Hiking Poles - How Do I?
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Scott Ashdown
(waterloggedwellies) - F

Locale: United Kingdom
Hiking Poles - How Do I? on 08/05/2006 03:13:45 MDT Print View

I have never used hiking poles before. I always just thought to myself, 'They will get in the way - become an annoyance.' I have therefore walked many a mile without them. However, there is no doubt that that many people who are into lightweight backpacking really find them useful and I am begining to wonder, would I find them useful too?

I am therefore tempted to give them ago. I use a tent at the moment, not a tarp.

I have two questions. Firstly - What height should a hiking pole be? I know this varies with individual height but should it be level with my out stretched arm, higher, lower than this, waist height or is there no optimum height and it's just preference. Secondly, is there a particular method of using the poles. I.e. is it as natural as walking with two sticks in your hand or does it take practice. How, will I know if i'm transferring some of the weight of my pack for example to my arms (Which is one of the benefits I often read about), how will I know if they're actually doing some good as opposed to me just imagining it or will the results be obvious???

Basic questions I know but would appreciate some tips!

Scott

David Couch
(Davidc) - F

Locale: England
Poles advice. on 08/05/2006 03:40:22 MDT Print View

Scott, see http://www.personal.dundee.ac.uk/~pjclinch/poles3.htm

Scott Ashdown
(waterloggedwellies) - F

Locale: United Kingdom
Hiking Poles - How Do I? on 08/05/2006 09:23:01 MDT Print View

David, thanks for the link. It certainly gave me some useful information. Haven't been able to get out to a store yet to try some actual hiking poles but managed to to swing a broom handle around in the back yard for five minutes. Whilst it's difficult to say by using a broom, it feels like a pole length that is equivalent of the distance from floor to elbow seems about right. What do others think?

Ken Helwig
(kennyhel77) - MLife

Locale: Scotts Valley CA via San Jose, CA
Re: Hiking Poles - How Do I? on 08/05/2006 11:19:21 MDT Print View

floor to elbow is correct. I have done both hiking with poles and without, sometimes in the same trip. I have always noticed that with going uphill it helps "power" your way up. Downhill it saves your knees quite a bit of strain. Also poles are good for fording streams and just general balance. I cannot recommend them enough.

Glenn Roberts
(garkjr) - F

Locale: Southwestern Ohio
Hiking Poles on 08/05/2006 11:34:44 MDT Print View

My own preference is no poles, one pole, or two poles - depends on the day of the week and what kind of mood I woke up in. :)

When you're carrying a 15-pound load, I wonder just how much weight you can actually transfer off your feet?! So, that's not a real advantage. Also, from time to time, I've found them annoying to use, and I've even felt a little silly using them with such a small pack.

The main advantages to me are just easing the shock of downhill on my knees, and the general assist to balance - as Colin Fletcher points out, a tripod is more stable than a bipod or monopod. (You'll only be a "quadripod" if you're standing still.) I've also used them, once or twice, to provide the illusion of a railing for people crossing a narrow ledge, and to jam under a kid's foot to make a foothold when he forgot to figure out how he would get down before he started up.

I'm currently using two poles, because they let me set up my tarp anywhere I choose. That might be a main reason for you to use them. You mentioned that you currently use a tent; if you're inclined to try a tarp (or Tarptent), the poles can do double duty as tent poles.

Scott Ashdown
(waterloggedwellies) - F

Locale: United Kingdom
Hiking Poles - How Do I? on 08/05/2006 15:23:52 MDT Print View

Well thanks for the input so far.

I have been looking around for some trekking poles. The lightest i've seen are the Gossamer Gear Lightrek and also the Traile Stix sold on this site. However, neither of these products are available for export to the UK where I live.

Does anyone know why they can't be exported?

It seems a shame, especially since the Lightrek poles were made in the UK to start with. (I don't know who made them though!)

Anyone on this side of the pond know where you can pick up these products?

In fact, I buy a lot of my gear from America and import it, simply because you have a much greater choice over there!

Scott

David Couch
(Davidc) - F

Locale: England
Golf club poles on 08/05/2006 16:27:00 MDT Print View

Scott, if you care to publish an email address I'll contact you about sending you a couple of the free second hand carbon fibre golf club shafts for which I cornered the UK market. You'll have to buy your own Leki tips and tube of epoxy to make them. The end result will weigh about 3 or 3 1/2 oz per pole.

