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Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Distance on 02/03/2012 11:27:29 MST Print View

Whatever works for you, great, I'm not knocking them. I don't really use them anymore personally, but haven't written them off.

But as a runner, here's what I don't understand:
Just about any running coach, especially those who specialize in distance running and achieving efficiency, will tell runners to keep arms, shoulders, and hands as relaxed as possible to conserve energy and maintain a smoother form. Any distance runner knows that excessive tension in the arms, shoulders, and hands, especially over long distances, is tiring, if not painful.

Trekking poles seem to run totally contrary to this idea of conservation, yet somehow are claimed to boost efficiency.

I'm just not sure.

Harald Hope
(hhope)

Locale: East Bay
weight? is it negative? on 02/03/2012 11:29:07 MST Print View

Kat P, I agree, I just started using trekking poles, and there is nothing like almost running down mountains without slips, without worries. I view it more as a crab walking, but agree on the four legged feeling, that's absolutely the case going up or down, but that feeling grows the faster you go, so I find myself going faster almost every outing.

I'm giving my knees veto power over any decision I make re these poles, and they vote firmly on using them, and won't hear about anything else now. If your knees are at all weak from use/abuse, these are a no brainer, but I think, far more important, is if your knees are still in youthful good shape, trekking poles are going to keep them that way. Every time I see someone running downhill, especially with weight, I think to myself, you'll be in surgery in your 40s or 50s, unless you are really lucky.

I believe the physics of these poles, ie, their cumulative weights, are totally unrelated to what Nick said above, it's far more complex than suggested, and I'd have to discuss that with someone who really took the time to examine all the physics of the motion before making any statement about that, but my initial feeling is that ignoring the forward momentum and other forces (think starting a weight suspended from a string in motion, which is what you are basically doing if you are using these right, re the straps). It took me precisely one hike to give up on my decades long attachment to my home made hiking staffs, it was that obvious re the difference in performance.

I bought a friend with bad knees a pair after seeing how good they are, and after our first hike I mentioned the weight question, and he noted that in his opinion, they have a negative weight, because you are pushing yourself with them, using your upper body muscles as well as your leg groups to move forward. Estimating I would say I am going at a very minimum 1/2 a mile per hour faster with them. Maybe more, it's hard to tell. Far more going up and down hill, I'd say there it's almost 2x faster.

The key knee action I believe that ruins knees is the braking motion where the knee hits full extension going downhill, and particularly, that special moment when you have to decide if you go beyond that motion and avoid death by falling down a ravine etc, or you fall. Trekking poles remove that brake and put it onto solid aluminum, to me it's instantly obvious the difference each and every hike I do. Not only that, I'd strongly suspect that if your knees are weak or damaged, using these will allow the tissues to regenerate, since you are not continuously reinjuring the tissues on every downhill.

I have to wonder if growing up cross country skiing as I did has something to do with it, almost the first day I tried them, I found myself falling into a very familiar cadence, without thinking about it at all, then I realized, oh, this is the same exact motion I did as a cross country skier. However, I find that on more flat areas, I have to be going really fast to really get into this cadence, and, oddly, the more I use these trekking poles, the faster and further I go. There's something about taking 20 or so percent of each stride and adding upper body muscle strength to that. Might also matter that bicycles are my primary mode of transport, and the upper body muscle groups are quite similar in terms of what is used. My friend noted as well after his first two hour hike that his upper body ached for days after, which gives an idea of how much you use those muscles.

The one place I'm not sold on them is flats, but even there, if I go fast enough to really hit a true cross country stride, they work almost exactly the same way that cross country ski poles do in terms of using upper body to move you.

I'm sold, no doubts, if I had started using these 20 years ago I have no doubt whatsoever that my knees would be in substantially better shape, at least the hiking parts, can't do anything about the mountain biking issues.

