My current trekking pole is a 5-pound GG LT3. I’ve also had a couple of other trekking pole options, including the bulkier 20-pound Lekki.
Now, from personal experience, I don’t feel like I would ever want to go back to the heavier trekking poles. My GG LT3 is lighter, less fatiguing, and easy to use.
So, yes, trekking pole weight matters, especially if you need to go for long-distance hiking and need to protect your knees.
And no, I’m not a weight-weenie or anything, but from experience, having a lighter trekking pole is necessary for me.
Of course, not every hiker agrees. Some will even argue there’s no need for a trekking pole, but that’s a debate for another day.
Today, we’ll discuss how the importance of trekking pole weight. In particular, I’ll detail how the switch from the bulkier to the lighter trek poles has helped me.
- 10 Reasons Why I Prefer Lightweight Trekking Poles
- Breakage Factor
- Cutting Trekking Pole Weight Vs. Backpack Weight
- How Much Weight Does the Trekking Poles Support?
- What Determines Trekking Pole Strength
- What’s the Ideal Weight of my Trekking Poles?
- Lighter Poles and Abuse
- When the Lightest Poles Don’t Make Sense
- How To Choose Trekking Poles
- Trekking Poles Materials (Carbon Fiber Poles Vs. Aluminum Poles)
- Cheap Vs. Expensive Hiking Pole Materials
10 Reasons Why I Prefer Lightweight Trekking Poles
There’re a couple of reasons I’d recommend a lighter trekking pole over the bulkier options.
In the section below, I’ll outline the reasons.
Lightening my Backpack
Unless you’re hiking in mountainous and rugged terrain, your adjustable poles will likely be packed in your backpack for most of the time.
Personally, my trekking poles are usually in my backpack for half of the time, so weight is a big deal.
Theoretically, the pole weight should only matter when it’s getting used, but every ounce matters for a long backpacking trip.
I find that when I hit the long stretches of flat-ish terrains, or taking photos, or need to grab a snack, I simply throw my lighter trekking poles in my backpack and hardly feel any weight difference or extra weight.
Plus, I can carry my pair of fixed-length poles in a single hand and leave the other free for drinking.
Improved Trekking Performance
I’ve used the heavier hiking poles in the past, and their greatest shortcoming, at least for me, was how clunky they were.
They were always getting in my way and didn’t fit my gear.
But my lighter LT3 pole was revolutionary.
First, I don’t notice their presence in my hands and feel like they’re a natural part of my body.
More importantly, the lighter hiking poles will go where I need to while providing all the support I need.
The lighter LT3 has transformed me from an anti-hiking guy to a pro-pole.
My hiking performance and efficiency have increased tenfold, and I love every moment I’m in the woods.
And in support of the lighter poles, I’d also like to make a comparison with canoe tripping.
I’m a fan of canoeing, and the paddle weight determines the feel and form.
Of course, the design of the paddle is also critical, but there’s a world difference in your paddling performance between the heavier and lighter hiking poles.
The same applies to poles, in my opinion.
Lighter is Better
Trekking with lighter trekking poles is awesome.
Remember, trekking poles are moving, so the weight factor is multiplied by the number of times you raise and drop the adjustable poles.
Think of them as the ¾-pound weights you wear on your wrists at the gym.
For an hour or so, the wrist straps weights are less bothersome, and you’ll hardly feel their effect. But for the extended sessions, the weight will start wearing you down.
If you’re like me, then I’m guessing you don’t fancy the idea of using all your energy to lift weights all day.
But with a lighter pole, you start becoming more fluid and efficient.
Lighter fixed-length poles make a huge difference for me.
When I went from the 20-pound pair to the lighter 5-pounds LT3, I was shocked at the change and am now hooked to the light weight hiking poles.
On my first trip, I dropped them a couple of times because they were so light that I could hold them, much more relaxed.
My LT3 feels like an extension of my hand compared to something bulky I’m carrying. Plus, the swing weight on my pair of trekking poles feels “more responsive.”
Conversely, I’d get sloppy with the placement of the heavier hiking poles, which generally made me more clumsy.
