Poles are efficient devices for hiking as they can propel you forward but how to pick these trekking poles to get the optimal comfort?
Good trekking poles help you walk in places where other people might not be able to. Trekking poles, or hiking poles (as they are commonly referred to), have evolved over the past few centuries from their original use as tools for farmers and hunters to today’s use by hikers and campers.
Trekking poles still retain the same function of helping you hike efficiently by providing a stable yet comfortable balance while walking.
Hiking poles have become very popular in recent years, thanks to their many benefits. They give you the support you need when walking long distances, and they make it easier for you to step up steep hills without getting tired.
How to pick trekking poles: Origin
It’s essential to keep in mind that hiking poles are not just a fact of life – humans created them.
Hiking poles were created by the ancient people, as they used them to support themselves while walking on rugged terrains. These people used their ingenuity to create different items, such as the walking stick or pole that you see today.
They are generally made of aluminum, wood, or carbon fiber, and they can have a variety of additional features depending on the manufacturer’s specifications.
How to pick trekking poles: Purpose
The purpose of hiking poles is to help you maintain your balance and keep your weight even when you are walking on slippery terrain.
Hiking poles are also handy for people who engage in rough terrain activities, such as hiking, backpacking, mountaineering, and skiing. These activities can be very challenging and demanding on the body, and it’s essential to take care of yourself physically while doing them.
Hikers usually use trekking poles for backpacking or hiking. These hiking accessories offer better support while walking, helping you have minor soreness after long walks.
How to pick trekking poles: Awesome tips
Now finally to the main question- how to pick trekking poles.
Selecting a pair of trekking poles is no easy task. There are many different types of materials, shapes, sizes, and styles to choose from.
To find the right ones for you, here are some things you should consider:
1. What Type of Terrain Do You Most Often Walk On?
The first thing to consider when picking trekking poles is the type of terrain you will be trekking. The terrain you will be hiking determines the kind of pole that you should choose.
For example, if you are trekking in hilly areas, you should choose a pole with a more strong tip. If you are planning to walk in a forest area, it is better to choose a pole that has a lower impact on the environment.
A hiker on a gentle trail with occasional steep hills would need a different pole set than a high mountain climber.
2. What is your fitness level?
It would help if you consider your fitness level. If you are a beginner who is just getting into hiking, you should choose a pole with a lower impact to reduce stress on your body. If you are a skilled hiker and enjoy hiking for several miles at a time, you may want to invest in an advanced model.
3. How Tall Are You?
Poles that are too tall or short can cause back pain and fatigue. The ideal length for your poles is when your elbows form a 90-degree angle when holding them. It keeps your posture straight and prevents you from having to lean forward or back.
4. What is Your Arm Length?
It is a crucial measurement. The right length for you will be, again, the one that allows you to form a 90-degree angle when your elbows are in their natural position.
Your wrists and shoulders should also be supported when using trekking poles. The wrong pole length can cause fatigue and pain in these areas, which will cause you to quit using them before reaching your destination.
- How to find your arm length?
To find out your arm length, find a long object like a tree or chair and stand with your feet together. Extend your arms out so that they are parallel with the ground and touch each other. Measure from where the two lines meet to your elbow joint.
5. Do You Have Joint Problems?
If you have chronic joint pain, you should pick a pole with shock-absorbent materials to reduce the impact on your joints.
If you have problems with your elbows, it is best to use a pole with cork grips. If you have issues with your wrists, it is best to pick a pole with foam or rubber grips. It will help you get a better hold on the pole and support the joint.
6. Do the trekking poles have adjustability?
Adjustability is the degree to which the poles can adjust a system for better performance, improved efficiency, or increased functionality. The adjustability of trekking poles means that the pole’s length is easily adjustable to suit the height of a user. Adjustable length allows users to customize their trekking poles for optimal performance.
Most trekking poles can be adjusted from about 24-55 inches long. If you are going uphill, you need to shorten the poles.
7. The Shafts
The trekking pole shafts are made up of Aluminium as well as Carbons. Aluminum poles are lightweight, solid, and come for a reasonable price.