However, these will be fixed length poles, so I suggest you get some conventional heavy aluminium adjustable poles to try first. Look around for one of the offers which seem to be around offering cheapo poles for about £15 a pair (look in the weekend newspaper ads. and special offers from stores like Lidl) These will be good enough to establish whether poles suit you and, if so, what length you prefer.

David

Scott Ashdown
(waterloggedwellies) - F

Locale: United Kingdom
Re: Golf club poles on 08/06/2006 03:06:41 MDT Print View

Well, thanks again everyone for the comments.

Hmm, using a tarp. I have to confess to never having slept under a tarp. I have always used a tent to date (Currently a Terra Nova Laserlite at 1.1k.) However, using trekking poles would certainly open up this possibility for me. I think the barrier for me using a tarp is largely in my mind. I think tarp and I just think drafts, damp, open and cold!!!

David, thanks for your input and kind offer. I hadn't even considered golf club shafts as a possible solution but now you've mentioned it I can see how they would be light weight and incredibly strong. My email address is scott.ashdown@ntlworld.com

Miles Barger
(milesbarger) - F - M

Locale: West Virginia
PacerPoles on 08/06/2006 16:20:34 MDT Print View

PacerPoles are made in the UK. I have a pair, and, although they're heavy compared to most of the poles that UL/SULers use, I absolutely love them and have never found their extra weight to be noticeable. Very durable, very comfortable grips, very good.

Einstein X
(EinsteinX) - F

Locale: The Netherlands
Re: Hiking Poles on 08/16/2006 09:47:19 MDT Print View

Uhm Glen,

Even if you're carrying no pack at all you could transfer all (!) of your weight onto your poles (if you could balance yourself in that way) by just lifting your feet from the ground. Compare it to using crutches.

The poles don't start working above a certain amount of pack weight. The way it works is that they transfer 25% of your total weight (you plus backpack) to the ground, though this 25 % number is, off course, a very crude estimate.

So even at the end of your XUL hike, with no more food and only a couple of zips of water left, you're still transfering '25'% of your own mass plus about 4 kilos onto the ground with trekking poles.

I have Komperdell Titanal trekking poles weighing in at about 7 oz. I wonder why the very very more experienced ultra lighters here make an effort in reducing pole weight, but i guess that since it requires more energy to move a larger mass there are some benefits in a light pole. A light pole certainly won't help reducing pack weight since it's not carried in a pack.

Eins

Mike Storesund
(mikes) - F
Re: Hiking Poles - How Do I? on 08/16/2006 11:36:53 MDT Print View

>> "The lightest i've seen are the Gossamer Gear Lightrek and also the Traile Stix sold on this site." <<

Scott, These poles you reference are fixed length. While choosing between fixed length and adjustable length poles can be another discussion, I would personally choose adjustable length poles.

I do have REI Peak UL Carbon poles (made by the Austrian company Komperdell, http://www.komperdell.com/ and are the same as their Carbon Duolock) and as long as I “properly” adjust the locks before initial use, they have not failed me yet. I like the adjustable feature because it allows the versatility of pitching a tarp… high, low or somewhere in-between. Also, for their intended purpose of ‘trekking’, I can make them shorter for going uphill, longer for going downhill, or have the downhill pole longer than the uphill pole if traversing a hill. The poles do help with knee strain (worth the weight just for that!) and can help with a rhythm in setting a pace.

Edited by mikes on 08/16/2006 11:39:31 MDT.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Re: Re: Hiking Poles on 08/16/2006 16:26:25 MDT Print View

> A light pole certainly won't help reducing pack weight since it's not carried in a pack.

Ahh, but the oh-so-important from-skin-out weight is always on my mind. My gear list now sits at around 12 lbs. FSO. Granted only 8+ of that are on my back but my body still has to move all of it whether it's on my back, my feet or in my hands.

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Re: Hiking Poles on 08/20/2006 20:54:06 MDT Print View

Okay so I hiked with a set of poles for the first time this weekend and I'd like some opinions from other pole users on one issue I was faced with.

Firstly, let me say that they trekking poles (I was actually using a set of X-country ski poles sized 135 cm) worked really well for my tarp setup. I wrapped a length of duct tape around the shafts at multiple heights to clove-hitch the tarp guys around and it worked fabulous.