I’m a bit experienced with different types of trekking poles.
In fact, I started with no pole, graduated to the heavier trekking poles, and now I’ve one of the lightest adjustable poles on the market.
I definitely feel a difference in my hands and would time and again prefer the lightweight models.
I find them more maneuverable and nimbler in my hands.
It’s a handy benefit, considering I love to hike in the Sierra region. It’s mountainous and treacherous, and lighter poles allow me to make the last-second corrections on placement when descending.
Lighter poles at good at reducing strain and muscle & arm fatigue.
They’re much better, especially for long-distance hiking.
See, I like to lean on my pole, especially when cranking a shallow and steep incline, and I don’t want to lose a footing.
The lighter poles are great at saving my knees and leg muscles from fatiguing, which means I can push past the 15-2- miles.
I’ve a quiver of trekking poles, all of the different weights.
But I find the lightest poles comfy and simply adequate for my need. I wouldn’t want to reconsider the bulky poles.
My evolution in poles has been from the bulkier to the lighter models, and I’ve noticed a huge difference between them, including the total effort expended through the long mileage trails.
The difference isn’t noticeable for the short hikes, but you’ll feel it for the long-distance trails.
Safety and Efficiency
I often hike alone, so safety and efficiency are a priority.
The hiking poles give me more confidence on the steep slope. Today, I hardly hold back or even take the tentative steps on shaky grounds.
I don’t have to deal with baby steps on the ascents for traction.
Now, while any trekking pole will help, the lighter options will make a huge difference because I rarely put them aside.
When I’m not using them on the trails, I find it easy to carry them cradled in my fingers.
And if I slip, I can always clench and stab with the light poles to keep me from falling.
Again, if I come across a questionable trail, I don’t have to decide whether or not to get the poles out of my backpack.
I simply swing the pole forward in a blink.
In short, the peace of mind that comes with having a lighter pole is out of this world, and it has saved my ankles and knees quite a few times.
Poles aren’t for everyone, but I enjoyed hiking further once I began using the lighter poles.
The lighter options are less fatiguing, and after a long day on the trails, I’ve fewer injuries and am less tired.
I need to push even harder and go out on the long trails more often.
It’s unlike my previous experience with the bulkier poles. I would always come home with sore knees and spend the next day nursing my soreness and injuries.
Even if you don’t notice any difference between the lighter and heavier poles, you’ll feel better with the feather-weight poles.
Unless you’re a weight-weenie and obsessed with the different pounds, you’ll simply find it nice to have a pole that is a couple of pounds lighter. Many campers are usually surprised at how lightweight my poles are.
I think there’s a significant psychological boost, which helps campers cover more ground at a faster pace and take fewer breaks.
Plus, the light poles are great for whacking the spider webs crossing your path.
Regarding the challenges of lighter trekking poles, a potential concern is the breakage and durability factor.
There’s a durability tradeoff on the lighter poles, but that will depend on the choice of pole material and overall construction.
I also look at it this way: if I’m in a position to break my poles, I’m likely lucky not to break my limbs.
And for backpackers who don’t consider the trekking poles as essential equipment, giving up on durability for lightness is fine.
Cutting Trekking Pole Weight Vs. Backpack Weight
If I had the option to cut the backpack weight versus the trekking pole weight, I’d choose the latter.
Of course, taking, say, 6 pounds out of your backpack would make a difference, but it doesn’t compare to taking it off your trekking poles.
I know it doesn’t make sense, considering both are equal weights but hear me out.
From a physics standpoint, the 6 pounds shoved off the trekking poles are “more significant” than a similar weight taken off my backpack.
See, you expend a lot of energy moving the trekking poles over a greater distance than the weight on your backpack moves.
There’s constant acceleration and deceleration when you’re using a trekking pole. The Ups and down, moving forward, and stopping the pole’s momentum at the end of the swing expends a lot of energy.
On the contrary, your backpack remains relatively “still.” There’s no acceleration of mass or radical fluctuation of the backpack’s content.
