Back in the old days, hikers and climbers wouldn’t pay much attention to trekking poles, except during the winter season. Their primary concern was the type of shoes to select for ascents and descents. In modern times, however, trekking poles have become standard equipment for hiking and occasional backpacking. This guide will take you through the benefits of trekking poles, the different types of trekking poles available, and the most important features to consider when making a purchase.
A pair of trekking poles can prove extremely valuable for your next hike or mountain climb. You never know what lies ahead on those trips. Snowy edges, rugged terrains, and similar challenging landscapes can be hard to cross. Trekking poles provide you with phenomenal balance and stability, regardless of the weight of the backpack you carry.
If you stumble during the hike, you can’t rely on a single footing to prevent the fall. Using a trekking pole means you have four firm contact points with the ground that help you attain tremendous ground stability and allow you to move ahead with great confidence. If your foot slips, you have three other grips to maintain your balance. This will reduce your risk of falling and sustaining an injury.
During the ascents and descents, trekking poles ensure that your body and backpack weight is distributed between your arms, legs, ankles, and knees, preventing a single body part from bearing the brunt of the weight. They can also be transformed into tent poles in case you wish to create a shelter.
Hence, trekking poles are the ideal equipment to help you cross shallow streams, snow, slippery surfaces, and other difficult terrains.
Based on your specific needs, you have several different types of trekking poles to choose from.
This single trekking pole comes in handy if you aim to hike on a less demanding terrain that requires little extra stability. A hiking staff is more like a walking stick for uneven surfaces. So if you’re used to using a walking stick, you can adapt to it pretty quick. Some poles come with a monopod feature and a camera mount underneath the pommel to allow easy photography, while others come with an effective anti-shock mechanism to protect the joints.
Compact trekking poles are designed for short individuals who are passionate about hiking. These poles feature smaller grips, are light-weight, and can collapse into even smaller poles.
If comfort is your priority, don’t settle for anything less than an anti-shock trekking pole. It offers a special anti-shock mechanism. As you apply weight to the pole, the shaft compresses slightly to reduce the strain on your wrists and absorb any shock. The anti-shock trekking poles rely on the spring function, which can be switched on or off for most available poles. This flexibility helps you maintain an incredible balance during both ascents and descents.
Standard trekking poles are relatively lighter than the anti-shock models and offer comparable levels of balance and stability. However, they do not feature the anti-shock mechanism seen in a standard trekking pole.
Buying a trekking pole should never be an impulsive purchase. There’s no “one-size-fits-all” idea in buying trekking poles. Your personal needs and preferences are extremely important. When selecting a pair of trekking poles, various aspects need to be considered. Besides your preferences, the cost is an important factor that will vary depending on the features incorporated in the trekking poles. Here are the most important features to keep in mind:
The biggest concern for hikers is whether or not trekking poles feature an anti-shock mechanism. This critical function is particularly useful for descents that are comparatively more demanding than the ascents. This is because, during the descents, more pressure is exerted on the forearms, hands, and wrists than during the ascents.
Besides, you most certainly need anti-shock trekking poles if you’ve suffered from arthritis or have previously faced a wrist injury. Also, keep in mind that anti-shock trekking poles are generally more expensive than other options.
The shaft material used in trekking poles greatly impacts their quality. Therefore, particular attention needs to be paid to this aspect. Most trekking pole shafts are either made up of carbon fiber or aluminum. While carbon trekking poles are considerably lighter than aluminum poles, they’re much more expensive. If you’re looking for affordable, yet strong trekking poles, aluminum shaft is the best option for you.
Based on the material, various types of grips for trekking poles are available. Let’s go through the benefits and drawbacks of each type:
Cork has all the grip options owing to its incomparable look, texture, and durability. As the most popular grip among hikers, it doesn’t cause too much sweat in hot weather. Cork, however, is more expensive than any other option out there.
Often regarded as an all-round choice, the polyethylene grip is both durable and inexpensive. However, it does have a slightly smoother texture compared to cork.
Best suited for cold weather, the synthetic grip offers a good gripping surface. The only issue with rubber is that it leads to sweaty hands in hot weather.
You simply can’t dispute the comfort, cushioning, and softness brought about by this grip material. But then again, it leads to high levels of sweat in hot weather conditions.
Trekking poles typically adjust between 25 and 55 inches in length. Standard poles suit the needs of tall hikers, while compact trekking poles are perfect for shorter individuals.
By now, you should have developed a clear understanding of the different trekking pole types and their features. Hopefully, you’ll make an informed decision when choosing a trekking pole.