I’m a big proponent of trekking poles. As I detailed in “The pros, cons, and uses of trekking poles,” they significantly reduce the impact forces on your knees, as well as provide greater improved stability when traveling over uneven terrain. But trekking poles can be relatively bulky and difficult to carry when not in use, especially if you’re trying to attach them to a smaller pack. Enter new fold-up trekking poles from Black Diamond and Komperdell that shave off 10 inches or more when collapsed.
Most trekking poles feature three (sometimes two) separate sections that slide into each other when packed down, which creates small areas of overlap where the sections meet. When collapsed, this style of trekking pole measures between roughly 25 and 29 inches, depending on the brand and style.
Fold-up trekking pole, on the other hand, feature sections connected by a strong cord that separate from each other, allowing you to fold them up into a more compact package. When collapsed, fold-up trekking poles measure a scant 13 to 17 inches, depending on style, making them much easier to slide into your pack when not in use.
Black Diamond Z-Poles
Black Diamond features its “Z-Pole Technology” in four different models of fold-up trekking poles, including the ultralight carbon-fiber Ultra Distance Trekking Pole ($149; 9.2 to 9.7 ounces per pole, depending on length) and the less expensive Distance Trekking Pole ($99; 11.6 to 12.7 ounces per pole).
The big drawback to these poles is that their length is fixed; you cannot make them longer or shorter to compensate for steep terrain or for use by a taller or shorter individual. Four different lengths are available, but I would consider this aspect a significant downside; I routinely adjust the length of my trekking poles depending on the terrain.
Komperdell Fold-Up Trekking Poles
Komperdell offers a line of fold-up trekking poles that solves the fixed-length issue by incorporating an adjustable section that slides in and out of the handle, providing 20 centimeters (about 8 inches) of adjustability. This design makes their poles an inch or so longer than Black Diamond’s when collapsed, but I would say this is a small trade-off to make for such an important feature.
Their ultralight version is the Carbon Expedition Vario 4 ($140, 7.5 ounces per pole). The Carbon Approach Vario 4 is slightly less expensive ($120, 8.5 ounces per pole) and also available in a compact version for shorter individuals.
Learn more about trekking poles in these recent posts:
“Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid