Yes, those silly poles you likely think are totally unnecessary. Well, hike long distances or in poor footing for a short while and you’ll quickly see that these guys are worth their weight in gold. They also do double-duty as support for a tent or tarp, which allow you to leave tent poles at home, and also help clear debris out of the path or check the stability of the ground. In anything other than a flat easy footing trail, I bring my trekking poles.
Trekking poles are consistently manufactured out of a couple of things: aluminum, carbon fiber, and metal alloy. Durability is limited with either choice depending on the environment and care of the user.
Some trekking poles are fixed (one length) or are adjustable in one or two sections. Fixed poles tend to ensure there is no potential for joint lock slippage, but adjustable poles are easier to pack and also can be more easily used as support for a tent or tarp without needing a fancy knot or duct tape.
Trekking poles tend to range from around $100-$150 depending on frills (adjustability, shock absorbers, baskets, tips, wrist straps, etc.).
At present, my personal favorite is the Gossamer Gear Lightrek 4 (http://www.gossamergear.com/cgi-bin/gossamergear/Lightrek4_Trekking_Poles.html) which at 6.8 oz per pair. I’m a huge fan of how Glenn VanPeski runs his business and Grant has always been great to deal with. The poles represent a huge innovation and are literally the lightest adjustable poles on the market.
A good option for a fixed set of poles is the Backpacking Light Stix Carbon Fiber (http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/stix_carbon_fiber_trekking_poles_08.html) weighing in at 8.2 oz per pair.
An option for those who want spring or shocks in the poles is the REI Peak UL Carbon Shocklight (http://www.rei.com/product/750835) which weigh in at 13.5oz per pair. Please with bad knees will appreciate the extra cushion of these poles.
After very good manufacturers include Leki, Komperdell, and Black Diamond also are viable options