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Trekking Poles - Do I need them? (sorry long thread)
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Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Trekking Poles - Do I need them? (sorry long thread) on 02/08/2009 13:12:30 MST Print View

I have probably made my decision (at least subconsciously). The question is: will trekking poles be a better solution for me, and will they enhance/improve my efficiency/enjoyment?

Some background. I have used a single hiking staff for over 40 years. Sometime in the late ‘70s or early ‘80s I purchased a Tracks two section staff that weights 19 ounces. I have used this on every trip to include short day hikes until a couple of months ago.

The Tracks staff’s locking mechanism is getting worn and sometimes slips. Tracks has a very similar model called the “Sherlock” staff, that uses a “sure locking button” which looks like it will be much better than the twist locks that most poles use. I have not purchased this staff yet.

I did buy a REI 4 Winds staff a while back, because I can pack it in a suitcase. I travel a lot for business and decided that this would be a good pick, when I might take time off a business trip and go for a day hike. In addition, I wanted to see how I would like a much lighter staff. This weighs 8.8 ounces.

Over the past few decades I have lightened my equipment, and now have a base weight under 10 lbs. I do go ultralight most of the time… but not always. I figured that with a lightweight load, I would not need a staff. But I cannot hike without a staff. The staff just keeps my walking in a smooth rhythm, even on flat ground. Also the staff makes a great tent pole for my tarp or tarp tent, moves rattlesnakes off the path, and does provide support at times when needed. So at a minimum I will always use a single pole staff.

The staff does help me up and down slopes. Plus when tired, I can just lean on it for a couple of minutes rest, and then move on. I really appreciate the round wooden knob at the top. When leaning on it during a short rest, I can place one hand over it, lay the other hand on top of the first and lean on the pole. It is comfortable, and I don’t need to sit down to recover. On flats, I don’t use it to support any weight, but just hold it lightly in my hand and swing it in tempo with my pace and am so used to the hearing it tap the ground as I move along, it is hard to hike without it.

Most of the time, I carry the staff in my right hand. I do occasionally shift it to the left. On windy days, I keep my free hand in my pants pocket, and then shift hands when the exposed one gets cold. I really don’t like gloves when hiking, unless it is absolutely necessary. Otherwise, I just slightly swing the free arm as I hike.

The 19 oz weight of the staff has never felt heavy. With a single pole, if I need to use all fours, I just toss it ahead, or even drag it behind me with a piece of cord. No need to stop and attached it to the pack.

The REI 4 Winds staff “feels” flimsy. Actually it is not, but I am used to the heavier construction of the Tracks model. Lately on long trips, I have been taking the 4 Winds because it is lighter, but on day hikes I just like the feel of the Tracks.

I do carry a 2 oz carbon fiber pole in my back for the 2nd pole when pitching my poncho/tarp. I figure I could eliminate this weight in the pack, and with a pair of GG LightTrek poles would have two poles that are lighter than even the REI 4 Winds. Also, I think that two poles would provide more stabilization in situations like crossing a stream.

Last December I did a cross-country trip in the desert. The easy way would have been to take a two-mile trail at the beginning… but since I really work hard to avoid other people, I took a canyon a mile away from the trailhead and planned to work my way up over a ridge and then hike down to the wash I wanted to follow. There is a saddle in the ridge I planned on crossing. While working my way up to the saddle, I ran a serpentine route moving up to the ridge. I think that if I had two trekking poles, I would have been able to make a more direct route. I was moving across the slope as I neared the saddle (the terrain was not too loose), I slipped and fell. My high foot was planted and the downside foot went out from under me. I slide about 10 feet and looking at the contorted position of my left leg, thought I had caused a serious break. Fortunately it was just a soft tissue injury, and I was able to continue the rest of my trip (although somewhat painful – mostly when sleeping at night). During the day when hiking the pain was not as bad. However, I am sure with the injury, it would have been much easier to hike with two poles. I have tried hiking with the two staffs to simulate trekking poles, but given the different shapes, handles, and weights I can't get comfortable with these two poles at the same time.

Although I am almost 60, my knees and joints are in solid shape, so I do not need poles to help overcome any wear and tear on my body from the aging process.

So based on the above observations, here are my questions (especially for those who might have switched from a single pole to a pair).

1. When using two poles, are you now using them to propel yourself and reduce the effort of your legs? Obviously, the legs can do much more work than the arms and chest. However, reducing the work of the legs and transferring it the upper body might not be a bad thing. A little less fatigue in the legs, balanced with a little bit in the upper body might make things a little easier on the body overall. Is this correct?

