Brand: Black Diamond Equipment
Model: First Strike
Are trekking poles essential? That’s debatable. But many of our testers won’t go hiking without them. And this pair just shot to the top of the heap. “The best grip I’ve ever used,” raves one editor. “It changed the way I hold trekking poles by allowing me to comfortably palm the top of handle.” Testers say the Aergon grip’s egg-shaped top is better for striding across rolling terrain and more confidence-inspiring when descending.
The three-section, carbon-fiber poles lock together via an internal Kevlar-reinforced tension cord. The Speed Lock below the handle, which is easily operable even with gloves on, allows for up to 20 centimeters of on-the-fly adjustment. The tough-but-light carbon-fiber shafts were strong enough to support 275-plus-pounds of hiker and gear, but the swing weight—how the pole feels as you swing it back and forth—was light enough for all-day comfort. $200; 1 lb. 1 oz. (pair); leki.com
A 4-season, full-featured adjustabe youth pole.