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How to Choose Trekking Poles and Hiking Staffs

by Kyle Boyers

Have you considered investing in a hiking staff or trekking poles? There are a few key things to consider before you choose the perfect hiking equipment to meet your needs. Trekking poles and hiking staffs can be used on every type of terrain and they are not just a walking stick for experienced hikers. They have become commonly used by people who need extra support, mobility and balance when walking.

trekking poles

Trekking poles can reduce the impact on the knee by 25%. The pole can also be utilised for many other functions when out in the wild. Whatever you might use it for, trekking poles and hiking staffs are great investments for walkers and hikers.

Trekking poles and hiking staffs tend to be unisex but some brands market different models to men and women. The only difference tends to be in the colour. There are some questions you will need to ask yourself before deciding on the right hiking stick, they include:

What is Your Budget for Trekking Poles?

You can narrow down the search for the perfect equipment by considering your budget. You can find a pair of trekking poles for less than £50 or you can pay hundreds of pounds for a single pole. Consider what you are willing to pay and the features that are most important to you and you will find the perfect option within your price point.

One or Two Trekking Poles?

One trekking pole is a great aid, but two poles give the most stability. They take the pressure off of the ankles, knees and hips, and also can be used similarly to a pair of crutches when navigating terrain difficult terrain that you need to climb over. If you are backpacking and carrying more than 15kgs on your back 2 poles are a great aid. You should consider how much freedom you need with your hands to navigate your chosen terrain.

What Material Do You Want for your Trekking Poles?

Aluminium, or carbon fibre? Aluminium hiking sticks are sturdy and durable and are effective in reducing impacts on the joints. They can weigh between 16-22 ounces per pair. Whereas Carbon Fibre hiking staffs tend to be more expensive, are lighter (between 12 and 18 ounces per pair) and therefore the best option for serious hikers and explorers who need to consider the weight of their equipment. Carbon Fibre hiking poles are also effective in reducing joint impacts.

Aluminium trekking poles are less likely to break and splinter than carbon fibre trekking poles. Some brands carry trekking poles which are a combination of carbon fibre and aluminium. Other walking sticks for hiking can be made out of wood, while these are solid and a reliable walking aid, they are heavier than aluminium or carbon fibre.

What Extra Features Do You Want for your Trekking Poles?

There are many different features you can look for in a hiking pole. What you choose will depend on your needs and used for the equipment.

Foldability:

Do you need your equipment to be packable? Not all trekking poles are foldable but you should consider this if you plan to travel with your equipment.

Shock Absorption:

This feature is advised if you have injuries, especially knee, hips, or ankles. It will take extra pressure on the joints and allow you to walk for longer

Fixed-length or telescopic pole:

An adjustable pole is helpful for uphill and downhill walks. Again, it takes the pressure off the knee in downhill terrain. A fixed-length pole is lighter and more dynamic.

Grip Material:

There is a range of different materials you can choose for your grip. High-density foam and cork are more high-end expensive options while rubber and plastic are more durable and economic options. Each material has its own benefits and again depends on how and where you will use the equipment as follows:

Foam: absorbent, soft, good for hot weather
Cork: moisture resistant, absorbs shock, good for hot weather
Rubber: good for cold weather, absorbs shock
Plastic: durable, not good for cold weather

Grip Extensions:

Extensions offer more surface area of nonslip material below the main grip and they allow for quick changes when navigating uneven terrain

Wrist Straps:

There are arguments for and against wrist straps, they are designed for stability and to help you to support the weight you are carrying. They are also great for holding onto your poles when crossing rivers or for when you want to use your hands freely but do not want to put the hiking poles down. However, they can add weight 1-2 ounces and can be inconvenient by restricting movement and some hikers consider them unnecessary.

Technology:

There are many unnecessary, but helpful, gadgets that you can get built into your poles such as camera mounts, compasses, thermometers and so on. Remember that each item is adding weight to the pole so consider if you want the item built-in. You can get a small pocket compass for relatively cheap but it would be more inconvenient to carry a tripod and camera mount separately.

Tip covers:

Tips are generally made out of super durable materials such as carbide or steel or rubber. They can include many shapes and sizes such as prongs for soft ground, broad foot for snow and mud, angled rubber for hard surfaces etc. If you are considering walking and hiking in a variety of terrains you should choose a model which includes a selection of tip covers. Covers should be replaced as needed.


Which Type of Locking Mechanism Do You Want?

There are a range of different locking mechanisms available on trekking poles which have different advantages:

Push-button lock: snaps into place and releases with the push of a button
External lever lock: level lock system, easy to adjust when wearing gloves in the cold
Twist lock: threaded screw expander, sturdy and strong
Combination lock: with two or more of the above locks

You probably won’t need hiking poles for casual day hikes, but if you suffer from sore joints or back pain they can make a huge difference. Knowing the proper technique will allow you to take advantage of all the benefits.