Trekking poles have been proven time and again to take stress off the joints and help to alleviate some of the stresses caused from high-intensity hiking. It’s also easy to see that using trekking poles in many situations can help to aid in balance, stride, and speed. When I first started using trekking poles, I wasn’t sure if they would be the right fit for me.
Will they be too heavy?
Will I use them often enough?
What will I do with them when I’m not using them?
Now, years later, I’ve used and recommended many trekking poles to fellow hikers and I can say for certain that they’re a valuable asset in any hiker’s arsenal of tools. Like most hiking gear, however, trekking poles can range from inexpensive and heavy budget poles to ultralight futuristic poles that can disassemble. For many hikers, expensive and advanced hiking poles just aren’t necessary so today we’ll focus on budget trekking poles for those looking to save some cash.
How to Choose Trekking Poles
Adjustable or Fixed Length
Many hikers prefer to choose a trekking pole with adjustable length. Adjustable trekking poles come in several varieties but they all achieve the same goal. Their goal is to be able to expand and contract to fit the height of each individual hiker. On top of that, you can adjust the poles to different lengths depending on whether your hiking, snowshoeing, or other various sports.
This is a common feature but beware: adjustable hiking poles can be heavy! Weight added by the adjustable features can add up and create an overall heavy trekking pole.
Since you have to carry your trekking poles, either in your hands or on your pack, every ounce really does add up. Trekking poles and footwear are two of the biggest problem areas when it comes to weight.
Think about it: weight carried on your back, once in motion, stays in motion. Any weight carried on your hands or feet must be swung back and forth with each step. Because your hands and feet stop and start much more often in comparison to your torso, any weight carried here requires significantly more energy.
Type of Adjustment
There are three main types of adjustable poles. Flick-lock, twist-lock, and pull-lock.
Flick lock poles operate by using a small lever on each adjustable segment. This lever is opened or closed to fix the pole length in place. These poles can be adjusted to just about any length.
Twist lock poles operate by twisting sections of the pole against one another to lock each segment. This allows the poles to be infinitely adjustable between a minimum and maximum range.
Finally, pull lock poles are operated by pulling the handle segment of the pole. This tightens an internal cable which locks each segment into place. While these poles can be collapsed, they’re not necessarily adjustable. Once locked in place, they’re locked to a single predetermined length.
For some reason, there seems to be a trend among adjustable trekking poles to include shock absorbing springs. Why? I have no idea.
I’ve used both shock absorbing and solid poles (non-absorbing) and can say conclusively that I’ve never found a reason to have a shock absorbing pole. I don’t make a habit of violently stabbing my poles into the ground with enough gusto to generate a shock. Maybe if I was a much angrier hiker?
The shock absorbing springs and mechanism in the pole also seem to add an exponential amount of weight to the overall construction as well.
5 Best Budget Trekking Poles
While the name might be confusing at first, this 4-section trekking pole is a pull-lock, flick-lock combo. Assemble the pole with the pull-lock machanism and then adjust the overall length with the flick-lock handle segment.
I like segmented poles because they can be packed down into very small packages. This is great for airline travel or car/bus travel to and from your destination. Definitely a budget trekking pole for bus and airline travelers to heavily consider.
Be wary, however, that the poles are sold as individual units so you’ll want to buy two of them for a set!
This set of poles comes in at a shockingly low overall price. Adjustable from 26″ to 53″ with ribbed grips and adjustable secondary grips, these poles can cover just about any range of needs.
When hiking up or down steep inclines it can be nice to just use the secondary grip rather than adjusting the overall pole length. Like many poles offered in this category, these poles have optional screw-on baskets and rubber tips.
Supported by a 1-year manufacturer warranty, you’ll be able to take advantage of any of the standard features of modern adjustable poles. Three piece construction, anti-shock internals, and a host of budget-minded options.
Carbon fiber is one of the lightest and strongest materials available for making hiking poles today. That’s why carbon fiber poles tend to be expensive. Fortunately, working with carbon fiber is becoming easier and manufacturers are able to deliver quality trekking poles at a low price.
These are three-piece pull-lock trekking poles with an adjustable flick-lock handle which pack down to an overall 15″ when disassembled. They’re lighter than the Himal poles we reviewed earlier, and feature all the same specs but they’re much lighter weight! While you’ll pay a bit more for them, I think they’re a solid winner for the budget trekking pole category.
This set of carbon fiber budget poles comes with so many accessories you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better buy! You’ll get mud baskets, snow baskets, rounded rubber feet, and standard rubber feet. These are a good upgrade choice if you’re looking for something lighter than the Himal Folding Trekking Poles we reviewed earlier.
All of this with a three-piece flick-lock adjustable carbon fiber pole. They’ve put cork handles which are comfortable, absorb sweat, and contour to your grip. There’s also a soft foam secondary grip which can be adjusted much like the BAFX poles. These are a great pick for those looking to find a balance between price, weight, and function!
These 4-piece aluminum poles aren’t the lightest pick, but they offer tons of features and accessories. Get the compact features of a pull-lock pole with the height adjustment of a flick-lock pole while you enjoy a dual-height handle. One of my favorite features about these poles are the dual height handles with soft foam grips. I personally use a very similar pair of trekking poles.
Like the Hiker Hunger poles, these come with two types of baskets and two types of rubber hiking tips to cover the carbide tips. One nice feature is the added travel bag that will help keep your trekking poles protected and organized when traveling by car, train, or plane.
Now, there are many types of hiking poles but, for this article, we’ve chosen to focus on budget trekking poles. These poles are feature rich, lightweight, and inexpensive. They’re the perfect balance for beginner hikers or those looking to trim the price off of their next piece of gear.
If you’re looking for the lightest weight budget options, I recommend seeking a carbon fiber pole with all the options you need at a low price. Hiker Hunger’s trekking poles we reviewed fit this bill nicely! For those looking to get the aboslute cheapest trekking poles, it’s hard to argue with the BAFX poles.