For Red Bull X-Alps athletes carrying a pack and hiking up steep gradients, they allow upper body muscles to pull a share of the weight, helping them go faster for longer. Experts say poles transfer as much as 20% of the load off the legs, and transform any hike into a full body workout.
These days telescopic poles are old school. They're bulky when they pack down, and the progressively wider diameter sections mean they end up heavier than they need to be. And did anyone ever fully trust those Chinese-made plastic catches with all their weight when they leaned on the poles at the edge of precipitous mountain drop-off?
As Black Diamond's exclusive patent on telescopic catches came to an end, their engineers developed a new concept. The Z-pole, similar in principle to an elasticated tent pole, it uses a braided Kevlar cord wrapped in a lightweight resin cone at each join to allow the sections to slip together easily without snagging. The result is a pole that you can snap open or shut, lightning fast without breaking your stride, and it folds down to fit inside even the smallest day-pack.
Their top of the range Ultra Mountain Carbon trekking poles weigh in at just 253g each, thanks to the carbon fiber shaft. Other Black Diamond Z-poles have more durable, but heavier aluminium shafts, and some come with sculpted cork handles, giving an organic feel as they wick moisture from your sweaty palms.
Black Diamond's Ultra Mountain Carbon Trekking Poles
Retail price: $170