*Guest Post* Part 2: How to Choose the Right Trekking Poles

Adam Nutting from Hiking the Trail joins us again today for his second installment on his Trekking Pole series. As always, feel free to leave him feedback in the comments! And Happy Fourth of July! I hope you are enjoying the outdoors with your family today!

In my last post The Importance of Trekking Poles I talk about the many reasons why so many people are using them these days.

When choosing the right trekking poles you need to first consider what you will be doing with them. Will they be for hiking or maybe used for snow shoeing? There are many different models out there that are for multiple sports. Once you have determined how you will be using your trekking poles you need to take a trip down to your local outdoor outfitter. Trekking poles are like shoes. Sure you can try them on at home and send them back or you can go to the store and try on lots of them and find out which ones you like and dislike.

Some of the features you will have to decide from will be:

  1. Grip type
  2. Shaft materials
  3. Locking mechanisms
  4. Shock absorbers
  5. Height
  6. Weight
  7. Cost

Let’s take a look at each one of these items individually.

Grip type: Having a comfortable grip is very important especially if you are going to be using your trekking poles for a long duration. You do not want to end up with blisters on your feet and your hands. Plus it makes the trekking poles an extension of your body if you are not constantly nagged by your hands at how painful they are. There are several grip types on the market. Cork, Foam, and Rubber are the most common. Cork fits to your hands better and resists moister the best. Foam absorbs moisture and is the softest. Rubber is best suited for colder weather activities by insulating hands from the cold. Rubber also has the higher chance to cause chafing or blisters.

Shaft materials: Primarily there are two types used for trekking poles, aluminum and carbon-fiber. Both are very light weight however the aluminum is slightly heavier. Under extreme pressure aluminum is more likely to bend rather than break unlike the carbon-fiber poles. Carbon-fiber is more likely to splinter or break under high stress. Once again think about what kind of activities you will be doing when using your poles to choose the right material.

Locking mechanisms: The most common type of locking system is a twist-and-lock which allows you to loosen the section pull or push it to the desired length and then twist to lock. The rest are variations of a locking mechanism that has a crimping type where a lock pushes a ring together causing the section to be locked into place. There is always some type of screw to allow for adjustments of the tightness of the lock. They all work equally and this portion is really personally preference on how you want the locking to work and which is easiest for you to use.

Shock absorbers: Another personal preference. When it comes to having or not having shock absorbers the trekking pole either has them or they do not. Many people will have a preference and tell you all the wonderful reasons why you should by with or without the shock absorbers. Test them and come to your own conclusions.

Height: A simple but yet sometimes overlooked issue that causes people to take their new poles back because they were not the correct height. Wait a moment didn’t you say earlier that many of them are adjustable? You are indeed correct I did say they were adjustable however there are limits to how tall or how short they go. There are poles made just for kids, ladies and people who are vertically challenged (I fit this category.) It should not come as a surprise that my recommendation is to try them out. Find the best fit.

Weight: Similar to height all poles weight differently and based upon your needs you might want to consider different locking mechanisms, shaft materials, and even heights to cut down on some of the weight. Now if you are not concerned at all with weight than this section does not really apply to you. Those of you who are weighing every little piece of gear will be able to tell me exactly how much your trekking poles weigh. Just keep in mind at the end of the day if you use them or carry them they just add weight and you still have to carry them.

Cost: Pretty self explanatory there are many great brands out there that may not be the top of the line fancy trekking poles, but they will perform just like all the rest of them. Sure they may not last as long or heck maybe they will its hard to tell. Just because they are $20 versus $250, it is hard to say which one will out live the other. Choose which set or single pole works best with your adventure budget.

In conclusion go to the store and play with the trekking poles. Be picky and find what is going to work best for your needs. Take a look at all the factors I talked about and at the end of the day you will have chosen a pair of trekking poles or just a single one that will work best for you.

Happy Trails


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