Comparison of Casual vs Mountaineering Hiking Poles

What are the best trekking poles? Depends on how your knees are & how you want to use them (casual hiking, mountaineering?) Read my advice to learn more.

My wife and I spent a few hours in REI, examining the best hiking poles, discussing how we hike, and navigating the mess ourselves.

So, I wrote this article to help you find what trekking poles will best meet your needs.

First, obviously it’s always important to seek out advice when it comes to purchasing these big ticket items.

But the problem is, even with expert advice, there are so many different features that can be found in trekking poles on the market today.

It didn’t always used to be like this, you know. At one point in history, a trekking pole was nothing more than a stick, smoothed down to get rid of splinters.

Today, with manufacturing technology as advanced as it is, and with the discovery of ultra lightweight metals and alloys, the designs of trekking poles have become almost futuristic.

You can buy shock-absorbing hiking poles, telescoping poles, poles with interchangeable baskets, poles with ergonomically constructed grips, and even poles with miniature cameras attached to the tops.

Are all of these features necessary? Not all, but many are and you need to pick and choose what features meet your needs.

So first, you need to figure out what kind of hiker you are, then you can see what kind of trekking pole features will be really worth your while.

Comparing Trekking Poles Based Upon Your Needs

The best way to find the best trekking pole for yourself is to understand what you want to use them for.


Trekking Poles

Nothing like resting your hiking poles after a hard descent

  • Do you plan on doing some serious mountaineering with them?
  • Do you just want some poles for casual hiking?
  • Do you want to trek across the winter landscape with these poles?

By answering these questions, you can begin to narrow down what kind of poles you’ll need to best suit your trekking style.

Want to get right to the best?

OK… Here are some links to bring you down the page for the best trekking poles by category:

I have a well-to-do friend–who shall remain nameless to preserve his dignity and self-respect–who wanted to take a casual hike around some of Glacier’s easier trails (he wasn’t very experienced and understandably didn’t want to push the limits with a more challenging path).

When I met him at the trailhead on the day in question, he showed up wearing $500 hardcore leather hiking boots and a pair of trekking poles with more features than an airplane cockpit has buttons.

Meanwhile, I wasn’t even wearing my Asolo hiking boots–just a pair of low-top hiking shoes–and my hiking pole was just a stick I picked up at the trailhead. I knew how easy the trail was going to be so I didn’t overreach when it came to the necessary equipment.

The moral of the story is that you don’t always need the most expensive gear with the most advanced features.

Learn what kind of hiker you are, where you want to go, and what you’ll need to successfully end the day. And then don’t go overboard.

Read This Article for More Info on How To Choose Hiking Poles

As my friend would be very eager to tell you, the most important thing is comfort. And right up there with comfort is safety.

Luxury is never necessary and should only come into play if you have a lot of money left over to spend–and even then, I would suggest putting it towards a pair of Asolo hiking boots or an ultralight backpack, or something super cool like that.

If you’re struggling to pick out the right trekking poles, take a look below. Here we have outlined the best poles for men and women in the areas of mountaineering, casual hiking, and winter use.

We’ll also talk a bit about what you should be looking for in these category’s best poles.

For Mountaineering


Benefits of Hiking Poles

For extreme day hikes that will take you through snowbanks, hiking poles are a necessity

If you’re looking for the best trekking poles to take with you on serious backpacking expeditions, then you’re going to need to look for a few special features.

One of the most important aspects to any good mountaineering pole is shock-absorption.

Unlike with the snow, where you’re sticking the poles into soft material, mountaineering requires you to walk on some hard surfaces. Pounding trekking poles into the ground with every step can be jarring unless you have a good anti-shock system in place.

Along with the shock-absorption, you’ll also want to look for ultra lightweight materials, a great grip, and adjustable height. The basket doesn’t matter too much for mountaineering.

For Men:

For Women:

For Casual Hiking

These are going to be the most feature-less trekking poles we’ll talk about. Why don’t they have the anti-shock systems or heavy duty baskets or intense telescoping abilities?

Well, when you’re simply going for a short hike across easy terrain, you just don’t need all that, so why would you spend your hard-earned money on it?

The best trekking poles for casual hiking will be lightweight, have great grips, and decent points. Everything else is just unnecessary.

For Men:

For Women:

For Winter Use

All right, we don’t really need shock-absorption with winter trekking poles, but the best models will have it anyway–after all, you never know when you may come across a patch of ice or crusty snow.

The most important thing about winter-use trekking poles is that they have interchangeable baskets. Baskets are important in snow trekking poles, for the obvious reason that you don’t want to lose them when you put your weight on the grips.

And speaking of weight, walking through the snow can be an exhausting activity–believe me, I’ve never been so happily tired as when I got back to the lodge after a wild afternoon of wintertime trekking–so you’ll want to find some poles that are made of ultra lightweight materials.

For Men:

For Women:

Let’s track back from Best Trekking Poles to Hiking Poles.

Or head on back to Glacier National Park Travel

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  1. Perry Rosenbloom says

    Hi Janice,

    Definitely make sure to get shock absorb poles. The Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock would make a great option!



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