Comparing Carbon Fiber and Aluminum Trekking Poles.

What is the difference between carbon and aluminum trekking poles?

Both Carbon fiber and aluminum are excellent shaft materials for trekking poles. Carbon fiber trekking poles are lighter, stiffer, and more costly. Aluminum poles are cheaper but heavier and malleable.

Carbon FiberAluminum
PriceMore expensiveLess expensive
WeightLighterHeavier
StiffnessStiffLess stiff
DurabilityLess durableMore durable
FeelFeels more responsiveFeels more stable
RecommendedBlack Diamond AlpineBlack Diamond Trail Ergo

At first, we didn’t even think trekking poles were needed.

And I agree. You don’t need them if you are never to go on a hike ever again.

But as you travel more, you’ll start to appreciate the poles more. They help you in several ways, from taking away some weight from your legs to improving your walking rhythm.

But when you’ve decided to buy a pole, the first confusion comes with its different types. Then the shaft material.

When it comes to trekking poles, there are two primary materials that manufacturers use for their shafts: aluminum and carbon fiber. Both materials offer unique benefits, but which is the best? To help you choose the right pole for your outdoor adventures, let’s take a deep dive into the pros and cons of aluminum and carbon fiber trekking poles.

The Difference Between Aluminum Vs. Carbon Fiber Trekking Pole Shafts.

Trekking poles, whether they’re made from carbon fiber or aluminum, are designed to provide support and stability to hikers. Carbon fiber poles, revered for their light weight and stiffness, are often preferred by serious backpackers, despite their relatively high cost. On the other hand, while being more substantial and malleable, aluminum poles are less expensive, making them an appealing option for casual hikers or budget-conscious explorers.

Durability

When it comes to durability, aluminum trekking poles hold an edge over their carbon fiber counterparts. Unlike carbon fiber, which is prone to splintering or snapping when excessively bent, aluminum can bend without breaking. This makes aluminum poles significantly more robust and durable in the long run.

However, this doesn’t mean all-aluminum poles are created equal. Lower-quality aluminum poles with thin shafts may not have the same longevity, breaking down sooner than expected.

Check if the aluminum used is 7075 alloy. Most low-end vendors do it with some 6-series alloy, like 6061. 7075 is much stronger than 6-series alloys.

Price

As with many products, the price often reflects quality, and trekking poles are no exception. Carbon fiber is generally more expensive than Aluminum. Also, Carbon fiber poles typically have a higher price tag than aluminum poles. The increased cost is primarily due to carbon fiber’s lightweight and stiff characteristics.

However, while aluminum poles generally cost less, beware of vendors offering exceptionally cheap options. These poles, usually made with thinner and inferior-quality aluminum shafts, may not provide the durability or reliability of higher-quality aluminum poles.

Weight

One key aspect hikers often consider when selecting trekking poles is their weight. In this arena, carbon fiber reigns supreme. Carbon fiber trekking poles are notably lighter than aluminum poles. This can be a significant advantage for multi-day hikers or backpackers looking to shave off every possible ounce from their gear.

While it might be tempting to opt for cheaper aluminum poles advertising a “lightweight” feel, it’s essential to consider their reliability. With aluminum, a certain degree of weight is often a good sign, indicating the pole is robust and durable.

The pole weight also depends on several other factors. For instance, telescopic poles are usually heavier than folding ones. When comparing pole weights, you must consider all these too. Don’t be surprised to see a carbon pole weighing more than its aluminum counterpart in the same price band.

Stiffness

Carbon fiber is known for its superior stiffness, an attribute that can contribute to efficient energy transfer while hiking. In contrast, aluminum trekking poles have a tendency to bend under regular tension. This flexibility, particularly noticeable in lower-cost aluminum poles, may not offer the same level of support and stability as their carbon counterparts.

Choosing the Right Material for Your Needs

Selecting between carbon fiber and aluminum trekking poles depends largely on your hiking habits and personal preferences.

Long-distance hikers or those regularly undertaking multi-day trips may find the lighter weight of carbon fiber poles to be worth the additional expense. However, if your excursions are more casual or infrequent, the durability and cost-effectiveness of aluminum poles may serve you just as well.

When it comes to purchasing, avoid the temptation of ultra-cheap options. Quality comes at a price, and trekking poles priced below $60 may not provide the reliability and durability you need. Remember, a good-quality pole, whether made of aluminum or carbon fiber, is built to last and is suitable for multi-day trips if treated well.

Contrary to some beliefs, carbon poles can indeed withstand rough terrain. Many professional hikers use them on various surfaces, and both carbon and aluminum poles are suitable across different seasons.

As a rule of thumb, aluminum poles, with their durability and lower cost, are a great choice if you are a day hiker. If you’re a long-distance backpacker or multi-day trekker, the lightweight nature of carbon fiber poles can make a notable difference to your comfort and speed on the trail.

Ultimately, the choice between aluminum and carbon fiber trekking poles boils down to personal preference, hiking style, and budget.

Best of Aluminium Trekking Poles vs. Best of Carbon Poles

We picked the best trekking poles from both worlds. Both being Black Diamonds is a mere coincidence. But we genuinely believe the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon and Trail Ergo are the best trekking poles.

Yet, they are different models from the same vendor. Therefore we decided to compare the two versions of the same model. Thus we picked the carbon and aluminum versions of Black Diamond Distance Z Folding Trekking Poles.

Both are merely two flavors of the same model—one with a carbon shaft and the other with an aluminum one. Both are foldable poles with an EVA foam grip.

But if we compare the 110cm poles of both versions, the carbon one costs $50 more than the aluminum one. As of writing this post, the carbon one costs $189.95, and the aluminum one only costs $139.95.

The extra price you pay saves you 190 grams of load. The aluminum one is 330 grams, and the carbon counterpart is only 140 grams.

Conclusion

If you’re an avid hiker, investing in a good pair of trekking poles is something you’d do at some point. You may want the most dependable, durable, lightweight pole at a lower cost. The shaft material is one key factor that significantly alters the equation.

Carbon fiber and Aluminum are the two materials used in pole shaft design. In this post, we evaluated them both.

Here’s the conclusion.

If budget isn’t a problem, carbon fiber poles are better. When it is a problem, unless you’re a heavy backpacker who travels for extended days, an Aluminum pole will do the job.

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