At first I thought they were gimmicky. Then, one day on a climb, my left knee’s patella femoral syndrome flared up at 8,000 feet with 5,000 feet yet to descend. A fellow hiker leant me his poles for the remainder of the hike and from that point on I was sold.
[Sticky] Gear: intro
It wasn’t until after I had ordered my first pair that I realized exactly how useful these dueling adjustable walking sticks can be.
For starters, they are indispensable for balancing a top heavy load over slick rocks when fording creeks. Or, for simply pole-vaulting smaller ones altogether to keep the feet dry.
For shock absorption and make-shift crutching, carrying an extra pound of wieght on an ascent would be worth it alone. But, the surprising thing, to me, is how much trekking poles can assist in climbing; especially if the terrain is unsteady like on scree or snow. Your legs still need to do the majority of the work, of course, but the poles distribute just the right amount of effort.
Plus, you get a full-body workout and it seems to relieve the pressure that can build up on your shoulders while wearing a heavy pack.
The tarp-tent is a type of shelter that incorporates trekking poles as the primary structuring of the tent. So, your poles become the tent-poles, therefore, lightening your pack load.
The trouble with this, of course, is if you want to hike with your poles, then you need to dismantle the tent to do so.
Some unintended functions of poles, that I have discovered:
-Measuring tree girth.
-Drying your sweaty shirt at camp.
-Digging a cat hole for number two.
-For leaning on during a non-seated break. (Sometimes you want to stop and rest without un-hoisting your 40 pound pack).
Anything else you can think of?
Poles are not always handy. Particularly when you want to use your hands. They sure can get in the way when scrambling, during photography, or simply tying your boot laces. When on a flat or overly brushy trail, they are pretty useless. Thankfully for the collapsibility of most models, they are easy enough to stow.
What I have found to be gimmicky are the models that include a shock absorber mechanism. With constant trail grit and moisture, the less moving parts the better.
I haven’t tried all the various forms of grip which include cork and an ergonomic 10° bend. But, the strap feature is a necessity as your larger arm muscles can take the brunt of work rather than the hand muscles and wrist. A cushioned strap works best.
There are different locking mechanisms for the collapsible and adjustable models. This is probably just personal preference. Many poles have different attachments for different conditions which vary from snow baskets, to rubber tips for hiking pavement.
In conclusion, poles are an item I take with nine times out of ten. And as my dogs like to remind me constantly, four wheel drive is better than two!