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Trekking pole replacement tips: Buyer’s guide & instructions

With extensive use, trekking pole tips must eventually be replaced. This post includes a shopping guide for replacement tips and DIY instructions to do it easily.

In my experience, hiking pole tip longevity is correlated with distance and ground surface. The more hiking you do and the rockier the ground, the more quickly they wear down. The failure point is not the actual tip, which is made of carbide and nearly as tough as diamond, but rather the aluminum and plastic parts of the tip.

The wear is slow and gradual, making this a good maintenance project for a long November night.

Replacement supplies

To easily replace your hiking pole tips, you will need:

  • Slip-joint pliers,
  • A pot of boiling water, and
  • Replacement tips.

Based on first-hand experience I would recommend using Black Diamond replacement tips, specifically the:

I have used both, and don’t see a practical advantage to the newer Flex Tech version unless you plan to swap the stock carbide tips for the Rubber Tech Tips. If the carbide tip was the weak point, I suppose it could be easily replaced with a new Carbide Tech Tip. But, as I said earlier, the aluminum and plastic are the first to fail, which necessitates a wholesale replacement.

Bottom line: Go with the less expensive of the two versions. Amazon normally has the best prices. As I’m writing this, REI has replacement Leki tips for $20, and Backcountry has replacement G3 tips for $9. These tips all perform about the same, and they are all compatible with poles made by other manufacturers, although replacement tips sometimes subtly change the pole length.

Black Diamond Flex Tips (left) and used BD Flex Tech Tips (right). You'll notice that the carbide tips on the Flex Tech Tips look as good as new, whereas the nearby aluminum and plastic is showing signs of wear. Ultimately, this will be the point of failure, not the carbide tip itself.

Black Diamond Flex Tips (left) and used BD Flex Tech Tips (right). You’ll notice that the carbide tips on the Flex Tech Tips look as good as new, whereas the nearby aluminum and plastic is showing signs of wear. Ultimately, this will be the point of failure, not the carbide tip itself.

Replacement directions: The easy way

This should be a one-person job, and require little muscular strength and no additional tools.

1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. The water depth should allow you to completely submerge the old tip.

2. Dunk the old tip in the boiling water.

drunk-pole-tip

3. After 10-15 seconds, try twisting the tip off with the pliers. Clench low on the tip. If you clench too high, you may also be unintentionally clenching the pole shaft.

If unsuccessful, repeat the process. The old tip should twist off easily, almost like it’s been greased.

Clench lower on the pole tip than done here, so that you do not accidentally clench the pole shaft, too.

Clench lower on the pole tip than done here, so that you do not accidentally clench the pole shaft, too.

4. After removing the old tip, clean the shaft of dirt. Old glue residue can be left alone.

6. If you would like to determine if the replacement tip changed the pole length, install one new tip, then measure the difference between the “new” pole shaft and the old one.

The BD replacement tips are longer and smaller in diameter than the original tips. As a result, the lower pole shaft is now about 3.75 cm (1.5 inches) longer than it used to be. I will have to account for this when adjusting my pole length now.

The BD replacement tips are longer and smaller in diameter than the original tips. As a result, the lower pole shaft is now about 3.75 cm (1.5 inches) longer than it used to be. I will have to account for this when adjusting my pole length now.

7. Repeat Steps 1-6 for the second tip.

8. To secure the new tips, tap them on a hard surface like concrete a half-dozen times. Do not use glue.

Any additional advice for buying or replacing hiking pole tips? Please share.


Disclosure. This website is supported mostly through affiliate marketing, whereby for referral traffic I receive a small commission from select vendors, at no cost to the reader. This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support.

15 Responses to Trekking pole replacement tips: Buyer’s guide & instructions

  1. Erik Halfacre November 22, 2016 at 7:09 am #

    Thanks for the post Andrew. My BD Alpine Carbon Corks look about like the ones featured in your shots and I’ve been thinking al season that tips needed replaced before winter and still havent got to it partially because I didn’t know how yet. Glad I have this to go off of now!

  2. Doug November 22, 2016 at 10:32 am #

    I find it takes no time at all to cut them off with my little Swiss Army knife . Just slide the blade parallel to the pole then through the rubber portion of the tip, making sure not to cut into the pole. One cut is usually good enough to allow me to easily pull off the rest of the tip with just my hand. Only takes a minute or two and have done this many times in the field without ever damaging a pole.

    • Andrew Skurka November 22, 2016 at 10:48 am #

      Did you mean, “the plastic portion of the tip”?

