A few years ago I received my first pair of trekking poles for an anniversary gift from my husband. Now, before all you place judgement, let me just say, I LOVED THEM. Instead of an easy buy, like roses, he actually put thought into this gift which meant more to me than anything.
Now back to the trekking poles…I had never used trekking poles before on any of our hikes so I really had no idea if I would like them or find them useless. I will be the first to admit, I am not very balanced on my feet. Especially in high elevations, which is typically what we hike. I also have the weakest ankles of anyone I know, so I figured they were worth a try. Even though he did not pay a great deal for my first pair, I have absolutely gotten every penny out of them. However, it was time to retire them after our trip to Zion National Park. They survived the entire trip, especially hiking through the Virgin River and assisted me well on the way back down from Angel’s Landing.
This time around I was along for the purchase of my new poles and knew exactly what I was looking for. I knew the pros and cons of having poles vs. not having them and what to look for in the different brands that are out there.
What I have learned from hiking with trekking poles:
they improve your balance
they engage your upper body therefore causing less stress on your knees(this is a big plus)
they are helpful on slippery surfaces
they can be useful in pitching an emergency shelter
they assist in burning more calories using your upper body
they are very helpful crossing rivers and streams
they make a great weapon for any weirdos you may come across (you never know???)
if you need your hands and feet to climb they may be in the way
they are difficult to use or carry in high vegetation areas
Obviously the cons are much less in my opinion. Although, I do not see many people here in WI using them while hiking, I did see them everywhere in Utah. I was somewhat nervous about taking them on our trip but upon arrival even our guides had their own pair.
While debating which new trekking poles to purchase, I was aware of a few things I wanted different this time around.
THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN BUYING TREKKING POLES:
Grip: Most grips are plastic, cork or foam. Plastic is durable, does not suck up water but are very cold in the winter months. Foam is comfortable but can tear off. Cork is hard and usually pretty tough. I would suggest you hold the handle in your hand in the store before purchasing. Some are larger, smaller, comfortable and not so comfortable. I went with soft plastic because we cross a lot of streams/rivers. I also don’t plan to need them if snow is on the ground.Try before you buy is my motto.
Pole construction: Aluminum and carbon fiber are most popular. Both having there benefits and disadvantages. Do your research for the region you live to see what one will be best.
Shock Absorbers: I don’t know how I feel when it comes to this. My old ones had shock absorbers. My new ones do not. Would I have bought my new ones if they had shock absorbers? Yes. I really don’t know if I ever benefited from the shock absorbers but I also can’t say I was ever in a situation that I did not like them either.
Adjustment Mechanism: This is what finally failed on my poles. Again, let me say, they were well used though. This time around my husband said we were getting the lever locking mechanism instead of the twist and adjust type of mechanism. I did not have really any say in this area, he is the mechanical brain and the person that has to fix them when they no longer adjust. However, he did discuss this topic with one of our guides on our hiking trip and she did give him very good information regarding the lever locking poles vs. the twist mechanisms. If anyone should know, I feel she had enough miles on her hiking boots to trust her opinion.
Price: Trekking poles vary quite a bit in this area. My first poles were about $50 and lasted at least 5 years. No issues. I paid almost three times that for my new poles (below) and hope to never have to buy another pair again. You really have to do what’s best for you in this category.
Trekking poles have made all the difference in my hiking experiences. I would highly recommend them if someone asked me my thoughts.
What do you think? Do you hike with them or without them?