Backcountry skiing is one of the most daring and adrenaline-pumping types of skiing. Avalanches, drop-offs, and other perils, in addition to the chest-deep powder, potential challenges, and other excitement, are all here. Backcountry skiing necessitates a lot of gear, and because that gear may be expensive, you want to be sure you get the best the first time.
That's why we combed the market for the best backcountry ski poles available. A good backcountry pole is light, comfortable, and can typically be adjusted to fit any terrain. The very best ski poles for touring that we've found are listed below.
Best Overall Backcountry Ski Poles: Leki Helicon Lite
The Leki Helicon Lite outperforms the competition in every regard, earning it the title of our favorite backcountry ski pole. It's also one of the most affordable poles on the market, making it our top pick for budget-conscious customers. With sticky rubber that makes it simple to grasp, the grip is well-contoured and easy to handle.
The wrist straps are effortless to tighten, you can use the handle to switch between ski and walk mode on tech bindings, and the secondary grip is excellent. This pole has a length adjustment range of 35 centimeters, which is ample for going from long poles for uphill travel to short poles for steep downhill turns, and finally to nordic length for skating out long exits. This pole is fantastic in all aspects, and it's less expensive than almost any other pole on the market.
The pole's drawbacks are few and far between, but if we had to select one, we'd say the colors are a little too bright, the bottom shaft could be sturdier, and the pole could be lighter overall. These are the only minor comments we could find. From the most critical factors, such as a comfortable grip and robust construction, to the extras, such as an ice or snow scraper on the powder baskets, the Helicon Lite poles provide. All of this is accomplished at a minimal cost, making your choice a no-brainer. They are, in our opinion, the best ski-poles on the market, as well as the best value.
Best Overall for Splitboarders: MSR DynaLock Ascent Carbon
The MSR DynaLock Ascent Carbon is a light and portable carbon-fiber pole that packs small enough to carry neatly into a backpack, earning it our selection for the finest split boarding pole. These poles feature great secondary grips and comfortable wrist straps, as well as 20 cm of length adjustability, which is ample for uphill. They also have huge powder baskets, which come in handy while touring in deep snow.
They save energy thanks to low swing weight, and at the top of the skin track, they collapse into a pack with a collapsed length of just 14.25 inches—the lowest packed size. These poles are the whole deal for split boarding: they're comfy on the way up and virtually invisible on the way down. Additionally, these are among the most affordable, high-quality foldable poles available.
The Dynalock Ascent Carbon has several drawbacks, one of which is its lack of durability. These poles have carbon shafts, lighter than aluminum but not as sturdy. They can withstand uphill skinning, but they won't withstand hammering if used by skiers on the way down. When they are folded, they're a little awkward. They rely on a thin velcro strap to keep them together. Although the MSR pole basket is different, it gets the job done. In a nutshell, these poles are everything we've ever wanted in a split boarding pole. So, just be careful not to abuse them.
Best Ski Pole/Ice Axe Hybrid: Black Diamond Whippet
A few backcountry skiers and ski mountaineers would like a tool that substitutes an ice ax for steep snow climbing and improve their skill to stop a fall while skiing down steep terrain. The Black Diamond Whippet is a classic steep skiing standby for these skiers. The most recent version adds a removable pick design to the product's previous triumphs. In a nutshell, it works like a typical three-section telescoping backcountry ski pole with the option of attaching the pick to the top of the grip if desired. As a consequence, you'll have a high-performance ski pole that rivals the best ski pole/ice ax hybrids on the market.
The Whippet's main disadvantage is its weight. The pole is nearly twice as heavy as previous models with the pick attached. However, the increased swing weight is barely apparent, especially when you are on challenging terrain and your thoughts are preoccupied with other things. You will be disappointed that the pole is only available as a single unit. it is unnecessary to move the ski poles from hand to hand at every switchback. While sliding uncontrolled down a steep, it is much easier to maintain track of where one is, reducing the risk of puncturing oneself.
Best Baton Pole for Ski Mountaineering: Black Crows Big Mountain Oxus
A baton-style ski-pole, the Black Crows Oxus has a fixed length and a long, narrow grip that lacks a curve. The pole's long and straight shape gives it versatility and structural integrity, allowing it to get grabbed in many positions during the day.
