Top 5 Best Backcountry Ski Poles of 2022 • The Adventure Junkies (2022)

Updated on December 21, 2021

Get ready for another roundup of the cream of the crop ski gear. We’re dropping into this ski season by highlighting an often overlooked tool: the ski pole. Most people buy ‘em cheap, others don’t examine them as closely as their poles, boots, and bindings – and some people just forgo them all together! However, if you want to have the best skiing experience away from the resorts and groomed runs, you’re going to need the best set of backcountry ski poles.

Backcountry ski poles are designed specifically for those who are trekking away from the crowded runs at resorts in search of fresh powder and a truly wild ski environment. To that end, they need to be multifunctional: able to act as a hiking pole as you ascend the mountain before converting to a ski pole for when you descend.

Not only will a solid set of ski backcountry ski poles help get you from A to B, but they’ll help you maintain stability and the speed necessary to aggressively tackle a run. If you’re doing any type of carving, especially in powder, ski poles can help you plant and pivot into your next turn. Whatever the application, we’ve rounded up the best backcountry ski poles for your next off-piste adventure.

For more of our top ski gear recommendations, check out the Best Ski Poles.

Quick Answer - The Best Backcountry Ski Poles

  1. Black Diamond Vapor

  2. Black Diamond Expedition 3

  3. Dynafit Speed Vario 2.0

  4. Black Diamond Carbon Whippet – Single

  5. Atomic Backland FR

Comparison Table - Best Backcountry Ski Poles

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NameAdjustableWeightShaft MaterialBasket TypePriceRatingReview
Black Diamond VaporNo10.4 oz.Carbon FiberPowder$$4.8Read Review
Black Diamond Expedition 3Yes1 lb. 2.4 oz.AluminumPowder$$4.7Read Review
Dynafit Speed Vario 2.0Yes14.7 oz.CarbonPowder$$5.0Read Review
Black Diamond Carbon Whippet – SingleYes15.7 oz.Aluminum Upper / Carbon LowerPowder$$$4.6Read Review
Atomic Backland FRYes1 lb. 8 oz.AluminumPowder$4.5Read Review
NameAdjustableWeightShaft MaterialBasket TypePriceRatingReview
(Video) Top 5 Ski Poles Of 2021

Reviews - The Best Poles for Backcountry Skiing

Black Diamond Vapor

Specs
  • Adjustable: No
  • Weight: 10.4 oz.
  • Shaft Material: Carbon Fiber
  • Basket Type: Powder
Features
  • One-Piece Design Adds To Minimalist Construction
  • Ultralight Foam Used For Grips To Keep Overall Weight Low
  • Freeride Baskets Are Minimal Yet Effective At Keeping Poles Above Snow

Top 5 Best Backcountry Ski Poles of 2022 • The Adventure Junkies (1)

BEST ULTRALIGHT POLES

Weighing in at just 10.4 ounces for the entire pair, the Black Diamond Vapor Carbon ski poles are the lightest backcountry ski poles on the market. What makes these poles so light, yet incredibly strong, is their carbon fiber construction. For those who don’t realize, carbon fiber is 10x stronger and 3x stiffer than steel.

The tops of the poles, just above the grips, interestingly feature a “sticky” rubber grip that when turned upside down can be used to adjust bindings and snow boot buckles. This makes minor and quick adjustments much easier than having to balance and bend down.

One potential drawback of these poles is their lack of compact adjustment as many backcountry skiers prefer a pole that can be packed away easily. However, the one-piece design is what makes these poles so incredibly light that most people will be able to overlook this.

Black Diamond Expedition 3

Specs
  • Adjustable: Yes
  • Weight: 1 lb. 2.4 oz.
  • Shaft Material: Aluminum
  • Basket Type: Powder
Features
  • External Lever-Lock Uses Friction To Keep Adjusted Length Secure
  • Baskets Can Be Swapped Out For Hiking (sold seperately) Or Skiing
  • Adjustable Width Straps Accommodate Bare Hands For Hiking And Gloves For Winter

Top 5 Best Backcountry Ski Poles of 2022 • The Adventure Junkies (2)

BEST MULTI-SEASONAL POLES

Are you a multi-sport adventure enthusiast? Do you take to hiking when there’s no snow but trade in your hiking boots for skis once the snow season has commenced? Then the Black Diamond Expedition 3’s are your best investment.