2. Do you find having both hands always holding a pole, more of an inconvenience (or efficiency for other tasks), than a single pole?

3. Do you find two poles more stable than one for such activities as stream crossings?

4. Can you take routes that are more direct uphill with two poles, versus one? Does is sound feasible that my injury might have been mitigated by using two poles and taking a more direct route?

5. Any feedback on the GG LightTrek 4 poles. I really do not want to spend money on a cheaper pair, and then end up buying a more expensive set. And, of course, I don’t want to buy an expensive set and not like them either. But I figure that if trekking poles are not for me, it will be much easier to recoup most of my investment by selling the GG’s. Does this make sense?

Thanks, in advance.

- Nick

Edited by ngatel on 02/08/2009 13:18:57 MST.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Trekking Poles - Do I need them? (sorry long thread) on 02/08/2009 15:58:03 MST Print View

A very individual decision.

Some of us (especially in Australia) never use trekking poles at all. Our comments can be a bit derisive in fact - along the lines of 'yet another grab for the wallet'. And they are useless or worse in our scrub.

Others find them very useful and swear by them, although I think that is mainly on trails. And many use their trekking poles to hold up a tarp - dual use. Clearly, opinions differ.

I think both sides will agree that older walkers with crook knees can get significant benefit from poles while descending rough ground. But if you have good knees why carry the extra weight? They can be useful when crossing a stream, but I usually just grab a stick at the bank, and discard it when across.

It sounds as though you are very accustomed to carrying a staff, and if that is the case why should you stop? As to the question of one or two poles - that is again up to you.

Carbon fibre or aluminium? The CF are lighter, that's for sure. They seem plenty strong enough too. A personal decision once again.

There are no 'right' answers.

Cheers

Ryan Dunne
(donryanocero)

Locale: Humboldt
Poles on 02/08/2009 17:44:01 MST Print View

You could always pick up a cheap pair of adjustable poles in the gear swap forum and give them a try. When you make your decision to either go without or pick up some nicer (lighter) ones, you can put them back on gear swap for near what you paid.

Also if you decide to go fixed-length, you'll know what size you need.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Poles on 02/08/2009 18:46:55 MST Print View

Nick -
Although I am almost 60, my knees and joints are in solid shape..,

You might not think so, but they are being worked. If you plan to be hiking at 70 they are a good investment. Especially from a "slip and fall" perspective.


So based on the above observations, here are my questions (especially for those who might have switched from a single pole to a pair.

That’s not me. I went from None to Two.

1. When using two poles, are you now using them to propel yourself and reduce the effort of your legs?

Any upper body into propulsion will help your legs to some degree. I find the biggest benefit comes from sparing the "balancing" muscles – the adductors and abductors. Unless you work on them specifically at home they are often the first to "talk back" on the trail. And the 2rd and 3rd contact points often prevent the "slipped and pulled" event.



2. Do you find having both hands always holding a pole… an inconvenience …

I don't use keeper loops so I just balance them against my body if I need to when stopped, or hold both in one hand when walking, for instance to eat or drink.

3. Do you find two poles more stable than one for such activities as stream crossings?

Yep.

4. Can you take routes that are more direct uphill with two poles, versus one?

Maybe for a short distance. For me poles provide balance and traction more than power.

Does is sound feasible that my injury might have been mitigated by using two poles and taking a more direct route?

Only in that they may have kept you upright, regardless of angle.

5. Any feedback on the GG LightTrek 4 poles.

Quality poles and easy to resell. But don't expect 100%.


The lightweight aspect makes them a delight to carry and use. Also, the quick and solid height adjustment mechanism encourages one to make changes for uphill versus downhill.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Trekking Poles - Do I need them? (sorry long thread) on 02/08/2009 19:19:35 MST Print View

I think the answer is to get a cheap set of poles and see if they improve your experience. I like to have something when crossing rivers, mud patches and snow fields. There are some steep downhill descents that I also like to have poles. I don't use keeper straps either. I use the poles often as part of my shelter seet-up. One of the best things I have found by using poles is that my fingers no longer swell up like sausages, and they stay warmer in cold weather. I don't know why, but I assume it's a circulation issue and that the continuous pumping of my arms helps increase the blood flow. The other thing I appreaciate is having something to break up the spider webs when bush-bashing. I hold the poles out on fromt of me to keep them off my face. You could accomplish most of the above with a single stick, so the 2 poles question is really a matter of try it and see. YMMV.

