(Apologies for the ling-ish reply)
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?
> 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
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.