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trekking poles vs. tree branches
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Erik Dietz

Locale: Los Angeles
trekking poles vs. tree branches on 07/11/2011 23:38:58 MDT Print View

I've read quite a few postings on here with equal amounts of people arguing for and against the use of trekking poles. Personally I've never used them. However, with the heavy snow fall this year and the subsequent gnarly stream crossings I'm starting to rethink this. I'd love to get the LT4's (since they are the lightest option out there and I could use them as my tent poles) but I don't really have $160+ to spend.

So this is my question: could i just pick up a couple of strong branches before each stream crossing and use those instead? Do you think the same strategy could be applied to climbing up a snowy pass or would I really get more support from real trekking poles?

I'd also be into making a set of poles if anyone has experience in that area.


Brian Gentry
(Treegreen) - F
Trekking poles vs. tree branches on 07/11/2011 23:53:22 MDT Print View


Walmart has been off-loading some flick-lock trekking poles for about $10 a piece (at least in my area) that my wife has used, and I pass out to friends who are interested in trying them before purchasing a much lighter weight (and expensive) carbon pole. If your local store hasn't gotten rid of them yet these would be a great way to determine whether or not saving up for a more expensive pair is for you. Unfortunately it looks like they are not selling them any more online, and have mostly just twist lock poles in stock.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: trekking poles vs. tree branches on 07/12/2011 00:02:59 MDT Print View

If there is one standard stream crossing on a trail, sometimes hikers will find a good tree branch resting on one stream bank. They use it across, then leave it on the opposite bank for the next hiker. Otherwise, in some areas it is just too difficult to find a good tree branch in a timely fashion.


Erik Dietz

Locale: Los Angeles
Re: on 07/12/2011 00:15:04 MDT Print View


I thought I had read on a different thread where you said you don't use trekking poles. Any recommendations one way or another for someone doing the JMT in about 3 weeks?

Chris Morgan
(ChrisMorgan) - F

Locale: Southern Oregon
Re: Re: on 07/12/2011 00:24:48 MDT Print View

Try 'em for a while.

If you like 'em, great.

If you don't, great.

Sticks can work for stream crossings, but I'd think it'd be more annoyance then help for traveling uphill.

My favorite use for hiking poles is to get me over streams and rocky stretches faster.

Walmart are okay to try, but at over 10oz each, you won't realize the full value of poles by using them. Its best to spend a little bit to get something 5oz or so, per pole, or less.

Poles are also great if you're the type that likes to click your pen when you're bored. Something to play with. :)

Edited by ChrisMorgan on 07/12/2011 00:32:42 MDT.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: JMT on 07/12/2011 00:43:23 MDT Print View

"Any recommendations one way or another for someone doing the JMT in about 3 weeks?"

Understand what ten miles per day is like.


Brian Lindahl
(lindahlb) - MLife

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: trekking poles vs. tree branches on 07/12/2011 01:04:59 MDT Print View

Sticks work well for stream crossing when you use them for stability. They don't work well for climbing passes in snow when you use them to pull you up a hill. We also have some unusual crossings from a high snowpack this year. On my last outing, I pretty much crossed a waist-deep 50' wide river swamp where there is usually a 10' wide stream with a log bridge. The rafting is the best it's been in the last 15 years based on what a few guide friends have been telling me.

Edited by lindahlb on 07/12/2011 01:07:07 MDT.

carl becker
(carlbecker) - F

Locale: Northern Virginia
Re: Re: trekking poles vs. tree branches on 07/12/2011 05:08:27 MDT Print View

Try some cheap poles or used poles. If you like them then go for LT4's and sell of give the others away. I really like my LT4's with straps.

Tipi Walter
(TipiWalter) - F
Hiking Poles on 07/12/2011 07:17:49 MDT Print View

I've been making trail-worthy hiking poles for years using green saplings growing on the land around my old Tipi. See the fotogs. I look for straight small trunks and debark them using a drawknife, and paint later with latex colors which suit me. The blue one Little Mitten is using has a bicycle grip on top and a rubber cane tip on the bottom. The other picture shows me holding a very light bamboo pole with a grip and a rubber tip.