Seeing real physics studies on the actual weights re work carried out (work in the physics sense) would be interesting though. I've also grown to suspect, for the same reasons, that classic formula that a pound on your foot is worth 5 on your back, for similar reasons, though I think there's less pendulum like action with feet than swinging trekking poles. My initial intuition is that using your upper body strength to boost your stride so radically outweighs any small loss re the work related to lifting them a few inches via a swinging motion that that work is not really worth thinking about much. Not to mention I have zero interest in using a pole that is going to be prone to snapping the moment I need it most, putting weight before critical functionality is foolhardy as far as I'm concerned. I've seen how carbon fiber cracks under the wrong pressure.

Edited by hhope on 02/03/2012 11:36:14 MST.

Diplomatic Mike
(MikefaeDundee)

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Good insight on 02/03/2012 11:34:29 MST Print View

Excellent post, Harald. I couldn't agree more.

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Re: Trekking pole energy: What is your weakest link? on 02/03/2012 11:41:26 MST Print View

I used to ride bikes and hike a LOT. My legs were like tree trunks and my arms like toothpicks. After a bunch of years raising kids my cardio capacity is way down but my legs are still pretty strong. My weakest link for hiking is the heart/lung/energy delivery system, not my legs. Poles require energy so using them impacts my weakest link. (But my knees are a weak link so I use the poles on steep terrain). I can walk faster on the flats with poles, but then I bonk.

Someone else with great cardio capacity but maybe lacking leg strength/endurance may find different.

What is your weakest link?

Edited by jimqpublic on 02/03/2012 11:42:48 MST.

Harald Hope
(hhope)

Locale: East Bay
Night hiking on 02/03/2012 11:50:12 MST Print View

I forgot to mention night hiking. You can hike in near dark using these, and you can go way further into dusk before pulling out the headlamp, and once the headlamp is out, you can go faster. That's because all the above advantages grow even more pronounced when light grows low and the visual inputs need some help from your new set of extra legs. Same reason animals with four legs do better in low light I assume, at least one of them, you just have more inputs happening, more feedback systems, and more stability, and less weight/stress on anyone point of contact.

Craig, I don't run, being fond of my knees and wanting to keep walking/riding into my golden years, but I have to assume that there is some fundamental difference between walking and running. Using your upper body strength is so self evident that I'd just toss out any sources that can't see such a simple fact. Try cross country skiing or biking without your arm strength. Or swimming. The cross country ski stride you fall into with trekking poles is the same exact motion, push off a touch with each pole plant, pushes you forward, upper body strength.

As with ultralight gear, trekking poles are going to push back the day I can't backpack / hike far back. And I won't be nursing sore knees, and I won't be planning a knee surgery as my forward plan. I have by the way had a few real knee injuries, and have healed them by taking very good care of my knees, and I have no doubt that using trekking poles would have without any question avoided my worst one. In fact, it would not have happened at all had I been using trekking poles (columbia gorge off trail, instant decision, die or rip knee.

Michael Davis
(mad777) - F

Locale: South Florida
Re: Is all weight equal? - Trekking Poles ... on 02/03/2012 11:54:20 MST Print View

I will never hike in the mountains without my poles, but I find them to be just extra gear on the flat land hikes so I leave them at home then.

As to swing weight, that's very important. I fly fish and have found that rod "A" can weigh more than rod "B" but, rod "A" needs a lighter reel than rod "B" to balance it because it's swing weight (not total weigh) is lower. The difference is unbelievably significant with fly rods.

Harald Hope
(hhope)

Locale: East Bay
cardio goes up with trekking poles, not down on 02/03/2012 11:55:44 MST Print View

More full workout, this stuff is so self-evident to me that I have to wonder if, as I have suspected, my early childhood cross country skiing engrained this method and technique so deeply in me that I don't have to think to do it right, though the motions feel totally natural to me.. But that could be simply because I learned it so young.