Jolly Green Giant
(regultr) - MLife

Locale: www.jolly-green-giant.blogspot.com
Re: Trekking Poles - Do I need them? (sorry long thread) on 02/08/2009 19:31:02 MST Print View

In my earlier days, I never hiked with poles and thought they were silly and for old folks. I had a bum foot once and decided to use them - and never looked back. I was able to go further and faster without back or knee pain, but there were two other great gains. First, I can't tell you the number of sprained ankles which poles saved me from. At one point they even saved me from falling off the side of a hill in one of my more brainless-fatigued moments. Secondly, being able to carry a lighter shelter because my poles serve as the supports have been great.

I have a pair of the GG Lighttrek 4's and a pair of REI UL Carbon Shock (or whatever they're called). Although others criticized the spring component of the REI's, I actually really liked them and would use them anytime. Good price too. I've put about 100 miles on the Lighttrek 4's and I'm really not 100% sure what my opinion is. First, they are unbelievably light and function just fine. But, they have a lot of flex for someone as heavy as I am (270) and there were a couple times when I slipped and put decent weight on them and they bowed a bit. THEY DID HOLD UP THOUGH which is the point and perhaps this is a non-issue in reality. I have the earlier version without the hand-strap which I actually think may be a problem for me because I have a tendency to put the heel of my hand in the strap and barely hang on to the handle. This basically ensures I can use the poles without needing to use my grip strength all the time. Without the straps my hands have become more fatigued and I've noticed a bit of a blister in my palm since I'm holding the handle 100% of the time.

That's just my two cents. If you want true UL which functions just fine, go with the GG Lighttrek 4's with the new handle-straps. A couple things I'll say about GG is that they make great products, they are really one of the few truly UL companies on the market who really doesn't budge on the UL concept, and honestly their customer service simply cannot be beat. If you don't want them, there are a ton of other great poles which are suggested throughout the forums. Good luck.

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
One pole on 02/08/2009 20:24:23 MST Print View

Personally, I prefer a single hiking stick. But I have two. When I'm backpacking, having two for crossing creeks is a godsend. But at least half, if not more, of the time I hold both poles in one hand. I just like one pole better.

Thing is, if you get two poles, you still have the option to use just one. That is what I do on dayhikes now. So what the heck? Give it a shot.

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Poles on 02/08/2009 20:28:47 MST Print View

I carry two, but usually only use one. Most of the trails I'm on are too narrow and/or rough to use two. My knees can't live without them though.

James Dubendorf
(dubendorf) - M

Locale: CO, UT, MA, ME, NH, VT
In Support of the Trekking Pole on 02/08/2009 20:38:57 MST Print View

When hiking in canyons, I want to look up and around when I should be looking down. I don't know how many times I've been distracted from my foot placement by the scenery only to be saved by a trekking pole. In some crazy way, I feel like I SEE more because of them...

Unknown abc
(edude) - F
"Trekking Poles - Do I need them? (sorry long thread)" on 02/08/2009 20:43:53 MST Print View

I love trekking poles(and I use 2) because they give me unsurpassed balance and rhythm. They keep your entire body moving at a very efficient pace, and take weight off your back.

-Evan

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Poles & Lightrek 4 on 02/08/2009 22:46:36 MST Print View

(Apologies for the ling-ish reply)

Nick,

I hiked and backpacked for man years. I also cross-country skied, and (of course) used poles for that. I tried a single hiking staff at one point long ago, but never got on well with it, so I stopped using it. Then, when hiking poles came out, my reaction was negative -- seemed like an affectation, and why would I want to hike with something in my hands -- both weight and inconvenience?

I also like to think I am pretty logical, so one day I decided I should get some first-hand experience, even though I'd probably come to the same conclusion in the end. So I took a local hiking poles class (I never would have thought I'd do something like that!). Since then, I virtually never go out without my (two) hiking poles. I feel that I can move faster and more safely with them, and with less strain on my joints.

> Nick Gatel

>I did buy a REI 4 Winds staff a while back, because I can
> pack it in a suitcase. I travel a lot for business and
> decided that this would be a good pick, when I might take
> time off a business trip and go for a day hike.

You can get adjustable hiking poles that will, when compressed, fit in a suitcase. Perhaps a largish suitcase. My REI carbon fiber 3-section poles will.

