Some people love ’em, some people hate ’em, but do you need ’em?
Well, that depends on a lot of things and the most important thing is you and your hiking style.
+ Some people consider hiking poles an additional weight that has to be managed.
+ Some people consider hiking poles to be essential equipment.
+ Some people think hiking poles are a detriment to vegetation.
+ Some people think they scratch the rocks and mar the landscape.
Do your research, try ’em out and make your own choice here.
Should you get one pole or two? How about a wooden walking stick instead? You could pick something up at any trailhead or maybe you could get a manufactured wooden stick with a face carved into it?
How strong are your legs and knees?
Should you get cork handles or plastic handles?
Snap locks or twist locks?
What brand? (The Cadillac of hiking poles are Leki’s or Black Diamond’s which are lighter and stronger and can cost up to $200.)
How much do you want to spend?
The outdoor marketplace, to some degree, is over-saturated with trekking poles.
When in use, these poles resemble ski-poles as they have many features in common, such as baskets at the bottom, padded handles and wrist straps.
Their maximum length is usually 54 inches, however, unlike ski poles, they are often made in two or three sections and can be extended and retracted as necessary for use and collapsed for storage or transport.
When fully retracted it may be possible to attach them to a backpack, depending on the backpack. Some poles come with spring-loaded sections to aid walking under normal conditions and to reduce wrist strain, but such devices may only add unwanted weight and noise to the poles.
Most models are usually made from lightweight aluminum or carbon fiber.
Personally, I wouldn’t take a step on the trail without my hiking poles. (I have also interviewed young, strong thru-hikers who have said the same thing and old-timers who wouldn’t think of using them.)
But you don’t have to spend a lot of money to buy hiking poles.
Walmart has some pretty cheap ones for around $30 so that may be a great place to start if you are unsure.
What did I choose?
Well, my knees are in bad shape but I didn’t want to spend a ton of money. So I bought a pair of Mountainsmith hiking poles on Amazon about 7 years ago for around $60 and they have held up great. The paint is a little scraped off but no breakage thus far.
I opted for two poles with cork handles and wrist straps because I tend to sweat a lot and the cork absorbs moisture better than the plastic handles.
They are made of lightweight aluminum (instead of expensive carbon fiber) and are spring-loaded to cushion my knees on the downhills.
I love my hiking poles so much I would turn around and drive home if I ever forgot them. (And I’ve actually done THAT on several occasions.) Many times my poles have kept me from falling head-over-heels.
And when these poles die, I am headed to Ramsey Outdoors where I will buy a pair of Leki Corklights as replacements. (Yeah, I’ve actually tried them out.)
But I also have hiking friends who hate hiking poles and would never use them.
Weight, cost, brand, wrist straps, cork or plastic, snap locks or twist locks all combine to complicate your decision.
Know your hiking style and make your own choice here.
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