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Alpine Touring/Telemark Poles

Top Picks

How we choose: The best alpine touring/telemark poles highlighted here were selected based on 30 reviews of 9 products. Our top picks are those that are readily-available in the United States and have received the highest overall ratings from reviewers.

How we test: Trailspace is powered entirely by our community of readers. The reviews posted here reflect the real-world experiences of outdoor enthusiasts just like you.

If you've used a alpine touring/telemark pole that you think should be listed here, please share your experience.

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Black Diamond Compactor Ski Poles

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (4 reviews)

Lighter, faster, and easier to use than other poles, yet worries about durability linger. Despite the worries, I really like these poles.

Reasons to Buy

  • SUPER quick to deploy
  • Simple to adjust
  • Solid powder baskets

Reasons to Avoid

  • Possible durability issues

Summary: From Black Diamond: "The aluminum compactor pole adjusts between popular pole lengths and uses an internal Kevlar cord to instantly break down to packable size and redeploys in a flash. One, rock solid, point of adjustment means you can keep moving instead of being the one always fiddling with your poles." I trek on my ski poles. Or maybe I should say that I ski on my trekking poles. Either way I use them all for both. I don't want to have a ton of single-purpose gear so these appealed to me as a possible do-it-all pole.

Read more: Black Diamond Compactor Ski Poles reviews (4)

Black Diamond Expedition 3

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (3 reviews)

Light, tough, and cheap.

Reasons to Buy

  • Excellent locking system
  • Tough
  • Inexpensive

Reasons to Avoid

  • Hard to find tip protectors that fit
  • Threads are easily damaged

I find it a bit amusing that after many years, the traditional leaders in hiking poles, Leki and Komperdell, are finally coming out with locking systems for their poles based on the Black Diamond Flicklock system. We've all heard stories about the old twist-lock poles collapsing at the wrong moment, dumping someone in a puddle or causing a fall, and it's good to see other companies following BD's lead. I've had my latest pair of Black Diamond Expedition poles for about three or four years, and they're still going strong.

Read more: Black Diamond Expedition 3 reviews (3)

Black Diamond Whippet

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

The Whippet will give you added security in places where falling will have dire consequences. You have to know how to self-arrest for it to be useful. I recommend it for anyone that has ever wished they had, or actually had, an ice axe in their hand while skiing.

Reasons to Buy

  • Added security on hard snow
  • Easy to grip with hand on top of the pole

Reasons to Avoid

  • Heavier than a regular pole
  • Only 2-section collapsable

I started skiing with a Whippet two seasons ago and I really like it. I don't have crampons for my skis so this gives me a nice sense of security when skiing on hard snow. I've had a few unexpected falls/slides where I couldn't stop if I wanted to but each time there were no bad consequences. When skiing above cliffs or other hazards you don't want to fall into, the Whippet could make the difference between a good day and a bad day. Having a pick as part of your pole is far superior to trying to carry an ice axe with a pole or stowing the pole and just using the ice axe.

Read more: Black Diamond Whippet review (1)

MSR Deploy TR-3

user rating: 4 of 5 (1 review)

MSR has consistently made rock solid products, and this is no exception. The overall design may become the industry standard. The pole never slipped in height adjustment. The aircraft grade aluminum offered consistent stability. The pole offers a simple way to adjust height without fussing with clips, locks, and twists. The no catch triangular basket, solid construction, and ease of use will make these my go-to poles for my winter hiking and snowshoeing.

Reasons to Buy

  • Solid construction
  • One trigger adjustment
  • Well made
  • Carbide tip
  • Basket never hangs up on debris

Reasons to Avoid

  • Straps are hard to use while wearing mittens
  • Hard to use trigger while wearing mittens
  • Solid hard plastic does not help shuck moisture off handles
  • Handles are not offered for women-specific design/size
  • Reach to trigger is kind of big for women's hands
  • Height adjustments are predetermined.
  • Trigger mech wants to freeze up when snowing below freezing.

The TR-3 at first blush to me while attractive, seemed gimmicky. As I used these poles in various conditions on Mt. Rainier, the more I have come to find they are more than just a niche, cute product. First, I was impressed with how the minimalist packaging packed a ton of information onto the product card, plus, it stowed the instruction sheet neatly into the sandwich board.   Features: These poles are actually quite feature rich: What especially sets these poles apart is the adjustment system.

Read more: MSR Deploy TR-3 review (1)

Top Rigid Trekking Pole / Pole

Leki Vario XS

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

Leki's Vario XS four-season poles are designed for kids, but are fully functional on trail or in the snow. Adults or children who use poles in the 80-110 cm (31-43") range will find these two-piece poles are easy to adjust both for length and strap position. Leki's HTS 5.5 aluminum balances strength and weight, making the Vario XS a four-season pole that can adjust for growing children.

Reasons to Buy

  • Light
  • Easy to adjust length
  • Easy to adjust 1" wide straps
  • Molded grips with ventilation

Reasons to Avoid

  • 26.5" when fully collapsed

  Leki Vario XS  The Vario XS replaced the Leki Vario Jr. SpeedLock and, while aimed at younger hikers and skiers, is a full featured pole that shorter adults might find useful as well. Given their 110cm/43" length fully extended they should work for folks well over 5' though they are a tad short for me at 5'7". Mini Stranger on the Androscoggin River bank. Since these poles were a bit on the sort side for me I once again enlisted the aid of my nine-year-old daughter when it came to testing.

Read more: Leki Vario XS review (1)

K2 LockJaw Carbon/Alu

user rating: 4.5 of 5 (1 review)

A reliable, adjustable length pole that has survived multiple seasons of backcountry skiing in my hands. Smooth adjustment, camlock easy to operate with mittens, comfortable grips, bonus inclinometer, doubles as emergency avalanche probe. Old plastic camlock finally broke (repaired) but new aluminum version should hold up better.

Reasons to Buy

  • Longevity
  • Reliable lock, smooth adjustment
  • Carbon/alu a good price compromise compared to all carbon
  • Comfortable grips and straps
  • Low-res inclinometer, snow depth gauge, and emergency/backup avy probe functions

Reasons to Avoid

  • Plastic locking mechanism broke after 7 seasons (repaired, new version is aluminum)
  • Could go 5-10 cm longer for tall-guy touring
  • Could use a choke grip, added to newer version

For a time, I didn't use telescoping poles for backcountry skiing. Some of my friends had them and it didn’t take rocket science to observe that they had a few problems. Sometimes they’d ask me to hold on to one end while they twisted or reefed on the other, trying to free a frozen twistlock or extend a pole with an ever so slightly bent shaft. Or the twistlock would slip so that the pole collapsed on a critical pole plant, resulting in a nasty or maybe just hilarious crash. Who needs that? And, at least in proportion to my budget in those years, they cost a lot of money, three or four times what a cheap pair of fiberglass xc poles, which is what I used.

Read more: K2 LockJaw Carbon/Alu review (1)

More Reviews of Alpine Touring/Telemark Poles

Trailspace reviewers have shared 30 reviews of 9 different alpine touring/telemark poles.

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Other Types of Alpine Touring Gear

Find more alpine touring gear reviewed in these related categories:

Alpine Touring/Telemark Skis

Alpine Touring Boots

Alpine Touring Bindings

+2 more types

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