No need to double dip the wallet and buy two sets of poles when these crossover poles can tackle both sports! Designed for all-season use, the Expedition 3’s are meant to be swapped between 3-season hiking and snow season skiing. Just change out the powder baskets (the collar near the pole tip) for a smaller basket when the weather warms up.

These poles also pack down extremely well, with locking mechanisms that let you adjust the height in two places. This is ideal considering you’ll need your poles to be different lengths for both hiking and skiing.

View at REI

(Video) Top 5 Best Hiking Poles of 2021

Dynafit Speed Vario 2.0

Specs
  • Adjustable: Yes
  • Weight: 14.7 oz.
  • Shaft Material: Carbon
  • Basket Type: Powder
Features
  • Push-Button System Makes Adjustment A Breeze
  • External Lever-Lock Uses Friction To Keep Adjusted Length Secure
  • Wrist Straps Double To Provide Extra Stability For The Hike Up The Mountain

Top 5 Best Backcountry Ski Poles of 2022 • The Adventure Junkies (3)

BEST POWDER AND OFF-PISTE POLES

When hitting fresh powder and backcountry runs, the Dynafit Speed Vario 2.0 are the best ski poles you can possibly have in your arsenal. Crossing the intersection of lightweight and durable, these poles are a mad scientist mix of Dynafit’s best poles.

Made from carbon, a super lightweight yet strong material, the Speed Vario 2.0’s deliver a responsive touch in harsh conditions. The low weight combined with the adjustable length push-button system make these poles ideal for backcountry pursuits.

Lastly, these poles also have extended grips, giving you a wider range of grip area for the climb up the mountain. They feel more like walking sticks than fancy hiking/ski poles – in a good way!

Black Diamond Carbon Whippet – Single

Specs
  • Adjustable: Yes
  • Weight: 15.7 oz.
  • Shaft Material: Aluminum Upper / Carbon Lower
  • Basket Type: Powder
Features
  • Includes 2 Adjustment Mechanisms For Ultimate Compatibility
  • Removable Steel Ice Pick Provides Extra Security On Icy Terrain
  • External Lever-Lock Uses Friction To Keep Adjusted Length Secure

Top 5 Best Backcountry Ski Poles of 2022 • The Adventure Junkies (4)

BEST MULTI-USE POLES

If you were a wizard, this would be Gandalf’s staff. It can do practically anything, from mountaineering to hiking, and even skiing. Though it’s only a single pole (rather than a set) many skiers opt for a more minimal style anyways, using the single pole for turns on certain backcountry conditions.

The top of the staff, I mean pole, is where the magic is: a removable steel ice pick that assists when traversing especially icy and dangerous conditions. This optional piece can easily be removed with the click of a dial and stowed safely when skiing downhill, thereby removing any potential for interference.

Also of importance is the ¾ basket (disc-like collar) found near the tips of the pole. While it sports a powder-specific basket that’s wide enough to plant in deep snow, it cleverly reduces the overall weight and footprint by shaving down the sides. Whizz on, wizard!

View at Amazon

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Atomic Backland FR

Specs
  • Adjustable: Yes
  • Weight: 1 lb. 8 oz.
  • Shaft Material: Aluminum
  • Basket Type: Powder
Features
  • Designed With The Help Of Pro Skier Chris Benchetler
  • Hybrid Aluminum Design Blends Strength With Reduced Weight
  • Features Hidden Phillips And Flathead Screwdrivers Within The Pole Shafts

Top 5 Best Backcountry Ski Poles of 2022 • The Adventure Junkies (5)

BEST BANG FOR YOUR BUCK POLES

Easy on the wallet and packed with features, the Atomic Backland FR ski poles are truly the best bang for your buck. Light and thrifty, they will support any backcountry skiing adventure you have in mind.

The telescoping poles are adjustable in length, allowing you to shorten them for your ascent and lengthen them for downhill skiing. The poles can also be pulled apart (beyond their maximum telescoping length) to reveal a Phillips screwdriver at the end of one shaft and a flathead screwdriver at the end of the other. These nifty tools are sure to be useful for quick gear adjustments as you traverse the backcountry.