Note that GG recently announced a 3-section version of the Lightrek. It will pack smaller, at the expense of not extending to be as long. I also do not know whether or not wrist straps will be available for this one. If you care, send email and ask.

Many people prefer fixed-length poles. The claim is that they are lighter and stronger. The lighter is probably correct; the stronger is discussable (partly depends on how the length adjustment is implemented). On the other hand, adjustable poles can fit in luggage, can have size changed for the terrain, and can be one size to hike with and another to pitch your UL tent with. To each his own ... depends on which is important to you.

> Over the past few decades I have lightened my equipment,
> and now have a base weight under 10 lbs. I do go
> ultralight most of the time… but not always. I figured
> that with a lightweight load, I would not need a staff.
> But I cannot hike without a staff.

Many of us feel the same way about hiking poles -- whether or not you technically need them, the advantages are enough to justify carrying them. (Sure surprised me when I came to that conclusion!)

> On flats, I don’t use it to support any weight, but just
> hold it lightly in my hand and swing it in tempo with my
> pace and am so used to the hearing it tap the ground as I
> move along, it is hard to hike without it.

On the flats, some carry their poles. I still pole, pushing my self gently along. I find I can hike faster this way without getting any more tired.

> Although I am almost 60, my knees and joints are in solid
> shape, so I do not need poles to help overcome any wear
> and tear on my body from the aging process.

What about to *prevent* wear and tear on knees and hips? I find I can go down hill noticeably faster, with out bothering knees and hips, using poles than I can without them. Also more stable (and therefore safer).

> 1. When using two poles, are you now using them to propel
> yourself and reduce the effort of your legs? Obviously,
> the legs can do much more work than the arms and chest.
> However, reducing the work of the legs and transferring
> it the upper body might not be a bad thing. A little less
> fatigue in the legs, balanced with a little bit in the
> upper body might make things a little easier on the body
> overall. Is this correct?

Absolutely. I have seen some posters scorn using the upper body as inefficient and a poor use of those muscles. My experience it that you keep the amount of upper body effort within what is proper for you, and it is a valuable addition. (My upper body is on the weak side, and I still find this to be true.)

> 2. Do you find having both hands always holding a pole,
> more of an inconvenience (or efficiency for other tasks),
> than a single pole?

No real single pole experience (tried it occasionally, and do not like it). However, I do not find using two poles inconvenient. I can almost always just drop one of the poles, leaving it hanging by its wrist loop and do what I want just fine. (Wrist loops is a whole 'nother topic. I like them, but not all do.)

> 3. Do you find two poles more stable than one for such
> activities as stream crossings?

Yes

> 4. Can you take routes that are more direct uphill with
> two poles, versus one?

To a limited degree, because I push a bit with the poles.

> Does is sound feasible that my injury might have been
> mitigated by using two poles and taking a more direct
> route?

Unclear, but once injured I would think that using two poles would have been a lot more comfortable than just one.

> 5. Any feedback on the GG LightTrek 4 poles.

Check the reviews on this site. They are uniformly very positive.

I am fortunate enough to be beta-testing a pair of Lightrek 4 poles with straps (the non-strap version is already being sold; the version with straps has been announced, but is still in testing). They are my first ultralight poles -- my other poles are REI carbon fiber, but substantially heavier than the Lightrek's.

I LIKE THEM -- a lot. I have always wondered whether the ultralight carbon fiber poles would feel flimsy, or bend more, or vibrate more, etc. I was thinking about that just this afternoon as I was hiking along, and noted that I have had no problems of that sort at all. They have been great. I do not know what changes will be made to the strap system before the final version goes on sale. While I would like to see a small change in the buckle area, I would buy them as is if no change is made. The poles work well, and the straps work well. And light -- last weekend I handed my pair to someone else and he asked "What are these made of? Balsa wood?"

I like that they adjust long enough to be a good tent-pole for my Gatewood Cape (even pitched high, as Will R. advocates). I like that the pole adjustment is easy, robust, and appears strong. I especially like the straps -- I personally would not by any poles, ultralight or otherwise, without straps. (Others disagree with me on the importance of straps ... YMMV.)

> Roger Caffin
>
> A very individual decision.
>
> Some of us (especially in Australia) never use trekking
> poles at all. Our comments can be a bit derisive in fact
> - along the lines of 'yet another grab for the wallet'.
> And they are useless or worse in our scrub.
>
> Others find them very useful and swear by them, although
> I think that is mainly on trails. And many use their
> trekking poles to hold up a tarp - dual use. Clearly,
> opinions differ.

