Trekking poles are two poles used for stability, balance and support while hiking. Their role is to take pressure off the body and lighten the load when carrying weight. Aluminum poles are most common as they are strong and durable. Aluminum is less likely to snap when descending downhill than Carbon-Fiber but don’t let that fool you. Carbon-Fiber is much lighter and used as an ultra-light option with just as many uses, and still very durable. When considering weight, Carbon-Fiber is the way to go. Trekking poles can collapse into two or three sections making them more applicable to pack. They can also be used to set up your tent or tarp when camping and are a great assist in river crossings.
There are a few things to consider when choosing trekking poles.
- What type of grip would you like?
- Advantages- most commonly used for winter trekking, snow shoeing and skiing to provide grip under gloves and provide warmth to hands; absorb shock; easy to wash.
- Disadvantages: Would not be beneficial to use for long period of time with direct contact to the skin as rubber can cause blistering.
- Advantages-absorbs sweat and can form to the hand shape.
- Disadvantages- Foam grip can break down easier.
- Advantages- Forms to the hand over time making it good for long term use, absorbs shock.
- Disadvantages- on cheaper cork grips, mold can form under the surface. This is not likely to happen but is still a possibility.
- What locking mechanism best suits you? The two most common are twist and lever.
- Twist-twist the pole to lock/unlock it using an expander screw.
- Lever- using a lever mechanism to “flick” open/close the lock.
What add-on options are available for trekking poles?
- Baskets: used in snow and while walking in mud or crevices to avoid the pole sinking into the ground.
- Rubber Tips: Used when on harder surfaces such as gravel, rock, asphalt to protect the pole tip.
- Camera Mount: used to turn a trekking pole into a mono-pod.
The Hiking Staff is typically a single staff/stick used also for stability, balance and support. Hiking staffs are usually longer and thicker than trekking poles as more support is needed for a single stick than two devices. Hiking staffs can be made of many materials such as aluminum, bamboo and many types of wood. Many are decorated and engraved. A hiking staff will weigh more than a trekking pole but for good reason. You can’t vault over a fallen tree with a trekking pole without it snapping. You can also use a hiking staff to set up your tarp/tent system.
Our favorite trekking poles are:
Kelty Range 2.0-
- Internal anti-shock technology
- Textured cork and EVA foam grip
- Extended grip for fast-adapting topography
- Padded wrist straps
- Twist-lock mechanism
- Non-slip carbide tip
- Includes low-profile baskets
Black Diamond Trail Back
- Rubber grip w/rib pattern
- Non-slip EVA foam grip
- Extended grip
- Double Flick-Lock
- Includes flex tips and low profile trekking/powder baskets
Black Diamond Trail Pro Shock
- Interchangeable carbide tips
- EVA foam grip
- Breathable, moisture-wicking straps
- Flicklock pro locking mechanism
- Control shock for 4-stage shock absorption
Trekking poles and hiking staffs are used for moderate walking, thru-hiking, wilderness trekking and river crossings. They assist in secure footing, act as a counter-balance and stabilizer when encountering uneven terrain, provide knee support for those who need it, and “breaks” when declining steep hills. If your pole or staff has a wrist strap, placing the hand in it will help you become more comfortable when first starting to use the device and prevent the staff/pole from falling to the ground when grip is lost. Words of advise from the author: I use trekking poles if I am out for anything longer than 3 miles or am not on flat terrain. If you are using trekking poles solely for knee support: consider using knee braces as well. I use a stronger knee brace on my weak knee and a lighter (cheaper) brace on my good knee as to not over-compensate use of my “good side”.
Though I do not condone using your trekking staff/poles as a Star Wars light saber, do what puts a smile on your face. Happy Trails!