How To Choose Trekking Poles And Hiking Staffs
If you spend time hiking, trekking or backpacking, you’d probably be glad to give up some of the pounding your body takes when doing these activities. The easiest way to do that is with a pair of trekking poles or a single hiking staff.
Besides providing better balance, poles reduce the amount of stress on your knees, shoulders and back by absorbing some of the impact your body would otherwise have to absorb. Since the poles, rather than your body, absorb shock, you’ll have less arm and leg fatigue and improved endurance.
Who Should Use Them?
Hikers, trekkers and backpackers, especially those who hike over rough terrain, carry a heavy pack or have problems with joints, can all benefit from using trekking poles or a hiking staff.
If you’re an alpine or Nordic skier who doesn’t plan on hiking or backpacking, consider less-expensive, nonadjustable ski poles in your size. For backcountry skiing or snowshoeing, poles that convert to an avalanche probe could be a wise investment.
Compare Specific Features
After you’ve decided on a basic type of pole, look at the specific features. Here are some things to consider when comparing different models:
Trekking poles have aluminum shafts, carbide tips and a 3-section design for adjustability, making them easy to stow in your pack. They also feature anatomically shaped grips and quick-release baskets that can be changed to snow baskets for added versatility.
– Grips: Trekking poles have either rubber or cork grips. Rubber has the advantage of insulating in cold weather. Cork grips absorb moisture to avoid chafing bare hands. Some models feature grips that extend down the shaft, allowing you to grasp the poles without adjusting the length.
– Shock absorption: Most models feature internal springs to absorb more shock. Often, this feature can be turned off for times when it isn’t needed.
Hiking staffs are typically constructed with a knob handle, aluminum shaft and either a carbide or steel tip. The staffs have a foam grip and double as a monopod with a camera mount under the handle.
– Adjustability: Hiking staffs feature a telescoping option with a push button, or have a 3-section shaft to adjust the length.
– Shock absorption: Some feature internal springs to absorb more shock.
– The extras: Other features can include a removable basket or a D-ring for easy attachment to your belt or pack.
These are distinguished by a cane-style grip, 3-section shaft to adjust the length, removable dome basket and adjustable wrist strap.
– Grip: Walking staffs either have a rubber or cork-covered grip. Rubber insulates better in cold weather, but cork grips absorb moisture and don’t chafe bare hands.
– Shock absorption: A few models feature internal springs to absorb more shock.
Try Them Out
Once you get your poles, make sure they’re comfortable. Here are a few things to check.
– Adjustability: If your poles have a 2- or 3-section design that allows you to adjust the length, try out this feature before you go on a hike. The sections should be easy to adjust and shouldn’t come loose once you’ve altered them. For hiking on even terrain, your arms should be parallel to the ground when you’re holding the grip. When hiking uphill, shorten the poles, and when going downhill, lengthen the poles for comfort and greater stability.
– Grips: The shape and feel of the grip can vary from brand to brand. Check to make sure the grip feels comfortable in your hand.