While fun for a weekend, hiking can be a lot tougher to do once you decide to go for a three or more-day-long trip. Many hikers find that having a bit of extra help while walking through the forests of the world can significantly increase the comfort of their trips.
This leads them to add trekking poles to their equipment list, but choosing the suitable materials for these can be difficult, so which is better, EVA grip vs cork?
EVA foam grips allow for less breathing for your sweat, being more durable and consistent, while cork grips are a lot lighter and allow for more breathing for your sweat but suffer from being easily damaged. These two differences have meant many people have argued for days about which grip is the best.
Despite the arguments for and against many of these two grip styles, cork and EVA foam have their uses and environments where they work best.
Each type of handle has been refined and perfected to make them the best way of trekking and hiking their environments, which means one is only better than the other in specific circumstances.
Here is everything you need to know about the best cork vs EVA grips!
What is an EVA Grip Trekking Pole?
One of the relative newcomers to the world of grips, first introduced in 1974, it quickly became used in many products that needed foam.
EVA is loved because of the low cost of manufacturing large quantities and the vast number of shapes it can be molded into, as the grips will generally last longer than cork.
EVA is used in everything from shoes to foam pads, and for trekking poles, it quickly became popular as a grip material.
The properties that make EVA great everywhere else have made it one of the most loved materials for handles.
This is owing to the durability, comfort, and grip strength that EVA handles offer those using them.
Where Are EVA Grips Used?
EVA grips are generally used primarily in colder regions where you won’t have your bare skin on the trekking pole. People who know they will be hiking through areas where temperatures can reach well below zero often have these trekking poles with them.
The low freeze point of EVA means that the material stays strong and usable without sacrificing any comforts you may find with other natural materials, making them better than cork.
This is why EVA grips are used in countries with beautiful forests even through their winter seasons.
One of the essential tools you will use when visiting any polar area will be a set of trekking poles with EVA grips. You may even be ridiculed for using rubber or cork-gripped trekking poles in these areas.
What Makes EVA Grips Durable?
EVA is a synthetic material with an exceptionally low freeze point and a low melting point, with the overall feel of the material feeling like rubber.
However, this means that EVA is also durable enough to handle much abuse without damage.
The chemical structure of EVA makes it resistant to many chemical changes that many other materials would suffer from.
Further, owing to EVA’s sponge-like texture, it is prone to absorb impacts rather than tear or sheer when handled roughly.
Trekking poles with EVA grips can handle much more abuse when compared to cork poles.
Why Are EVA Grip Built Like This?
EVA foam grips will generally last a thru-hike. Their foam is firm in the way few other materials are.
In addition, they are typically paired with a carbon pole to be very lightweight or aluminum for enhanced durability and flexibility.
These trekking poles can be abused, thrown around, used for self-defense, or forgotten for months.
After a quick rinse under some water and a rub down with a cloth, the poles will be ready to take on any challenge you may face.
These are usually lightweight, inexpensive poles perfect for first-time travelers or just those who like going into areas where it may be likely to lose some gear.
They are loved by trekkers and hikers worldwide for their easy accessibility and low cost.
What is a Cork Grip Trekking Pole?
Since cork is one of the world’s most natural and lightweight materials, the incredible number of things created using it is shocking, but you have to remember that not all cork is of the same quality.
For handles worldwide for hundreds of years, cork has recently seen a resurgence as the green harvesting of the material became more well-known.
Cork is the bark of an indigenous tree that grows in southern Europe, meaning the trees are never removed, and the farmers actively protect them.
This bark is then shredded and mixed with different glues at different ratios to create a super lightweight and breathable material.
Where Are Cork Grip Used?
Cork handles are perfect for anything that must be held for hours in hot, rainy, or humid environments. This is owing to the unique ability of cork to be breathable, not allowing sweat or water to make the surface slippery once sanded and treated.
These trekking poles are used and loved by most experienced hikers taking forest, bush, or even desert hikes.
Many backpackers carry these around them when traveling, especially in countries like Africa or Asia, where they may spend days trekking through dense forests.
Many beginners who cannot take something heavy with them also use cork-handled trekking poles.
Cork handles are incredibly lightweight, but lower-quality ones are not durable and can be damaged by simple handling errors.
This leads to chipping and tearing in the handle and, at times, has caused many backpackers to abandon their use altogether, favoring EVA in the long run as they generally last longer than cork grips.
What Makes Cork Grips More Breathable?
Cork is a unique bark that, even when on the tree, can easily be peeled and is lightweight, which means there are many air pockets in the material.
This means it looks like a sponge when examined under a microscope, making it breathable.
