Are you a trekking pole fan?

Today we’re talking about trekking poles when you should use them, why you should use them and how you should use them. You can keep on reading or check out this video.

But first. A confession.

I don’t use trekking poles on every single hike.

I only use them if I’m going to be on a trail that is slippery or icy or if I need a little bit of stability. Or if I’m going to be on a trail that requires a water crossing, or if I’m solo hiking and think I might need some self defense.

But, the time when I used trekking poles the most was when I was pregnant and when I was carrying wee ones in a front or backpack carrier.

Some backpackers use trekking poles for their shelters or tents and some hikers just enjoy a little bit more efficient trekking with poles in hand.

If you’re not a pole user, give them a try and let us know what you think!

When it comes to purchasing a pair of trekking poles here’s what to look for.

  1. A cork handle or handle that has some really good, comfortable material. You’ll want a handle that’s going to be soft and comfortable. Pay attention to women’s vs men’s trekking poles because handles do vary by model.
  2. Poles with adjustable locking levers. I have avoid trekking poles that you twist to extend and twist to tighten at all cost. Instead opt for locking levers with adjustable bolts so you can adjust the tension on the pole. I have had nothing but problems with those even really expensive ones.  If twisting poles start to malfunction, like if they start to collapse  when you’re hiking, there’s just nothing you can do about it.
  3. The third thing to look at is the tip of the trekking pole. A lot of national parks and a lot of state parks actually require that I cover goes over the tip. A cabonite tip can actually damage the trail and the vegetation alongside of the trail.
  4. The final thing to look for is the material that the pole is made from. An aluminum pole is going to cost less money but it’s going to be easier to bend, heavier and the swing of the pole won’t be as efficient. I prefer carbon fiber poles because they are lighter and stronger, it’s worth the money to invest in a pair of good trekking poles

The biggest mistake I see on the trails, in magazine articles and even advertisements is hikers wearing their pole straps incorrectly. Yes, they is a right and a wrong way to wear your pole straps.

A lot of people slide their hand through their straps from the top down. This is a great way to break your wrist or your arm if you fall, or get the tip of your trekking pole stuck. It’s also inefficient because using the strap this way will cause you to have to grip hard on your pole handle to keep the pole straps on.

The best way to wear your trekking pole straps is just as you would a ski pole. To do this slide your hand up through the straps, and grasp the pole with the thumb on top of the straps. This is much safer, more efficient and will relieve a lot of wrist strain and pressure as your hiking.

Be sure to adjust those straps so they fit snug but not too tight.

Adjust the length of your pole for the terrain.

Another thing to consider with trekking poles is the length of the pole.

If you’re a cross-country skier like me (shout out!!!) you know that we look for arm pit length poles when using the classic technique. With trekking poles you can go a little bit shorter, like 90-degrees or longer whatever suits you best.

The key thing to remember is that if you’re headed up a hill you can shorten the length of your pole a little bit. If you’re going down hill you can lengthen your pole and use the poles out in front of your body to help with stability. This works great for snowshoeing too.

If you think of your pole like a bicycle you’ll want to use all the gears available to you just by lengthening and shortening the pole as you hike.

If you aren’t a trekking pole user, give them a try and see what you think and then let us know in the comments below.



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