While it does not have a length adjustment, the skier can alter their grip position to have the same effect as adjusting the length of a pole. On the skin track, depending on the angle of the traverse, the pole can be held in a variety of ways, providing plenty of room for choking up with the uphill hand.
It can be held lower on the downhill when skiers tend to shorten their poles. In harsher terrain, producing a fulcrum enables better ski technique because the arms don't have to swing as much to push the hands forward. The poles can be plunged grip-first into the snow like the shaft of an ice ax while ascending steep snow. Then the plunged ski poles can be used as an anchor when descending heavy snow. These poles can be beneficial if you spend a lot of time skiing and mountaineering on big peaks.
Sizing the length, you can modify your standard poles. We recommend sizing up 10 cm to allow for Nordic-style skating in areas where lengthy, flat exits are the norm on ski mountaineering days. The lack of curved grip or handle features on these poles makes them difficult to grasp.
Particularly for long portions of double-poling or skating across flats. Pushing down on the tops of the ski poles from above is also inconvenient. These poles can help you improve your game if the style appeals to you, and you do a lot of ski mountaineering.
Our Selection Criteria
We assessed how well these ski poles fulfilled their tasks and scored them accordingly to determine the best backcountry ski poles in our review. Our metrics were minute and detailed, let us walk you through the criteria:
The prices of the poles in our test varied, surprisingly some were pretty competitive. Our top pick for a backcountry ski pole is the Leki Helicon Lite, which is also one of the most affordable.
It offers a pleasant grip, a length adjustment of 35 centimeters, good durability, a handle that easily manipulates a tech binding, and is reasonably light. In addition, the powder basket contains an ice/snow scraper.
The ergonomically curved grips on the Leki poles are especially appealing. With their subtle curves and universal fit, the Black Diamond grips have been a long-time favorite. The MSR Dynalock Ascent Carbon's curved grip and auxiliary handle were our favorites among the split board-specific poles. We also prefer the secondary grip of the Leki Helicon Lite, which has a somewhat sticky surface and a seamless connection to the primary grip.
Adjustment of Length
The length of a decent backcountry ski pole can be adjusted to match the activity at hand. Instead of a telescopic length adjustment mechanism, the Black Crows Oxus has a 38-centimeter-long grip that allows the user to grab the pole at varied heights based on their needs. Folding, collapsible poles often have less adjustment, such as the MSR Dynalock Ascent Carbon's 20 cm
Strength and Durability
Because it can take a hammering and keep coming back for more, the Black Diamond Traverse pole may be used for years. The fixed-length Oxus is especially durable because it has a robust aluminum shaft with no moving parts to break. In terms of durability, the Black Diamond Whippet and Leki Helicon Lite both scores well. Aluminum shafts are used in all of these poles.
The grip handle on Black Diamond poles is noted for its acute lip, which is useful for managing bindings. The powder baskets on the MSR Dynalock Ascent Carbon, Leki Helicon Lite, and Black Crows Oxus are all large enough to give ample flotation.
Both the Black Diamond Whippet and the Black Crows Oxus have features that enable them to provide extra security in rugged, harsh terrain. The Whippet is famous for attaching an ice pick to the tip of a ski pole, which can be used to grasp firm snow/ice on the way up.
The Black Crows Oxus poles are 16 ounces and have a single aluminum shaft, making them significantly more durable. Some poles, such as the Leki Helicon Lite, were 2-3 ounces heavier. The Whippet ski pole/ice ax hybrid is the heaviest pole in the test, but that's because it has a steel pick for climbing and skiing steep terrain.
The Bottom Line
Certainly, you can ski with any pair of ski poles, or even drop them altogether for some new-wave action, but there are external macro factors between poles that can have a significant impact on your skiing experience.
We ranked the competition in numerous critical metrics after doing extensive research. To choose the finest models for various backcountry skiing needs and budgets, we looked at overall performance.
The good news is that the best poles, in our opinion, are also among the most inexpensive. We hope this guide has been useful in your search for new poles to add to your backcountry gear. We'll meet you on the skiing catwalk. Let's shred some gnar!