Great Gear: Pain Relievers

Grab some trekking poles. Your knees will thank you.

“Four legs good! Two legs bad!” An odd reference, perhaps, in the context of hiking. But the old Orwellian catchphrase rings true on the trail when your knees start to creak.

Indeed, a pair of trekking poles can serve as a set of extra legs, doubling support for your hips, ankles, and knees. Every step is dampened and absorbed—important when wearing a heavy backpack—and balance is easier to maintain on a steep slope with these in hand.

Here are six trekking pole options—high-end and budget buys, with cork handles and Neoprene straps. All models shown have carbide tips to bite the ground. Some include shock-absorbing features to further dampen your footprint while plodding down a mountain or hill.

Now, grip a pair of poles and stride forth. Your pseudo-legs will serve to soften each step, extending to stab the ground as you hike happily on “four legs” down the trail.

From left, REI Traverse, Mountainsmith Carbonlite Pro, Crescent Moon 3 Section Collapsible, Black Diamond Syncline, Komperdell C3 Carbon Powerlock, Leki Carbonlite Aergon


A relative budget buy, the Traverse has a stout aluminum alloy shaft and soft EVA foam handgrips. The pole’s internal locking mechanism keeps the three-section telescoping system set in place once adjusted for length. It slinks down to 26 inches for stowing on a backpack.

A carbon-based pole at a more affordable cost. That’s the promise from Mountainsmith with its Carbonlite Pro, a telescoping model made of carbon-wrapped 7075 aluminum. Add a cork/rubber grip, adjustable wrist straps, built-in antishock cushion, and you have a solid outrigger for your arm at an easy price.

Snowshoe manufacturer Crescent Moon sells trekking poles on the side. The
3 Section Collapsible model is made of aircraft-grade aluminum and comes with two sets of baskets—one for snow, one for land. The adjustable pole has a shock-absorbing feature that you can turn on or off depending on the type of frozen or solid terrain currently underfoot.

At about 10 ounces per pole, the aluminum Synclines swing easily in the hand. The two-section trekking pole is made for year-round use—just switch baskets when the snow piles deep. The company’s FlickLock adjustment system extends the poles from 38 to 59 inches.

Tested in the Alps—and made in a factory in Austria—the top-shelf C3 Carbon PowerLock is a strong and lightweight model that’s among the priciest poles on the market. It’s constructed with carbon fiber and high-end alloy, creating a solid pole that weighs just 8.9 ounces in each hand. You can adjust the poles’ length in seconds from short to long with a lever on the shaft.

LEKI touts its new SpeedLock system as “the strongest external pole locking system in the world.” On the pole shaft, red levers open and close to adjust pole length. The company’s AERGON grip gives multiple options for grappling a pole on nearly any type of terrain. The poles weigh a scant 7.3 ounces.

Stephen Regenold writes about outdoors gear at

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