      • Boyan January 21, 2017 at 8:12 pm #

        Probably. It is soft-ish plastic anyway so you could call it rubber.

        By the way, this technique does not work on the 2016 update of these poles. CMT has started using glue to hold the tips in place, they are impossible to budge even after a few minutes of boiling. I used the knife technique Doug described above, in combination with 15-20 sec of boiling. The boiling softens the plastic and makes it much easier to cut through. You have to go quite a bit down, maybe 3/4″ in order to be able to pry the existing tips loose. I used a very sharp handknife with a straight spine, I slid the spine along the surface of the pole driving the tip into the plastic and making 3-5mm slits. I then used pliers to peel the plastic down to the end of the cut, then repeated the process. It takes about 3 cuts to get down far enough and be able to pull off the existing tips

  3. Dan November 22, 2016 at 3:21 pm #

    I’ve only done this once (with Locus Gear poles, where the carbide eventually fell out of the tip). I scored some BD Alpine Carbon Cork poles from a hiker box on the PCT and seriously considered mailed them home, but ended up just poaching the tips and putting them on my lighter LG poles.

    I found they needed more than 10-15 seconds of boiling, perhaps 30 – 60 seconds. Then I grabbed them with a rag and twisted them off.

    • Andrew Skurka November 22, 2016 at 3:25 pm #

      Great score out of the hiker box!

      The boiling time probably depends on how well they are on there. Last night I had one that came off quickly, the other needed to be dunked twice. I’m not a materials engineer, but I would suspect that carbon fiber (and certainly aluminum) can withstand the temperature of boiling water with no adverse effect. If that is indeed the case, there is no detriment in submerging it for longer and making the job easier.

  4. Michael November 22, 2016 at 4:40 pm #

    Are the diameters of lower pole sections that consistent among all the makers that you don’t need to use glue? I use generic aluminum 3-piece poles.

    • Andrew Skurka November 22, 2016 at 6:54 pm #

      No, the diameters are different between manufacturers. However, they all taper their lower section, and I’ve never seen a tip that wouldn’t fit snugly onto the shaft. Depending on the tip diameter, shaft diameter, and taper, the tip may sit differently on the pole than was originally intended, as happened to me — I was using BD tips on Cascade Mountain Tech Poles, and the BD tips appear to be narrower than the CMT tips.

      You shouldn’t need glue. And you really want to avoid it anyway, because it makes replacement much harder. A few good tips on a hard surface combined with a little bit of abrasive mud or dirt will do the trick.

  5. Norm November 22, 2016 at 8:55 pm #

    I don’t know if this works with all treking poles, but when I need to replace the tips I take a good sized crescent wrench, adjust it til it is just a bit larger than the lower shaft of the pole and, sliding it quickly down the shaft, I knock the tip off. It sometimes takes two or three hits to take the tip off, but it has never failed to work

    • Andrew Skurka November 23, 2016 at 7:35 am #

      I’ve used that technique too, but this boiling water technique has much less risk, especially with carbon fiber shafts.

  6. Rick November 22, 2016 at 9:02 pm #

    Do you need to heat the new tip before sliding it on the pole shaft?
    And thanks for posting all this great info!

    • Andrew Skurka November 23, 2016 at 7:29 am #

      I don’t. It does not seem necessary, and you might end up with water in the bottom of the tip recess that would stay there (or get into your pole shaft) once you put it on.

  7. Dan Britton November 24, 2016 at 7:26 am #

    Boiling water- a good tip! Much less forceful than my vice and wrench technique.

    A note for other frugal hikers- Before I realized these were replaceable, I wore out my pole tips to the point where the pole itself was starting to wear. I replaced the tips but found they eventually broke without the support of the tapered shaft of the pole fully into the replacement tip. Instead of tossing out an otherwise good pair of aluminum poles, I decided to go tipless. The pole wears out slowly, but their grip on rock was surprislingy good and I used them on the entire PCT. The twist locking mechamism failed before I wore through enough pole to make them useless. Not sure you could get away with this with a carbon fiber pole though.

  8. Don Henderson April 23, 2017 at 11:56 pm #

    Anyone know what replacement tips you can use for Fizan compact 3 trek poles? There don’t seem to be any Fizan brand tips available in U.S.

    • Andrew Skurka April 24, 2017 at 4:32 pm #

      I’ve never seen Fizan tips. I would try BD tips. Most of the shafts are about the same width, so BD fits most other brands (and, if you could find them, Fizan tips would probably fit BD poles).

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