I agree -- reasonable and competent people can (and do) differ on this one. I cannot answer for Roger's scrub, but I was off trail here last weekend in some pretty good scrub and very glad I had the poles. Yes, they can be a bother in the scrub, but their advantages made them well worthwhile. For example, I liked them for some irregular ground, and when deer trails went straight up some very steep stuff. Swinging them around in the scrub, I sure appreciated the Lightrek's light weight.

Then, too, ask yourself how much time you spend off in the scrub to begin with.

> I think both sides will agree that older walkers with
> crook knees can get significant benefit from poles while
> descending rough ground. But if you have good knees why
> carry the extra weight?

To help *keep* the knees good and sound? Because I can descend that steep rough ground quite a bit faster with my poles than without?

> Carbon fibre or aluminium? The CF are lighter, that's for
> sure. They seem plenty strong enough too. A personal
> decision once again.

One guy I was with last weekend said his aluminum poles break at the length adjuster about every two years and he has to get them replaced. We looked at them, and it was clear that the way the length adjuster was fastened in was a weak spot -- it was the crimping to hold the adjuster in. Neither my Lightrek's nor my REI Carbon poles have that -- you just can't fasten things that way with CF.

Grant (at Gossamer Gear) has told me that they have had very little breakage with their poles. He says that, without exception, the customers with broken poles have told him that *any* pole would have broken in the circumstances. I.e. he has seen *no* unexpected breakage. Furthermore, if there was a problem with any manufacturer's CF poles, I am confident it would be well-reported here in the BPL forums.

> Greg Mihalik
>
> You might not think so, but they are being worked. If you
> plan to be hiking at 70 they are a good investment.
> Especially from a "slip and fall" perspective.

I quite agree. Even if you are sound now, think about preventing future problems.

>> 4. Can you take routes that are more direct uphill with
>> two poles, versus one?
>
> Maybe for a short distance. For me poles provide balance
> and traction more than power.

That is consistent with my theory that those who want power from their poles tend to favor wrist straps (otherwise they have to put too much energy into gripping the pole). Those who do not use them for power tend to see little value in wrist straps.

Another (side) observation -- I was paying attention last weekend to how people in the group I was with used their poles. For all too many of them, it was incredible -- if I used poles as they do, I would not care for wrist straps either. I am sure that there are competent people, who know how to use wrist straps correctly, and who still do not like them. But there are definitely incompetent folks who might change their mind and like wrist straps if they would use their poles / straps correctly.

> James K.
>
> I have a pair of the GG Lighttrek 4's and a pair of REI
> UL Carbon Shock (or whatever they're called). Although
> others criticized the spring component of the REI's, I
> actually really liked them and would use them anytime.

IMHO shock absorbers are debatable. My personal opinion is that I like them going down hill, but dislike them going up hill (because I have to first compress them when I push). Also, one of mine tends to turn itself off pretty quickly -- I have noticed that I tend to rotate my pole as I plant it, so perhaps that is why. Regardless of the reason, it makes the shock absorbers notably less useful for me.

> I've put about 100 miles on the Lighttrek 4's and I'm
> really not 100% sure what my opinion is. First, they are
> unbelievably light and function just fine. But, they have
> a lot of flex for someone as heavy as I am (270) and
> there were a couple times when I slipped and put decent
> weight on them and they bowed a bit.

FWIW: I weigh 245 and have not noticed that at all, not once. Sometimes I have found myself putting most of my body weight on them. Perhaps I am just not as observant? In any case, I have never had any impression of them other than rock-solid. I also do not have as many miles on mine as James has on his.

> I have the earlier version without the hand-strap which I
> actually think may be a problem for me because I have a
> tendency to put the heel of my hand in the strap and
> barely hang on to the handle. This basically ensures I
> can use the poles without needing to use my grip strength
> all the time. Without the straps ....

Yes, that is the way I use them, too. You sound like a good candidate for the strap version, once it is being sold.

> If you want true UL which functions just fine, go with
> the GG Lighttrek 4's with the new handle-straps.

Agreed. Everything I have seen so far while testing mine leads me to highly recommend them.

