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1st Time Using Trek Poles, Experiences, ?’s
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Brian Martin
(xiled1) - MLife

Locale: AZ
1st Time Using Trek Poles, Experiences, ?’s on 03/08/2010 13:10:50 MST Print View

I decide to try out some Wal-Mart trekking poles before dropping the big bucks on some nice ones. I picked up a pair and wrapped the rubber grips with racquet tape to keep them from getting sweaty.
I started out on a short, up and down hike of about 2.5 miles and continued on with a 7 mile loop with varied terrain. The 1st section was narrow and quite rocky, with some squeezing between small boulders, sometimes with only enough room for one foot between rocks. I found this section quite difficult to use two poles on. I was always dragging the pole on the rocks or planting them on the boulders – which did not give a solid base. It was also difficult to keep up with where I was going to plant my feet and my poles – I now had double the amount of solid footholds to find. When the trail widened and cleared, I found the poles quite helpful uphill, but for the most part they just complicated the matter. On the downhill I extended them fully to 135 cm. I found downhill to be the most difficult. I would plant my pole and then try to step down. Doing so would cause my knee to hit the pole. My feet and the poles were fighting for the same small space on the trail. I really think this section would be better with only one pole.

On the loop hike I experimented with different heights. I found that a shorter pole was easier to deal with the rocky sections as they would not catch on the rocks as much. A longer pole was better on downhill. But I still had issues with the pole getting in the way of legs and fighting for the same realestate. Halfway thru the hike I switched to one pole at max height. This worked out quite well, but I find that I prefer a walking stick for one handed use. The walking stick gives you infinite grip heights on the fly. The fixed length of the trek pole felt limiting in the up and down sections.

I then passed another hiker with poles and it reminded me to remove the baskets. Doing so seemed to eliminate a lot of the catching on rocks and brush – definitely a plus. For the last few miles the trail was wider and I switched back to using both poles. This time they felt quite natural and I was able to get into a rhythm. No interference issues either.

I do believe they took some stress off my knees which was my goal with this addition. I did find one thing a little unnerving, I tended to rely on the poles too much for balance. If I were on a rocky section and one of my poles got caught, I would work to get the pole back out to catch my fall instead of forcing my legs to do the job.

So if anyone has any insight on how high to set your poles, or if there is a certain rhythm or cadence to follow, that would be helpful. I’m sure that with more time I will get used to them and I really do want to make them work.

Tony Wong
(Valshar) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: 1st Time Using Trek Poles, Experiences, ?’s on 03/08/2010 13:38:27 MST Print View


This is a cut and paste from another thread with the same question:

When I bought my 1st pair of poles 3 years ago, I had no clue of how to use them or set the length of them.

I found that this video really was helpful on showing me how to use them with the wrist straps to help propel me up and down the hills.

It is pretty comprehensive about selection, use, and care of the poles.

Hope this help you out.

Wouldn't go on a hike without them.

Also, to answer your question, per this DVD, the top of the poles should be placed about the height of your hip.

The middle section should be about the width of your fist and the lower section locked at a length that places the top of the handle/pole at your hips.

When you are a down hill slope, you can then adjust only the middle section to be longer to help slow you down or to ease the force on your knees.

While going uphill, you would shorten the length of the pole so that you can still easily swing the poles uphill without prematurely hitting the uphill slope.

Use of the straps is critical as you are using your wrist/arms to carry some of the load of your body as you step up or down hill.

Adding to this:

You can either use a swinging motion of having both move at the same time forward or back or more commonly, I have one swinging forward as one is swinging back.

For the areas that you were on the rock/boulders, you might have been better off without using them.

I have had situations where I just stowed the poles on the sides of the pack with the tips pointing upwards, so they would not damage the pack, and scrambled over the rocks with hands, knees, feet, etc.

Highly recommended the DVD.

Maybe there are some videos on Youtube?


Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: 1st Time Using Trek Poles, Experiences, ?’s on 03/08/2010 20:05:59 MST Print View

I found it was best not to think about it too much.

I do not use the poles "properly". That means I don't put a lot of weight on them or wrap the straps on my wrists and use them to increase my pace or whatever your supposed to do.

Instead, I mainly carry them for balance in difficult terrain or to help me up and down hills and across creeks.

On really rocky terrain, they can be a nuisance. I will sometimes put them in my pack if I'm doing class III rock hopping.

