Thursday, August 31, 2017

Why I use Trekking Poles

It wasn't that long ago that I saw someone using two trekking poles or walking sticks and wondered why they needed two. Decades ago, I began using a walking stick when hiking, scouting or walking around in the woods. It just made sense to me to have a stick in my hand.

As summer months roll around in my neck of the woods, spider webs are everywhere, and there are few things that give me the ibby-jibbies worse than a cobweb in the face. So I walk with the stick to knock down spider webs and for general balance.

A little research into the use of trekking poles, or walking sticks finds they are very beneficial. Even more than I realized in the beginning all of those decades ago. So what are the benefits of using trekking poles and which ones should I try?

First let's look at the benefits. The obvious benefit is balance. The poles offer greater stability and balance. Especially on steep and uneven terrain. Using the poles enables the hikers to maintain a sense of balance while walking over tree roots, blowdown trees, rocks, etc. They also are excellent in stream crossings. How many times have you had to wade through a stream and wish you had something to hold on to? The trekking pole is ideal for this function.

Other benefits include reduces stress on your joints. Sure there are mixed reviews on this, but experience tells me that using the poles makes ascending steep hills and descending steep terrain are easier with the poles than without them. Additional benefits include those mentioned in the opening. Knocking down spider webs, brushing poison Oak and ivy out of the way of the trail. Aid in standing with a heavy pack and in some instances double usage as a tent or tarp pole.

Should you use one hiking staff or two trekking poles? This is really a matter of preference. Part of me likes the feel of wood and the organic emotion tied to using a piece of wood for hikes into the woods. While other parts of me really likes the compact light weight element of the aluminum and carbon fiber poles. For short relatively easy walks, I still prefer the single wooden hiking staff. But for longer walks with heavier loads, it's two poles for me.

As a hunter, getting game out of the backcountry is always a big task. In most instances we have to pack out the animal one piece at a time. These trips can tale several days. When hiking at high elevation with heavy loads, I opt for two strong poles to help me with balance and to help with the hiking portion. I am using my arms to help carry the load up the mountain. Which may burn more calories, but it sure is easier on my legs.

Types of poles vary. Aluminum poles are a lot less expensive than carbon fiber and are very durable. Aluminum is also heavier than the carbon fiber poles. We are talking about ounces or fractions of ounces. Still, many aluminum poles can be purchased for reasonable prices. Big box stores have cheap poles that may be good for some, but are really only introductory. The locking mechanisms are inferior and will break within a few weeks. The grips will begin to deteriorate. If you are looking for a better product, here are some choices in both aluminum and carbon fiber.

Helinox.  offers aluminum poles for hiking that are extremely durable and resilient. These poles are high end aluminum and the price reflect this. But these are a lifetime purchase. They are light weight and durable but not cheap.

LEUPOLD Trek Carbon Fiber Poles (170592)If you are looking for a light weight composite version. Leupold offers a carbon fiber option for trekking poles that fits the bill. These Carbon Fiber poles can and do handle the stress of aluminum and a fraction of the weight. They are durable and virtually indestructible. Four sections of twist locking mechanisms and the Leupold Lifetime Guarantee.

If you decide for one staff or two poles, make sure they fit you properly. You will want your elbow at a 90 degree angle to the ground while at rest. Too mush or too little reduces the ability of the poles to help. Also something to consider is the shroud and removable rubber tip. Both of these items are necessary. The shroud is just as good for mud as it is for snow. It keeps the pole from sinking into the soft mud or snow. Lastly, the rubber tip protector. This removable protector is excellent for weekends in the neighborhood or protected trails. Personally, when in the woods, I remove the rubber tips and use the point for greater balance. 

If you haven't used them, borrow some, or get some from a thrift store or from a friend who upgraded and see if you like them. When you see you do, you will return here to order your first set or second, or even the third set of poles. It will make your adventure more fun and enjoyable.

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