-- MV

Edited by blean on 02/08/2009 22:56:15 MST.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Thanks, all and... "Duh!" on 02/08/2009 23:46:07 MST Print View

After my original post, it dawned on my that I already have a pair of trekking poles (duh!)... sort of. I have an ancient pair of adjustable Edelrid Ski poles, that I occasionally use when snow snowshoeing. Probably not good for hiking poles since they have long metal tips with what looks like a carbide tip, non-removable snow baskets, and a hard plastic-like handgrip. However, they do function about the same.

Since I live within a mile of the base of Mt. San Jacinto, there are many places to hike on the spur of the moment. So I took a little hike this afternoon and brought the poles along.

I think that trekking poles will be advantageous for me, which is why I started the thread in the first place. At this point, I am going to test the waters, and order a pair of the GG 4’s. I am not sure about the advantage of the straps, but on my staffs, I never use them. I have read that proper use of straps does transfer the weight to the forearms. I do keep the straps attached to my staffs because they are useful for hanging or tying a length of cord to them. Anyway, I’ll you know how I fare with the poles once I get them. I am not concerned about them holding my weight, since I am 5’11” and only weigh 150 lbs.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Poles & Lightrek 4 on 02/09/2009 11:55:55 MST Print View

Bob

That was a thorough and informative reply. I differ on only one point:

>That is consistent with my theory that those who want power from their poles tend to favor wrist straps (otherwise they have to put too much energy into gripping the pole). Those who do not use them for power tend to see little value in wrist straps.

IF you hold the grips the way the manufacturers intend you to, then I would agree. However I think the common grip shape is ill-conceived and inefficient, forcing one to use the straps or grip tightly if power is needed. If you turn the poles around 180 degrees and just hook your thumb and middle finger over the bottom flare on the grip, you will find you can transfer a great deal of power through the poles while barely gripping them. Might not make sense without a photo, but trust me, I have used this grip for ~ a decade without straps. Works great, and eliminates the inherent risk of not having your hands free to catch you if you should fall, or having the poles get caught between rocks (or in mud etc...) and pulling you off balance.

This doesn't work with all poles, eg Titanium Goat pole grips are tapered the wrong way for this grip to work, as are the straight up and down (unshaped) grips of some other poles. But the GG poles do have a grip that this technique will work with.

Mary D
(hikinggranny) - MLife

Locale: Gateway to Columbia River Gorge
Trekking Poles - Do I need them? on 02/09/2009 14:35:41 MST Print View

Only you can answer this question for yourself. After years of using a single walking staff, I started using trekking poles three years ago and now find them indispensable.

"When using two poles, are you now using them to propel yourself and reduce the effort of your legs?" Yes. The use of poles turns hiking/walking into a whole body exercise involving your core muscles (the ones that always need more exercise, like those of the abdomen). The best part, though, is taking the strain off my knees when going downhill.

"Do you find having both hands always holding a pole, more of an inconvenience (or efficiency for other tasks), than a single pole?" No; I always had to put the walking staff down or let it hang it around my wrist to use a camera (most frequent reason for wanting my hands free). For me, this makes no difference with one or two poles. With some practice (using the poles for daily exercise walking), I've learned to handle my dog's leash while using both poles. The dog has learned to walk a little farther away from me in the "heel" position to avoid getting bumped by the poles. (I do use rubber tips on the poles for exercise walking, to preserve the tips on paved surfaces and, when we first started, avoid spearing the dog.) The pole has been quite handy to hold in front of the dog's nose when I've told him to walk behind and he tries to pass me.

"Do you find two poles more stable than one for such activities as stream crossings?" Definitely yes! The poles have helped considerably for balance on rough ground and have saved me from several potentially serious falls. They give me a little extra impetus if I have to jump from rock to rock.

"Can you take routes that are more direct uphill with two poles, versus one?" I generally stay on trails, so this doesn't apply to me. They certainly help on steep downhills, though. If you have to use your hands for scrambling, collapsible poles can be collapsed and tied on your pack. I would not want to try scrambling with fixed-length poles, though. Poles' main contribution to injury prevention (I'm preferring to sudden injury rather than repetitive stress injury) is improving your balance.

"Any feedback on the GG LightTrek 4 poles?" No, I have no experience with these. I have to have poles with straps because putting weight on the pole grip instead of on the strap makes my carpal tunnel syndrome flare up. By putting most of my weight on the straps, I need only a very lose grip on the pole. I notice that GG is now going to provide straps, but before their announcement (and after an exchange of emails with Grant at GG in which he said they would NOT offer straps), I bought a pair of Leki Carbonlites so will stick with those.