Finally, the wrist straps on the Atomic Backland FR’s feature padding for increased comfort and adjustments for proper sizing.

THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING BACKCOUNTRY SKI POLES

HOW TO FIT SKI POLES

When determining the right size ski pole, make sure that you’re wearing either shoes or your ski boots. Turn the poles upside down so that the grips are touching the floor and the bottoms are pointed to the sky.

Next, grip the pole just beneath the basket (the little disc near the tip). If your arms are at a 90° degree angle, it’s a perfect fit! If your arm is less than 90° degrees, then the pole is too large; consequently if the bend in your arm is more than 90° degrees, then the pole is too small. If you’re an “in-between” size, choose the shorter of two poles.

When buying online, you might not have the luxury of trying your ski poles out in person. Use the following chart to determine the right size for you when buying online.

Pole Size

95 cm

100 cm

105 cm

110 cm

115 cm

Skier Height

4’1” – 4’4”

4’5” – 4’8”

4’9” – 5’0”

5’1” – 5’3”

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5’4” – 5’6”

Pole Size

120 cm

125 cm

130 cm

135 cm

140 cm

Skier Height

5’7” – 5’9”

5’10” – 6’0”

6’1” – 6’3”

6’4” – 6’6”

6’7” +

SKI POLE STRAPS

Ski pole straps have a twofold purpose: to help you form a better grip when planting your poles and to keep your poles with you (read: attached to your person) should you wipe out.

Many people put their straps on incorrectly, so make sure you know how to properly use them! When putting the straps on, put your hand up through the strap and then tug down. Wrap your hand around the strap and grip the pole with strap in hand. This will give you the proper fit and support.

BASKET

The basket of a ski pole is a small collar near the tip of your ski pole. It works like a small snowshoe in that it’s designed to keep the pole from sinking too far into the snow. Standard baskets are roughly 2” across and are good for All-Mountain use. Powder baskets are larger, 4” or more across, and are specifically designed for fresh powder and backcountry skiing.

FEATURES EXPLAINED

BASKET

The disc-like collar near the tips of your poles.

EXTERNAL LEVER LOCK

A quick-clamp mechanism that helps fasten adjustable length poles.

OFF-PISTE

Any ski run that is attempted off the beaten track or in the wild.

POLE TIPS

The pointed ends (bottoms) of the ski pole that help you plant your pole in the snow/ground.

SHAFT

The long, cylindrical part of the ski pole.

READ MORE

For more of our top skiing gear recommendations, check out these popular buyer's guides:

Downhill Skis

Ski Boots

Ski Bindings

Ski Poles

Ski Pants

Ski Jackets

Ski Goggles

Ski Helmets

FAQs

What are the lightest ski poles? ›

The WINGET Alpine Ski Poles are one of the lightest options available in the market for women. They are designed with a blend of 50% carbon fiber and 50% aluminum to ensure the strength, reliability, and durability you have been looking for.

How do you choose backcountry ski poles? ›

Aluminum poles are generally heavier than carbon poles, usually by an ounce or two per pair. We recommend aluminum poles to most backcountry skiers because they will last much longer than carbon poles, and the weight savings are almost negligible. Also, aluminum poles are much less expensive than carbon poles.

Why are backcountry ski poles adjustable? ›

Extended grip– Perhaps the most important attribute of a backcountry-specific pole is the extended grip. Underneath the primary grip that you would hold for downhill skiing is a secondary or extended grip. This allows you to choke up on the pole and hold it further down the shaft. This is very important on the ascent.

How long should backcountry ski poles be? ›

Ski Pole Length by Height Chart
Skier HeightPole Length
6'4″ to 6'6″54in (135cm)
6'1″ to 6'3″52in (130cm)
5'10 to 6'0″49in (125cm)
5'7″ to 5'9″48in (120cm)
9 more rows

How do you choose ski pole length? ›

The traditional method of choosing the correct length ski poles is to turn the ski poles upside down and hold them underneath the basket. In this position, your arms should be at a 90 degree angle when your upper arms are at your sides. Some skiers may prefer to use longer or shorter poles.

Do ski poles really make a difference? ›

Poles help your balance, rhythm, and timing of your turns immensely. It is important to make sure you put the time in to find the right pole for yourself. There are several factors to consider, such as sizing, the different terrain you may face, the materials of the pole, as well as the grips, straps, and baskets.