However, because it is shredded and then mixed with glue to mold it into specific shapes, you cannot simply create cork handles by shaping the shredded material and gluing.
Instead, they often create handles by machining and sanding down a cork and glue mix.
This allows the handle to be better shaped for the average human hand and allows the pores of the cork to open up, removing the light layer of glue that may be at the top.
This gives cork handles their telltale looks and makes them perfect trekking poles if you know you will be sweating or trenched in torrential rains.
Why Are Cork Grips Loved?
The love for cork trekking pole grips comes from the package that more expensive poles offer.
Cork poles are usually of higher quality than other poles because the grips require more attention and are often handmade.
This makes them perfect if you are looking for a lightweight all-rounder pole that you can take when you travel the world and might not have the space for something larger.
Cork grips have become much more popular as the green movement overtook the world.
Cork wins for me every time as cork wicks away sweat from my hands over the hours and hours of hiking each day, where EVA slowly makes blisters explode.
This is not just because the production of the grips is so much greener but because when the grips eventually start failing or tearing apart, the waste won’t pollute.
The glue and cork bark are both eco-friendly materials that allow you to discard them if needed and have minimal impact on the world.
Throwing the full grip away in a dustbin rather than tearing it apart while hiking is better.
What to Look for in Your Trekking Pole Grip?
Now that you know the basics of a cork or EVA foam grip differ from that, you may wonder how you decide which trekking pole to get.
There are many factors beyond just the grip you must consider; the overall weight, feel, and fit of the pole for you is crucial.
Here’s how to choose the best trekking pole for your next adventure.
Buying a trekking pole online can be difficult, sometimes like buying shoes. The picture may look good, but the size says that’s what you usually get. But you may never know if it is right for you without ever holding the pole.
This is why you like a good return policy, as this helps you be sure that the fit of the trekking pole grip is perfect for you, and if not, you can exchange or return them.
Higher-end trekking poles often allow you to swap out grips for ones that you find more enjoyable.
The lightweight material is the chief factor for many trekking pole users to buy cork.
If you are backpacking across mountains, through storms, and across large countries, you will not want to get something that weighs as much as your coffee pot.
Getting something lightweight or heavy enough to ground you will depend on where you will be trekking and how far you plan to continue.
Most trekking poles are a standard size, with a few adjustments to help you make sure it will be usable by you. However, other trekking poles can be made only to be a few inches long.
Handling a trekking pole before you buy it will be vital in knowing whether the pole you plan to get will work for your next hiking or backpacking trip.
Some trekking poles are only used for one thing: walking. However, as you become more enamored in hiking and trekking, you may find that the standard pole is not doing it anymore.
When this happens, you may want to start looking at trekking poles with a few extra features, like spikes for snowy mountains or camera mounting locations when you want to record your adventures.
Trekking poles get a lot of abuse and are not just used to support you while climbing or walking.
They can be thrown, shucked, flipped, or slammed down all during one trip across a mountain.
While fiberglass might be lightweight and cheap, there is a reason very few trekking poles are made from this material.
Where Can You Buy Trekking Poles of Each Type?
You can go to many places to find all the best trekking, hiking, and backpacking materials you may ever need.
Every camping gear store on earth will have a small section where you can easily buy your trekking poles. However, going to your local camping gear equipment store may not always be possible.
In these instances, you can buy a trekking pole from the same place where you buy your camping and hiking clothes.
These stores may not have a wide range of poles, but they will have a few basic ones you can purchase if needed.
The best place to find cork or EVA trekking poles of every shape, size, and type is online through big stores like REI, Black Diamond, and Amazon, then specialty cottage companies like Gossamer Gear or Zpacks.
However, many other specialty websites sell camping and hiking equipment from brands not always listed on Amazon or other larger online retail stores.
What is the best trekking pole brand?
There are several brands of trekking poles that you can find online or in local stores that will allow you to get both high-quality poles but that can easily be fixed with replacement parts if needed.
While these brands are of higher quality, they are also loved because they are well known, and many other trekkers and hikers can advise on which model will work best for you.
Each brand has shown that they are accessible to everyone around the world. However, some brands may be more prominent in other countries.
Many countries with larger trekking communities will have only locally manufactured poles and perfect for those areas.
Final Thoughts on Cork and EVA Grip on Trekking Poles
Choosing between a cork-gripped trekking pole vs EVA foam is very difficult before you have both in hand and use on a trail.
While there are some areas where they cross, knowing which is the proper grip material for you is a challenge.
The two types of grips are meant for vastly different environments, and you will need to be sure that you know where you are going and what you plan on doing before you go out into the world and start using them.