Outdoor enthusiasts tend to occupy one of two camps when it comes to hiking poles: they love them or they hate them. It’s safe to say that Ana was firmly planted in the latter – that is until she badly damaged her knee during a rock climbing accident. Determined not to miss out on an exciting 5-day hike that she had been planning for months, Ana made the decision to purchase some hiking poles. She’s now a convert, and will be using them for many adventures to come. Read Ana’s experience and find out how to choose your first pair of hiking poles, her review of the Komperdell C3 Cloud Carbon Trekking Poles, and the million-dollar question: are hiking poles worth it?


Ana and Robbie ready to start the Routeburn Track

Having worked in the outdoor industry for several years now, I have heard all the praises sung about hiking poles. They reduce pressure on knees and aid balance. They improve posture and increase walking speed. They’re all the rage in Sweden, where locals can even be spotted using poles on their evening strolls. They sound great on paper, but as a young and frugal student I have always had my doubts for several reasons. Good hiking poles are not cheap, they’re extra items to juggle, and (most importantly) I’ve made it through many a fantastic hike just fine without them.

For a long time, this rationale was enough to keep me from taking the plunge, but then disaster struck. Three months out from an epic five-day hiking/camping trip through the Greenstone Valley and over the famed Routeburn Track in New Zealand, I suffered a freak rock-climbing accident that badly damaged one of my knees. I was tentatively given the go-ahead to complete my big hike as long as I wore a good knee brace, worked hard to get my legs strong and kept my pack weight to a minimum. On flat terrain, hiking poles have been shown to redistribute about 5kg of body weight typically carried by the legs with every step (and up to a whopping 8kg per step on inclines!). I could not deny that some pressure relief and stability would do me good, and the idea of acquiring a pair of hiking poles began to seem much more appealing.


Ana on Lake Harris, Routeburn Track, NZ

Ana on the trail at Lake Harris, Routeburn Track, NZ


How to choose hiking poles

When choosing your first hiking poles, it can be hard to know where to start. As with many decisions regarding outdoor gear, it can largely depend on where you’re going, when you’re going, and what you expect from your gear. I intend to use my hiking poles for all outdoor ventures from now on, so ideally the poles would be light enough to remain comfortable over long distances and frequent use, and durable enough to withstand it. 


Fixed length hiking poles vs adjustable hiking poles

Fixed-length poles are the most reliable type of hiking poles, and are a top pick for ultra-light hikers thanks to their comparatively low weight. But they’re also difficult to travel with, as they cannot be brought on as carry-on luggage. They also lack versatility, since the pole height required for correct arm positioning can change depending on the steepness of terrain. For these reasons, I ultimately decided against fixed length poles.

In the end I chose the Komperdell C3 Cloud Carbon Trekking Poles, which feature adjustable telescopic shafts and a simple, external locking mechanism made of robust forged aluminium. Komperdell poles are known for their durability: the grips are made from lightweight cork (the most long-wearing of popular grip materials), with comfortable extended grip zones especially designed for navigating steep terrain.


Hiking Pole Weight

As mentioned, fixed length poles tend to be the lightest in weight, so if you’re looking to shed a few pounds from your pack then this is the way to go. Foldable hiking pole options, such as the Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking Poles, tend to be lighter and more compact than telescopic poles like the Komperdells. The tradeoff is that folding poles are more prone to breakage, due to the joint type and a thinner construction. For my purposes, telescopic poles were the ideal compromise between packability and durability.


Hiking Pole Materials

Most hiking poles are made either from carbon fibre or aluminium. Carbon fibre can be more brittle than aluminium, but is notably lighter and more rigid. Although I was reluctant to compromise on durability when it came to the pole type, I was more willing to give carbon fibre poles the benefit of the doubt. I knew through years of chatting to Paddy’s staff and customers that, in general, the pole joints tend to go first; either from mechanism malfunction, old age or misuse.



Accessories such as rubber pole tips or summer/winter baskets can significantly improve the useability of your hiking poles. What you choose to do with your hiking poles will dictate what accessories will work best. Our trip took place in the summertime, hiking through a mixture of flat valley floor with many streams and steep, rocky terrain. The tips of hiking poles are usually made of carbide, which is great for wide, soft surfaces but can be somewhat unreliable on small, hard surfaces (like rocks). I opted for some rubber pole tips to help with grip, as well as shock absorbency. It is also important to note that some National Parks prohibit the use of unprotected hiking poles, so check with the local National Parks office before you go. 