I concur with the recommendation to borrow a pair of adjustable poles or get a cheap pair (used or Walmart) to try out on a few hikes to be sure they work for you. This will also allow more time for feedback on the new G4 poles before you invest.

Here's the best site I've found on how to use your trekking poles: http://www.personal.dundee.ac.uk/~pjclinch/poles.htm They show the proper way to use the straps and how to adjust for long uphills or downhills.

IMHO, it's a lot better to use the poles to reduce the inevitable wear and tear on your joints (which has already happened, although you don't feel it yet) than to use them after the injury has already happened. Trekking poles would not have prevented my injury (X-C skiing injury which ripped most of the ligaments in my knee), but having the poles, in conjunction with a far lighter pack, now allows me to backpack and helps prevent further injury.

I personally have found the shock absorber feature to be both useless and annoying because that "click-click" noise drives me up the wall. My experience with my new carbon fiber poles is that they have more shock absorbency. Your mileage may vary.

Poles are great multiple use items as support for a tarp or tarptent and could act as splints in time of need. I've tried rigging them as a travois in case my dog gets hurt and I need to haul him out. The only problem there is keeping the dog from exiting the travois, which he did in a hurry when I did a test run!

Edited by hikinggranny on 02/09/2009 14:41:13 MST.

Robert Blean
(blean) - MLife

Locale: San Jose -- too far from Sierras
Re: Re: Poles & Lightrek 4 on 02/09/2009 17:37:00 MST Print View

Lynn,

I'll have to try out your idea. I'm having trouble envisioning it, even handling the poles.

-- Bob

Mike Clelland
(mikeclelland) - MLife

Locale: The Tetons (via Idaho)
poles on 02/09/2009 19:52:20 MST Print View

I don't use 'em. They just don't work for me...

Chad Miller
(chadnsc)

Locale: Duluth, Minnesota
Trekking Poles- Do I need them? on 02/10/2009 11:29:47 MST Print View

I use 'em. They just work great for me. . .

scri bbles
(scribbles) - F

Locale: Atlanta, GA
Re: Trekking Poles- Do I need them? on 03/02/2009 08:29:27 MST Print View

I thought I would look funny with them but still forked over the money for the GG Lightrek's... I don't regret that purchase one bit. They take strain off my back, are great for leaning on while huffing and puffing, help balance through river crossings... Like others have said, they do bow when you put a lot of weight on them (like during a close call), but mine are still going... Give them a shot!

Jon Hancock
(bigjackbrass)

Locale: Northwest England
Walking poles on 03/02/2009 16:07:13 MST Print View

After years of looking at pairs of poles, occasionally trying them out and sometimes using a single pole I've finally taken the plunge and bought a pair for the upcoming TGO Challenge walk across Scotland.

Previously I used either my umbrella (a sturdy hazel number from Smith & Sons) as a walking stick when required or else carried a Leki "Wanderfreund" model; and I do mean "carried." Versatile as it is, with a very nice handle design, I found that I tended only to use the Wanderfreund occasionally, when the terrain became especially tricky or I needed to cross a stream, so most of the time it rode along on my pack. The "anti-shock" mechanism didn't help - I never quite trusted it - but even so I rarely thought that two poles would be better than my one. Having hiked with pole-using friends recently in different areas I've decided that the benefit is real and I can probably adjust easily to take advantage of it, but just in case I find myself still carrying the poles half the time I made a careful choice about weight: the poles I chose are Mountain King Trail Blaze poles, which weigh considerably less for the pair than the single Wanderfreund and should also give me more options for setting up my shelter. they're a very interesting design, details of which can be found here:

http://www.petesy.co.uk/?p=113

http://www.mountainking.co.uk/

Dave T
(DaveT) - F
trekking poles. on 03/02/2009 16:53:15 MST Print View

i got some in 2003, and never looked back. i used the straps for about a week on the pct, and then cut them off. also i think shock-absorber poles are an unecessary gimmick.

uphill - my arms can help my tired legs. downhill - my arms can help my tired knees. flat ground - helps keep a good steady pace (cross-country ski style). water and snow - more stability crossing streams or snowy slopes. shelter - put up the tarp or tarptent with one or both. self-portraits - use StickPic adapter. etc. etc.

i'd never do a real hike without mine!

the only time i don't want them is in very brushy bushwacking (then i collapse them and strap them on my pack).