Mountaineer’s Take on Trekking Poles

If you’ve shopped our web site for ski gear in the past you may have noticed the “Mountaineer’s Take,” where we present our opinion about the gear we carry and who we think will benefit from that piece of gear. Hopefully we can do this for more of our products in the future. The following is our take on the trekking poles we carry.

Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork
We believe this is the best all-around trekking pole on the market. It is extremely strong, very damp even without any form of shock absorber, and has such a light swing weight that you can hike all day and not feel tired in the arms and wrists. The cork grip and padded strap make it the most comfortable and blister-free pole we’ve tried, and the FlickLock closure system is very reliable so you can trust the poles with all your weight even on dangerous descents. It also comes with both summer and winter baskets, which is a nice touch that we haven’t seen from other manufacturers.

The only areas where it doesn’t compare favorably to our Leki offerings are the warranty (one year; doesn’t cover breakage, only manufacturing defects) and ease of adjustability (some customers find the FlickLock to be more difficult to operate than the twist style Leki). In addition, we’ve seen the padded straps fall apart at the seams after a lot of use. They are still fully functional with frayed straps, but we wish they could construct the straps in a more durable fashion (note: the current model has a redesigned strap that we haven’t put to the test. It should last longer, but it’s the nature of a padded strap to wear out earlier than a plain webbing strap so we don’t expect it to solve the issue entirely).

We heartily recommend the Alpine Carbon Cork to all hikers who use trekking poles regularly enough to justify spending $140 on a pair, which is actually very reasonable for an all-carbon pole.

Adjustment Range: 63 to 130cm (measured at the Mountaineer)

Leki Peak Aergon XL Antishock


Leki’s Peak continues in the tradition of the highly regarded Super Makalu—it’s the most rugged and durable aluminum pole on the market. Leki does aluminum best for two reasons: they use the strongest aluminum, and they offer a lifetime warranty for the times that even the strongest aluminum breaks. The Peak combines this legendary durability with a comfortable foam grip, Leki’s easy to adjust twist lock system, and antishocks to help prevent wrist pain.

We recommend the Peak to our customers who want the strongest antishock trekking pole on the market for mostly three-season use. It is not ideal as a winter pole, as twist lock poles tend to loosen themselves when used in snow, but that can be overcome with Leki’s Spinner Basket if you end up using them as winter poles as well.

Adjustment Range: 70 to 145 cm (measured at the Mountaineer)

Leki Thermolite Aergon
The Thermolite is a great choice for a lightweight aluminum pole with a lifetime warranty. We sell it mostly to three-season hikers who prefer the light swing weight of this pole to the heavier Leki option but still want the no-hassle warranty that makes Leki such a great choice. As with all twist-lock poles, we don’t recommend this for a lot of winter use due to the tendency of the lock to loosen when planted over and over in snow. This can be overcome by the use of a Leki Spinner Basket, however.

Adjustment Range: 63 to 135cm (measured at the Mountaineer)

Leki Khumbu Aergon Speedlock
The Khumbu is our price-point pole, but it’s still a great option with some big advantages. The heavy duty shafts make it one of the most durable aluminum poles, plus like every Leki it is backed with a lifetime warranty against breakage. Also, the speedlock adjustment is the best adjustment style for winter use to prevent loosening of the poles when planted in the snow.

Our one complaint is that it takes some force to slide the lower shaft from fully compressed to fully extended. The fix is to leave the lower shaft at your preferred length and simply adjust the upper shaft when changing pole length—something we recommend with every pole anyway.

Adjustment Range: 70cm to 145cm (measured at the Mountaineer)

Leki Sierra Antishock
We like this single staff-style pole for walking on everything from pavement to rugged trail surfaces. The wood knob is comfortable when palmed like a cane, and the foam grip can be used to make the staff feel like a trekking pole when walking faster. The universal camera mount is a nice feature as well, and of course the pole comes with Leki’s excellent lifetime warranty.

Adjustment Range: 69 to 145 cm (measured at the Mountaineer)

Leki Wanderfreund Antishock
This cane style pole is very popular amongst our customers, and we think it’s a great value. The grip is very comfortable, and can be used in several positions depending on activity and preference, but we sell this the most to people who need a cane and appreciate its ability to collapse for travel into a suitcase, overhead compartment, etc. It’s also a great cane for use on rugged surfaces, as its carbide tip grips well on rock and dirt and will never wear out. It comes with a rubber tip protector for use on non-trail surfaces as well.

Adjustment Range: 63 to 120 cm (measured at the Mountaineer)

Leki Pathfinder Jr. Kids’
Your kids will love hiking with these fun trekking poles! Great kid-oriented graphics and a lighter weight make these perfect for children ages 5-10, up to around 60 lbs. Lifetime warranty against shaft breakage.

Adjustment Range: 72 to 115cm (measured at the Mountaineer)

2 replies
  1. Justin
    Justin says:

    Totally agree, I accidentally left my Flick Lock Trail (???) at the Cascade trail head presidents day. It was sort of prophetic that I was in contact with BD reps a month before, buying replacement lower sections for the aluminum poles.

    BD might not have the best warranty, but replacement parts are cheap and easy to order with fast cheap shipping. In anycase, the BD rep recommended the Alpine Carbon Cork to me. It’s a pole best suited for those who tend to break/bend lesser poles. On average a set of poles last me 3 years, the Flick Lock Trails were on a second life with replacement lower sections, but I’d had them just about 2.5 years.

    As far as the Carbon Cork and the Flick Lock: I use my poles like 3rd and 4th legs and I was always having issues with twist lock poles collapsing on me. The Flick Locks were a God send when no one else was using that technology, I was kicking myself for not switching sooner. Since the switch, I’ve never had a pole collapse, and adjustment is simple and quick. Upgrading to the carbon cork has been another amazing step, solid pole, almost feels like planting an ice axe in the snow.

    My only fear is what the pole is gonna look like after a summer of hiking, I guess I’ll find out!

  2. webmaster
    webmaster says:

    Hi Justin! The carbon lower certainly gets chewed up in our rugged mountains, but other than looking a little worse for wear it should hang in there for at least a couple summers of heavy use. You’re going to love them just as much in the summer as you did in winter.

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