Another accessory to consider for these conditions is summer baskets, which do come included with the C3 Cloud Carbons. They are useful for hiking through areas that are either rocky (to help prevent your poles from getting stuck in rock crevices), or soft and muddy (to minimise sinkage). These can either be used in combination with your rubber pole tips, or on their own. Winter baskets are a cold weather alternative that provide pole flotation in snowy conditions.


Lake Mackenzie, Routeburn Track, NZ

Lake Mackenzie, Routeburn Track, NZ


Review of the Komperdell Carbon Trekking Poles


Pros of hiking poles

Offer support and stability: The hiking poles felt light and sturdy in my hand, and, although I expected my arms to ache at the end of the day, surprisingly they didn’t. The main purpose of my poles was to redistribute weight, improve balance, and increase stability. I immediately felt more supported, and was particularly glad for it when going up over sustained rocky sections. The rubber tips also prevented the poles from getting caught in very small gaps between the rocks.

They aid cardio fitness: I have often struggled a little with cardio fitness on steeper hikes, and was pleasantly surprised with how much the poles aided me uphill. The trick to it is to angle the poles slightly behind you and use them as a little extra boost up the mountain. Remember that hiking poles are not meant to consistently bear your full weight; they are designed to assist your legs and feet, not replace them!

Hands-free is easy with wrist straps: Freeing up my hands for other activities was much less of a nuisance than I imagined. I am somewhat of a serial happy-snapper, and slipping the poles over my wrists when I stopped to take a picture quickly became second nature.


Cons of hiking poles

They add bulk and weight: Though much more compact than fixed-length poles, the C3 Cloud Carbons still measure a good 67cm in their retracted form. On the rare occasion that I needed to stash the poles quickly, I will admit that I found it more convenient to pop them on my partner’s pack rather than my own. For those travelling solo, I would recommend putting on your hiking pack and practising stashing your poles to make sure that you are able to do so quickly and comfortably.

Can be slippery on wet surfaces: The rubber pole tips did end up being a little slippery when crossing streams, though this was a minor inconvenience. I stuck to my original plan and kept the tips on, but in hindsight perhaps using the summer baskets alone would have been a better setup.

Unisex sizing: A feature that I overlooked initially was the hand loops. The C3 Cloud Carbons are a unisex, one-size-fits-all design, and being on the petite side I was unable to adjust them quite small enough for my hands. Better fitting loops would have allowed me to rest my hands into the cradle, conserving energy and further helping to redistribute weight. As it was, I largely kept my hands out of the loops and only used them when I needed to free my hands for photos/drink breaks. If you have similar concerns, consider opting for a women’s design.


Hiking poles crossing a stream

Crossing streams with rubber pole tips is slippery work! Not my best move.


Are hiking poles worth it?

When choosing hiking poles, it is important to have an idea of what you’ll use them for, and what your expectations are. It’s likely that you will have to make some compromises between durability, weight and packability but there are many good quality options available that tick a lot of boxes.

I found my hiking poles easy to get used to, and easy to manage. They did what they were supposed to do, which is improve stability and reduce pressure. That being said, they are an aid, not a leg replacement, so bear this in mind if you are considering a purchase.

Following this experience, I would recommend hiking poles to anyone regardless of whether they are suffering from knee instability, but especially so if they are. Post-injury, going on a big trip again was very daunting and the hiking poles offered a level of support that has me excited for many more adventures to come.


Hiking Poles in Backpack

Thanks for taking my poles Robbie!


A note from the author:

This blog is based on personal experiences, and is not intended as a guide for the rehabilitation process of serious knee injuries, or as a return-to-play timeline. Many factors can affect the management of chronic knee conditions, including but not limited to age, weight, fitness, medical history and mental health. If you are suffering from knee pain for any reason, speak to a medical professional prior to undertaking any strenuous hiking adventures.

Photo credits: Anastassia Kouxenko, Robert Baudish, Random Fellow Hikers

About The Author


Some 80 years ago, a young bushwalker's dissatisfaction with the limited and heavy bushwalking equipment available prompted him to design and make his own. Before long, word spread, and Paddy Pallin's lightweight, functional designs were soon in demand among fellow bushwalkers. From its early days the company has concentrated on supplying bushwalkers, travellers and adventurers with the highest quality and most advanced products and knowledge. Since 1930 the company has grown to become Australia's leading supplier of specialist outdoor and travel gear. The company, still owned by the Pallin family, now has thirteen stores throughout Australia as well as online, mail order and corporate sales divisions. We are using our vast wealth of knowledge, and experience, to build an online community where we can share our stories, reviews and tech tips to help you research and plan your next adventure.

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