Tips and techniques for buying the right trekking pole for you.
these days - whether you like them or not, many walkers find that a set
of poles improve their balance and make walking easier. We're not going
to talk about techniques or how to use them here, just what points to
look out for when buying poles.
Trekking poles evolved from ski poles and are designed to be
for walking. There are all sorts of claims about how much weight they
take off your legs, which you can choose to believe or not, but they do
two things very well.
One is to help you develop a good walking rythmn. The second
act as a handy stability aid particularly on uneven ground and when
carrying a heavy pack. It's easier to balance when you can rely on a
pole to stop you toppling sideways and they also work well on climbs
and descents to aid balance and stability.
Poles improve rythmn and increase stability on uneven ground and on
slopes in both directions.
trekking poles are made from aluminium tubing and come in two
or three parts with adjustable screw or sliding joins to you can vary
the length to suit your height and reach. Aluminium tubes are fine and
work well, carbon fibre is more expensive, but lighter.
The best way to gauge differences in weight is to hold the
if walking and swing the pole slightly. The difference between lighter
and heavier poles is very obvious.
Think about packed length when buying, compact poles are
easier to stow inside a pack for travel and neater on the outside.
Carbon fibre offers
ultimate light weight, but is also very expensive.
Many more sophisticated models feature an anti-shock spring.
walkers swear by them, some don't. We've never found it to be an
essential feature and it adds price, weight and complexity. It's your
Anti-shock features add
weight and a little complexity for questionable benefits.
Most poles use
ergonomically shaped plastic, cork or foam handles. The
important bit is to put your hand through the preferably adjustable
wrist loop first so the load goes through the loop onto your wrist
rather than your hands directly. Make sure the handle feels
comfortable, non-slippy and isn't too large and the wrist loop doesn't
dig in uncomfortably. Padded ones can work well.
A left field alternative that gets rave reviews from users are Pacer Poles
with an unusually-shaped ergo grip that claims to increase both comfort
Use straps not the handles
to take body weight.
Most poles use
screw-together sections which work fine under normal
use. Make sure you can find replacement internals if needed - cheaper
poles often use simple, plastic bits that can die with prolonged use.
For snowy winter and gloved use, we like Black Diamond's lever clamp
Flicklock set-up which gives a really positive closure and is less
likely to suffer from slippery pole syndrome when tightenting up.
Whichever you choose, make sure you can clamp them tight enough not to
collapse under body weight - something you can subject poles to on
wedge mechanism fine, but Flicklock better for snowy winter use.
Most poles use a
tungsten carbide tip to give good traction combined
with wear resistance. Good ones are replaceable, so make sure spares
are available. On hard ground, some poles will come with a replaceable
rubber tip cover to reduce noise and improve traction. Your call, but
it will make them quieter and less irritating to others on rocky stuff.
Removable, ski-type baskets tend to fall off and get lost, but prevent
excessive tip sinkage on softer ground and snow. Again, make sure
spares are available, though you can usually live without them if
Check that spare
tips and baskets are available when you buy the poles.
Brands to Look At
There are plenty of options out there, from specialists to generalists.
Brands worth considering include:
Leki - www.leki.com
Black Diamond - www.blackdiamondequipment.com
Komperdell - www.komperdell.com
Brasher - www.brasher.co.uk
Pacer Poles - www.pacerpole.com
Grivel - www.grivel.com
Alpkit - www.alpkit.com
This article should have given you some basic pointers. The
news is that there's a load more advice on OUTDOORSmagic:
Ask on the gear
forum about general issues or specific items.
Check the member
reviews section for user experiences of kit.
See OM editorial reviews on the front of the site for our
Richard Gear if you have a specific question you need