Carbon poles, on the other hand, are lighter and more rigid. They are more fragile than Aluminium shafts.
How to pick trekking poles: Styles
- Folding Poles
Folding poles are lightweight and will collapse into themselves for easy storage. They are mostly made of lightweight aluminum and can be adjusted to different heights.
Folding trekking poles can be adjusted for optimal length and height. For people of different heights, folding trekking poles are the most versatile. Even though they are compact, they provide users with the flexibility to have their poles at the right height.
A quick adjustment allows you to get your poles at the correct height without difficulty. It is easy and fast to adjust, so you can use them on different surfaces without having to make adjustments each time or take them back up when you reach flat ground.
Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z is a three-section folding carbon trekking pole that have a rapid deployment system that makes it extend easily and quickly. It has foam grips that are lightweight. These trekking poles are comfortable for multiday use.
Compact poles have the same features as folding trekking poles. They are lightweight, compact, adjustable, and have rubberized grips. In addition to these features, they also have straps to keep the pole from falling when not in use.
- Shock Absorption Poles
Shock absorption poles are a specialized type of walking pole that features internal springs that absorb shock when you walk downhill. Like other types of poles, shock absorption poles allow you to switch the level of assistance back and forth so that, when you’re walking downhill, the pole will not automatically extend.
Shock absorption poles are best if you have problems with your hips, knees, or ankles or have had any joint injuries.
- Ultralight Poles
Ultralight poles are beneficial for many reasons. They can also help reduce the toll that an extended day of trekking can take on your body. Ultralight poles are also helpful if you’re trying to reduce the weight of your backpack.
It is made of lightweight materials and has features that make them easier to carry. It does not require a lot of maintenance and can last for a long time with minimal care. Ultralight poles are available in different styles, lengths, and sizes.
Black Diamond Distance Carbon Running Poles are what I call the definition of ultralight poles. It weighs about 95 grams and has a durable foam grip.
How to pick trekking poles: Locking mechanisms
Trekking pole locking mechanisms are tools that allow the user to lock the length of their trekking poles to a specific setting, so they don’t have to carry them around with them. They also allow for quick height adjustments on the fly.
Examine the locking mechanism on a set of poles. There are four significant variations: Extreme lever, push-button, twist-lock, and combination lock. Each one has its strong points and disadvantages when it comes to security and ease of use.
- External lever lock
The Lever is the most straightforward locking mechanism. It’s a metal bar that is pressed down to unlock the pole sections, then swung back up to lock them securely. It’s easy enough to use in cold weather, but the lever itself can be challenging to reach when wearing a heavy pack.
- Push-button lock
The push-button safety is similar in design to the first variation; only the button has been replaced by a lever that goes down like a window shade. It is often easier to operate with a heavy pack, but there are occasional reports of the mechanism failing.
The most recent and most popular locking mechanism is the twist lock. As its name implies, it uses a twisting motion to lock and unlock the pole sections rather than a button or lever. It’s one of the most secure of the locking mechanisms, it’s relatively easy to turn with heavy gloves on, and it doesn’t get hung up when the poles are tucked under an arm.
- Combination lock
A combination lock is a device in which the dial has to be set to a specific sequence of numbers before it can be rotated. The person placing the combination cannot see the numbers on the dial while setting the combination, which may make it difficult to know if a number has shifted and is now incorrect. These are more secure than the other three but also much more challenging to set.
Each locking mechanism has its advantages and disadvantages. For most users, the twist lock is the best because it combines security and ease of use. The push-button lock would be considered a close runner-up because it’s easier to operate with a large pack on, and it’s very reliable.
The last thing to consider in finding suitable trekking poles for you is what you like. If you are a casual hiker then you can get by with a cheaper pair. However, if you are an experienced one, you may need to spend a little more money to get the features you want.
Cheaper trekking poles are made of steel. However, you can also find poles with plastic or rubber tips with a good grip on the rock.
Note: Try to hike with two poles as it will help distribute the pressure equally between your two arms and give you better balance.
In the end, make sure your trekking poles have a sound adjustment system and grip because your safety and comfort matters the most.