You simply suspend the mass. The speed on your backpack is pretty steady, and it moves in a fairly constant vector.
While it moves to some extent, it doesn’t bounce up and down nearly as much as the trekking poles do.
To illustrate this, think about adding 10 pounds to your existing poles and adding 10 pounds to your backpack.
You’ll realize that carrying your overloaded backpack would still be manageable, but it would suck using the overweight trekking poles.
If that’s still not enough, I like to compare the trekking poles to shoes.
There’s a saying that a pound on your feet makes six on your back.
It’s much or less the same principle.
With heavier shoes, you’ll expend more energy to move them. And thus, the heavier your poles, the more energy your upper body needs to sing and move them forward.
So, given the opportunity to cut on the trekking pole weight and backpack weight, I’d go for the trekking pole weight without blinking.
How Much Weight Does the Trekking Poles Support?
Generally, trekking poles are sturdy enough to support a person’s weight or gear. Depending on the strength, it can also support the weight of a shelter such as a tent.
A vertically-oriented trekking pole is strong enough to support 300-400 pounds.
But over the years, I’ve broken my poles severally.
And if you’ve been in the hiking game for long, I’m pretty sure the occasional tumbles and overload on my pole has damaged or breaking o your poles.
Usually, a pole can withstand plenty of abuse but will fail in case the pole tips get stuck in the spaces between rocks or roots.
The hiking pole will also break if strong wind or snow forces the steel tips into a tough angle.
What Determines Trekking Pole Strength
Generally, many trekking poles can tolerate the same weight.
Of course, depending on the construction and quality, you might come across the flimsy cheap lings that can’t withstand the slightest pressure.
Often, the choice of material determines the overall pole strength.
Some of the popular materials for trekking poles are aluminum and carbon.
Each has its positives and drawbacks, which we shall look at later in the guide.
The bottom line is many trekking poles have enough strength to accommodate your body weight ad shelter.
Unless you’re oversized or your shelter has an extraordinary weight, a typical hiking pole is sufficient.
Your hiking pole may break only when you snag on the tips and fall on the pole. It may also break if you apply too much pressure, especially in the heavy wind and snowy conditions.
Again, most trekking poles will accommodate a weight of up to 300 pounds, which is enough for most users.
And even then, that’s a conservative estimate because of liability reasons. It can go as high as 400 pounds.
What’s the Ideal Weight of my Trekking Poles?
The ideal weight of your trekking poles depends on your fitness level and experience level.
If you’re a newbie hiker and not experienced enough, I’d suggest you pick the lightweight poles.
I imagine you won’t be hiking with much frequency and won’t take on challenging terrains and rocky trails.
However, if you’re a seasoned hiker looking to rack up a bit of mile on the rugged terrains, a slightly heavier pole would be a great option.
The truth is that the heavier poles tend to have more strength and durability than the lighter poles.
Often, the choice of material determines the overall weight of trekking poles.
For example, metal-based trekking poles, such as steel or aluminum poles, are much heavier than carbon fiber poles.
Other elements contributing to the weight of a hiking pole include the number of segments and grip design.
Generally, the more segmented your pole is, the lighter it feels. However, the adjustable trekking poles are more likely to break down, especially when strained.
Lighter Poles and Abuse
One of the shortcomings of the lighter trekking poles is their inability to take as many beatings and pressure as the heavier hiking poles.
It would be silly to think that a lighter carbon fiber pole is as strong and durable as the heavier poles of the same material and build quality.
Personally, this is an important debate because I’ve always wanted to go as light as possible without worrying about the durability.
See, I don’t baby my gear, and when on the trail, I often abuse my trekking poles.
From personal experience, I’d say that the weight/durability element depends on how much weight or pressure you put on the pole.
For example, I’ve used the lighter BD Z carbon fiber poles for several thousand miles now, with zero problems.
They’re still going strong and have even survived a few near spills and some awkward placements.
The weight doesn’t matter, especially if you’re a little more cautious. Any lightweight hiking pole will hold up to any abuse.
That said, there’re locations where I feel the lighter trekking poles would not be a great option.