Mitten's Hiking Stick

Bamboo Stick

For years now I've been using regular store-bought hiking poles---Black Diamond Graphite Cork model currently---and highly recommend using one or two for creek crossings, regular backpacking, and winter snow-hiking. I hear a good set of poles can relieve 30% of the pressure off your knees.

ben wood

Locale: flatlands of MO
Re: trekking poles vs. tree branches on 07/12/2011 08:50:09 MDT Print View

try the branches if you don't wanna dump cash on poles.

I was not a pole user and kinda thought they were lame. but on longer days i'd wind up picking up a stick for a crossing and then I'd wind up holding onto it for miles on end. after carrying sticks for days on end, i finally decided to buy some proper poles. I didn't mind dropping some money because i knew i would like and use them.

just my thoughts

Erik Dietz

Locale: Los Angeles
I appreciate everyones reply on 07/12/2011 09:44:30 MDT Print View

this has been helpful. I'm going to borrow a set from a fellow backpacker on my next 3 day trip and see if I like them or not.

Another question though: If I plan on using trekking poles mainly for stream crossings and snow fields, would one pole suffice or is two much better?

Thanks again!

Bradley Attaway
(AttaboyBrad) - F

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Two is better on 07/12/2011 10:37:21 MDT Print View

Having two allows you to make tripod still even if you have only one foothold, or one so small it's effectively just one whether you can get all your toes on it or not.

That said, if you're only using them for stream crossings, you might as well use sticks and not carry a pound of equipment for such a rare (as a percent of time on trail) and nonessential use.

Mimic the form of an XC Skier and you'll be shocked at how much ground you'll cover in a day, to say nothing of their uphill and downhill advantages. Great back and arms workout too.

Tipi Walter
(TipiWalter) - F
Two Poles on 07/14/2011 07:59:10 MDT Print View

Using two poles when backpacking in deep snow can be a hassle as I find it's always good to have one hand free to hit the snow with your fist in anger when sinking down to your hipbelt on every step. Postholing up a mountain or along a ridgetop in 35-40 inches of snow can render even one hiking pole nearly useless, two poles and you've got no hands to use. Anyway, I only use one pole for all of my trips as I like to have one hand free to adjust my radio or balance off a rock or pull out a probar snack. Sometimes I fold up my hiking pole and stash it on my pack when hitchhiking or when postholing thru the snow.;

Edited by TipiWalter on 07/14/2011 08:02:59 MDT.

Richard Mock
(moxtr) - M

Locale: The piney woods
Re: trekking poles vs. tree branches on 05/24/2013 02:02:10 MDT Print View

Of course trekking poles are better while crossing water; it is up to you whether they work for you well enough for you to justify the weight when you don't need them. They make a lot of sense to me. When I am without poles I always look for something to use as a third leg when I approach a water obstacle.

Erik Basil

Locale: Atzlan
Costco Carbon Fibers on 05/24/2013 07:26:24 MDT Print View

Zip over to your local Los Angeles-area Costco, where you'll find nice, light, adjustable carbon-fiber trekking poles with cork inserts in the handles, for about thirty bucks with tax. They come with baskets and feet for scree, snow, rock and pavement and are as light as much more expensive poles. Take them with you on dayhikes and that 3-day you've got coming. After really using them on trail, you'll know whether you're a "trekking pole guy" and worst-case, you'll have a set you can loan or use for erecting tarp shelters that use them for the pole(s).

John Rowan
(jrowan) - M
Switching to poles on 05/26/2013 20:08:29 MDT Print View

I'm a recent convert to poles, and the difference has been absolutely incredible- depending on the terrain, I'm going about a half mile to a mile an hour faster, and they're super helpful for balance.

More on the topic of the original question, they've been really helpful with stream crossings, especially times when you're doing awkward rock hops. (I haven't had to do a stream crossing of any meaningful depth with them yet, so I can't comment on that, but I can only assume they'd be helpful there as well.)

If you're looking for a cheap way to check them out, Andrew Skurka has a pretty good write up on one of the cheaper pairs here:

I think there's a similar set for about $40 on Amazon, but it's been a while since I've looked.