But on regular trail, I plant them about every other step unless the trail is wide, smooth and flat and then I can plant them every step and use them to pick up my pace.

They are awkward at first but you'll get the hang of it.

I don't worry about what they are going to plant themselves on. It turns out they stick to many surfaces a lot better if I don't think about whether they will stick or not.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
1st Time Using Trek Poles, Experiences, ?’s on 03/08/2010 23:16:45 MST Print View

Brian Martin
(xiled1) - MLife

Locale: AZ
thanks on 03/09/2010 07:26:47 MST Print View

Thanks for the replys, I'll take a look a those links when I get home and get some more practice in. I anticipated a learning curve so I'm not discouraged. Just wanted to see what other people have experienced.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: 1st Time Using Trek Poles, Experiences, ?’s on 03/09/2010 08:08:58 MST Print View


>>I decide to try out some Wal-Mart trekking poles before dropping the big bucks on some nice ones.<<

My trekking poles are the Wal-Mart, Swiss Gear, inexpensive type. I have had them for two years now. I may upgrade later but these are quite satisfactory. I see no need to replace them. My only complaint is that the twistlock adjustments can be somewhat "sticky" to adjust. Tapping the pole on something substantial like a rock usually frees up the section so that adjustment can be made.

The grips are not really that important to me. My "style" is to insert my hand through the wrist strap from underneath, twist once and loosely grip the pole wherever my hand falls. If I need the support I let my weight get transferred to the pole via the wrist strap. I find that gripping the handgrip tires out my hands and forearms.

I use them for balance on rocky and slippery terrain. When the trail is "easy" I just kind of swing them along lightly almost forgetting about them until they are needed.

They also are a part of my shelter system. I use them to support the front and rear of my tarp.

After a little while using them will become second nature.

Party On ! 2010


Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
re: poles on 03/09/2010 08:19:18 MST Print View

Don't use them to roast marshmallows over the campfire!!!!

They can be a pain on a narrow, rocky trail, as you discovered. Remember where they came from - snow skiing. Wide open, no rocks! On more open trails, they work very well.

I set mine at elbow height and leave it there. The only time I change that is when I set up my tent and use the trekking pole for a tent pole. My arms adapt to changing trail angles faster than the poles do!

Lori P
(lori999) - F

Locale: Central Valley
Re: 1st Time Using Trek Poles, Experiences, ?’s on 03/09/2010 08:42:30 MST Print View

It took about ten miles for me to get used to having them in my hands. It took a season to feel really comfortable to the point that I forgot they are in my hands and they find their own spots intuitively. And then I went from budget Komperdells to Lightreks and things changed again - now I don't really think about it, they're just part of hiking. Sometimes they are taking the weight off my joints a little and sometimes they catch me, sometimes I use them for balance, not so much for the nordic walking, but I know that when I don't have them my legs feel more fatigue. They've saved me from a face plant a few times and creek crossings are a ton safer (I get vertigo watching water move around me).

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: 1st Time Using Trek Poles, Experiences, ?’s on 03/09/2010 16:36:12 MST Print View

A triumph of brilliant marketing over a total lack of customer need.


Edited for Bill (below)
Yeah, I know and agree with you Bill. For someone with injuries and especially a dodgy knee going steeply downhill, the extra support given by TWO poles to the ligaments around the knee and ankle can be amazing. No argument there at all.

I do remember seeing (hearing) a group of four walkers in France walking up a very gentle asphalt road while I was pitching my tent in the adjacent field. Click clack click clack ... And they were just strolling along, not doing any 'Nordic walking'.

Edited by rcaffin on 03/09/2010 19:23:41 MST.

Bill Poett
( - F

Locale: Santa Barbara
Re: Re: 1st Time Using Trek Poles, Experiences, ?’s on 03/09/2010 16:46:10 MST Print View

No disrespect to Roger with whom I agree 90% of the time, but I couldn't do what I do without them.

I'm a personal trainer and guide who turns 48 this month. I've broken my back twice, pins in both ankles and a shattered right elbow. I still pull off 25 mile days on trail and the poles give me just that extra support i need on the verticals, both ways up and down. Plus with a weight under 5 ounces I always have perfect tarp sticks with me.

When there is any millage with and vertical I don't leave home without them.

Good Hiking ;0)