While my lighter trekking poles have held up quite well for a few years, I could also see how they would be brittle for too many uses.
Yes, they’re perfect for ultra-marathons and long-distance and other lightweight ventures, but they may fail to excel in arduous terrains.
I’m a big fan of the ultra-light carbon fiber poles.
They’re ultra-light, and provided you take care of them; they should last you several years. I’ve broken one carbon pole in the last six years, and it was the mountain cascade one.
I’d recommend beginners to pick the Black Diamond Snow Baskets trekking poles if it’s their first set. You could also choose the cheap Costco trekking poles.
They provide a good compromise between quality, price, and weight.
Provided you maintain your weight on the pole lengthwise, the cheaper and lightweight Costco poles will hold up well.
I also like to use the lighter trekking poles, more like ski poles, for rhythm and allow my arms to aid propulsion slightly. Don’t use them like crutches like I often see many hikers do!
Remember that it can break if you smack them hard, especially from the side. Also, don’t allow the pole to get stuck in a hole when moving fast.
When the Lightest Poles Don’t Make Sense
You shouldn’t consider an ultra-light pole if you’re planning to take your hiking in a scree field.
If you’re also trekking in an area where trekking poles are likely to get stuck, you’d want to ditch the lightweight pole entirely.
See, if you accidentally push the pole between the two rocks space and then push it forward, you’re likely to break it.
In short, if you plan to do lots of high alpine hiking travel, keep away from the lightweight trekking poles.
But if you don’t watch to ditch the trekking poles entirely, you could switch up your holding technique.
For example, you don’t want to plant the poles at an angle and rotate it. Instead, you should plant the pole vertically down and move your arms “backway” so they remain vertical until you lift them.
It will help from getting the trekking poles stuck and breaking.
Of course, the planting motion is a little less efficient than the traditional technique, but it works well and keeps your trekking poles from breaking when the situation calls for it.
How To Choose Trekking Poles
There’re a couple of considerations when choosing the ideal hiking pole.
I think there’re five considerations I find important when choosing trekking poles.
I’m a big fan of the lightweight trekking poles.
My LT3 is nice and comfortable to hold all day and has no fatigue. They’re easy to operate and hardly add weight to my backpack.
The only shortcoming with the lighter trekking poles is they tend to cost more.
There’re a couple of different grip shapes and materials.
The two main grip materials are cork and rubber grips. I prefer cork grips over rubber because I don’t like the feel of rubber grips on my hands, especially after a long day hiking.
Go with a grip that is comfy to hold and with the right shape.
I don’t baby my gear, so durability and sturdiness are crucial.
If I’m trekking in challenging locations, I prefer using aluminum poles to the carbon fiber poles because of their sturdiness.
And the good thing is that some cheaper aluminum poles are sturdy and withstand all the beatings of rough terrain.
Over the last five years, I’ve only broken one aluminum trekking pole.
The pole lock mechanism is also another important detail, especially on the telescoping poles/foldable poles.
The two major lock types are the flick lock type and twist-lock system.
I like flick-lock types much better than the twist-lock because, with twist lock, you eventually become uncertain whether it’s locked or not.
But I imagine it’s all about your preferences.
The twist locks are also likely to slip, especially if you didn’t twist them hard enough or because of the wearing out of the inner plastic screw.
While replacement screw-ins are inexpensive, it’s irritating to replace them often.
Most cheap trekking poles are usually adequate for beginners, but sometimes, you might come across a dud.
I started with a cheap pole from Walmart, but the experience wasn’t good. The twist locks sucked, showing signs of wear and rust within a few uses.
I later upgraded to a more expensive pole, and they’re still going strong up to date.
So, yes, the higher-priced trekking poles are generally more solid and well-constructed.
They don’t rattle or vibrate like the cheaper models and will also take more beating.
Trekking Poles Materials (Carbon Fiber Poles Vs. Aluminum Poles)
Trekking/Tent poles are made of different materials, but aluminum and carbon are the two main ones.
Both materials have pros and cons, and their idealness will depend on your hiking needs.