Are aluminum or composite ski poles better? ›

Are Carbon Ski Poles Better Than Aluminum? Intermediate to advanced skiers prefer carbon fiber ski poles, and they are generally considered superior to aluminum in many regards. One of the main benefits of carbon ski poles vs. aluminum poles is the weight.

Can you use trekking pole for backcountry skiing? ›

As long as they get long enough, they should be fine. The Black Diamond ski poles I, and many others, ski with are nearly identical to their trekking pokes. Powder baskets are key in untracked snow. Adjustability is also extremely nice in the backcountry.

Are ski poles measured tip to tip? ›

A ski pole's length is normally measured in cm from the top of the grip to the end of the tip. The length poles are available in, vary in 5cm increments.

How do I choose a touring pole? ›

Backcountry Ski Poles - How To Select The Best Length ... - YouTube

When should I replace my ski poles? ›

Check the edges and base materials for cracks or deep gouges. Ski edges are particularly prone to wear and tear. The edges can become so thin that they're susceptible to breaking. You want to replace them before reaching that “point of no return.” Similarly, cracked sidewalls will drastically reduce the ski's “grip.”

Should I buy my own ski poles? ›

At a recreational level there is no need for anything flashy, so as long as the height is correct most poles will do the job. Usually they come as a package with the skis and boots at no extra cost, so you may as well get them even if it is your first time.

Why do skiers use poles on half pipe? ›

While it's easier to grab without them, poles can help with balance, especially as skiers slide down rails. “The poles aren't that much weight, but I feel for me it's something to hold on to and squeeze for pressure and nerves and everything that you don't see,” Logan said.

Can you use trekking poles for Splitboarding? ›

G3 Pivot Trek Poles

G3's Pivot Trek Poles are rad for splitboarding, they have a clean simple design are durable and pack down super small. Basically everything you need in a set of backcountry snowboard poles.

Should I use ski pole straps? ›

One should never use pole straps while skiing in the trees because of tree roots and debris under the snow it's easy to get a pole basket caught and with the momentum and force of skiing you can easily rip your arm out or some other injury to your shoulder, arm and or wrist.”

What is the bottom of a ski pole called? ›

Features of ski poles

Basket: Near the bottom end of the shaft, designed to stop the pole from sinking significantly into deep snow. These can range from being small, aerodynamic cones used in racing, to large snowflake shaped baskets which are used in powder skiing.

Are aluminum or composite ski poles better? ›

Are Carbon Ski Poles Better Than Aluminum? Intermediate to advanced skiers prefer carbon fiber ski poles, and they are generally considered superior to aluminum in many regards. One of the main benefits of carbon ski poles vs. aluminum poles is the weight.

How do you pick downhill ski poles? ›

Downhill ski poles need to be strong enough for planting turns, light enough so your arms don't tire and flexible enough to withstand hard falls. If you're a beginner, a good ski pole is any pole that fits. As you become more experienced, you may want to try different materials for a better strength-to-weight ratio.

Can you use trekking pole for skiing? ›

Sure you can use your treking poles for skiing (leki after all make both). If you are on piste then the smaller baskets are fine. Just for off piste / ski touring you need the bigger baskets.

When should I replace my ski poles? ›

Check the edges and base materials for cracks or deep gouges. Ski edges are particularly prone to wear and tear. The edges can become so thin that they're susceptible to breaking. You want to replace them before reaching that “point of no return.” Similarly, cracked sidewalls will drastically reduce the ski's “grip.”

Are ski poles measured tip to tip? ›

A ski pole's length is normally measured in cm from the top of the grip to the end of the tip. The length poles are available in, vary in 5cm increments.

Can you use black diamond hiking poles for skiing? ›

As long as they get long enough, they should be fine. The Black Diamond ski poles I, and many others, ski with are nearly identical to their trekking pokes. Powder baskets are key in untracked snow. Adjustability is also extremely nice in the backcountry.

What are snowshoe poles? ›

Snowshoe poles differ from regular old ski poles in that they have a telescoping shaft which allows the snowshoer to adjust the length of the pole. Think trekking pole only with a basket.

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