When searching for trekking poles at your local outdoor gear store it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the different options. For some reason, trekking pole grip material always seems to throw people off. Such a simple difference can really make a big impact.
What’s the best trekking pole grip material (EVA Foam vs Cork Grips)? Cork and EVA Foam are the two most popular trekking pole grip materials. Cork grips are more comfortable, waterproof, and offer a little cushion, but they will eventually chip/crack. EVA Foam Grips are more durable, but less comfortable since they absorb moisture. Rubber grips are cheap and uncomfortable causing blisters.
I personally use Black Diamond’s Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles. They’re lightweight and extremely comfortable. Continue reading below for more information on the different trekking pole grip materials.
Cork vs EVA Trekking Pole Grips
Once you’ve narrowed down your search and settled on a specific trekking pole model it’s time to choose the right grip material. Cheap rubber grips should be off the table so it all comes down to cork vs EVA Foam.
It’s hard to figure out exactly what you need without spending countless hours on the trail. Luckily, there’s really no right or wrong answer. Choosing the wrong trekking pole grips isn’t going to ruin your hike. So what’s the best trekking pole grip material?
- Cork: Cork is by far my favorite trekking pole grip material. It usually costs about $10-$20 more than EVA Foam. Cork is soft enough to offer a little cushion, wicks away moisture and offers a more secure grip. Over time it starts to conform to your hand making it much more comfortable than the other option. Cork is slightly less durable than foam, but it should last through years of heavy use.
- EVA Foam: People seem to either love or hate EVA foam grips. Foam is pretty comfortable and more durable than cork, but it tends to absorb moisture. This makes foam less comfortable on long hikes. If it rains or you have sweaty hands, you’ll have to deal with rubbing and chaffing.
- Rubber: Don’t buy rubber trekking pole grips! I guarantee you will end up buying a new set of poles in 1-2 years. Rubber grips are cheap and really uncomfortable. You will end up with blisters and hotspots.
Choosing between cork and foam grips boils down to comfort vs long term durability. Almost everybody thinks that cork grips are more comfortable than foam, but they will eventually chip and wear away.
Remember that you can always spend a little extra cash and swap out your grips if you don’t like them. Gossamer Gears Cork Trekking Pole Grips are a great addition to any trekking pole. They cost about $15 and they’re really easy to install.
Cork Trekking Pole Grips
Cork grips have been around since I was a child and they’re still probably the best grips on the market. Cork is environmentally friendly, impermeable to water, molds to your hands and feels cool to the touch. But what does all that actually mean?
1) Cork Grips Won’t Hold Moisture
Since cork barely holds any moisture you won’t end up with sweaty or rain-soaked trekking poles. Although it might absorb a little bit of sweat over time, unlike foam which acts like a sponge. You won’t have to deal with blisters on long hikes and they won’t end up getting slippery.
You won’t have to worry about sweat, rain and condensation soaking into your grips causing all sorts of problems. There’s not going to be a rash and blisters on your hand at the end of the day.
2) Handle Weather Fluctuations
Cork grips are better in both extreme heat and cold. They will remain cool to the touch in the heat of summer and won’t freeze in the winter (unlike EVA Foam). So you’ll stay comfortable regardless of the weather.
3) Cork Grips Form To Your Hand
When you first get cork gripped trekking poles the grips will feel a little bit hard and clunky. Don’t Worry! That’s not permanent.
Since cork has a decent amount of elasticity your grips will start to form to your hand. Over time you’ll end up with a more comfortable and secure grip compared to foam. No more blisters from rubbing even on long hikes.
4) Cork Grips are Sometimes Less Durable Than Foam
Just remember that not all cork grip trekking poles are manufactured the same way. Cork grips will quickly start to decompose and chip away on cheap trekking poles. Spend the extra money on a quality pair of poles by companies like Black Diamond and Leki (better customer service and warranty).
Personally, I would go with a cork composite grip that’s made up of 80% cork (like these). Cork composite grips will last much longer than traditional designs.
My Leki Trekking Poles have lasted close to a decade with minimal wear. You will eventually take a stumble and snag your pole in rough terrain. I’ve broken a lot of poles throughout my life so you definitely want to look for a lifetime guarantee. My poles have been rebuilt/remanufactured and replaced without costing me a penny.
EVA Foam Trekking Pole Grips
Personally, I’m not a huge fan of EVA Foam grips, but everybody’s different. I have really sweaty hands so they always end up getting wet and slippery.
They just don’t seem to be quite as comfortable as cork handles. They end up absorbing sweat/rain and smelling nasty. After a few hours on the trail, I always end up with blisters and hotspots all over my hands.
They feel warmer in the summer and in the winter you’ll have to deal with moisture freezing. So all around I’m not a huge fan of foam grips, but some people seem to love them. Here are a few of the advantages to foam trekking pole grips.
1) EVA Foam is More Durable Than Cork
When it comes to durability EVA Foam is the winner hands down. Foam grips will last way longer than cork. You might end up with a little bit of fraying on the edges, but functionally they’ll be perfect.
2) Foam Grips Are Cheaper
As a general rule most cheap to mid range trekking poles will come with foam grips(or rubber). Foam is just way cheaper and easier to manufacture than cork.
This doesn’t mean that trekking poles with foam grips are bad. Some of the best poles on the market come with a foam grip option. You’re just going to have to pay a little bit more for cork.
3) Better Shock Absorption
Coming off a recent wrist surgery I quickly realized that foam grips offer way more shock absorption. You get a little less feel on the trail, but you won’t feel every slight snag on your wrist. On short hikes, this might not be a big deal, but over the course of a day, it’s huge.
Do yourself a favor and just skip any trekking pole that comes with rubber grips. These are only found on the cheapest trekking poles(Walmart Specials).
Hard rubber will take a serious beating, but they have absolutely no give. If you don’t wear gloves you will end up with blisters. They’re going to be hard to grip and you will end up with nasty black rubber all over your hands.
Instead of settling on the first pair of poles you can find spend like ten more dollars and get a pair of Adjustable Cascade Mountain Cork Poles (On Amazon). They’re definitely not the best poles on the market but you can’t beat the price.