If your arms are like toothpicks and your cardio is down, then trekking poles are the solution, not a problem, they are the exact solution to your condition, I estimate I am running at much higher cardio levels with trekking poles, I break a sweat much earlier in the hike, and my conditioning increases far more quickly. If you aren't seeing this type of upper body workout and cardio improvement, I'd say it's almost certian you are using them wrong.

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Re: cardio goes up with trekking poles, not down on 02/03/2012 12:00:04 MST Print View

"If you aren't seeing this type of upper body workout and cardio improvement, I'd say it's almost certian you are using them wrong."

Not using them wrong, just not enough. I'm too vain to use poles walking around the sidewalks of LA.

John Myers
(dallas) - F - MLife

Locale: North Texas
Re: Good insight on 02/03/2012 12:03:32 MST Print View

Hiking poles aren't for everyone. But as I've gotten older I found that I prefer to hike with poles.

I have read a lot of commentary on the pro's and con's of poles and I always enjoy hearing theory and opinions about them.

For me it just comes down to personal preference. I generally get my skin out weight as low as possible, then add back in the things that make my hikes more enjoyable. Poles are one of those things.

I have the Titanium Goat 3.2 oz (each) carbon fiber poles so the weight penalty isn't excessive and I really like the adjustable length feature.

Diplomatic Mike
(MikefaeDundee)

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Not just cardio on 02/03/2012 12:09:15 MST Print View

I'm not looking for the cardio benefits.
They simply help if i have to cross a fast flowing, thigh deep mountain stream, or descend a steep mountain scree slope.
And they let me sleep without worrying about my shelter collapsing during a storm. ;)

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Well... on 02/03/2012 12:10:47 MST Print View

"If your arms are like toothpicks and your cardio is down, then trekking poles are the solution, not a problem, they are the exact solution to your condition"

Well, I suppose one can use that logic to say that if your shoulders, back, legs, and feet are weak, then a big ass pack and heavy boots are the solution, not the problem, because "they are the exact solution to your condition"?

But I do know what you mean. The less strain we feel, the more enjoyable our hikes. So there IS something to be said about routinely working out with poles, heavier packs, shoes, etc. -- to condition oneself -- but then switch to UL gear when actually hiking -- to "double" the enjoyment.

P. Larson
(reacttocontact) - F
So not so good for your shelter? on 02/03/2012 12:14:46 MST Print View

These GG poles. I think I read someone say you should probably use something for "substantial" if your trekking poles are a part of your shelter?

Harald Hope
(hhope)

Locale: East Bay
I hear that on 02/03/2012 12:15:58 MST Print View

Jim W., I totally agree, my biggest problem with them as well is vanity. Luckily for me, I can get past that because I am only a 15 minute bike ride from the nearest trailhead, and that's a mountain leading into the entire easy bay coast range park system, ie, I can go as far as I want any time I want. But I totally feel the self-consciousness. I've found the ideal solution is going so fast that it's almost like running, that seems to help, but I wouldn't use them on the flats of LA either, that's for sure. Or here. But in terms of workout per minute, these are the best way to maximize that while walking that I've found so far.

By the way, I speak as someone who always hated trekking poles and hated everything about them, especially the people who used them, so they had to work at convincing me. First gear I've gotten that competes with my love for bikes, which is saying a lot. But it is of course totally a personal preference.

So far by the way, I find that the biggest downside is the speed, I find it much harder to pay attention to the trail and to see what's' actually around me, not sure if that's something that will change as I get more used to them, or if it's an actual function of changing the brain into being a four legged creature running along a trail. Another downside is that now I realize I'll always have these on any backpacking trip, makes me think, well, why not get a trekking pole supported tent, or even better, make one? Oh, the dilemmas...

By the way, I'm using Black Diamond ergo cork trail poles, about 9oz with that rubber grib below the cork, which I never use, so I'm debating cutting that off, which will make them about 8 oz give or take, each. Also worth noting is that the strap is well padded and very comfortable, so that has to be considered in the weight as well, I could have a lighter strap but it would suck.