However I could just as easily have carried some carbon fiber or aluminum poles if that's all i was using them for. I was however trying to get the feel for hiking with them as well. The hiking seemed more stable and I felt less pressure on my knees while walking and it allowed me to transfer weight around to four points rather than just two while walking.

The issue that came up however was the amount of effort I had to expel in order to push and drag the poles through brushy sections of trail! When the trail wasn't in prime shape, as was the case for probably two of the five miles I hiked this morning, the poles became almost a nuisance that may have been tiring me out as I was bucking the brush.

So, the discussion I raise is this, when bushwhacking and really brushy trail situations are present, do the benefits of trekking poles even out or possibly even lessen than hiking w/o them?

John Carter
(jcarter1)

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: bushwhacking with poles on 08/20/2006 22:14:08 MDT Print View

I have had the opposite experience; for me, bushwhacking is another reason to carry poles.

When I am hiking through brushy sections of trail, I hold the poles parallel to my body, gripping firmly and keeping them close to my body, so that the lower part of the pole is a few inches in front of and to the outside of my shins. Thus they act as a "shin guard," pushing aside the foliage just before my legs do. It keeps the protruding brush from scraping my legs or tearing my pants (particularly if I have rain pants on).

Einstein X
(EinsteinX) - F

Locale: The Netherlands
Re: Re: Hiking Poles on 08/21/2006 02:51:20 MDT Print View

So far when hiking on a trail that is very brushy, I carry my trekking poles across my shoulders. They than don't do much in supporting me off course, but they are nice for stretching shoulders and arms than. Besides i never hiked a trail where 40% of the distance is brushy.

Long brushy trail can indeed be anoying cause you can't use your trekking poles correctly.

Eins

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Re: Hiking Poles - How Do I? on 08/21/2006 10:42:54 MDT Print View

You both make good additions to the discussion. I did find that when I was hiking through head-high and higher brush, that holding the poles out in front of me pushed lots of it away and allowed me to walk through it easier.

It was the lower brushy stuff about calf height that would catch on the poles (and I might note I had baskets on - losing these would help significantly) and cause drag on the poles.

As a means of testing I did stop and carry the poles through some sections to compare how my knees and back felt with and without. Putting them across the back of my neck did, as you suggest feel nice and allow for a little stretch of the arms, shoulders and neck.

As with everything, diversity is key. Much like a backpack's straps need to be adjusted to move pressure from the shoulders to the hips and back, hiking poles can be used and carried so as to help rearrange pressure from one part of the body to another.

Einstein X
(EinsteinX) - F

Locale: The Netherlands
Re: Re: Hiking Poles - How Do I? on 08/25/2006 02:49:00 MDT Print View

"I did find that when I was hiking through head-high and higher brush....."

Uhm, i usually go hiking on trails instead of through the jungle. Besides here in Europe there is little jungle to be found. And i really don't see the point in bushwhacking for a mile and a half if a three mile trail leads me to the same point in less time and more importantly effort.

"head-high and higher brush....."??? Where do you go hiking anyway. I think it amazing that you actually got some use out of your poles in those conditions.

Eins

ian wright
(ianwright) - F

Locale: Photo - Mt Everest - 1980
poles on 08/27/2006 05:51:36 MDT Print View

Here's a thought (as yet un-anaylised) about the carbon golf club shafts.
Although adding a little weight, I wonder if a carbon shaft could be made into sections by using the same 'connectors' that are used on fishing rods ? Or just use an old fishing rod cut down to size. Hmmm . . .

I have never used trekking poles and would only consider them if they could double up as tent poles, be lightweight and collapsable.

Is using just one better then none?

Douglas Frick
(Otter) - MLife

Locale: Wyoming
Re: poles on 08/27/2006 20:39:03 MDT Print View

>Is using just one better then none?


I think so. I used a bamboo pole (about 1.25" in diameter; 13 oz) for several years before I bought trekking poles, and I still grab it for an occasional hike. It does take a bit of weight off the knees (switch hands occasionally), and a longer single pole is very useful for rock/stream hopping.

ian wright
(ianwright) - F

Locale: Photo - Mt Everest - 1980
pole on 08/28/2006 06:18:08 MDT Print View

Thanks Doug. I'm not into trekking poles knees or no knees ,but my next tent may need a pole so it might as well be a trekking pole or something similar. And what a huge difference it would be when going thru flowing water.