What are the benefits of hiking sticks / poles?

benefits of hiking sticks hiker imageIf you were wondering what is a trekking pole it’s a specialty devices known as a walking, hiking, or trekking pole or stick. These are poles that have been crafted to ease pressure ordinarily experienced when trekking through unstable terrain.

Walking poles allow the impact of walking to be transferred to the poles themselves, rather than the walker’s body, minimizing discomfort. Besides relieving pressure, walking poles also increase balance and stability by offering four points of contact with the ground instead of only two. This is especially useful when descending from an incline or needing a secure foothold on slippery areas.

Two poles should be used at all times, increasing balance and offering more stability. While trekking, walking poles should be held in such a way so that your forearm is horizontal to your body, pushing pressure up to your shoulder, rather than your elbow, and offering the best grip.

Telescopic Poles
There are many different types of walking poles, each of which serve their own particular purpose. You should always be aware as to the kind of terrain your trek will consist of, ensuring that you are equipped with the right type of gear for the safest and most enjoyable journey possible.

Telescopic poles have a length that can be adjusted, making them ideal for various environments. This adjustability aids in supporting your weight, keeping your back straight as you trek.

In order to achieve maximum efficiency, telescopic poles need to be adjusted continually when dealing with varied steepness in terrain. For instance, uphill walking calls for a shorter pole length, while a longer pole length should be used while walking downhill.

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Anti-shock Poles

Anti-shock poles provide shock absorption that is created by a spring mechanism built into the pole itself. Most useful while walking downhill, anti-shock poles have been crafted to offer easy adjustment from complete rigidity to extreme springiness, based on the terrain as well as your own preferences.

Anti-shock poles provide extra support for those with weak joints and alleviate stress, particularly on the knees, ankles, and wrists. However, these poles tend to be heavier and more costly than standard walking poles.

It’s important to try them in person before purchasing so you can decide whether they work for you — some swear by them, while others fail to notice a difference.

walking-polesTrekking / hiking pole grips and straps

Various walking pole configurations have different handles, each type built for specific circumstances. For instance, when trekking on flat ground or minor slopes, right angle handled walking poles are recommended. These poles put pressure on the wrist and closely resemble ordinary walking poles.

If you’re trekking on steep gradients, ski-type handled walking poles are recommended. These poles usually come with a wrist strap that cradles the hand for added support.

The construction of walking pole handles varies between three major materials — plastic, rubber, and synthetic cork. Plastic is usually found on more inexpensive poles, providing a grip that’s hard and cold in winter but sweat inducing in summer. Rubber is used on most mid-priced poles, providing a softer grip in winter but proves to be sweat inducing as well. Synthetic cork is found on more expensive poles, providing a grip that’s soft in winter and stays dry in summer.

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Trekking / hiking pole tips

The usual materials used within the tip of a walking pole consist of steel or tungsten carbide. Steel is more affordable but wears out more quickly — ideal for regular walkers who need tips replaced on a frequent basis. Tungsten carbide is more expensive but takes longer to wear down — ideal for serious walkers that deal with rough terrain.

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Trekking / hiking pole Shaft

The shaft of a walking pole is usually crafted from aluminum or carbon fibre. Aluminum proves to be a sturdy but affordable choice. The thickness of the pole determines its overall strength. Aluminum is ideal when trekking in rough terrain with lots of debris. Carbon fibre is strong and durable but lighter in weight and more costly than aluminum. Despite its strength, carbon fibre tends to break if used often in extremely hilly terrains. Carbon fibre is ideal for those seeking a light and long-lasting pole for use on ordinary terrain.

flip lock walking pole

How to adjust trekking / hiking poles

Walking poles consist of interlocking sections that allow for customization based on the walker’s height and particular terrain, securing the poles at the desired length.

The most common lock is the twist lock, which uses a strong and durable expander and screw setup that applies pressure to secure the shaft.

The flip lock (see right) is a preferred locking mechanism because of its ease of use, allowing users to extend or collapse the pole while wearing gloves. However, some poles include a combination of locks in order to achieve a balance between ease of use, strength, and overall weight.

Best rated trekking / walking poles

Now that you’ve become more familiar with the uses and different components of walking poles, check out my review of highly rated trekking / walking poles for a snapshot of the best poles on the market today.