Edited by hhope on 02/03/2012 12:18:15 MST.

Ben 2 World
(ben2world) - MLife

Locale: So Cal
Re: Re: cardio goes up with trekking poles, not down on 02/03/2012 12:17:13 MST Print View

"I used to ride bikes and hike a LOT. My legs were like tree trunks and my arms like toothpicks. After a bunch of years raising kids my cardio capacity is way down but my legs are still pretty strong. My weakest link for hiking is the heart/lung/energy delivery system, not my legs. Poles require energy so using them impacts my weakest link. (But my knees are a weak link so I use the poles on steep terrain). I can walk faster on the flats with poles, but then I bonk."

Same here, actually. Without consciously thinking about it, I find that I habitually stack my poles in the side pockets of my pack when going uphill -- my legs are plenty strong, they do not need any assist from poles -- whereas my cardio doesn't need the extra workout when already trying to climb a tough stretch.

But when going downhill, out come the poles -- both to protect my knees and ankles -- and to steady myself.

Diplomatic Mike
(MikefaeDundee)

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Shelters on 02/03/2012 12:20:50 MST Print View

I use 'mids, and have just recieved a Trailstar.
Thin UL carbon trekking poles flexed too much under vertical compression for my liking. And that was without any storm force winds. I want to sleep at night, and not worry about my shelter going the way of the pear during a storm.

b willi jones
(mrjones) - F

Locale: best place in the world !?
Re: Is all weight equal? - Trekking Poles ... on 02/03/2012 12:41:41 MST Print View

i love the way you people never over-think stuff, my puny little mind wouldnt be able to handle it

Eric Dysart
(ewdysar) - F

Locale: SoCal
Long time pole user on 02/03/2012 16:31:06 MST Print View

I've been using poles for over 15 years and have bought poles for my father (75yo on the Kona side of the Big Island) and for my wife. My latest poles are 3 section REI CF Peak UL poles (made by Komperdell?), they weigh 6.75 oz each with straps and baskets. I haven't had any indication that these poles are not strong enough for my shelter needs or my hiking loads (51yo, 210#)

I hiked with a staff when I was younger, but in my mid 30's, made the switch to poles. For me, they are not optional when I hit the trail, everything in my area is mountainous, groomed trail or not. The poles add speed going uphill and down while protecting my body, limbs and joints from the constant impact and potential trip and falls. I have gone on a couple of unexpected day hikes in the last couple of years, each time I really notice that I have to go much slower without my poles (strolling at the beach not included). With the poles, I find that I can pay more attention to the surrounding area, rather than focus on my footing.

While I recognize that poles aren't for everyone, each of my friends that I have introduced to poles has become a convert. For me they are a huge plus, making my hikes more comfortable and enjoyable.

Eric

PS. My friends all used to make fun of my headlamps too, until they used one.

Edited by ewdysar on 02/03/2012 16:32:31 MST.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Is all weight equal? - Trekking Poles on 02/03/2012 17:27:50 MST Print View

To start, as a rough average, two out of three people I come across that have poles , don't use them correctly..
That gives me a good indicationof why "they don't work" for some.
Not that I think everybody should use them.
For me they work when I have at least 10kg on my back, particularly on reasonably steep gradients.

From Nik
Granted, people with lingering injuries or aging joints may find them extremely valuable, and allow them to hike where they might not be able to do so without them. Folks who use them because they are overweight would probably be much happier if they shed the excess pounds and left the poles at home
.poles
Well I don't have any lingering injuries , nor particularly aging joints and I don't think I am all that overweight, but they work for me...

those poles*
From Mike
Some of us non-desert living folk find them a great help in river crossings, snow fields, shelter support, etc, etc,....
Me too...

