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Trekking Poles for a Thru-hike

I am planning a thru-hike on the AT. Can you give me insight into the pros & cons of ultralight poles vs the old standbys?


I am planning a thru-hike on the AT. Can you give me insight into the pros & cons of ultralight poles vs the old standbys? How necessary are shock absorbing poles for the AT?

Submitted by - Scott - Grosse Ile, MI


Well, it’s pretty simple, Scott. Lighter poles mean a lighter load, which is a good thing when you’ve got 2100+ miles till you reach the finish line. If I were you, I’d be weighing every single thing that goes into my pack, always opting for the items that shave ounces.

In terms of poles, you will save a few ounces (and dollars) by going with non-shock absorbing poles. Personally, I don’t really see or feel the benefit of shock absorbers in poles. Now, if I could install shock absorbers in my knees, that would be worth the extra money and weight!

For the AT, you’ll definitely want three-section poles that collapse down nice and small, because odds are you’ll stash them in your pack for certain sections. Non-collapsible poles just don’t make sense for thru-hikers because when you don’t want to carry them, they’re awkward to lash onto your pack and could cause you to get hung up while traipsing through tree-tunnels.

Here are a couple of good bets: the first is ultralight (and ultraexpensive) the second is a great bargain.

Black Diamond Z-Poles: Check out our video review.

Mountainsmith Rhyolite 6061

1 Comment

  1. FredT4

    During my 2011 AT Thru-hike I found the following:
    Leki had excellent support on the trail, when I broke my REI poles at mile 0.0, I replaced them with Leki at Neels Gap.
    I really like them shock feature but lots of hikers didn’t, so user preference.
    The flip feature is essential, you’ll regret it if you don’t have it on at least the bottom section.
    Quality poles are important, but a few were using wood shafts (more power to them).
    Grips types are important, ask your gearhead how use properly.
    But the most important feature is have some type of trekking poles. They were certainly one of the most important items in my gear list.
    Essential for crossing streams, transversing muddy trails, powering down the trail, enabling high & low milage days, fending off agressives dogs and many more uses.

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