Hiking poles are also known as trekking poles. Hikers of all ages have embraced these poles and they have become standard equipment for many outdoorsman. They enhance your stability and support on all types of terrain. When shopping for trekking poles, your key considerations should be weight, price, shaft construction and the type of grip. Here is a closer look at everything you want to know about trekking poles.
What trekking poles can do for you
First of all, trekking poles are all about increased stability. Tripping and falling is the number one cause of hiking injuries. They provide better balance and footing, which becomes critical as you begin to tire from the hike.
The constant ascent and decent of hiking causes your legs to tire very quickly. This can lead to stress on your joints. During uphill climbs, poles transfer a portion of your weight to your shoulders, arms and back. This transfer can reduce leg fatigue and add thrust to your ascents. When you are going downhill, the poles decrease the amount of stress on your legs and joints.
They help you establish a walking and hiking rhythm. With the added stability you have to pause less to overcome small obstacles due to your increased balance. This makes crossing streams, loose rocks and slippery surfaces easier and safer as well..
Trekking poles are most helpful to those with weak knees, calves, and ankles. The poles absorb some of the impact that your body would normally sustain by transferring this stress away from your legs and thru your upper body onto the poles. The poles have been studied and shown to reduce compressive force on the knees by up to 25%. Your hiking endurance will increase although you still have the same overall work to do. The benefit of the poles is that they distribute the work evenly over your entire body. No longer do your legs have to do all the work.
Types of Trekking Poles
Poles can be categorized as follows:
1. Standard poles. These do not have the antishock feature and are lighter and less expensive as a result. While they don't absorb as much impact as antishock poles when going downhill, they do provide a similar level of balance and support.
2. Antishock poles. These offer internal springs that absorb shock when you walk downhill. With most poles, this feature can be turned off when it's not needed such as when you're walking uphill. The antishock feature is recommended if you have weak or damaged ankles, knees or hips. It adds a bit to the cost of the poles.
3. Hiking staff. Sometimes called a walking staff or travel staff, this is a single pole that's most effective when used on relatively flat terrain and with little or no load on your back.
4. Compact or women's poles. These are shorter and have smaller grips for hikers with smaller hands. They are easier to swing because they weigh less and are also simpler to pack. Youth sized poles for kids are available as well.
Weight and Price
Typically the less poles weigh, the more the poles cost. The lightweight materials are more expensive for the manufacturer so that cost is passed on to you. Lightweight poles offer the advantage of less swing weight, which makes them easier and quicker to move. Over the course of a long hike this means less weight to either carry in your hands or in your pack.
The material of the pole shaft is a key function of its weight and price.
1. High-grade aluminum (7075-T6 or 7075). The stronger and the more economical choice, aluminum poles usually weigh between 18 and 22 ounces per pair. The actual weight and price will vary based on the gauge of the pole, which ranges from 12 to 16mm.
2. Carbon fiber. The lighter and more expensive option, these poles average between 13 and 18 ounces per pair. They are very strong poles.
The shape and feel of a pole's grip varies from brand to brand, so it's preferable to try several models. Some grips are angled so that they are ergonomically at a neutral angle which improves comfort.
1. Rubber. The most common type of grip, this material insulates hands from cold, shock and vibration, so it's a popular choice for cold-weather. The trade off is that it's more likely to cause blisters and is not the ideal material for warm-weather hiking.
2. Cork. It resists moisture from sweaty hands and decreases vibration. It is the less durable option but conforms to the shape of your hands the best.
3. Foam. This absorbs moisture from sweaty hands. It is also softest and best for warm weather hiking.