From Craig:
But as a runner, here's what I don't understand:
Just about any running coach, especially those who specialize in distance running and achieving efficiency, will tell runners to keep arms, shoulders, and hands as relaxed as possible to conserve energy and maintain a smoother form. Any distance runner knows that excessive tension in the arms, shoulders, and hands, especially over long distances, is tiring, if not painful.

Trekking poles seem to run totally contrary to this idea of conservation, yet somehow are claimed to boost efficiency


Very simple (for me...) It is much easier for me to go up steep hills as well as coming down if I have some weight, see premise, with poles than without.
I started mountain walking when I was 5 or 6 , 50 years later I think that I have a bit of an idea of what works and what doesn't, for me.
If it is or not "scientific" I really don't care... but again this is me , others can feel free to disagree.
BTW, ever noticed how "science" changes its mind every few years ? (what works ,what does not? )
I just listen to what my body is telling me.
Franco
*Addressing directly the OP's question, yes those GG poles (about half of the weight of mine) felt a lot lighter in use and at the end of the day my arms were less fatigued.
In fact that is when I discovered that my arms do become fatigued.
I alternated using my BD and those GG for a few days.
The reasons why I then carried on using the BD were because I love the simplicity and reliability of the Flick Lock (I adjust them as I go up and down) and yes because I don't want them to fail on me during a river crossing (I can't swim...) nor holding my shelter up.

Edited by Franco on 02/03/2012 17:28:52 MST.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Re: Is all weight equal? - Trekking Poles ... on 02/03/2012 17:34:50 MST Print View

Am definitely a fan of poles going down hill and on wet trails and stream crossings. and the pole to my Tarptent.

on flat and uphill terrain i stow them and since they are BD carbon fibers i don't notice the change. I can tell the difference while hiking between my CF's and my girlfriends aluminum poles.

after 15+ years of competitive soccer, 5 years of track and a general disregard for my knees while backpacking or anything else having poles to take the extra pounding on the way down and extra balance on wet rocky trails (NH/VT anyone?) they are worth the weight penalty now. (and i'm only 31)

Different terrain and trail style has a pretty big effect. the Kings canyon trails i did on a trip were much more graded and switchbacked than the White Mtn up and over style.

trail to Mt. Isolation in the Whites...
mt isolation

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Distance on 02/03/2012 17:46:15 MST Print View

"Just about any running coach, especially those who specialize in distance running and achieving efficiency, will tell runners to keep arms, shoulders, and hands as relaxed as possible to conserve energy and maintain a smoother form. Any distance runner knows that excessive tension in the arms, shoulders, and hands, especially over long distances, is tiring, if not painful."

+1 Tried and true advice.

"Trekking poles seem to run totally contrary to this idea of conservation, yet somehow are claimed to boost efficiency."

They will take a little more energy, just due to the weight. But that has to be weighed against the benerfits gained in stability and offloading work from the quads, thereby conserving precious glycogen stores for use later in the day.

I think the arm tension and fatigue people mention has a lot to do with how they grip the poles. If you are gripping/squeezing the handles all day, as most people seem to, with a strap wrapped around the wrists, tension and fatigue are bound to accumulate. Personally, I have chosen to "cup" the handle from above and control it by grasping it lightly between my thumb and middle finger with the ring finger there to support if necessary, which serve as an axis to swing the tip forward at the end of each step with a slight lift of my forearm. For propulsion, I just press the palm of my hand against the top of the handle and push. The mechanics sort of imitate a spear throwing stick. I can do this all day, on trail and off, with no fatigue, and I am not a muscle bound knuckle dragger by a long shot. The technique also allows a much wider range of motion, sort of like a universal joint, valuable for tip placement. Holding a pole by gripping the handle parallel to the pole shaft forces you to flex the wrist from side to side,i.e. from thumb side to little finger side, which is not the wrist's natural flexing axis, instead of up and down.

Edited to change ring finger to middle finger. I mis-visualized as I was typing. Sorry for the brain fahrt.

Edited by ouzel on 02/03/2012 19:07:13 MST.