So, there’s no right or wrong choice; it’s simply a matter of balancing pros and cons.
For example, aluminum bends and flexes more than carbon. On the other hand, carbon is brittle and stiff and will rather break than bend.
So, if you overload the aluminum poles, it’s likely to bend and give you a window of opening for an emergency fix.
But if you overload the carbon fiber poles, the stiff material doesn’t give room to correct the error and will simply snap.
However, understand that while carbon is stiff, it can flex in certain directions and take more force.
Unlike an aluminum pole, a carbon pole will return to its original state if it doesn’t break and fail.
Regarding the weight element, the carbon poles win hands-down.
If you need an ultra-light pole, which you can use for miles without tiring, I’d strongly recommend the carbon poles.
They’re ultra-light, convenient, and perfect for backpackers.
On the other hand, the aluminum trekking poles are usually quite heavy-duty and hefty. They’re cumbersome to use and seem like they’re always getting in your way.
Price-wise, the aluminum poles tend to be cheaper than the carbon trekking poles. I’d recommend beginners choose the cheaper aluminum poles because of their budget-friendly prices.
Finally, durability is also a differentiating factor between the aluminum and carbon poles.
The aluminum trekking poles are generally more robust and sturdy. They can take a beating much better without collapsing or breaking. I find the aluminum trekking poles ideal for use in challenging terrains with plenty of rocks in-between spaces.
But as I mentioned earlier, there’s no right or wrong material. It depends on your experience level, skill, trekking purpose, and location.
Cheap Vs. Expensive Hiking Pole Materials
If you’re just starting trekking, I’m guessing you’re torn between the cheaper and more expensive trekking materials.
After all, there’re plenty of mixed reviews regarding both pole prices.
For example, you’ve probably heard plenty of recommendations for the premium trekking poles, which are fairly expensive.
On the other hand, you’ve also seen reviews of most hikers using the cheaper trekking poles for years without breaking.
The latter is also significantly cheaper and doesn’t weigh any more than the expensive options.
But from experience, I would recommend the expensive option.
I noticed a huge difference between the Cascade pole to the higher-price Gossamer trekking poles.
And don’t get me wrong.
The cheaper Cascade tent poles are adequate and did their job just fine.
However, the Gossamer was much more pleasant, nice, and comfortable to hike with. They were also more practical, especially on the challenging terrain.
I also noticed a difference in their weight, especially when I trekked long distances. I could effortlessly lift the Gossamer pole with much ease.
While the Gossamer was a bit frail and not as thick as the Cascade, I’ve been careful with their usage, and they’ve lasted me for a couple of years now.
One of the striking differences between the cheaper versions and the expensive trekking poles is the locking mechanism.
The cheaper trekking poles utilize the cheap plastics, while the expensive ones use the premium and sturdy metal finishing.
Another difference lies in their finishing. An expensive pole will have a better all-around finish.
The cork and handle design is also more comfortable and noticeable. The cork on an expensive pole isn’t only smoother but also heavily padded and feels like I’m wearing gloves. It’s essential for eliminating the sores.
In short, the difference between the two is going to be the finish, quality of material use, quality, and ergonomics.
If you’re not after the best finish or quality, I recommend the cheaper options.
But if these things matter, then go for it.
Pole weight matters but doesn’t necessarily mean the lighter trekking poles are better than, the heavier ones.
In my opinion, the ideal pole weight will depend on your needs.
Only pick a pole that does its job.
It makes no sense to have ultra-light hiking sticks if they’ll break in the scree fields.
I’m a big fan of the light trekking poles, but I know I can only push them too far. They’re perfect for use in the perfectly manicured trails, on flat ground, and in light hiking.
If you use them in the mountainous regions to support your full body weight and shelter, you may look for something heavier and sturdier.
Don’t lean on the ultra-light trekking poles and expect them to hold your entire weight when descending a steep slope.
However, for the right conditions and usage, the lighter hiking/tent poles are a nice gear addition for me.
Once you get accustomed to using them, you’ll wonder why you waited so long!