials can wick away moisture, provide a comfortable and sure grip, and mold to your hand over time. They also have insulated properties that make them comfortable to use in colder weather. Some carbon fiber poles have cork handles and foam extensions that allow users to “choke up” on the pole instead of using the locking mechanism to adjust to a shorter length.
You should consider two variables for your wrist straps: adjustability and material. Padded straps are the best for longer treks because they will not chafe your wrists, and they can provide additional support when you are moving uphill. The straps should be easily adjustable so that you can fit them to your wrists and change them to meet the situation. (source)
You will also want to consider the poles’ “packability” and the buckets and tips. Carbide and steel tips are the best for traction and reduced slippage, even in snow and ice. Rubber tip covers can protect naturally sensitive areas, and they can make for safer packing.
Ease of packing may be an important issue for pole owners. Most standard poles collapse down to about two feet, but some can fold down to just over one foot. You should consider how you will pack your poles when they are not in use (such as when you are flying on an airplane) to choose the correct collapsed length for your needs. (source)
What are the Best Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles Overall?
Here are our top five trekking poles and the reasons why we think that they are better than the rest.
These lightweight carbon fiber poles provide a balance of high-level performance and value.
The Montem Ultralight poles weigh 15.2 ounces per pair. If you appreciate poles that are not going to feel heavy after the first few miles, these might be a good choice for you. The price point makes these a good investment for novice hikers who are purchasing their first set of trekking poles, while the lightweight, 100% carbon fiber design will appeal to more advanced hikers who on the lookout for good value.
The poles are easy to adjust to as short as two feet and as tall as 53 inches. Owners change the length via Montem’s “flick locks.” These allow for rapid length adjustment, and a study feel upon re-locking, but the easily-tightened bolts give users the chance to set the level of tightness so that the poles have a customized feel. Experienced hikers will value this extra level of control over the feel of their equipment.
The nylon straps are adjustable, and the EVA foam handles provide a level of comfort usually associated with cork grips.
What We Like
- Has an ultra-lightweight design
- Offers great value for the price
- Uses easy-to-adjust flick locks
- Made from 100% carbon fiber
- Boasts a length range from two feet to 53 inches
What We Don’t Like
- Has foam grips instead of cork
- Does not collapse to less than two feet long
These lightweight poles feature rapid adjustment capabilities, a sturdy build, and a collapsed length of just 15 inches.
This model has a push-button lock system that releases the pole so that it immediately folds down to 15 inches. The height is adjustable from 43.3 inches to 51.2 inches. This will suit adult hikers in most trail situations, but the length range is not quite as large as competitors.
A Kevlar-reinforced cord connects the sections of the Micro Vario Ti, and a machined aluminum sleeve protects the end of each carbon section. Hikers who want to know that their poles are going to stand up to any conditions will appreciate this design and will likely be willing to overlook the few extra ounces that the aluminum and kevlar add to the poles.
The Leki Skin Straps are designed to increase breathability and to limit chafing. If there is one con to this pole, it is the price. Leki Micro Vario Ti COR-TEC Trekking Poles are on the high end of the price spectrum, so novices and those who value more flexibility when it comes to length and controls may not want to invest in this particular pole.
What We Like
- Collapses down to 15 inches for maximum portability
- Proprietary Leki Skin Straps are comfortable
- Built to withstand rugged conditions
- Easy-to-use push-button locking system
What We Don’t Like
- The length can only be adjusted by 10 inches
- More expensive than some competitors
- Slightly heavier than many competitors
These durable poles can handle both warm and cold weather conditions.
The Alpine Carbon Cork Poles have a cork grip, which will conform to the hiker’s hand after repeated use. Experienced hikers may value the EVA extensions on these poles. In certain situations, for example on steep uphill scrambles, the user can “choke up” on the pole without having to stop and adjust the length.
The poles are adjustable between 25 and 51 inches. The external lever lock system called the FlickLockPro allows for adjustment at two different locations on each poll. Interchangeable tips and baskets allow users to switch between carbide and rubber tips and trail and powder snow baskets.
Padded wrist straps are an added value for long distance hikers who want straps that provide extra cushioning. These poles are an investment. They are squarely at the higher end of the carbon-fiber pole price range. Trekkers who know that they will use the different features may consider this a worthwhile purchase, while other hikers may realize that they can get many of the most essential features for less in another pole. (source)
What We Like
- Quality cork grip with foam extension
- Interchangeable tips and baskets
- Easy to use FlickLockPro locking system
- Padded wrist straps for extra comfort
What We Don’t Like
- Expensive price tag
- May have features that you do not need
The poles combine a lightweight design and cork grips, and they collapse down to a mere 14.5 inches.
If portability is important, these Cnoc poles could prove a good option. They collapse down to 14.5 inches. The collapsing and straightening happens quickly because of a concealed metal tension cord inside the pole. The shafts consist of carbon and the connectors of airplane-grade aluminum.
For average usage, the design will likely prove study enough. Serious hikers who often put their full weight on their poles may want to invest in a model at the higher end of the price spectrum. At the same time, the overall performance of these poles will appeal to value-conscious hikers who want a reliable option that will work in most conditions.
This is one of the cheaper poles to offer a cork grip and a second EVA foam grip for choking up on the poles when climbing uphill. These features are often for higher-end poles. Cnoc poles will collapse down to 14.5 inches each, but their usable length is limited to 45 to 53 inches. This means that user will have to trade flexibility in length adjustment for higher-end features such as cork grips and ultra-portability.
What We Like
- Collapse down to 14 inches for easy portability
- Metal tension cord for added stability
- Cork grips despite the low price point
- Carbon sections reinforced with aluminum for added strength
What We Don’t Like
- Length is only adjustable between 45-53 inches
- Not as rugged or feature-rich as more-expensive poles
Another value option for trekkers looking for carbon fiber poles with a few high-end features.
Foxelli Poles are a lower priced option with a few high-end features such as cork grips and foam under-grips. They are lightweight at seven ounces per pole. The combination of low price and lightweight design could appeal to hikers who are new to trekking poles and want to learn on something that will not tire their arms.
Hikers of any skill level who value versatility will enjoy the ability to adjust the length of these poles between two feet and 55 inches. Additional features such as rubber tip covers and changeable baskets for mud and snow add to the flexibility of this pole.
What We Like
- Quality grips
- Low price for such a feature-rich pole
- Ideal entry-level pole
- Interchangeable features such as tip covers and baskets
- Very lightweight
What We Don’t Like
- Extra features are not as high quality as more expensive poles
- Lacks durability features of more-expensive poles
- Not as portable as collapsable models
What is the Best Carbon Fiber Trekking Pole?
The best carbon fiber trekking poles could depend on your needs, level of experience, and favorite type of terrain. Our best carbon fiber trekking poles are the Montem Ultralight 100% Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles.
As you hopefully know from reading this article, there are several essential components to trekking poles, and the Montem Ultralight rates highly in each of the different areas, which makes it the best carbon fiber trekking pole overall. This is especially the case when you add price to the equation.
You will not be able to find more features on a trekking pole for less money. Value is important. Whether you are a serious hiker or a casual trekker, you will want to get the most out of each dollar you spend on trekking poles.